Two new reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top associates were directly involved with attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, including an interview with exiled former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin jailed on iffy charges for a decade. "I am almost convinced that Putin's people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way," Khodorkovsky told MSNBC's Ari Melber, and the likelihood that Putin "personally" tried to cooperate with President Trump's campaign is a "9 out of 10," he said, adding: "Whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating the matter answer that question."
When he ran Russian oil giant Yukos, Khodorkovsky's human resources chief was Sergey Gorkov, now the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), who met with Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner in December — the White House says it was a diplomatic nicety, VEB says it was Kushner family business. Khodorkovsky described Gorkov as a "fine employee" who "carries out orders," saying of the Kushner meeting, "I have no doubt that he wouldn't do anything on his own behalf." He said Gorkov was likely ordered to meet with Kushner by either Andrey Kostin or Herman Gref, Kremlin-backed bank chiefs with close ties to Putin.
Separately, CNN reported Tuesday night that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian catering magnate dubbed Putin's "chef" in the Russia press, is believed by U.S. intelligence to have financed a Russian "troll factory," the Internet Research Agency (IRA), that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Prigozhin appears to be the unidentified "close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence" an unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment called the "likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg," CNN says.
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