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The hits just keep on coming on the Trump administration's un-sanctioning of companies controlled by Oleg Deripaska, AKA Putin's favorite oligarch AKA Paul Manafort's old boss AKA one of the dudes who probably had a very important role in the enfuckening of the 2016 American election. When the plan was first released, a close read of it suggested that the scheme, which called for reducing Deripaska's ownership stakes in his companies under 50 percent, in exchange for lifting sanctions that really never fully took effect in the first place, was a big wet kiss to Vladimir Putin, a mere reshuffling of the deck that ended up enriching Deripaska and other oligarchs and state-owned Russian banks. You know, because those guys have definitely made up for what they did to America in 2016 and they promise they will never do it again.

But it was fine, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said! The personal sanctions remained on Deripaska, and there's no reason to punish Deripaska's big aluminum company RUSAL for what Fuckin' Oleg did! WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE GLOBAL ALUMINUM MARKETS?

After Republicans in the Senate decided they agreed that it was definitely OK to lift these sanctions, the New York Times obtained a document that showed that actually the plan wiped the slate clean on hundreds of millions of dollars of Deripaska's debt to Russian state-owned bank VTB, which made off like a bandit in this deal, and that actually if you combine the shares of RUSAL's parent company En+ that were divvied up to Deripaska, his "charity," his ex-wife and her dad, you still end up with Deripaska and pals controlling 57 percent of the company, at least in theory, assuming Deripaska and his ex-wife are on good terms. DERP!

Now the New York Times has a story about how this plan might have also been sweet as fuck for another oligarch type, one who has apparently hosted Steven Mnuchin on his big fun yacht! His name is Len Blavatnik, and he is the owner of Warner Music, a GOP/Trump inauguration mega-donor, and a US citizen who was borned in Ukraine. He also just happens to be business partners with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, do you remember who that is? Allow Wonkette to quote Wonkette:


Oh, and that part about how "allies of Mr. Deripaska and the Kremlin" would still have "significant stakes" in his companies? Well, it turns out that as part of this whole plan for divvying up En+, another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, ends up getting to keep a significant share of RUSAL, through a company called SUAL Partners Limited. You've met Vekselberg before, because he mysteriously caused BIG MONEYS to be deposited in Michael Cohen's porn payoff slush fund "within approximately 75 days" of when Cohen made the porn payoff to Stormy Daniels, more than enough for it to be a possible reimbursement, or for it to be a bribe/kickback/just the tip of another sort. Click here to go down that rabbithole, but the short version is that Vekselberg shows up everywhere in the Trump-Russia story (EVERYWHERE), and he's on the sanctions list too. (EVERYWHERE. He shows up EVERYWHERE. You really need to click that link we just gave you.)

And Vekselberg's partner in SUAL Partners is Len Blavatnik! Know who went to Trump's inauguration? Viktor Vekselberg! And also Len Blavatnik!

Congressional leaders are so pissed off right now, y'all. It's not that Blavatnik is under personal sanctions, because he's not. Vekselberg, of course, is. But as the Times notes, under the restructuring plan, SUAL Partners owns 22.5 percent of RUSAL, and thanks to lifting the sanctions, its stake in RUSAL is worth about 800 MILLION DOLLARS more than it was the day before the sanctions were lifted. Hooray, everybody's riiiiiiiiiiich!

Oh yeah, also Mnuchin and Blavatnik have money history together, but it's probably all a comical coincidence. You see, like Steven Mnuchin himself, Len Blavatnik isn't just a sleazy GOP character who has unprotected financial sex with too many Russians. He also has a long history in Hollywood, just like Steven Mnuchin.

Here's an excerpt of a letter sent to Mnuchin this week by Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee:

Click to embiggen that if you want to (it's boring), but the gist is that Blavatnik was an early investor in RatPac Entertainment, which was founded by film director Brett Ratner and an Australian billionaire named James Packer. RatPac partnered with Mnuchin's own entertainment company, Dune Entertainment, which created RatPac-Dune, which then financed a bunch of movies for Warner Brothers. Later on, in 2017, during the Trump administration, Access Industries, a company controlled by Blavatnik, bought James Packer's stake in RatPac Entertainment, while Mnuchin's asshole wife Louise Linton was serving as Dune's interim CEO and Mnuchin himself was in the process of divesting his assets so he could serve as Treasury secretary unencumbered by financial conflicts LOL LMAO LET'S TAKE A ONE-WAY RIDE TO CHUCKLETOWN! Indeed, according to "at least one report," which Blavatnik says is fake news, Blavatnik also bought Mnuchin's stake in Dune.

Oh yeah, and also Steven Mnuchin's brother Alan has done lots of business with Blavatnik.

