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FTR #1022 “Edwin” Manafort, the Coming of Fascism to Ukraine and the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Victoria Nuland and Svoboda’s Tihanybok, left, and “Yats” Arsenyuk on the right.

Introduction: In the wake of the high-profile conviction of former Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort, we present information which greatly fleshes out his dealings with the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovich and the “Hapsburg Group” of European politicians that were working to tease Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence into the Western orbit.

For purposes of this program, we have nicknamed Manafort “Edwin Manafort,” citing him in the context of the operations of Edwin Wilson, whose exploits we analyzed at length in AFA #4.

Far from being the “rogue” criminal he was reported as being, Wilson was actually operating on behalf of elements of the CIA in his terrorist support operations. Shortly before Wilson’s death, a judge supported that conclusion and Wilson was eventually released from prison.

Far from being a “Russian agent,” Paul Manafort is a U.S. spook who was working with a group of European politicians known as the Hapsburg Group, as discussed in FTR #1008.

A story from BNE Intellinews, since taken down but available via the Way Back Machine, details Manafort’s networking with the Hapsburg Group milieu, providing more details that supplement previous discussion of the relationship.

Most importantly, however, the article provides important information on Manafort’s post-Maidan doings in Ukraine! He spent more time in post-Maidan Ukraine than before the coup.

Oleh Tihanybok, leader of the OUN/B successor organization Svoboda

Even more importantly, the article provides significant details on Manafort’s possible collaborators in arranging the violence that led to Yanukovych’s ouster.

Before discussing the significant details of Manafort and his associates’ possible roles in the violence that led to Yanukovych’s ouster, we present the first part of the article, in order to flesh out the Manafort-Hapsburg networking.

Key points of information include:

  1. Manafort’s close relationship with Serhiy Lovochkin, a key aide to Viktor Yanukovich and owner of a premier Ukrainian TV station, and his sister Yulia Lovochkina, who owns an airline whose planes ferried Manafort in his dealings with the Hapsburg group.
  2. The important role of Serhiy Lovochkin and his sister in promoting the EU Association Agreement. It was Yanukovich’s eventual rejection of that agreement that led to the demonstrations that led up to the Maidan coup.
  3. The dual role played by Hapsburg Group member Alexander Krasniewski, who was ran the EU’s Ukraine Observation Group.
  4. The profound degree of involvement of Manafort with the Hapsburg Group.

Of paramount significance for our purposes, is the behavior of Manafort, Lovochkin, Lovochkina, Dmytro Firtash and Victoria Nuland.

Noting the profound relationship between Manafort, Serhii Lovochkin, Yulia Lovochkina, the Hapsburg Group and the EU, it is important to evaluate the Manafort/Lovochkin relationship in the context of the Maidan snipers. (In FTR #’s 982, 993, we noted evidence that the Maidan shootings may have been a provocation. This information will be reviewed in our next program.)

