The US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has come under fire after giving an interview to the Russian state propaganda channel RT, just hours after heaping praise on President Vladimir Putin during NBC News’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum.”
Trump spoke by phone with Larry King, the former CNN talk show host who has been with the Russian channel since 2013.
King gave Trump an easy, chummy interview, making frequent reference to their long acquaintance and failing to push the Republican nominee when he made demonstrably false statements, such as his claim to have always opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In an attempt to counter flack for appearing on a television channel controlled by a state that represses domestic media while criticising US journalists, the Trump campaign claimed that the show was recorded as a podcast for King alone, belying the fact that RT has an exclusive agreement with King to broadcast all of his podcasts.
Not that this would concern the Trump team anyway, as The Washington Post noted:
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — one of Trump’s closest advisers — received payment to deliver a speech at an RT party last year, where he sat next to Putin. In an interview with The Washington Post last month, he said that he saw no distinction between RT and news outlets like CNN or MSNBC.
King’s historical ties to Putin – and Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin oligarchs
It was revealing that the campaign team described the interview as a “favor” for King, with whom Trump said that he would probably be having dinner were he not running for office.
King, who has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Putin himself, has an interesting history of his own.
Back in 2011, a year after he left CNN, King took on a brace of mercenary contracts for several insalubrious parties.
In Kazakhstan, he took a spot moderating at the Kazenergy Eurasian Forum, promoting the oil and gas association headed by Timur Kulibayev, son-in-law of dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. The following month saw Kulibayev implicated in the Zhanaozen massacre when police opened fire on striking workers at an oil plant owned by his sovereign wealth fund, killing more than 70 and wounding hundreds.
In Ukraine, King conducted an interview on Ukrainian state-owned television with the prime minister, Mykola Azarov.
King heaped praise on Azarov, describing him as a “straightforward and honest person with a deep knowledge of world affairs” and even commented that the prime minister reminded him of former US President Jimmy Carter.
He was certainly far more enthusiastic than others who interviewed the bromidic politician, who fled Ukraine in February 2014 as the Yanukovych government collapsed and later declared himself the leader of the “alternative Ukrainian government” in Moscow.
— Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) September 1, 2016
At the very same time that he was hired as a PR adviser for Canada’s Black Iron mining company.
That firm went on to launch a joint venture with Metinvest, Ukraine’s largest steel and mining group, owned by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and a member of Azarov’s Party of Regions.
More light was cast on King’s Ukrainian links last month, when Ukrainska Pravda and Serhiy Leshchenko, an MP and investigative journalist, revealed pages from the so-called Black Ledger – off-the-books accounting records recovered from the Party of Regions office after the Maidan revolution.
One of the entries in the ledger, dated October 11, 2011, is made as an “advance for Larry King.”
The payment was for $225,000.
The recipient of the payment designated for King was Yevgeny Geller, a Party of Regions MP from the Donetsk region who remains in parliament as an independent.
Ukrainska Pravda notes that he was considered the party’s “cashier,” and repeatedly appears in the ledger as the formal recipient of cash earmarked for third parties.
Geller was also one of the co-founders of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, the nominally independent non-profit organization run by the Party of Regions to organize lobbying efforts in the West.
The European Centre came under the spotlight recently due to its links to Paul Manafort, who was until recently Donald Trump’s campaign manager.
Manafort, who began working as an adviser to Yanukovych in 2004 and still does some consulting work for the party’s remnant, the Opposition Bloc, appears hundreds of times in the Black Ledger, put down as receiving a total of $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012.
It is Manafort’s name that appears directly beneath King’s in the excerpt from the ledger photographed above.
While Yanukovych’s former adviser has now resigned as Trump’s campaign manager, could it be plausible that the “favor” the Republican nominee granted King yesterday had its origins in Manafort’s web of schemes, or was it just a meeting of Putinophilic minds?