According to the Washington Post, Paul Manafort offered “private briefings” on the state of the U.S. presidential race to a Russian aluminum magnate named Oleg Deripaska. This offering came a couple of weeks before President Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination, while Manafort was a chairman for the Trump campaign.
Deripaska is one of the richest men in Russia, and is widely acknowledged as being part of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of allies. A U.S. diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks calls Deripaska “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”
There is no evidence that the offer was accepted, but the email containing the offer is one of tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of the ongoing investigation into what, if any, collusion with Russia took place during last year’s presidential election.
It’s just one more puzzle piece for what’s come to be known as the Mueller probe and, like many of these, it could be something or it could be nothing — but a campaign chairman offering regular updates on the status of a presidential investigation to a Russian billionaire doesn’t look great.
For its part, Deripaska denied that any such communications took place. A spokewoman for his company told the Post that their questions “veer into manufactured questions so grossly false and insinuating that I am concerned even responding to these fake connotations provides them the patina of reality.” So, there’s that.