Patterico's Pontifications


Trump’s Russia Defense Funded in Part by Man with Ties to Russian Oligarchs

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on Friday titled GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People. The deck headline reads: “Payment arrangement is legal, but ethics experts warn that reliance on party and campaign accounts could raise thorny political issues.” And here is the opening paragraph:

President Donald Trump’s attorneys in the probe of Russian election interference are being funded in part through a Republican Party account with a handful of wealthy donors—including a billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs.

The article lists details about several other donors, but I skipped ahead to the part about the Ukranian guy, to see what the Wall Street Journal says about who he is and why he is donating to Trump’s defense:

In April, billionaire Len Blavatnik gave $12,700 to the RNC’s legal fund, on top of donations of about $200,000 to other RNC accounts. He also gave the legal fund $100,000 in 2016, according to FEC filings.

The contribution from Mr. Blavatnik came during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a month before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee its probe of Russian interference—which subsequently prompted Mr. Trump to hire a private legal team.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election. Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and called the investigations a “witch hunt.”

A spokesman for Mr. Blavatnik didn’t return a request for comment. The White House referred questions to the RNC.

Mr. Blavatnik, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, and moved to the U.S. in his early 20s, amassed his fortune in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He is a longtime business partner of Viktor Vekselberg, who is one of the richest men in Russia and has close ties to the Kremlin.

In 2013, Mr. Blavatnik earned billions when he, Mr. Vekselberg and two other partners sold their stake in the oil company TNK-BP to Rosneft, a Kremlin-controlled oil company. Rosneft’s chief executive is Igor Sechin, a top ally of Russian President Vladmir Putin.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Blavatnik through his company donated to several Republican presidential campaigns, including for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He didn’t donate to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Well. That doesn’t sound like great cause for concern. Yes, Blavatnik’s business partner has close ties to the Kremlin. But who doesn’t? Sure, Blavatnik earned billions from a sale made to a Kremlin-controlled company. Who among us can’t say the same about ourselves? But — he donated to other Republicans and not Trump during the presidential election. If he’s helping to fund Trump’s Russia defense, who are we to complain? It’s rather standard influence-seeking by a businessman, of the sort any wealthy American citizen does routinely.

Shall we stop there or shall we dig deeper?

Sure, let’s dig deeper. Why not?

First, Blavatnik’s ties to Trump run a little deeper than the Wall Street Journal revealed. His company Access Industries donated a cool million to Trump’s inaugural committee. And Blavatnik became a business partner with Trump’s Treasury Secretary:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just got a new Hollywood business partner: a man who made billions investing in Russia.

A company run by Len Blavatnik announced a deal Tuesday to buy a stake in a film-finance firm that, in turn, is engaged in a joint venture with Mnuchin, backing blockbusters including “The Lego Batman Movie.” The Treasury secretary has pledged to sell his own interest in the business by June.

All of that seems legal and aboveboard. What big businessman doesn’t have some ties to a presidential administration, after all?

But here’s what got my attention.

It also turns out this same fella, Len Blavatnik, gave a gang of money to Oxford University in 2010. Like $75 million worth. So the folks at Oxford named their school of government the “Blavatnik School of Government” (as you do) . . . and then something weird happened. A group of folks wrote a letter to The Guardian suggesting that Blavatnik has some unsavory ties with folks who have reason to oppose the Magnitsky Act:

Blavatnik has not been alone in seeking to collaborate with Oxford. His fellow oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven from Alfa-Bank gave a joint “award for excellence in foreign investment in Russia” with the Oxford Saïd Business School from 2007 to 2011.

All these oligarchs belong to a consortium of Russian billionaires called Access-Alfa-Renova (AAR). The consortium has long been accused of being behind a campaign of state-sponsored harassment against BP. In 2008-09 dozens of British and other western managers were forced out of Russia. As part of this campaign, Vladimir Putin’s FSB intelligence agency fabricated a case against two Oxford graduates. According to evidence from its jailed owner Sergei Bobylyov, Alfa-Bank oligarchs also raided a retail company called Sunrise.

The spy case and the attack on Sunrise involved the participation of Russian officials who are listed as gross human rights violators by the US Treasury in line with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.

These corporate abuses took place in Russia with active official support. There was a backdrop of state-sponsored propaganda. Russian state media broadcast libelous assertions against western and Russian citizens. AAR went on to make billions from a highly controversial deal with Rosneft.

Oxford University apparently failed to investigate these facts, AAR’s track record from the beginning, and its close ties with the Kremlin.

We insist that the university should stop selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates.

Isn’t it weird how that name “Magnitsky” keeps coming up in connection with Trump?

The letter to The Guardian was signed by what describes as “a group of Oxford graduates and human rights activists” including Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet-era dissident who wrote a book I read recently called To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter. (If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it.)

Blavatnik’s lawyer, I should hasten to add for fairness, denies all this. Below the letter, The Guardian published the following:

Lawyers for Mr Blavatnik contacted us after publication, in May 2016, stating that Mr Blavatnik is not an associate of Vladimir Putin, with whom he has had no personal contact since 2000. Mr Blavatnik’s lawyers also stated that he is a strong believer in encouraging democracy and freedom throughout the world and that he had no involvement whatsoever in any alleged state-sponsored campaign of harassment against BP in Russia.

