People are not aware
The 555 of GDE on December 24th, 2012: and the 55 of CWD
Emails in 2016 between former British spy Christopher Steele and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr suggest Steele was deeply concerned about the legal status of a Putin-linked Russian oligarch, and at times seemed to be advocating on the oligarch’s behalf, in the same time period Steele worked on collecting the Russia-related allegations against Donald Trump that came to be known as the Trump dossier. The emails show Steele and Ohr were in frequent contact, that they intermingled talk about Steele’s research and the oligarch’s affairs, and that Glenn Simpson, head of the dirt-digging group Fusion GPS that hired Steele to compile the dossier, was also part of the ongoing conversation.
The emails, given to Congress by the Justice Department, began on Jan. 12, 2016, when Steele sent Ohr a New Year’s greeting. Steele brought up the case of Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska (referred to in various emails as both OD and OVD), who was at the time seeking a visa to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the United States. Years earlier, the U.S. revoked Deripaska’s visa, reportedly on the basis of suspected involvement with Russian organized crime. Deripaska was close to Paul Manafort, the short-term Trump campaign chairman now on trial for financial crimes, and this year was sanctioned in the wake of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
“I heard from Adam WALDMAN [a Deripaska lawyer/lobbyist] yesterday that OD is applying for another official US visa ice [sic] APEC business at the end of February,” Steele wrote in the Jan. 12 email. Steele said Deripaska was being “encouraged by the Agency guys who told Adam that the USG [United States Government] stance on [Deripaska] is softening.” Steele concluded: “A positive development it seems.”
Steele also asked Ohr when he might be coming to London, or somewhere in Europe, “as I would be keen to meet up here and talk business.” Ohr replied warmly the same day and said he would likely travel to Europe, but not the U.K., at least twice in February.
Steele emailed again on Feb. 8 to alert Ohr that “our old friend OD apparently has been granted another official [emphasis in original] visa to come to the US later this month.” Steele wrote, “As far as I’m concerned, this is good news all round although as before, it would be helpful if you could monitor it and let me know if any complications arise.” Ohr replied that he knew about Deripaska’s visa, and “to the extent I can I will keep an eye on the situation.” Steele again asked to meet anytime Ohr was in the U.K. or Western Europe.
Steele wrote again on Feb. 21 in an email headlined “Re: OVD – Visit To The US.” Steele told Ohr he had talked to Waldman and to Paul Hauser, who was Deripaska’s London lawyer. Steele reported that there there would be a U.S. government meeting on Deripaska that week — “an inter-agency meeting on him this week which I guess you will be attending.” Steele said he was “circulating some recent sensitive Orbis reporting” on Deripaska that suggested Deripaska was not a “tool” of the Kremlin. Steele said he would send the reporting to a name that is redacted in the email, “as he has asked, for legal reasons I understand, for all such reporting be filtered through him (to you at DoJ and others).”
Deripaska’s rehabilitation was a good thing, Steele wrote: “We reckon therefore that the forthcoming OVD contact represents a good opportunity for the USG.” Ohr responded by saying, “Thanks Chris! This is extremely interesting. I hope we can follow up in the next few weeks as you suggest.”
Steele was eager to see Ohr face to face. On March 17, Steele wrote a brief note asking if Ohr had any update on plans to visit Europe “in the near term where we could meet up.” Ohr said he did not and asked if Steele would like to set up a call. It is not clear whether a call took place.
There are no emails for more than three months after March 17. Then, on July 1, came the first apparent reference to Donald Trump, then preparing to accept the Republican nomination for president. “I am seeing [redacted] in London next week to discuss ongoing business,” Steele wrote to Ohr, “but there is something separate I wanted to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favourite business tycoon!” Steele said he had planned to come to the U.S. soon, but now it looked like it would not be until August. He needed to talk in the next few days, he said, and suggested getting together by Skype before he left on holiday. Ohr suggested talking on July 7. Steele agreed.
Ohr’s phone log for July 7 notes, “Call with Chris Steele” from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. eastern time.
(A caution here: It is possible the “favourite business tycoon” could be Deripaska, or perhaps even someone else, and not Trump. But no one referred to Deripaska in that way anywhere else in the communications. Also, Steele made it clear the “tycoon” subject was separate from other business. And July 1 was just before Steele met with the FBI with the first installment of the Trump dossier. So it appears reasonable, given Steele’s well-known obsession with Trump, and unless information emerges otherwise, to see the “favourite business tycoon” as Trump.)
