Once the wealthiest man in Russia, former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent ten years in Russian prison after the Russian government under Vladimir Putin charged him with fraud and tax evasion in 2003. After his release from prison in late 2013, he was exiled and was granted residency in Switzerland where he has since become the Kremlin’s leading critic in exile.
In an interview with MSNBC host Ari Melber, Khodorkovsky told him that he was 90% certain that Putin personally tried to cooperate with the Trump campaign
Khodorkovsky has links to some Putin allies implicated in the FBI probe into Russian election meddling, based on his time running Yukos, Russia’s largest oil company.
His former head of human resources, Sergey Gorkov, now runs a Kremlin bank and met with Kushner in December last year. The U.S. has accused Gorkov’s bank of providing cover for Russian spies.
Khodorkovsky says Gorkov was a “fine employee” who “carries out orders,” suggesting the banker would not have been acting alone in meeting with a senior figure of the incoming Trump administration.
“I have no doubt that he wouldn’t do anything on his own behalf,” Khodorkovsky said.
Khodorkovsky also said he believes Gorkov’s orders come from either Andrey Kostin or Herman Gref, who both run Kremlin-backed banks that were sanctioned by the Obama administration.
“If there were any instructions, they came from the level of Kostin, the chairman of the board of VTB bank,” Khodorkovsky said, “or from the level of Mr. Gref, which isn’t nearly as likely, despite the two of them being close.”
Khodorkovsky’s aides say this is the first time he has shared these details about Gorkov.
The two bankers Khodorkovsky cited — Kostin and Gref — have been publicly linked to Trump.
In 2013, Gref co-organized a dinner in Moscow for Trump to meet Russian financiers. The other organizer of that dinner was Aras Agalarov, the businessman involved in offering dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr., according to emails.
Kostin was named by Trump associate Felix Sater, a former FBI informant, as a potential source of funding for a Trump Tower project in Moscow — which Kostin denied on Friday.
The full transcript of Melber’s interview can be read here (pdf).
Following the interview with Khodorkovsky, Melber was joined by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow who called Jared Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov a “blaring red siren.”
Slowly but surely the pieces are falling into place revealing that no on;y did Russia interfere with the 2016 election but the Trump campaign conspired with them.