That may be. Lawyers tend to be biased, but I don’t know who’s right here. I just flag the issue for you, the reader.

Let’s sum it all up. This group of dissidents, human rights activists, and others signs a letter saying Blavatnik — the fella who is partially funding Trump’s defense to the Russia claims, who gave a ton of money to his Inaugural Committee, and who was a business partner with his Treasury Secretary — is part of a consortium alleged to have been involved with a raid tied to human rights abusers named in the Magnitsky Act.

Well, that’s kind of interesting. Especially given that, if you read my recent series (you did read my recent series, didn’t you?), you know that the Magnitsky Act is what Natalia Veselnitskaya was trying to get repealed when she met with Trump Jr., Paul “Shady” Manafort, and Jared “I Told Trump Not to Do It” Kushner.

As I always say when I write posts about Russia, this does not show collusion between Trump and the Russian government. (People ignore me when I say that, but I say it anyway.) But it’s interesting to see the interconnections here . . . and how often things come back to the Magnitsky Act.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

35 Responses to “Trump’s Russia Defense Funded in Part by Man with Ties to Russian Oligarchs”

  1. Mr. Blavatnik must have a lot of confidence corrupt fbi turdboy Robert Mueller’s not going to be able to touch him

    which suggests he’s clean like whistle and squeaky, so that’s reassuring

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  2. He gave money to Obama back in 2014 and schneiderman as early as this year, he knew when they tell you to sell, you tale the Boeing, or the Boeing takes you.

    narciso (d1f714)

  3. It’s well beyond identity politics and I’ve said from the beginning that collusion is not the issue so much as usury. White-collar crime is not sexy like a spy novel.

    Ben burn (dc0ec1)

  4. I could even say Trump is apolitical.

    He’s all about the cash.

    Ben burn (dc0ec1)

  5. So I’m confuzzled renauussance capital and HSBC were known deposits fir prevezon money.

    narciso (d1f714)

  6. @3. White-collar crime is not sexy like a spy novel.

    ‘Wall Street,’Wolf of Wall Street,’ ‘All The President’s Men‘ and ‘The Final Days’ to name a few, were pretty good page turners.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  7. so schneiderman, can take money from the fracking king of new York, red queen takes it from renaissance, which connects to the hacking brouhaha re the exchanges, and hsbc, that comey was credit monitor for, the latter was no reason to remove him,

    narciso (d1f714)

  8. After reading all of the information Patterico has suggested to read about Russia, no way in hell would I ever go there. Red Notice was chilling.

    mg (31009b)

  9. The Magnitsky aspect is sourced to a letter to the Gaurdian.
    Given that articles in the Gaurdian are often fakenews level of credibility, then letters to the Guardian have even less credibility, I would think.

    kishnevi (2dabdc)

  10. It seems to me that Blavatnik is doing what Trump said he was doing with his donations. “It’s how business is done.” It’s also how parvenus rise in the social register. Just on a different scale. Blavatnik donated $75 million to Oxford and got a knighthood; Trump gave $100,000 to the New York Police Athletic League and got a gun permit.

    nk (dbc370)

  11. @8. After reading all of the information Patterico has suggested to read about Russia, no way in hell would I ever go there. Red Notice was chilling.

    Nyet. If the opportunity ever presents itself, you should go. It’s worth it to see things up close.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  12. If anyone does go to Russsia, even if you are just passing through, be very careful not to carry any bullets with you, even if you think they are just souvenirs. You might be imprisoned or detained, and in the end, if you have a good lawyer, have to pay a huge fine bribe.

    Sammy Finkelman (ff268d)

  13. The last time I was tempted to visit Russia–I assume it’s still true–I learned that while you do need a visa to enter Russia, but even more so do you do need one to leave Russia. And if anything bad happens to you there, you had better have insurance that will pay for a medivac to a Western country.

    Frederick (a81afc)

  14. mg,

    Did you read it already?

    I was there in 1995. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and some surrounding countryside.

    Passed through the Sheremetyevo airport in the last couple of years but too expensive and awkward to go out for just a few hours.

    Both have some beautiful sights. I’m glad I went.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  15. @14. Went during the bad-old USSR Cold War days. The stories of what we saw would reaffirm what eventually transpired. Did need a visa; did have to relinquish passports, medical cards and all newspaper/magazines at entry– and waited 5 days for the passport/medical card to be returned as they were necessary when exchanging dollars for rubles. Did have to fill out customs forms listing what we brought in and when we left, what we took out aside from our purchases. Still have a from someplace. If they didn’t match the one you came in with, you didn’t board the Aeroflot jet for home.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  16. 15. I was there in April, 1971; Leningrad and Moscow; when a comrade was truly a comrade and a good cigar a smoke.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  17. I’ll tell a story on myself.

    So the water there is awful. I mean water comes out of the shower brown, in the very best hotels. At least it did in 1995.