Oh yeah, and there's the whole thing about how there are reports of Mnuchin and Brett Ratner yukkin' it up on Len Blavatnik's yacht a whole bunch. We don't know if it was clothing optional or not, in fact we doubt it, but now you are imagining Steven Mnuchin nekkid and you are dead of grossness. Point: Wonkette!

Cummings and Wyden are just asking if any of these connections ever made Mnuchin think maybe just maybe his gross paws shouldn't be anywhere near Treasury Department decisions on lifting sanctions on Russian companies that just happen to be partially controlled by people Mnuchin might have had multi-million dollar business dealings with in his "former" life. (They have many more questions besides that, actually, as they seek clarity on exactly whose millions of dollars have been stuck in whose thongs in all these deals.) Oh yeah, and Rep. Jackie Speier has a bunch of questions about this too, which she sent Mnuchin in her own (much more readable!) letter. SPOILER: She's really pissed Mnuchin didn't recuse himself from this whole deal.

In response, the Times reports that Tony Sayegh, assistant secretary for public affairs at Treasury, says Mnuchin and Blavatnik have "no business relationship," and Blavatnik's spox says the two dudes have never even "directly" done business. (Know who never does business "directly"? Money launderers. We are just saying, that's not a thing they do. We are also saying that hiding behind the word "directly" is WEASEL WORDS.) Moreover, according to Sayegh, these dudes don't even really know each other, and Mnuchin and Linton had no clue who bought that stake in RatPac until it was publicly announced, so how does that even matter?

Finally, anything you've heard about Mnuchin and Blavatnik frolicking all white girl wasted on the deck of Blavatnik's yacht is JUST A RUMOR, and besides, the Treasury Department says Mnuchin has only ever gone to one party there and he was home by midnight, because that's the curfew his mom and dad gave him. AND STOP IMAGINING STEVEN MNUCHIN NAKED ON BOATS! Christ, at this point you are just grossing yourself out.

Also last year Louise Linton went to a charity dinner for an anti-poaching group in London that was also attended by Oleg Deripaska, but that's probably no big deal because Prince William was there too and Louise Linton sat right next to him, so unless you're going to try to tell us Robert Mueller should raid Prince William's palace and haul him out of there like a common Roger Stone, then you should stop asking questions about that right the goshdang fuck NOW.

More weird tidbits, is that what you want?

  • Len Blavatnik used to give all his money to Democrats, but then sometime around the 2016 election, he and his family suddenly went hardcore for Trump and the GOP, including millions to Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham. Wonder why!
  • Is it weird that a member of the Trump transition team, a former Deutsche Bank executive named Christopher Burnham, got named to the board of Oleg Deripaska's En+ literally the day after the sanctions were lifted?
  • And finally, what is going on with Steven Mnuchin's face? Can medical science do something about that?

Want to dive deeper into all this sordid fuckery? Senator Mark Warner has written yet another letter to Treasury about all the curious aspects of the deal to un-sanction Oleg Deripaska's companies. After that, you can read this Hollywood Reporter deep dive into Len Blavatnik, Who The Fuck Is He? And then, you know, read other stuff too, if you want, because we left a lot out on account of TREASURY DEPARTMENT SNOOOZZZZZZZZZZZZZZE.

We don't have some grand conclusion here, but we do feel like we could use a shower right about now.

[New York Times / Cummings letter]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the senior editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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Hello! Here a beautiful open thread for you to not comment all over, so that you don't not comment all over Dok's book club post.

I was gonna drop my Nonnie's recipe for Easter bread in here, but apparently it has to proof overnight and is also for approximately 87,000 people, so not much of a point to that! (Though here it is if you really want it. She doesn't do the egg thing, but if you want, you can put some dyed raw eggs in the braided dough before you bake. And you can add sprinkles, and anise if you're gross and like gross things) I was gonna try and make it myself last night, but have instead opted to just make waffles. Waffles are FINE.

So instead, I shall just leave you with this absolutely terrifying version of The Velveteen Rabbit starring Marie Osmond as said velveteen rabbit. Coincidentally, Marie Osmond is also Nonnie's 2nd arch-nemesis, after Rachel Ray (Rachel Ray because she doesn't pull her hair back when she cooks, and Marie for reasons I'm not entirely clear on but which I believe are related to a Weight Watchers commercial).

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT starring Marie Osmond - full length feature youtu.be


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'Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone' -- National Archives

Happy Day Before Half-Priced Easter Chocolate Day, Wonkers! Time to wrap up our Wonkette Book Club discussion of Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, by Erich Rauchway, a historian at UC-Davis. We're increasingly convinced the book might have just as well been titled Herbert Hoover: Christ, What An Asshole! As ever, even if you haven't finished the reading, jump in anyway -- there won't be a test!

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