Frothy Republicans Confuse Oleg Deripaska and Donald Trump

A letter from Elijah Cummings and Jerrold Nadler to Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte answers two questions I’ve had since John Solomon and the rest of the propaganda mill started reporting on Christopher Steele’s communications with Bruce Ohr.

First, the communications that frothy right propagandists all seem to have, have not been officially released. Indeed, Cummings and Nadler complain that in the questioning of Ohr last week, Democrats weren’t even shown the communications that all the frothy right seems to have.

These documents were not included in the 800,000 pages of documents the Justice Department produced to our Committee during this investigation. During Mr. Ohr’s interview, the Republican Members never introduced these documents into the official record, never marked them as exhibits, never explained how they obtained them, and never provided copies to Democratic staff participating in the interview.

More hilariously, the letter reveals that Republicans read a reference Steele made to “our favorite business tycoon” and assumed — premised on the notion that everything Steele was doing at the time had to have been a conspiracy against Trump — that that must be a reference to Trump.

First, by cherry-picking portions of these documents out of context–and withholding the full set of documents–Republican Members are creating a highly misleading narrative with factually inaccurate interpretations and conjecture. For example, Republican Members read aloud a portion of one email in which Mr. Steele wrote to Mr. Ohr, “There is something I wanted to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favorite business tycoon.” When Republican Members accused Mr. Ohr of discussing President Donald Trump with Mr. Steele, Mr. Orh explained that the Republican interpretation was false–and that the “business tycoon ” they were referring to was actually Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Cummings and Nadler point out that that interpretation has leaked to frothy right propagandists.

[S]elect portions of some of these same documents have no been leaked to the press to create similarly false and misleading narratives. For example, on August 7, 2018, John Solomon wrote in The Hill that he was given some of “Ohr’s own notes, emails and text messages.” In his piece, Mr. Solomon quoted the same email in which Mr. Ohr and Mr. Steele discussed “our favorite business tycoon.” Then, like the Republican Members, Mr. Solomon asserted inaccurately that this statement was “an apparent reference to Trump.”

Here’s how Solomon spun it.

Some of the more tantalizing Ohr contacts occurred in the days when Steele made his first contacts with the FBI in summer 2016 about the Russia matter.

“There is something separate I wanted to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favourite business tycoon!” Steele wrote Ohr on July 1, 2016, in an apparent reference to Trump.

That overture came just four days before Steele walked into the FBI office in Rome with still-unproven allegations that Trump had an improper relationship with Russia, including possible efforts to hijack the presidential election.

And how Byron York repeated that “reasonable” supposition.

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.)

Followed, marginally more critically, by Chuck Ross.

On July 1, 2016, Steele reached out to Ohr in hopes of discussing “our favourite business tycoon!” It is unclear if Steele was referring to Deripaska or Donald Trump. Steele met with Ohr and his wife, a Russia expert named Nellie Ohr, on July 30, 2016, at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

When I wrote this up, I noted the problematic assumption.

But in their effort to make everything an expert on Russian organized crime touched into a conspiracy against Donald Trump, the frothy right has just confused Trump and a mobbed up Russian oligarch.

I mean, there’s a clear difference. Deripaska really is as rich as he claims.

42 replies
  1. koolmoe says:

    I’m not as clear on a lot of Ohr’s history, but from what little I’ve read, he seems like a smart cookie. If nothing else, I always like to see a Republican investigation with a goal to prove a conspiracy against our Prez turn more into yet another possible validation of the investigation. :)

    • orionATL says:

      koolmoe –

      well get this clear without anymore equivocation.

      bruce ohr is a doj prosecutor with years of experience tracking and thwarting international crime groups.

      bruce ohr is a specialist in russian organized crime.

      i suspect that russian organized crime – in the person’s of president trump’s long-time-but-no-longer personal lawyer, michael cohen, felix sater, and possibly paul manafort – is our president’s favorite brotherhood of organized crime. hint: they like to buy trump properties as investments.

      say what you will about the dimbulb-dumbass house hsci republicans chasing ohr about steele, but there can be no question why our formerly mobbed-up president wants to discredit ohr – ohr had worked earlier with steele on russian organized crime and ohr had specifically refused travel rights for deripaska (“putin’s favorite oligarch”) to travel to the u. s.

      don’t be surprised to discover that attacking bruce ohr was on the to-do list putin gave our – how shall i put it put it in mixed company – “lionine” prez at helsinki.

      i’ve read that the putin government considers the russian mob as a useful part of state government.