  1. ” . . . . The private jet flights and personal connections show that Manafort’s partner in this lobbying effort was Yanukovych’s chief of staff Lovochkin. . . . Manafort’s Ukraine engagements actually increased following Yanukovych’s ouster in February 2014. In March to June 2014, he spent a total of 27 days in Ukraine, whereas during the four preceding Euromaidan months, November-February 2014, Manafort only visited Ukraine three times for a total of nine days. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Lovochkin is the junior partner of billionaire oligarch Dmytro Firtash . . . . Lovochkin and Firtash together also control Ukraine’s largest TV channel, Inter. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . Manafort’s continued participation in post-Yanukovych Ukraine also points to his ties to Lovochkin and Firtash. While most members of the Yanukovych administration fled to Russia or were arrested after February 2014, Lovochkin has continued his political career with impunity, despite having served at the heart of Yanukovych’s regime for four years. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . Euromaidan was triggered by events in Kyiv on the night of November 29, when police violently dispersed a small demonstration of pro-EU students who were protesting after Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement. The violence prompted a huge demonstration occupying the heart of Kyiv on December 1. . . .”
  5. ” . . . . According to messages between the sisters discussing Manafort’s actions in Ukraine, it was Manafort’s idea ‘to send those people out and get them slaughtered. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts [sic] and what not […] As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.’ Manafort’s daughter called her father’s money ‘blood money.’ . . .”
  6. ” . . . . The remarks were made by those privy to the deepest secrets of Manafort’s personal life. They evoke the suspicion that Manafort manipulated the Maidan protests and the police violence to influence international opinion. The appearance of the Manafort messages in 2016 reignited speculation in Ukraine that none other than Lovochkin instigated the attack on the students’ demonstration on November 29, 2013, to trigger outrage against Yanukovych. . . .”
  7. ” . . . . Some of the timeline fits this interpretation: On the day before the police attack, reporters noted Yulia Lovochkina openly fraternising with the students on the Maidan. Lovochkin’s TV crews covered the 4am events closely, and Lovochkin immediately tendered his resignation in protest at the police violence. . . .”
  8. ” . . . . The next day, Lovochkin’s TV channel played footage of the worst of the police violence on heavy rotation on prime time news. News anchors intoned that Yanukovych had ‘shed the blood of Ukrainian children.’ Whereas the student protests had attracted hundreds, protests on Sunday December 1 against the police violence attracted hundreds of thousands. This was the start of Euromaidan. . . .”
  9. Of great significance as well, is the maneuvering around a warrant for the arrest of Ukrainian oligarch and Lovochkin partner Dmytro Firtash. The role of Victoria Nuland in this maneuvering is particularly significant: ” . . . . On October 30 2013 — as Yanukovych was wavering over the Association Agreement with the EU — the US issued an arrest warrant for Firtash. The US withdrew the arrest warrant four days later — after US deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland met Yanukovych in Kyiv, and received assurances that Yanukovych would sign the Association Agreement, Firtash said during extradition hearings in Vienna in 2015 that first revealed the details of the case. But come the Vilnius Summit, Yanukovych failed to sign. The arrest warrant was reissued in March 2014, and Firtash was arrested in Vienna on March 12, 2014. . . . .”

The wedding of Prince Max Egon von Hohenloe-Langenburg

We also review (in the description only) the relationship between members of the Hapsburg family and European integration, the Cold War against the Soviet Union, contemporary Ukraine and the OUN/B.

1a. Beginning the description, we review links of members of the Hapsburg dynasty to the events around Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine, for the benefit of readers.

In FTR #1009, we set forth the collaboration between the U.S. national security establishment and the Hapsburgs, a relationship dating to the immediate post World War I period and cemented in the context of anti-Communism/anti-Soviet activism. Note that Prince Egon Von Hohenloe–who married into the Hapsburg family–was the key go-between in negotiations between U.S. intelligence, Allen Dulles in particular and Walter Schellenberg of SS intelligence.

  • Members of the Habsburg dynasty have been involved in the context in which “Edwin” Manafort and the Habsburg Group were operating, in order to ease Ukraine into the Western, rather than the Russian orbit. ” . . . .The most strik­ing exam­ple of the trend is the appoint­ment this week of Georg von Habsburg, the 32-year-old-grandson of Emperor Karl I, to the posi­tion of Hungary’s ambas­sador for Euro­pean Integration. In neigh­bour­ing Aus­tria, the tra­di­tional heart of Hab­s­burg power, Georg’s brother, Karl, 35, was recently elected to rep­re­sent the coun­try in the Euro­pean par­lia­ment. In addi­tion to this, he serves as the pres­i­dent of the Aus­trian branch of the Pan-European movement. . . . .”
  • Jumping forward some 14 years from our previous article, we see that a Habsburg princess was anointed as Georgia’s ambassador to Germany. Note that [now former] Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili endorsed her. Saakashvili became, for a time, the governor of the Ukrainian province of Odessa! Note, also, the role of the Habsburgs in the final phase of the Cold War: “. . . . The heirs to the Hab­s­burg emper­ors helped speed the down­fall of the Soviet empire, par­tic­u­larly by arrang­ing the cross-border exo­dus from Hun­gary to Aus­tria in the sum­mer of 1989 that punched the first big hole in the iron cur­tain. . . .”
  • Karl von Habsburg has been active in Ukraine for some years before establishing a radio station. Karl von Habsburg is the head of the UNPO. Note the Ukrainian orientation and influence of Wilhelm von Habsburg, in World War I through the World War II eras, as well as his anti-Soviet activism: ” . . . . A mil­i­tary offi­cer by train­ing, Wil­helm sup­ported Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence strug­gle dur­ing World War I. He fought with Ukrain­ian troops against the Rus­sians, and had schemed and cajoled a myr­iad of politi­cians to sup­port his monar­chial aspi­ra­tions. Almost until his death at the hands of the Sovi­ets in 1948 – he was snatched off the streets of Vienna and trans­ported to a prison in Kyiv for work­ing as an agent against the Soviet Union – Wil­helm believed this slice of the family’s empire could be his. . . .”
  • Fast-forwarding again some five years from our previous two articles and one year after the EuroMaidan coup we see that actions speak louder than words, and Karl’s new Ukrain­ian radio sta­tion says a lot: “Since 20 Jan­u­ary, a truly Euro­pean radio sta­tion [Note this–D.E.] is broad­cast­ing in Ukraine, its main spon­sor, Karl-Habsburg Lothrin­gen, told EurAc­tiv in an exclu­sive interview . . . . Karl Habsburg-Lothringen is an Aus­trian politi­cian and head of the House of Hab­s­burg. Since 1986, he has served as Pres­i­dent of the Aus­trian branch of the Paneu­ro­pean Union. . . .”
  • OUN/B World War II Ukrainian prime minister Jaroslav Stetsko and then Vice-President George H.W. Bush

