RussiaGate Investigators Looking At DC Political Consultant With Ties To Russian Oligarchs, Putin Allies

Special Counsel’s inter­est in Washington fig­ure sug­gests Mueller’s strat­e­gy on demon­strat­ing Trump’s Russia ties

Washington Babylon has con­firmed that a Bulgarian-born, Washington-based polit­i­cal con­sul­tant and lob­by­ist is being looked at by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s RussiaGate inves­ti­ga­tion. The con­sul­tant, Alexander Mirtchev, is not believed to be a direct tar­get of the probe but inves­ti­ga­tors are inter­est­ed in his per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al ties to two close cronies and advo­cates of Vladimir Putin: the oli­garch Oleg Deripaska and the media mag­nate Konstantin Remchukov.

Deripaska is a for­mer client of Mirtchev’s. He is an “alu­minum mag­nate who sur­vived the gang­ster cap­i­tal­ism of the 1990s and the finan­cial cri­sis of 2008,” accord­ing to the Washington Post. The news­pa­per fur­ther described him as “a shrewd self-made bil­lion­aire who has man­aged to stay on the right side of pow­er, whether by mar­ry­ing into “the fam­i­ly” of Russia’s first pres­i­dent, Boris Yeltsin, or by mak­ing him­self indis­pens­able to its cur­rent one, Vladimir Putin.”

Remchukov is close to Deripaska and has ties to Mirtchev as well (see below). At one time he cham­pi­oned polit­i­cal reform and ran an inde­pen­dent news­pa­per, but, to the dis­gust of Russia’s intel­li­gentsia, he ulti­mate­ly moved firm­ly into Putin’s camp and had top-lev­el access at the Kremlin.

Mirtchev did not reply to emails or a phone call seek­ing com­ment. If he does, I’ll update this sto­ry. The spe­cial counsel’s office declined comment.

Mirtchev is well con­nect­ed across Washington, hav­ing been busi­ness part­ners or friends with Henry Kissinger and a num­ber of for­mer CIA and FBI direc­tors, among them David Petraeus, William Sessions, James Woolsey and William Webster. Mirtchev told me sev­er­al years ago that he donat­ed to the Clinton Foundation and attend­ed a 2006 spe­cial invi­ta­tion foun­da­tion fundrais­er for Bill Clinton’s 60th birth­day par­ty, where the Rolling Stones per­formed. (The foun­da­tion told me it had no record of him donat­ing.) He’s also a major donor to the Atlantic Council –and from all appear­ances has influ­enced the con­tent of their events — and to the Wilson Center.

Mirtchev and Kissinger at Wilson Center event, along with Daily Beast blog­ger Eleanor Clift.

I don’t know of any direct ties between Mirtchev and Donald Trump, but he is very close to Georgette Mosbacher. She’s the wife of for­mer Treasury Secretary Robert Mosbacher, a lead­ing polit­i­cal socialite and GOP fundrais­er, and was a strong sup­port­er of Trump’s cam­paign.

According to accounts in the state-con­trolled Bulgarian media from the late-1980s, Mirtchev served as the head of Komsomol, the Communist Youth Party of Bulgaria. The par­ty liked to present Komsomol as an inno­cent orga­ni­za­tion for kids, akin to the Boy Scouts. In fact, it was a key insti­tu­tion of Soviet rule that was found­ed by Lenin and refined by Stalin to iden­ti­fy promis­ing young recruits and spread com­mu­nism abroad.

Komsomol’s title sug­gest­ed it was a benign orga­ni­za­tion that pro­mot­ed youth involve­ment,” says a for­mer senior CIA offi­cer who was sta­tioned in Eastern Europe dur­ing the Cold War. “In fact, it was the main feed­er for the Communist Party. It didn’t look like an infil­tra­tion oper­a­tion, but that’s what it was—a mech­a­nism to expand Communist ide­ol­o­gy. It had deep reach. It didn’t just oper­ate in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—it had close ties to European youth move­ments and U.S. outfits.”

