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Pierce writes: "Another day in Our Nation's Capital, another story about the Russian kleptocracy. No, not the story about the possible witness who mysteriously fell out a window. This one's about Paul Manafort."

Paul Manafort. (photo: Getty Images)
Paul Manafort. (photo: Getty Images)

Charles Pierce | Paul Manafort Is Just the Latest Guy to Fall. There Will Be More.

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

22 March 17


The White House is filled with smoke.

nother day in Our Nation's Capital, another story about the Russian kleptocracy. No, not the story about the possible witness who mysteriously fell out a window. This one's about Paul Manafort. You remember him, right? He's the guy about whose "limited role"—as the campaign's director—Sean Spicer was so helplessly vague on Monday. At least according to the AP, Manafort also had a somewhat less limited role peddling influence for one of Vladimir Putin's stable of pet gazillionaires.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."

Deripaska's just your basic post-Soviet crook…er…entrepreneur. "Aluminum magnate" has a rather different definition across the pond than it does in most places.

Deripaska became one of Russia's wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin's interests. U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis" and "a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin's trips abroad." In response to questions about Manafort's consulting firm, a spokesman for Deripaska in 2008 — at least three years after they began working together — said Deripaska had never hired the firm. Another Deripaska spokesman in Moscow last week declined to answer AP's questions.

Maybe it's time now to put on ice the notions that the billowing clouds of smoke engulfing Camp Runamuck as regards its ties with Putin, Inc. are either a) some sort of distraction to draw attention away from the fact that the administration can't get out of its own way with Congress, or b) a "Deep State" cabal aimed at bringing down the people's champion.

Anybody who's spent five minutes covering a state capital can recognize the basic infrastructure of the shady dealings under examination. Rich guy of dubious provenance needs a political power player to get richer. Political power player needs rich clients to acquire more power. Guys in expensive suits up in the Commonwealth (God save it!) have been operating this way literally for centuries. And it doesn't matter whether it's a contract to build a new highway or a deal to subcontract the nation's foreign policy. The fundamental human venality doesn't change. Only the stakes do, and the size of the collateral damage. your social media marketing partner
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