    As we noted, “Plan B” for Ukraine might be termed “Plan OUN/B.” Otto von Habsburg formed the European Freedom Council with Jaroslav Stetzko, the wartime head of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborationist government that implemented Third Reich ethnic cleansing programs in Ukraine. The EFC was closely aligned with the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, headed by Stetzko. The ABN, as we have seen in the past, is a re-naming of the Committee of Subjugated Nations, a consortium of Eastern European fascist groups formed by Hitler in 1943.. . . . The Hapsburg monarchy helped guide the leadership in their former possessions. The Freedom Council was formed by Otto von Hapsburg and Jaroslav Stetzko at a conference in Munich on June 30-July 2 1967, as a coordinating body for organizations fighting communism in Europe. EMP H.R.H. Otto von Hapsburg was honorary chairman of the European Freedom Council, based in Munich, during the 1980s and allied to the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN). . . .”

1b. Most importantly, however, the BNE Intellinews article provides important information on Manafort’s post-Maidan doings in Ukraine! He spent more time in post-Maidan Ukraine than before the coup.

Even more importantly, the article provides significant details on Manafort’s possible collaborators in arranging the violence that led to Yanukovych’s ouster.

Before discussing the significant details of Manafort and his associates’ possible roles in the violence that led to Yanukovych’s ouster, we present the first part of the article, in order to flesh out the Manafort-Hapsburg networking.

Key points of information include:

  1. Manafort’s close relationship with Serhiy Lovochkin, a key aide to Viktor Yanukovich and owner of a premier Ukrainian TV station, and his sister Yulia Lovochkina, who owns an airline whose planes ferried Manafort in his dealings with the Hapsburg group.
  2. The important role of Serhiy Lovochkin and his sister in promoting the EU Association Agreement. It was Yanukovich’s eventual rejection of that agreement that led to the demonstrations that led up to the Maidan coup.
  3. The dual role played by Hapsburg Group member Alexander Krasniewski, who was ran the EU’s Ukraine Observation Group.
  4. The profound degree of involvement of Manafort with the Hapsburg Group.

“Wheels up: Paul Manafort’s flight records show how he supervised EU top brass in the run-up to Ukraine revolution” by Graham Stack in Berlin; BNE Intellinews; 07/02/2018

Infamous US lobbyist Paul Manafort organised EU luminaries to plead with Brussels to sign off on an Association Agreement with Ukraine without the freeing of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in 2012-2013, his flight records, revealed by bne IntelliNews for the first time, show.Manafort organised the lobbying campaign on the orders of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by mass demonstrations in Kyiv when he eventually failed to sign the deal.

The information backs up allegations made by US special consul Robert Mueller that, as part of the campaign to do an Association Agreement deal, Manafort retained EU “super VIPs” to lobby for Yanukovych.

The flight records also reveal Manafort remained a player in Ukraine after the Maidan revolution until as late as 2015 – only months before he signed up as US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

And Manafort’s relationship to a top Yanukovych aide, who turned against his master during the Euromaidan movement, raises questions about the spin doctor’s role in Ukraine’s 2013-14 revolution.