The Soviet state “need­ed an orga­ni­za­tion to fun­nel young peo­ple up through the sys­tem, to get fresh blood and youth,” says Graham Fuller, a for­mer vice chair­man of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA and a for­mer senior polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at RAND. Komsomol was “a step­ping stone for any ris­ing young per­son in the Communist Party.”

Thanks to his lead­er­ship of Komsomol, Mirtchev, accord­ing to local press accounts, rose quick­ly through the party’s ranks. In February 1990 — just as street protests forced the Communists to sur­ren­der pow­er — he was elect­ed to serve on the Supreme Soviet, the sham par­lia­ments set up in Bulgaria and oth­er Soviet-ruled satel­lites. According to reports in the Bulgarian media, he was still sit­ting on the supreme coun­cil six months later.

Communist-era pho­to from Bulgarian press shows Mirtchev, seat­ed at back, at Komsomol congress.

Then some­thing strange hap­pened. Mirtchev moved to America in 1991, and his Communist past seemed to dis­ap­pear overnight.

He went to work for Stewart & Stewart, a law firm that was seek­ing busi­ness in the for­mer Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

At the time firms like Stewart & Stewart were scram­bling to do busi­ness with the Russian oli­garchs who were divvy­ing up the Soviet spoils.

When the Berlin Wall came down, all the account­ing firms, cor­po­ra­tions and intel­li­gence agen­cies came rolling into Eastern Europe,” says the for­mer senior CIA offi­cer. “It was a lot of fun to watch, and a lot of pos­i­tive things hap­pened. You had young peo­ple who had lived under com­mu­nism who were being inter­view for jobs by com­pa­nies like Arthur Andersen, which was one of the firms that set up shop ear­ly and start­ed hir­ing. But there were also a lot of oppor­tunists in the mix, peo­ple try­ing to make a quick buck.”

As a for­mer high-rank­ing com­mu­nist, Mirtchev was per­fect­ly sit­u­at­ed to take advan­tage of the cap­i­tal­ist free-for-all. He had exten­sive con­tacts from his days in the par­ty and he under­stood the cul­ture and mind­set of the for­mer Soviet Union. At Stewart & Stewart, for­mer asso­ciates say, Mirtchev quick­ly estab­lished him­self as the go-to man for lin­ing up lucra­tive deals in the for­mer Soviet bloc. He was men­tored by Gary Litman, a Russian emi­grant who nur­tured him through his ear­ly years at the firm. It proved to be the first of many for­tu­itous con­nec­tions: Litman now serves as vice pres­i­dent of inter­na­tion­al strate­gic ini­tia­tives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Given his exper­tise and con­tacts, it didn’t take Mirtchev long to set up shop on his own. He lat­er opened a firm called Krull Corp., USA, which, accord­ing to its web­site, is “a macro­eco­nom­ic con­sul­tan­cy with a focus on new eco­nom­ic trends and emerg­ing pol­i­cy challenges.”

Over the years Mirtchev has worked for or with a num­ber of Russian and Eastern European clients, includ­ing the regime of Kazakh dic­ta­tor Nursultan Nazerbayev. Mirtchev served as a “mid­dle­man” between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and U.S. ener­gy com­pa­nies, advis­ing the dic­ta­tor on “which com­pa­nies and projects may be more ben­e­fi­cial to his coun­try,” accord­ing to a con­fi­den­tial report pre­pared by the pri­vate intel­li­gence firm Stratfor and pub­lished by Wikileaks.

He has served as one of three “inde­pen­dent direc­tors” of Kazakhstan’s $64 bil­lion sov­er­eign wealth fund, which owns many of the nation’s most lucra­tive enter­pris­es, includ­ing its oil and gas com­pa­ny, the state ura­ni­um com­pa­ny, the nation­al rail and postal ser­vice, the state-run air­line, and a host of finan­cial groups. Revenues from the fund are sup­posed to pro­vide wel­fare to Kazakhstan’s need­i­est cit­i­zens, but it has report­ed­ly been very bad­ly managed.

Oleg Deripaska at World Economic Forum meet­ing. Credit: WikiCommons.

