Oligarch’s jet made suspicious visit to US hours before Manafort met with Russian ex-spy — and Congress wants to know why
Paul Manafort speaks to NBC News (screen grab)

Congressional investigators are looking at an August 2016 landing of a private jet linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in New Jersey as part of their probe of U.S. election interference.

The private jet arrived in Newark within hours of a meeting in nearby Manhattan between then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik, and that timing has attracted the attention of lawmakers, reported Vice News.

A few weeks earlier, Manafort had emailed Kilimnik -- his translator and fixer for more than a decade in Ukraine -- and asked him to extend an offer of "private briefings" to Deripaska.

The Gulfstream G550 (registration M-ALAY) landed shortly after midnight and flew back to Moscow the same afternoon, according to publicly available flight records.

A spokesperson for the 50-year-old Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and Kremlin ally, told Vice News the trip had nothing to do with Manafort's offer to provide briefings, which the representative said never took place.

“The passengers of the flights during the time period in early August 2016 were Mr. Deripaska’s family only,” wrote the spokesperson, who asked not to be named. “As it was previously stated, Mr. Deripaska had no communications, meetings, briefings, or other interaction with Mr. Manafort during, after, or in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election. Thus, we repeat that any publications implying that Mr. Deripaska directly or indirectly communicated with Mr. Manafort in 2016 would be a false statement of fact.”

Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller released a court filing Tuesday night showing that one of Manafort's associates has ties to Russian intelligence, and that Manafort's longtime lieutenant Rick Gates said he and Trump's former campaign chairman were aware of his connections when they met with that former Russian intelligence officer.

The associate isn't identified in court filings, but the detailed description provided by investigators matches Kilimnik's background.

Gates has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller, whose team has indicted Manafort on 32 counts related to bank fraud and money laundering.