Paul Manafort’s Russian oligarch hits the panic button

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to a whole host of new criminal charges today, setting the stage for not one but two criminal trials against Manafort in 2018. Those trials are set to expose Manafort’s extensive shady dealings with the Russian government, some of which took place while Manafort was running Trump’s campaign. Now Manafort’s favorite Kremlin oligarch is hitting the panic button by making an extraordinary move.

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was funding Paul Manafort’s political operations for years, has published an op-ed today on conservative propaganda site Daily Caller. Deripaska’s op-ed dishonestly tries to paint the Trump-Russia scandal as some kind of hoax. This represents a new low for Daily Caller. It’s one thing to spend each day publishing fake and misleading news aimed at propping up Trump and making his Russia scandal go away, and it’s a whole other thing to let one of the Russian participants in the scandal write your fake news for you. But the real upshot here is just how thoroughly Deripaska is panicking.

This is a multibillionaire Russian oligarch who’s coming out of the shadows to plead his case directly to the American people. It can be taken as a sign that Deripaska is concerned about what’s going to surface during the course of Paul Manafort’s criminal trials, and that he’s trying to get out ahead of it by crafting his own version of events. In the broader view, it’s just the latest sign that the Kremlin’s Trump experiment is not at all going according to plan.

Vladimir Putin’s primary goal was to have Donald Trump eliminate the Obama-era sanctions against Russia, which have cost him and his oligarchs billions of dollars. Instead, because he’s been mired in scandal the entire time, Trump has been unable to lift those sanctions, and he never will be able to. For that matter, Trump is just barely fending off even harsher sanctions that Congress recently passed against Russia. As the Trump-Russia scandal unfolds, it threatens to cost the oligarchs even more money. This is not what they signed up for – and now they’re panicking over where this scandal is headed.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report