Who did Paul Manafort work for during the 2016 campaign? Was it candidate and Republican nominee Donald Trump? Or was it a collection of Putin cronies?
The Washington Post followed up yesterday’s stunning reports about Manafort with another stunner: Manafort offered to privately brief a Russian oligarch while he was campaign chairman during the 2016 campaign.
The oligarch was Oleg Deripaska, the head of Rusal and a Russian billionaire by way of aluminum and commodities trading. Deripaska is a close Putin ally, labeled by the U.S. State Department as a trusted advisor.
The fact that Manafort, who continues to work for foreign interests despite the investigation, offered to privately brief a Russian billionaire on the status of the race raises some really important questions about the nature of Manafort’s work:
- What stake did a sanctioned Russian billionaire have in the 2016 election that was high enough to merit Manafort’s attention?
- What activities were so secret that Manafort felt the need to lie to Hope Hicks about the nature of his relationship with Deripaska and discuss with his employees in code.
- Who owed Manafort money and how was he looking to use Trump’s campaign to “get whole” again?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Mueller views Flynn and Manafort, but especially Manafort, as a critical asset to flip in order to get the truth about Trump. The case seems to be following the textbook: Manafort and Flynn are under financial strain, people are becoming paranoid and constant pressure is being put on suspects.
Will it be enough to turn them? Whatever actually happened during the 2016 campaign, I hope that there’s enough pressure on these traitors to American values that they tell the truth to Mueller.