The Times’ Oligarch Switcheroo

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January 9, 2019 4:14 p.m.

As you’ve probably seen, The New York Times issued a major correction early this afternoon. They now say that Paul Manafort had his Ukraine-based fixer Konstantin Kilimnik send polling data not to Oleg Deripaska but to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who were major financial backers of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort’s longtime client. This is a pretty big difference and a major error by the Times. But I’m not sure it really changes the big picture. These are both oligarchs tied to the pro-Russian faction in Ukraine, though Akhemetov seems now to have fallen out or at least strayed from the Moscow line and is now paying a price for it.

We’re hearing that Manafort was sending this information because he believed Lyovochkin and Akhmetov owed him money (for the Yanukovych/Party of Regions work) and this would help him get paid. But that’s beside the point. He was offering briefings (and probably) more to Deripaska because he owed Deripaska money and was trying to use information to get credit for that too. I don’t think anyone imagines that Paul Manafort is some sort of Russian nationalist. Everything he was doing here was tied to money – either making money or getting out of under his debts. Why do these two need campaign data from the Trump campaign? Why is that a thing of value that will get them to pay up their alleged debts? Akhmetov is a metals and mining magnate in Ukraine. The answer seems obvious.

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