President Donald Trump used a recent New York Times story to bash the Russia investigation Monday, saying an FBI effort to convince a Russian oligarch to talk with the bureau about Russian crime and U.S. election interference began the year before he became a candidate.
The lengthy Times piece was published Saturday and detailed a Department of Justice program that tried to pry information from oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said the effort shows the DOJ probe into whether his campaign colluded with the Russians is not legitimate.
“According to the Failing New York Times, the FBI started a major effort to flip Putin loyalists in 2014-2016,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “‘It wasn’t about Trump, he wasn’t even close to a candidate yet.’ Rigged Witch Hunt!”
The line Trump quoted in his tweet — “It wasn’t about Trump, he wasn’t even close to a candidate yet.” — was not in the Times story, so it is unclear where he got it.
The Times piece went into great detail about Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum company billionaire who is casually known as “Putin’s oligarch.” FBI officials have reportedly used him as an intelligence source in the past and, beginning in 2014, they tried to bait him into giving up information about Russian organized crime.
Two years later, the FBI asked Deripaska about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his alleged ties to Deripaska and other Russians, along with anyone else on the campaign who might have had an improper relationship with the Russians.
The Times noted Deripaska did not cooperate with the FBI on the matters, and in April he was hit with crippling sanctions.
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