One of the rea­sons RussiaGate inves­ti­ga­tors are inter­est­ed in Mirtchev is his rela­tion­ship with Deripaska, a one-time client. Deripaska was also pre­vi­ous­ly rep­re­sent­ed by Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ag­er, and Deripaska’s name fea­tures heav­i­ly in Manafort’s indictment.

Manafort alleged­ly offered to pro­vide Deripaska with per­son­al brief­in­gs about the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion less than two weeks before Trump accept­ed the Republican nom­i­na­tion,” the Washington Post has report­ed. “It is unclear whether such an offer reached Deripaska, and a spokesman for the busi­ness­man denied that it did. But Manafort’s appar­ent readi­ness to share infor­ma­tion with an oli­garch known to be part of a trust­ed cir­cle of busi­ness­men near Putin is one of the most con­crete rev­e­la­tions to emerge from the probe into Trump’s Russia links.”

Deripaska owns the world’s sec­ond-largest alu­minum pro­duc­er and has major inter­ests in agribusi­ness, avi­a­tion, insur­ance, con­struc­tion, and auto­mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­ing. He alleged­ly enjoyed close ties to the Russian mob, which prompt­ed U.S. offi­cials to bar him from enter­ing the country.

According to Wall Street Journal sto­ry in 2008, Deripaska retained GlobalOptions, a DC firm in which Mirtchev was heav­i­ly involved, and paid it at least $9.75 mil­lion in a sin­gle wire trans­fer. (Mirtchev declined to dis­cuss the trans­ac­tion, but insist­ed through his lawyers that the mon­ey was used for “law­ful pur­pos­es.”) Mirtchev was report­ed­ly help­ing the oli­garch bur­nish his image in Washington and “deal with inquiries and law­suits over his alleged ties to orga­nized crime,” the Journal said.

The sec­ond rea­son Mirtchev is in the eye of inves­ti­ga­tors owes to  his ties to Putin shill Konstantin Remchukov, who is also extreme­ly close to Deripaska. At one time, Remchukov was “chair­man of Basic Element, an invest­ment firm owned in part by” Deripaska, accord­ing to the New York Times. He was also elect­ed to the Duma as a can­di­date of the Union of Rightist Forces and “served as deputy chair­man of the Natural Resources Committee, appar­ent­ly while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly work­ing for Deripaska.”

Several sources told me Mirtchev and Remchukov were close and had been seen togeth­er at Washington events. Records show that for many years the two men had a com­mon address at a build­ing on “N” Street in Washington, not far from Georgetown, where Mirtchev has long resided in a lux­u­ry condo.

Mueller’s team is said to be inter­est­ed in Mirtchev’s ties to Deripaska and Remchukov because the two Russians are so close to Putin that they are seen as being unof­fi­cial PR agents. Earlier this year, the Associated Pressreport­ed that U.S. diplo­mat­ic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as “among the two to three oli­garchs Putin turns to on a reg­u­lar basis” and “a more-or-less per­ma­nent fix­ture on Putin’s trips abroad.” Manafort had “secret­ly worked” for Deripaska a decade ago to advance Putin’s inter­ests, the APreport­ed, a charge both Manafort and Deripaska denied.

Personally, I think the entire RussiaGate affair is high­ly dubi­ous, and there’s no sol­id evi­dence thus far that Trump’s ties to Russia are improp­er. But the inves­ti­ga­tion is turn­ing up inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion about how for­eign lob­by­ists and con­sul­tants oper­ate in Washington.

It seems clear that Mueller believes that Deripaska is a PR agent for Putin and that Manafort was as well, by virtue of his work­ing for Deripaska. Mirtchev also worked for Deripaska so, by that log­ic, he would have been Putin’s PR agent as well. But since Mirtchev doesn’t have strong con­nec­tions to Trump or his cam­paign, my bet is that he’s not a direct tar­get of the RussiaGate probe — and there’s no evi­dence thus far that his work for Deripaksa was ille­gal — but some­one who inves­ti­ga­tors believe has use­ful infor­ma­tion about others.

By Ken Silverstein

RussiaGate Investigators Looking At DC Political Consultant With Ties To Russian Oligarchs, Putin Allies