In a move that caught him by surprise, Moscow-based reporter for The New York Times Andrew E. Kramer was contacted by an aide for low-profile Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska. The oligarch is said to have close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin and was a figure in the two-year Mueller probe into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
As Kramer writes, Deripaska saw Barr's letter to Congress, which stated that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not find sufficient evidence that Trump had conspired with Russia, as an opportunity to rebuild his image to the West. This, however, is despite Deripaska's refusal to cooperate with the investigation. He revealed that the Mueller team had sent him questions, but he had refused to answer them.
“Do I feel like your president, that I am exonerated?” he asked. “I never felt guilty. It was annoying for me. There was this huge crush on my business, on my companies, when sanctions were put on the companies I founded.”
The oligarch complained about the tendency for American media to jump to conclusions before details and evidence have been confirmed and expressed trust in the American justice system, which he believed would absolve him of any alleged wrongdoing.
Deripaska rose to prominence in the 1990s, during which time he began establishing a monopoly over the Russian aluminum industry. The Treasury Department enforced sanctions on him and his companies in 2018, citing links to the Russian government and saying he benefits from Russia's "malign activity around the globe."
Deripaska was a subject in the Mueller probe for alleged "financial entanglements" with former Trump campaign chair Paul J. Manafort. In July 2016, Manafort reportedly offered Deripaska a private briefing on the election in hopes of settling a multimillion-dollar lawsuit from over a decade ago when they were business associates.
“I always believe in justice,” Deripaska said.