VIP trips

The story starts with a key meeting in Rome in 2013. Flanked by EU elder statesmen, all former heads of their respective states, Yulia Lovochkina, a Ukrainian MP, addressed a select gathering in Rome on the topic of Ukraine’s goal of signing an Association Agreement with the EU.

“Ukraine has made its irrevocable choice and is committed to being a part of Europe, part of the European Union,” she said, referring to plans to sign an Association Agreement with the EU at a summit in Vilnius slated for November 2013. “The president of Ukraine reiterated that he is ready to implement all the necessary measures,” she added.

The date of the Rome meeting was March 6, 2013, and the speaker Yulia Lovochkina was none other the sister of Serhii Lovochkin, Yanukovych’s powerful chief of staff. Despite the assurances of commitment to the EU, less than a year later, Yanukovych’s security forces would massacre 100 pro-EU protestors in the heart of Kyiv. Three days later he fled Ukraine for Russia.

Tymoshenko, leader of Ukraine’s opposition at the time, was languishing in prison. She had lost to Yanukovych in the presidential elections of 2010 – and Yanukovych promptly jailed her in 2011. The international community were outraged, calling her jailing politically motivated and linking her release to the passage of the Association Agreement deal.

All the speakers at the Rome meeting were united by a desire to do the Association Agreement deal, but the undercurrent to their speeches was an insistence that the signing of the agreement and Tymoshenko’s fate were two separate issues, which was in stark contrast to Brussels’ initial line.

In her speech, Lovochkina was explicit: the Association Agreement should be signed independently from Tymoshenko’s case. “It [signing the Association Agreement] cannot be held hostage by a single criminal case […] by the future of Yulia Tymoshenko because it is an issue concerning the future of Ukraine,” she said.

As a representative of the Yanukovych administration, Lovochkina’s line was predictable. But more surprisingly was the support she got from the eminent European VIPs who backed her up. Using a variety of euphemisms, they pushed essentially the same argument: that the issue of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and the issue of Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, should be kept separate from each other.

“The question of the destiny of Ukraine and its European future cannot depend on one single case,” Alfred Gusenbauer, former chancellor of Austria, said. “In the case of Tymoshenko it is necessary to look for solutions without making a complicated situation more complicated,” said Alexander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, who was also the senior partner in the European Parliament’s “monitoring mission” to Ukraine that had been tasked with resolving the impasse caused by Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.

Concluding the conference, Roman Prodi, former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission, argued that the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine — run by Kwasniewski — should examine the Tymoshenko case as “the correct framework for a European Union that helps promotes rights, but at the same time does not close off a relationship which is valuable for Ukraine and Europe.”

As the audience applauded the awkward grouping on the podium, one man in the audience may have been particularly happy: US spin doctor Paul Manafort, who had flown to Rome that day with Lovochkina in one of the Lovochkin family’s private jets. Manafort had assembled the speakers sitting in front of him on the podium, and was pulling the strings at the meeting.

Jailing Yulia Tymoshenko

A few months earlier Western leaders and EU officials had made Ukraine’s signing of an Association Agreement conditional on the release of Tymoshenko.

Manafort was Yanukovych’s ace in the campaign to win over the west.

In part as a result of Manafort’s lobbying efforts, by November 2013 the EU had agreed to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine in Vilnius, without having secured Tymoshenko’s release. Instead she was to be allowed to leave Ukraine for medical treatment, exiling her from Ukraine.

This was Manafort’s hour of triumph. But Russian fury at the thought of Ukraine slipping from its grasp meant that it was short-lived. On November 21, 2013, Ukraine’s government announced it would not sign the Association Agreement with the EU on November 28.

The Hapsburg PR

On February 28, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted Manafort for illegal lobbying. The details of the indictment point to Manafort pulling the strings at the March 6 Rome conference.

Mueller’s indictment states that Manafort “secretly retained a group for former senior European politicians to take positions favourable to Ukraine. The plan was for the former politicians, informally called the “Hapsburg Group,” to appear to be providing an independent assessment of the government of Ukraine actions, when in fact they were paid lobbyists for Ukraine.”

According to the indictment Manafort paid over €2mn to the “super VIPs” from offshore accounts in 2012 and 2013.

