Depending on who you have listened to over the past two years, either President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, or Hillary Clinton conspired with Russia to sink the Trump campaign.
Now another prominent figure is being accused by conservatives of teaming with the enemy: Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That’s right. What if the man investigating Russia is (dun dun dun) secretly involved with Russia?
The latest “bombshell” scoop out of the conservative media sphere is that the Mueller probe is unduly influenced because of the former FBI director’s previous ties to one particular Russian, Oleg Deripaska, who previously came under scrutiny for his ties to Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort.
It begins with a report from the Hill’s John Solomon, an opinion contributor.
In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.
Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.
According to the Hill, Deripaska spent $25 million on a mission to rescue FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was arrested in Iran. While it’s been denied by the U.S. government, the Associated Press reported that Levinson was working for the CIA at the time he was detained.
Deripaska was reportedly able to negotiate a deal to free Levinson. However, the plan to free him was squashed by Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, because she was reportedly uncomfortable with the terms. And if you think this factors into her emails and the election… well, of course, it tenuously does, according to some on the far right.
All these ties to a Russian oligarch have been enough to get conservative media howling that perhaps it is Mueller who is compromised. Because while Paul Manafort was indicted for money laundering, and Mueller has indicted other Russian actors, Deripaska, who hired Manafort to work on behalf of the Russian government, has skirted any indictment.
From conservative site Daily Wire:
The Hill’s John Solomon was alerted about Deripaska’s past relationship with the FBI by U.S. officials who are suspicious that Mueller may have left him out of Manafort’s indictments due to his previous work with the FBI.
According to Solomon, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz thinks Mueller has a serious conflict of interest because his FBI was working with Deripaska, who is a witness in the ongoing probe.
“The real question becomes whether it was proper to leave [Deripaska] out of the Manafort indictment and whether that omission was to avoid the kind of transparency that is really required by the law,” Dershowitz told The Hill.
The Trump administration did enact sanctions on Deripaska, which reportedly cost the oligarch $6 billion.
And it goes deeper. According to right-wing blog the Gateway Pundit, Solomon said that Deripaska was interviewed by the FBI about the Trump campaign before the election.
FBI agents knocked on Oleg Deripaska’s door just weeks before the 2016 election to pitch the ‘Trump-Russia collusion’ narrative to him and he wasn’t buying it!
“Two months before the election he’s [Deripaska] asleep in his apartment in New York and he gets a knock on the door by some of the same FBI agents who worked with him on the earlier operation and they said, ‘we think Trump’s campaign and Russia are colluding on the election’ and he let out a big laugh,” John Solomon said to Laura Ingraham.
Though investigating matters is the FBI’s job, the far-right blog framed it as the FBI selling the story to a potential witness.
Obama’s corrupt FBI was literally selling the Trump-Russia collusion to a Russian.
Perhaps the FBI needed to bolster their sources before they took the phony dossier to the FISA court?
On conservative Twitter, all of that news was taken as enough reason to consider the investigation into Trump and Russia as completely bunk, with the hashtag #MuellerConflictofInterest.
💥Robert Mueller is as dirty as we all thought. Mueller had financial dealings while FBI Director with Oleg Deripaska. Yes, the same Russian oligarch who was recently sanctioned by the Trump Administration. #StopTheWitchHuntNow#TheDashRiprock https://t.co/URsk5CV8Rh— Dash Riprock 🇺🇸 (@PhilMcCrackin44) May 15, 2018
TONIGHT: Catch me on @FoxNews's #Hannity at 9:20pm ET/8:20pm CT discussing the latest breaking news of #Mueller possibly having a conflict of interest leading directly to a Russian oligarch. @seanhannity @jsolomonReports https://t.co/7dbeRTPtVn— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) May 14, 2018
While people in power are often forced to deal with unsavory characters in certain situations, this story, with its Mueller-Russia-Clinton entanglement, was more than enough for the right to run with.