It’s certainly no secret that Russia has been attempting a bloodless coup for quite some time with various oligarchs attempting to steal our intellectual property and influence our elections. The most recent story to emerge on how the swamp is not only not being drained but is a flourishing ecosystem under Donald Trump, is how a former Trump campaign aid is lobbying to relieve Paul Manafort’s old buddy, Oleg Deripaska, of sanctions. CNN:
A former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month.
Bryan Lanza, who is in regular contact with White House officials, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm presently controlled by Oleg Deripaska, according to several sources. Deripaska is a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. Lanza was a CNN political contributor but is no longer with the network.
Lanza is representing the chairman of EN+ Group, but not Deripaska directly. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s ownership in the company enough to be freed from US sanctions. Deripaska is expected to maintain a substantial stake in the company.
The moves by Lanza and Mercury Public Affairs LLC, the firm where he works as a managing director in its Washington office, on behalf of their client don’t appear to be anything more than standard lobbying. But the deal is the latest brazen example of how Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign pledge has led to little change in a town where paying for access is a lucrative industry. In fact, Trump has presided over the expansion of a new generation of influence peddlers who have used their actual or perceived proximity to the President to line their pockets.
Paul Manafort had voluminous financial dealings with Oleg Deripaska, who has ties to organized crime. The Atlantic:
Manafort had known Deripaska for years, so he surely understood the oligarch’s history. Deripaska had won his fortune by prevailing in the so-called aluminum wars of the 1990s, a corpse-filled struggle, one of the most violent of all the competitions for dominance in a post-Soviet industry. In 2006, the U.S. State Department had revoked Deripaska’s visa, reportedly out of concern over his ties to organized crime (which he has denied). Despite Deripaska’s reputation, or perhaps because of it, Manafort had been dodging the oligarch’s attempts to contact him. As Deripaska’s lawyers informed a court in 2014 while attempting to claw back their client’s money, “It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.”
Over the decades, Manafort had cut a trail of foreign money and influence into Washington, then built that trail into a superhighway. When it comes to serving the interests of the world’s autocrats, he’s been a great innovator. His indictment in October after investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges money laundering, false statements, and other acts of personal corruption. (He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.) But Manafort’s role in Mueller’s broader narrative remains carefully guarded, and unknown to the public. And his personal corruption is less significant, ultimately, than his lifetime role as a corrupter of the American system. That he would be accused of helping a foreign power subvert American democracy is a fitting coda to his life’s story.
It is alarming in the extreme that yet another Trumpite is enthralled to Deripaska since Manafort’s wings have been effectively clipped, but it’s not the least bit surprising, either.