While the politicians were unnamed, the indictment specifies a European “chancellor” as heading the group. An initially unredacted document filed on June 13 identified former Austrian chancellor Gusenbauer by name as part of the Hapsburg group.

The document was a memorandum to Manafort authored in June 2012 by Italian-based US journalist Alan Friedman — the man who chaired the March 2013 conference in Rome.

In the memo, Friedman suggested recruiting Kwasniewski to the group. But he noted that Kwasniewski would have a conflict of interests because Kwasniewski was the leading figure in the European Parliament’s monitoring mission to Ukraine.

The monitoring mission was tasked with judging whether Ukraine was fit to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. A leader of the monitoring to mission could hardly also publicly lobby in favour of Ukraine.

Friedman then suggested to Manafort that Kwasniewski appear at conferences together with Gusenbauer, with conferences planned for Berlin, Rome and Brussels. Those recruited for the group would “take direction from us informally and via Alfred [Gusenbauer].”

“I participated in several international conferences as a speaker and for this reason, like other participants, I have received a honorarium,” Kwasniewski acknowledges. “I have not received any financial gratification from the [Manafort-linked lobbyists] Centre for Modern Ukraine or Mercury, I have never received any suggestions for my contributions from Mr. Manafort, Mr. Friedman or anyone else. In all my political activities I have presented my own opinions,” Kwasniewski added.

In Kwasniewski’s ghost-written account of his activities in Ukraine 2012-2014, he describes having had a “double-hatted role … as Ukraine’s ambassador in Europe and the United States and as ambassador of the transatlantic community in Ukraine.”

“It [the monitoring mission] always kept an eye on its independence and impartiality […] not allowing any side to use the mission for its own purposes […] it is our belief that this independence and impartiality was fully achieved,” European Parliament press officer Sanne De Ryck said.

”Alexander Kwasniewski had a double role, working for Ukrainian oligarchs and the EU […] This creates conflicts of interest, which is indeed problematic,” Stefan Meister, expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations told bne IntelliNews.

Flight-tracking Manafort

bne IntelliNews obtained flight data for Manafort’s Ukraine visits for those years. His flight data made it possible to track his lobbying activities in 2012-2015, in the run-up to the Euromaidan revolution of February 2014 and its aftermath.

The flight data points to intensive Manafort supervision of the “Hapsburg Group” members such as Gusenbauer, Kwasniewski, and Prodi. Manafort frequently flew on the Lovochkin family’s personal jets between Ukraine and Europe to attend their conferences or meet individually.

Manafort’s representative Jason Maloni declined to comment on the flight data. A source close to Manafort, however, argued that he had “consistently advocated for Ukraine to have closer ties to the West.”

Kwasniewski confirmed this. “He [Manafort] was in favour of signing the Association Agreement.”

Yulia Lovochkina acknowledged owning an executive jet business. “Its services were open to everyone on the market,” she said. She also acknowledged flying with Manafort to the Rome conference on one of the planes. She “paid for the ticket herself and had her own agenda for the trip,” she said.

Manafort lost little time after the creation of the Hapsburg group in June 2012. On September 20, 2012, Gusenberg and Prodi spoke at a conference organised by the Otto Renner Institut. Manafort flew to Vienna on its conclusion the following day.

On October 23, 2012, he flew on a one-day trip from Kyiv to Berlin, where the Hapsburg group — including Kwasniewski — were appearing at a conference organised by the Eastern Economy Committee. Kwasniewski confirmed a meeting with Manafort here.

By the end of 2012, the lobbying effort was beginning to pay off. The crowning came on December 18, 2012, when Manafort’s visit to Kyiv coincided with the 11th Cox-Kwasniewski mission visit. Kwasniewski confirmed meeting Manafort on this occasion.

Yanukovych, originally scheduled to be visiting Moscow, cancelled on the Kremlin with no notice to meet Cox and Kwasniewski

In return, Cox and Kwasniewski heaped praise on Ukraine’s then prime minister Mykola Azarov on the occasion of his birthday in an open letter. This was a huge turnaround compared to seven months earlier, when President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy had told journalists that Azarov “should stay at home” instead of visiting Brussels.

The road to Vilnius

The lobbying effort accelerated in 2013, starting with the March 2013 Rome conference. The EU’s Vilnius summit slated for November 2013 was approaching where Ukraine was expected to sign the Association Agreement.