    I am confident I did not drink any but I still ended up with what an amusing translation called “labyrinth’s disturbances.” My wife and I still use that phrase.

    My hotel, as I recall, had a small pharmacy. This is how I remember it, anyway: that it was in my hotel. So I had to go to them and ask for Pepto Bismol. I had a Plan A, a Plan B, and an embarrassing Plan C.

    I walked up to this very attractive young lady standing next to an older lady and asked for “Pepto Bismol.” (Plan A.) She gave me a confused look. I tried repeating it and did a little pantomime holding my stomach. (Plan B.) Still nothing.

    There was no word for “Pepto Bismol” that I could find in a dictionary.

    So: Plan C.

    I pulled out my phrase book and intoned the Russian for the words: “I have diarrhea.”

    The attractive young lady turned to the old lady and giggled. (I didn’t much notice what the old lady did. Probably she frowned but she might have laughed too. I don’t know.)

    Then the young lady brought me some medicine.

    Christi and I had learned Cyrillic letters — if you know how the letters correspond to the sounds, the words often sound quite a bit like a cognate to English. The medicine I was handed said ИМОДИУМ — Imodium.

    Had I simply asked for that, I would have been far less embarrassed.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  18. More recently. Russia planted child pornography on his computer and got a very serious British investigation going into him.

    Yup. I spent a while looking into that. I’m confident that the worst of it was a frame job. Not sure about all of it.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  19. Nobody has asked the elephant in the room yet? Why does a President who cannot be bribed because he is so rich, who donates his salary back to the government, need to have his lawyers paid by a legal defense fund bankrolled by “donors”?

    nk (dbc370)

  20. @19.

    So the water there is awful. I mean water comes out of the shower brown, in the very best hotels. At least it did in 1995.

    It did in ’71, too. Bare light bulbs in a lot of rooms, too. Everyone lost about 15 lbs., in two weeks– the food was bland; the bread, less so. My favorite memory was the heavy, half-liter glasses chained to the vending machines along the streets of Moscow which dispensed beer for a fdw kopeks. Everybody in town used the same frigging glass. No cans or bottles.

    I am confident I did not drink any but I still ended up with what an amusing translation called “labyrinth’s disturbances.” My wife and I still use that phrase.

    A bunch of our group ate ice cream sold from a cart inside a food court in the GUM Dept., Store off Red Square. Similar results ran amuck w/many. Seems the ice cream was made w/unpasteurized milk and many stayed sick enough over the trip, requiring gamma globulin injections upon returning at home.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  21. Because it isn’t merely directed against him, but practically every member of his staff, the Bulmer hall captain ahab has unlimited reach but his largest are still rather selective.

    narciso (d1f714)

  22. Worst food I have ever eaten. Again, in the very best hotels Moscow and St. Petersburg had to offer (which still did not cost much in 1995).

    Patterico (115b1f)

  23. DCSA, were you honey mooning with Bernie Sanders? Are u Bernie from Brooklyn?

    KRS One (987b85)

  24. @19. Postscript. We were told to bring everything like Pepto, asprins, band-aids and such in little personal medicine kits– a few rolls of toilet paper, too– and especially chewing gum and ball point pens. Seems we could trade the ballpoint pens and gum — both of which were scarce there– for Communist Party badges. Got several and have them framed up in the den. We were also forbidden to photograph anything out the aircraft windows once we cross the Polish border nor any pictures of Russian soldiers in uniform w/weapons on the street- of which there were always some, especially in Moscow during the party conference where red party banners of nearly every size and shape were hanging from street lamps and buildings.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  25. @24. Cucumbers and beets in everything on my visit. One thing I’ll always remember- they can make soup out of anything.

    @55. No, Bubba and I were searching for Dr. Zhivago’s horse; it was dinner on Day 5. Dessert on Day 6.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  26. 15. I was there in April, 1971; Leningrad and Moscow; when a comrade was truly a comrade and a good cigar a smoke.
    DCSCA (797bc0) — 9/24/2017 @ 7:35 pm

    Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC?

    Pinandpuller (16b0b5)

  27. The software what explains at least one of these threads is soviet. Its mind arson

    narciso (d1f714)

  28. @28. LOL sort of- flew in from Gatwick on Aeroflot.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  29. there’s a restaurant here called Russian Tea Time i’ve come to favor in winter – it’s a bit of a walk, but on a bitter cold day trundling over there through the cold after work and decamping within for some vodka shots and borscht is about as lovely an evening as one could hope for

    i always get something new for takeout

    for the most part Russian foozles, so much of it is hearty peasant fare, and many of the dishes they travel well and reheat nicely

    one doesn’t have to go give their monies to Russian for to enjoy some Russian culture that’s for sure

    Understanding Russia’s obsession with mayonnaise

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  30. Yes, Patterico. Could not put it down. I’m laid up so time is on my side. One of my best friends guides fly fisherman all over the world and says the natural beauty of Russia is phenomenal. The older I get the more I feel like staying in the USA.

    mg (31009b)

  31. Patterico – do you have another hot read for me?

    mg (31009b)

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