Rinat Ahkmetshin: “Nothing Is Secret.”

The Financial Times, which had the scoop that Rinat Ahkmetshin — the naturalized Russian lobbyist who attended the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower — appeared before Robert Mueller’s grand jury several weeks ago, has a long interview with him. The key, buried details are that he’s not all that interested in whether Russia tampered with the election.

I ask whether he thinks Russia intervened in the US elections. “They might have done,” he says, but doesn’t seem particularly fussed if they did. “It’s like someone steals your toothpaste from you because you couldn’t hide it well enough — I think there’s something honest about that.” He goes on to expound a curious theory of “personal responsibility” — the value he says he likes best about America.

Followed by the kicker line:

“Nothing is secret,” he had said. “If you’re not stupid, you should operate on that assumption.”

Along the way, though, the interview doesn’t answer two worthy questions. The piece reveals that Akhmetshin bumped his rates up from $450 to $600 an hour this year, but it doesn’t explain whether and if so who paid for his time at Trump Tower last year. Sure, it’s only about $450, but who paid it?

More importantly, it doesn’t address the question I asked here: given Akhmetshin’s ties and past work for Fusion GPS, why did the intelligence company ask Christopher Steele to work on an anti-Trump dossier rather than Akhmetshin himself? Given his ties, did he know about it?

The interview describes Akhmetshin’s claim that he doesn’t work for Russia, but would never do anything to hurt it.

I will never f**k with Russian state,” he says in idiosyncratic English spoken with a light Russian accent. “I will never do things against Russian government. It’s stupid,” he tells me. “Simply, the stakes are too high.”

It describes his claim to be close with people at the CIA (which is why, he explains, Russia no longer trusts him). Akhmetshin also claims to have ties to French, British, and German intelligence. But he does go out drinking with Russian spooks when he’s in Moscow.

The most remarkable passage in the interview (especially given the revelation that Paul Manafort’s notes from the meeting suggest donations to Republicans were raised as well) however, is Akhmetshin’s admission that, while he hadn’t read the English language documents Natalia Veselnitskaya brought to the Trump Tower meeting, he had read the Russian versions.

Akhmetshin said he did not read the papers about Hillary Clinton’s campaign funding that Veselnitskaya took to the meeting, but he had seen the Russian version of it before. He says the lawyer developed it with the help of private corporate intelligence and that it was about “how bad money ended up in Manhattan and that money was put into supporting political campaigns”.

I find this revealing for several reasons. Remember that the early reports in the Steele dossier discuss pre-hacked email kompromat on Hillary Clinton. But why would a private intelligence company do a report in Russian, unless it was in Russia? Moreover, again, it seems Akhmetshin was already swimming in some of this Russian-based kompromat. So why didn’t Fusion have him collect on Trump? Did he work on the earlier, pre-June research paid by a Republican?

In short, the questions for Akhmetshin should go beyond the Trump Tower meeting, because there are obvious questions about his relationship with Fusion GPS.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

3 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    boy does this guy get around – an absolutely dizzying professional lifesyle:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinat_Akhmetshin
    ” 2017 Berlin meeting with American congressmanEdit

    in addition to his january journey to trump tower, akhmeteshin had the pleasure of meeting and being interrogated by robert mueller this past month.

    and then he pops up again in this duet:

    “… Atrium lobby of The Westin Grand Berlin, 2011

    On the night of April 11, 2017, Akhmetshin met with US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in the lobby of The Westin Grand Berlin in Berlin, Germany.[19] There was a discussion about a high profile money laundering case, along with related sanctions against Russia. The two had meet previously in May 2016 in a meeting in Rohrabacher’s office.[20]… ”

    i’m getting dizzy.

    one is tempted to ask: do the american and russian espionage orgs occasionally share an employee with each other? :))

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT?: AWS #6

    https://gizmodo.com/thousands-of-job-applicants-citing-top-secret-us-govern-1798733354

    Thousands of files containing the personal information and expertise of Americans with classified and up to Top Secret security clearances have been exposed by an unsecured Amazon server, potentially for most of the year.

    The files have been traced back to TigerSwan, a North Carolina-based private security firm. But in a statement on Saturday, TigerSwan implicated TalentPen, a third-party vendor apparently used by the firm to process new job applicants.

  3. Charles says:

    His first patron in Washington was Edward Lieberman? That’s awfully close to the center of power to be an accident.

    There is a lot of very interesting detail in the article. I think he’s telling the truth when he says he was never in Soviet intelligence per se. He sounds a bit like a zampolit, though I don’t think NCOs could officially serve in that capacity. Maybe in Afghanistan, especially if in smaller units there weren’t enough officers to go around.

    The intelligence services do like to keep a certain number of flaky people around as “contractors”, people that aren’t on the official payroll and can be shed without consequence. Akhmetshin could be a “contractor.”

    For the record, my guess is that the impetus for election interference came from Trump. He turned to criminal types to do that, and those criminal types included people who the Kremlin uses as “contractors.” The Kremlin was happy to oblige, since it seemed like whichever way things turned out, they’d end up to the good: with a damaged, weakened Hillary or a compromised Trump who could be controlled.

    Too bad for all of us that the real result was the plot exposed and resentment toward Russia rising, while a psychopathic narcissist is in control of the nuclear arsenal. Now it looks like no matter how this comes out, the world, and maybe in particular Russia, will be the loser.

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