On the morning of Friday, July 29, Steele wrote to say that he would “be in DC at short notice on business” later that day and Saturday. He asked if Ohr and wife Nellie were free for breakfast on Saturday morning. They were, and agreed to meet for breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.
Ohr’s log of contacts with Steele lists a meeting with Steele on July 30. Steele finished installments of the dossier on July 19 and 26.
On Aug. 22, Ohr received an email from Simpson with the subject line “Can u ring.” There was no message beyond a phone number. Ohr’s log lists some sort of contact — it’s not specified what — with Simpson on Aug. 22.
Steele finished an installment of the dossier on Aug. 22.
Steele dated three installments of the dossier on Sept. 14. On Sept. 16, Steele wrote Ohr to say that he would be back in Washington soon “on business of mutual interest.” Ohr said he would be out of town Sept. 19-21. On Sept. 21, Steele wrote to say he was in Washington and was “keen to meet up with you.” The two agreed to have breakfast on Sept. 23. Meeting on that date would be “more useful,” Steele said, “after my scheduled meetings” the day before. It’s not clear what those scheduled meetings were. Ohr’s log lists a meeting with Steele on Sept. 23.
On October 18, Steele emailed Ohr at 6:51 a.m. with a pressing matter. “If you are in Washington today, I have something quite urgent I would like to discuss with you, preferably by Skype (even before work if you can).” Steele wrote. Ohr suggested they do it immediately. “Thanks Bruce. 2 mins,” Steele replied. Ohr’s log lists a call with Steele on Oct. 18.
There is no note on what they discussed. But a few hours later, still on Oct. 18, Steele emailed Ohr again, and the subject was related to Deripaska. “Further to our Skypecon earlier today,” Steele wrote, Hauser had asked Steele to forward to Ohr information about a dispute between the government of Ukraine and RUSAL, Deripaska’s aluminum company. “Naturally, he [Hauser] wants to protect the client’s [Deripaska’s] interests and reputation,” Steele wrote. “I pass it on for what it’s worth.”
After another few hours had passed, Ohr asked if Steele had time for a Skype call. Steele said, let’s do it now. Ohr’s log lists calls with Steele on Oct. 18 and 19.
Steele finished dossier installments on Oct. 18, 19, and 20. The installment on Oct. 18 was the infamous Russians-offer-Carter-Page-millions-of-dollars allegation, and the ones on Oct. 19 and 20 concerned Manafort’s alleged role in an alleged collusion scheme.
On Nov. 21, other players entered the conversation. Ohr received an an email from Kathleen Kavalec, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European Affairs in the State Department. (Kavalec is now President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Albania.) Kavalec sent Ohr information on Simon Kukes, a Russian-born executive who contributed more than $250,000 to Trump-supporting organizations after Trump won the Republican nomination. Kavalec said she met Kukes around 2014, when “Tom Firestone brought him in,” a reference to former Justice Department official Thomas Firestone, now a partner at the Washington law firm BakerHostetler. Kavalec also linked to a Mother Jones article about Kukes.
Ohr responded by saying, “I may have heard about him from Tom Firestone as well, but I can’t recall for certain.” Then Kavalec answered by saying she was “just re-looking at my notes from my convo with Chris Steele” and that “I see that Chris said Kukes has some connection to Serge Millian, an emigre who is identified by FT as head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.” [In the book Russian Roulette, authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn wrote that Millian claimed to have some sort of business relationship with the Trump organization — which the Trumps denied. More importantly, Millian went on to become Steele’s source for the infamous “golden showers” allegation that Donald Trump had engaged in a kinky sex scene in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.]
Ohr’s phone log indicates that he called Simpson on Dec. 8 to set up a meeting for coffee the next day, Dec. 9.
There is not another email until Dec. 11. Simpson sent Nellie Ohr a link to an article in the left-wing ThinkProgress headlined, “Why has the NRA been cozying up to Russia?” The article focused on now-indicted Russian agent Maria Butina and Russian Alexander Torshin. Nellie Ohr responded, “Thank you!” to which Simpson, the next day, answered, “Please ring if you can.” Nellie Ohr forwarded the Simpson message to Bruce Ohr, saying, “I assume Glenn means you not me.”
Ohr’s phone log on Dec. 13 said, “Glenn Simpson. Some more news. Yesterday 9:27 a.m. Spoke with him.”
Steele dated a dossier installment Dec. 13.
On Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration day, Bruce Ohr received an email from Simpson that said simply, “Can you call me please?”
The emails raise a clear question of whether Steele was working, directly or indirectly, with Oleg Deripaska at the same time Steele was compiling the dossier — and whether the Justice Department, along with Simpson and Fusion GPS, was part of the project. Given Deripaska’s place in the Russian power structure, what that means in the big picture is unclear.