      • koolmoe says:

        Good stuff and makes sense. I’m glad to see at least a few career officials in our government seemingly still capable and respectable. I’ve taken to the shortcut assumptions that if Trump and his allies are leaning hard on someone, they can’t be all that bad! :)

  2. NJRun says:

    The whole lot of them — GOP politicians, conservative media, think tanks, businessmen — are unapologetically in the tank for Russia. It’s scary.

    • TheraP says:

      “scary” – Yes!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one having this reaction. The reach of this conspiracy. The breadth and depth. The huge effort being spent to try and make it all look like porridge – nothing to see here folks. It really freaks me out. It makes me almost dizzy.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Yikes! I just said as much in a comment in the other thread.  Almost said “dizzy”,  but went with “disorienting”.  Which is interesting if you look at the published techniques of Russian manipulation.  There is an interview from the 90’s of a KGB defector in which he describes what Russia does and was/is actively doing to us–I’ve seen it called demoralization–and says people won’t be able to see what is in front of their faces.  Of course, I believe elements of the US government have been doing this successfully for years, and certainly some of our media.  I guess I’m guilty of caring more about my own self-interest than the interests of people in the various countries we’ve manipulated, because it sure is a lot more upsetting when it’s this close to home. I can go looking for that interview if you’re interested.

  3. cue says:

    Missing word or phrase?

    First, the communications that frothy right propagandists all seem to have have not been officially released.

  4. Peterr says:

    C’mon, Marcy. How likely is it that an expert in Russian organized crime would be wanting to discuss a Russian organized crime figure? Of course Ohr was talking about Trump.


    • orionATL says:


      particularly when the two had worked together some years earlier on russian (or international, including russian) organized crime.

      can there be any doubt that a dossier bearing the moniker “donald john trump” lay waiting for light in interpol’s files?

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    One of the all-time great EW post titles, most definitely. It started me laughing, until I realized how serious this is. Particularly if EW’s speculation about *Deripaska* using the dossier to spread disinformation is true.

    The cruel irony: GOPers don’t seem to recognize how completely they’ve swallowed Deripaska’s bait — Trump is floundering and lashing on the end of Deripaska’s hook, while blaming the FBI and DoJ for trying to find out what bait he swallowed, how much, and when. The fact that Trump willingly impaled himself on Russia’s ‘best, toughest, winningest hook’, is just another layer of awful.

    Even more hideous, it’s as if all the GOPers in both House and Senate are trying to vie with Trump in greedily swallowing Deripaska/Putin’s bait, as if we had a whole school of minnows competing with a flounder to be hooked, lined, and landed — no wonder those clowns keep flopping around like a bunch of fish in a barrel.

    Game-set-match for Putin, et al.

    Over at TPM, there’s a new report that Ohr was told in Dec 2017 that he’d be stripped of his position in DoJ, because the new management did not want him interacting with the WH. Because God forbid we have anyone at DoJ who know can keep their tycoons straight. Yikes!

    • TheraP says:

      Correction: rOTL (above) surely meant to type 2016 – for the date of the breakfast.

      That’s the date given in the link.

      But… WOW! So much is coming out. It truly scares me to think how deep the rot goes.

  6. Bob Conyers says:

    The Washington Post says Gowdy’s spokesperson claimed Gowdy had nothing to do with the frothy leak, and “if members have concerns that sensitive information was released, they should raise their concerns with the intelligence or the ethics committee.”

