Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to Vladimir Putin has sued The Associated Press for a “false” report that claimed Deripaska was connected to Trump’s presidential campaign through then its manager Paul Manafort.
Deripaska’s lawyers filed the complaint on May 15 alleging that a March 22 story at the AP falsely implied that that the Russian billionaire had been paying Manafort for work meant to advance the goals of the Russian government and Putin personally.
“Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” the AP’s exclusive report claimed.
According to AP, Manafort had pitched plans to the aluminum magnate since 2006 and the two eventually signed a $10 million annual contract. They reportedly maintained a business connection till 2009.
The AP reported that Manafort pitched Deripaska back in 2005 that he would influence politics and business dealings in the US to benefit Putin. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort allegedly wrote to Deripaska based on the documents obtained by the AP. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
In response to the report White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said that Trump was not aware of Paul Manafort’s work with Deripaska as the work occurred long before Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager. “There is no suggestion that he did anything improper,” Sean Spicer said.
Deripaska denies that his dealings with Manafort were promoting Putin’s interests. The lawsuit claims that the AP article is structured to “imply falsely” that Russian magnate’s business relationship with Manafort from 2005 to 2009 was related to Trump’s campaign.
In March after the AP’s story, a spokesperson for Deripaska that the Russian businessman “didn’t pay Manafort for Russian-related work but instead paid him for investment consulting that is the subject of legal claims”. (Deripaska sued Manafort in the Cayman Islands in 2014, accusing him of taking nearly $19 million that was for investments, Heat Street reported. The lawsuit may still be pending, according to the Washington Post.)
Manafort says he’s consistently acknowledged doing lobbying work for Deripaska. The Justice Department, however, filed a request to get access to Manafort’s bank records as part of its federal probe into Russian ties, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The AP said that the news organization stands by its story and will vigorously defend itself.