On Feb. 9 of this year, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley wrote a letter to Hauser, the London lawyer, and asked, “Is it the case that Mr. Steele, through you, works or has worked on behalf of Mr. Deripaska or businesses associated with him?”
Hauser refused to answer, claiming such information was privileged. But he added: “I can confirm that neither my firm nor I was involved in the commissioning of, preparation of or payment for the so-called ‘Steele Dossier.’ I am not aware of any involvement by Mr. Deripaska in commissioning, preparing or paying for that document.”
On Feb. 14, at an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about Deripaska.
“Is it fair to call him a Putin-linked Russian oligarch?” asked Cotton.
“Well, I’ll leave that characterization to others, and certainly not in this setting,” Wray said.
“Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, last week sent a letter to a London-based lawyer who represents Mr. Deripaska,” Cotton continued, “and asked if Christopher Steele was employed, either directly or indirectly, by Oleg Deripaska at the time he was writing the so-called Steele dossier. Do you know if Christopher Steele worked for Oleg Deripaska?’
“That’s not something I can answer,” Wray said.
“Could we discuss it in a classified setting?”
“There might be more we could say there,” Wray answered.
The newly-released Ohr-Steele-Simpson emails are just one part of the dossier story. But if nothing else, they show that there is still much for the public to learn about the complex and far-reaching effort behind it.
SHORTLY AFTER PRESIDENT Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.
Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.
The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.
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In March, Bloomberg News reported that Broidy “offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer” — Baev — “get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.” The news outlet did not identify the Russian firms or provide details of that proposal.
“At the time when I was a partner of Chadbourne & Parke LLP I had very preliminary discussions with Elliott Broidy with regard to possible engagement of him as a strategic consultant with regard to a possible instruction by one of my corporate clients. This instruction has never materialized,” Baev told The Intercept in an email. “Nor did I or Chadbourne provide any services to any other individual or entity in connection with any attempt to remove any Russian company or an individual from the US sanctions list.”
Broidy told The Intercept through a spokesperson that Baev had approached him about the proposal, but that Broidy had decided not to go through with it for political reasons. “At the time Mr. Baev had approached us he was then a managing partner of a major U.S. law firm and the new Administration had indicated an interest in normalizing relations with Russia and potentially easing sanctions,” Broidy told The Intercept in a statement provided by his spokesperson. “Subsequently, the geopolitical landscape changed and I made the decision not to pursue it.”
Baev was introduced to Broidy in October 2016, before Trump was elected. At the time, Broidy was serving as a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign; he would later become vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee before transitioning to his most recent position at the RNC.
Broidy began sharing drafts of his lobbying plan with Baev by December. That month, he also sent Baev a Wall Street Journal article headlined “France Poised for Pro-Russia Pivot.”
The article describes how François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, the center-right and far-right candidates, respectively, during the 2017 French presidential election, both opposed punitive sanctions levied by French President François Hollande against Russia for its activity in eastern Ukraine. “With U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also promising friendlier relations with Moscow, Western agreement on sanctions against Russia could crumble,” the article says. Fillon and Le Pen were eventually defeated by France’s current president, Emmanuel Macron.
As the discussions continued, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others began pushing legislation that would take the decision on whether to lift sanctions out of Trump’s hands and put Congress in control, a development that Novatek apparently recognized as a threat given that Broidy’s power to affect policy lay in his presumed influence with Trump.
In January 2017, Baev wrote to Broidy asking whether McCain’s bill would put their efforts at risk. “The client is asking how our road map would be affected by a new bill sponsored by Senator McCain to codify the existing sanctions and to impose new ones as a matter of federal law which the Administration will not be in a position to lift without consent of the US Congress. What are your thoughts on this?”
Broidy responded: “We need to convince McCain to abandon or water down the bill while we push the admin and other members of Senate to water down and vote no. Not a game changer.”
In a proposal dated February 23, 2017, Broidy told Baev that he had found “many influential experts, lobbyists, and attorneys” who were “willing and able to work immediately on your behalf and on behalf of Novatek.” The document, marked “strictly-confidential, attorney client privilege,” lays out a plan for a two-year influence campaign that Broidy claimed could dilute McCain’s bill and lift sanctions by February 2019.
The plan outlines a 25-step “Roadmap” that includes getting buy-in from congressional Foreign Relations committees, as well as outreach to the White House, the Treasury, and the Commerce, State, and Justice departments.