    If the Democrats manage to take control of the House, that kind of blowoff challenge may come to happen, although of course Gowdy won’t have to worry about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there is going to be some residual sloppiness by GOP members and their staffs, and hopefully some consequences.

  7. gmoke says:

    “The frothy right” is that like, um, santorum, as defined by Dan Savage in honor of former Senator Santorum, the original frothy rightist?

  8. Frank Probst says:

    Looks like another one of Manafort’s buddies just pleaded guilty to a FARA violation. Mueller farmed this one out to the DC and the National Security Division of the DoJ. Not sure who this guy is, but I’m sure EW does.

    • RWood says:

      From WaPo:
      “W. Samuel Patten, 47, was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act for failing to register with the Justice Department when he represented a Ukrainian political party known as the Opposition Bloc from 2014 through this year.
      Patten pleaded to the count before Judge Amy Berman Jackson in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”

  9. Kevin Finnerty says:

    I was thinking in terms of historical comparisons the other day and it dawned on me that the Republicans basically have a credit default swap as the titular head of their party. The GOP’s solvency now depends on the success of a highly volatile and over-leveraged asset.

    The lengths House Republicans are going to run a sham counter-investigation remind me of the desperate executives who attempted to obscure their ballooning debts by hiding them in off the books subsidiaries.

    At some point the note will come due and the GOP will have to face not only the consequences of whatever carnage is unleashed, but also the public rage that will come from the fact that they engaged in a protracted cover-up that only let the underlying problem metastasize.

    That’s my take. President Credit Default Swap.

  10. Tracy says:

    It seems to me that the moniker of “tycoon” is something Trump has aspired to his whole life, achieving which being his sole purpose in seeking the presidency (to enrich himself), but not something that is actually true – certainly not compared to OVD.

    I am unfailingly aghast on a daily basis as to the amount of obstruction that the Republicans engage in: “Democrats weren’t even shown the communications that all the frothy right seems to have.” (Same w/ Kavanaugh – same w/ everything.)

    I look forward to the day that it is presented beyond a reasonable doubt that treasonous crimes were committed, which the “nationalistic, patriotic” Republicans willfully covered up.

  11. Rayne says:

    I mean, there’s a clear difference. Deripaska really is as rich as he claims.


    This kind of misinterpretation — Wannabe-Tycoon B instead of Actual-Tycoon A — makes me wonder how much disinfo is really needed when bias does the job on its own.

    • bmaz says:

      Seriously, what in the living fuck are you yammering about?

      Every time you try and talk about law, you look like more of a total kook and I cringe more. I am not so sure how much more of this total crap is warranted.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Naruto was a ploy to screw up copyright law. It is a big thing by big money to control copyright laws the way they want.

        Naruto was “cough* the plaintiff *cough*,, and got pro bono representation to enforce Naruto’s copyrights.

        Manafort also seems to be getting pro bono representation.

        While his mess is not about copyright, someone is worried.

        Big money is behind both.

  12. x174 says:

    the extraordinary degree to which the rethugs have grotesquely protracted out their hideous/hilarious obstruction of justice crusade speaks volumes as to their culpability.

    the progression of republican malfeasance from nixon, reagan, w, and now trump reminds me of the logical progression that took place from punk rock icons the sex pistols to the feces throwing gg allin, who taunted his fans in the hopes that they would kill him onstage.

    alas, gg died alone of an overdose, but trump continues to bless his believers with his daily excrement.

    • Greenhouse says:

      Strange metaphor using historical progression of repug malfeasance with progression of punk rock. IAE, GG probably would’ve preferred comparison to his NYC brethren (NY Dolls, Television, Ramones, Voidoids) who actually informed the pistols and the subsequent BritPunk that stole the mantle, IMHO:)

  13. jonb says:

    could it be that trump is out for bruce OHR because of his attempts to turn deripraska?. which would in turn please the Russian crime boss SM.

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