President Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort was recently outed by the Associated Press for secretly working for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2006 to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.”
Much has been made of this connection, but well before Manafort signed this lucrative, $10 million contract, Manafort first met Deripaska when he attempted to secure a visa into the US for the oligarch – despite his ties with organized crime.
Deripaska was not allowed entry into the United states because of suspected “criminal associations and relationships,” according to the State Department. Deripaska was suspected of having connections with the head of the notorious organized crime group called the Ismailovskaya Brotherhood, as well as with criminals involved in the dozens of killings in the “Aluminium Wars” of the mid-1990s.
Manafort began to help Deripaska with his visa issue following an FBI interview with the oligarch which ultimately resulted in his second ban from entering the US. (His first ban, at this point, had been temporarily lifted thanks to efforts by Republican Senator Bob Dole.)
Manafort lobbied on behalf of Deripaska, and retained publicity professionals to propagate favorable stories about Deripaska.
While Deripaska has flatly denied all allegations of his criminal connections, the FBI ultimately gave him a limited-entry permit following multiple interviews. The FBI reported that they were receiving “interesting information” from Deripaska.
Manafort’s apparent soft spot for a man with suspected violent crime connections is baffling, considering his later decision to run the Trump campaign. Trump’s 2016 presidential bid centered largely around stoking fears of Mexican “murderers” who are supposedly invading the US and spreading crime. (Statistics show that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than American citizens.)
On the issue of assisting the Russian government, Manafort maintains that his business relationship with Deripaska was public and legal, and that he did not work for the Russian government. When asked about Manafort’s efforts to secure a travel visa for Deripaska, his spokesman said “I do not expect I will get an answer about something that happened 15 years ago. I apologize.”
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW