Special Counsel Robert Mueller and FBI agents seized tens of thousands of items from the home of Paul Manafort last July and have also reviewed testimony that he gave in a civil lawsuit about a protracted business dispute with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, disclosed his review of the Deripaska-related testimony in a court filing Monday that defended an FBI raid on the home of Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. The disclosure shows the depth of Mueller’s interest in the links between Manafort and Deripaska.
Manafort once worked as a political consultant for Deripaska, who was considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska then invested $18.9 million with Manafort in a cable-television venture in Ukraine, and paid him $7.35 million in management fees. The deal ultimately soured, and Deripaska sued to try to get an accounting of the money.
Deripaska, the billionaire founder and majority shareholder of En+ Group, was among the most prominent tycoons penalized with sanctions this month by the Trump administration. The moved followed passage of a law last year to retaliate against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Prosecutors have reviewed the 2015 testimony by Manafort and his former right-hand man, Rick Gates, according to a Dec. 1 letter attached to a filing late Monday in federal court in Washington. The letter broadly listed thousands of items handed over by prosecutors to lawyers for Manafort and Gates in the pre-trial exchange of evidence.
The testimony, which is sealed, wasn’t disclosed. It came in a lawsuit filed by two KPMG LLP partners, Kris Beighton and Alex Lawson, appointed to wind up a Cayman Islands partnership formed to invest in the Ukrainian venture. Beighton and Lawson asked a federal judge in Virginia for permission to seek documents and testimony from Manafort, Gates and a third man, Richard Davis. The ultimate resolution of the case is unclear from court filings.
It's really hard to know who's in more trouble on the Trump campaign collusion front, Manafort because of Gates and Deripaska, or Michael Flynn because of Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But both paths lead right to Donald Trump, and everyone knows it.
And that's all without Cohen's treasure trove from the SDNY's raid earlier this month.
Also, we now know that the release of James Comey's memos by Congressional Republicans have fully backfired, because Comey's memos show that Trump lied to the FBI about his 2013 trip to Moscow.
Late last January, at a private White House dinner attended only by Donald Trump and Jim Comey, the president steered the conversation to a sensitive topic: “the golden showers thing.”
He wanted the then-FBI director to know, Comey later wrote in a memo, that not only did he not consort with hookers in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, it was an impossibility. Trump “had spoken to people who had been on… the trip with him and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia for that," Comey recalled.
Trump made the same claim a second time, telling Comey in a later Oval Office meeting "that he hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip,” as Comey wrote.
But flight records obtained by POLITICO, as well as congressional testimony from Trump's bodyguard and contemporaneous photographs and social media posts, tell a different story—one that might bring new legal jeopardy for the president, legal experts say.
In fact, Trump arrived in Moscow, where he attended the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned at the time, on a Friday. He left in the early morning hours the following Sunday—spending one full night and most of a second one in the Russian capital—in contradiction to the recollections of Comey, who wrote about his early 2017 meetings with Trump minutes after they concluded.
Trump lied several times in fact about spending the night in Moscow, the night that the Steele Dossier says that the infamous "pee tape" was made as Trump was allegedly blackmailed by Putin by Russian hookers during his stay for the pageant.
It's a very specific lie that only would serve to damage the allegations of the pee tape existing, as an alibi for Trump. We've known for a while that Trump lied about his trip to Moscow in 2013, but now we know he lied to Comey about it too.
Mueller of course knows all of this and has for some time. I'm betting this means the Steele Dossier's most salacious details are in fact true.