It also lists “issues for Congress” that would have to be overcome in order to implement the plan, including progress on agreements to resolve the situation in Ukraine. Congress would also “need information as to whether Russia did indeed hack DNC and attempt to influence US Presidential election,” according to the document.
Broidy added: “Congress would require agreement with Russia that Russia will not do so again.”
Broidy proposed a one-time fee of $500,000 to Fieldcrest, followed by monthly payments starting at $300,000 and eventually rising to $500,000. He proposed an additional monthly $300,000 for “attorneys, lobbyists, experts and other consultants that Fieldcrest Advisors will recommend.” The documents include a chart estimating the expenses for the next three years:
Baev told The Intercept that the conversations were preliminary in nature and that he and Broidy spoke of their own volition. “Neither I nor Chadbourne & Parke LLP has ever been instructed by any Russian company or individual to represent them in connection with this matter,” he said in an email. “For ethical reasons, I cannot address whether I was asked to perform any such services, but whether I or the firm was contacted or not, we were never engaged to perform these services and never performed them.”
The documents show, however, that Novatek asked Baev to discuss retaining Broidy to help the company get off the sanctions list, and Novatek appears to have specifically referenced Broidy’s proposal in doing so. In February, Baev had received a letter from Denis Solovev, the director of communications for Novatek, marked “confidential.”
“I am authorized by the management of Novatek to contact you and express our interest in your services related to removing Novatek from the US sanctions list,” wrote Solovev. “We would like to discuss with you your proposed road map.”
Throughout the documents and correspondence, Broidy articulates a desire to avoid publicly registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act or the Foreign Agent Registration Act — laws that require influence peddlers to be transparent about who is funding their lobbying campaigns, and, in the case of FARA, whom they are speaking to. In an effort to avoid such disclosures, Broidy proposed that he and his consulting company, Fieldcrest, would “advise on the creation of an appropriate team” and “provide advice and manage coordination of the team.” “Fieldcrest is not a ‘lobbyist’ or registered ‘foreign agent’ and … at no time would be acting in such capacities,” Broidy noted in his outline, which also suggests that each team member be required to sign a confidentiality and non-disparagement form.
One hiccup came when Broidy sought legal advice about the plan. Elliot Berke, an attorney and managing partner at Berke Farah LLP, reviewed Broidy’s proposal and flagged the avoidance of lobbying registration as a problem. “Fieldcrest offers a somewhat detailed ‘Roadmap,’ which in and of itself could be viewed as providing strategic advice to influence US policy,” Berke wrote to Broidy in February, suggesting that he may have already run afoul of FARA. “The fee amounts and scope also would not support a claim that Fieldcrest’s activities would be limited to non-FARA-registrable administrative activities.” Berke also noted that “some of the characterizations” in the plan “could be construed to suggest that Fieldcrest has already engaged in registrable activity.”
Berke closed the letter: “Not the conclusion you were hoping for, I know, but happy to discuss more next week.”
Broidy consulted Berke Farah to ensure that his plan was legal, and the answer he received was a factor in the decision not to move forward with the agreement, according to his statement to The Intercept. “As with any matter, I took early steps to ensure that any proposed engagement, if one had gone forward, was in compliance with all applicable laws, which is why I consulted with my attorneys. As I’ve consistently stated though, I did not wish to be a lobbyist or FARA agent and would have declined any engagement requiring such steps.”
Berke did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.
Broidy has worked to funnel money into the U.S. political system for others, however. Last month, the Associated Press reported that Broidy received millions of dollars from George Nadar, a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and a close confidant of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. AP reported that Broidy received that money weeks before he made personal donations to congressional campaigns in an effort to shape a bill critical of Qatar, which the United Arab Emirates is currently blockading. The New York Times also reportedthat Broidy was reimbursed by Nadar after he funded an October conference that was highly critical of Qatar, which was confirmed by documents obtained by The Intercept. The UAE has contracts with a private security company Broidy owns that are worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the Times.
Broidy has blamed Qatar for the hack and disclosure of his emails. His attorney wrote a public letter to the Qatari ambassador to the U.S. blaming the Gulf nation for spreading “false and stolen information about him,” and claiming that Broidy had “irrefutable forensic evidence tying Qatar to this unlawful attack.” Broidy has since filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the Qatari government.
The Qatari Embassy did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment. The documents were provided to The Intercept anonymously.
Top photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, accompanied by Novatek founder Leonid Mikhelson, second left, and Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak, left, visits a liquefied natural gas plant in the port of Sabetta on the Yamal peninsula beyond the Arctic Circle on Dec. 8, 2017.