On May 15-17, 2013, Manafort flew again for a weekend in Warsaw and Brussels, returning on a Lovochkin executive jet. In Warsaw he met one-on-one with Kwasniewski. On May 17, Prodi and Gusenbauer were in Brussels for the Ukraine on the road to Vilnius conference.

Two months later, Manafort was again air bound on a Lovochkin plane, on a one day visit from Frankfurt, landing from the US, bound for the Crimea on July 29. He flew back from Crimea to Frankfurt on the same day.

One day before, Russia and Ukraine had jointly celebrated the Soviet-era Navy Day with a shared display of their two fleets that was attended by Putin and Yanukovych. Join manoeuvres displayed the close contacts between the top brass of the two fleets that prefigured Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula only nine months later.

But it was not for Navy Day that Manafort flew to Crimea, together with his assistant Konstantin Kilimnik, one day later. His mission was to bolster Yanukovych’s decision to go for Europe.

Cox and Kwasnievski arrived in Crimea on the same day as Manafort. On the morning of July 30, they were scheduled to meet with Yanukovych in Crimea for another session on Tymoshenko’s fate. Kwasniewski said Manafort did not meet with the monitoring mission in Crimea that day.

But as the pace of events quickened in summer and autumn 2013, Manafort had a series of one-to-one meetings with Kwasniewski in Warsaw, the former Polish president acknowledged.

These culminated in Manafort flying to Warsaw on October 18 — on Lovochkin’s plane — to meet Kwasniewski. Later the same day Yanukovych said he would be ready to let Tymoshenko depart to Germany for treatment, as soon as Ukraine’s parliament passed legislation enabling this.

1b. Noting the profound relationship between Manafort, Serhii Lovochkin, Yulia Lovochkina, the Hapsburg Group and the EU, it is important to evaluate the Manafort/Lovochkin relationship in the context of the Maidan snipers:

  1. ” . . . . The private jet flights and personal connections show that Manafort’s partner in this lobbying effort was Yanukovych’s chief of staff Lovochkin. . . . Manafort’s Ukraine engagements actually increased following Yanukovych’s ouster in February 2014. In March to June 2014, he spent a total of 27 days in Ukraine, whereas during the four preceding Euromaidan months, November-February 2014, Manafort only visited Ukraine three times for a total of nine days. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Lovochkin is the junior partner of billionaire oligarch Dmytro Firtash . . . . Lovochkin and Firtash together also control Ukraine’s largest TV channel, Inter. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . Manafort’s continued participation in post-Yanukovych Ukraine also points to his ties to Lovochkin and Firtash. While most members of the Yanukovych administration fled to Russia or were arrested after February 2014, Lovochkin has continued his political career with impunity, despite having served at the heart of Yanukovych’s regime for four years. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . Euromaidan was triggered by events in Kyiv on the night of November 29, when police violently dispersed a small demonstration of pro-EU students who were protesting after Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement. The violence prompted a huge demonstration occupying the heart of Kyiv on December 1. . . .”
  5. ” . . . . According to messages between the sisters discussing Manafort’s actions in Ukraine, it was Manafort’s idea ‘to send those people out and get them slaughtered. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts [sic] and what not […] As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.’ Manafort’s daughter called her father’s money ‘blood money.’ . . .”
  6. ” . . . . The remarks were made by those privy to the deepest secrets of Manafort’s personal life. They evoke the suspicion that Manafort manipulated the Maidan protests and the police violence to influence international opinion. The appearance of the Manafort messages in 2016 reignited speculation in Ukraine that none other than Lovochkin instigated the attack on the students’ demonstration on November 29, 2013, to trigger outrage against Yanukovych. . . .”
  7. ” . . . . Some of the timeline fits this interpretation: On the day before the police attack, reporters noted Yulia Lovochkina openly fraternising with the students on the Maidan. Lovochkin’s TV crews covered the 4am events closely, and Lovochkin immediately tendered his resignation in protest at the police violence. . . .”
  8. ” . . . . The next day, Lovochkin’s TV channel played footage of the worst of the police violence on heavy rotation on prime time news. News anchors intoned that Yanukovych had ‘shed the blood of Ukrainian children.’ Whereas the student protests had attracted hundreds, protests on Sunday December 1 against the police violence attracted hundreds of thousands. This was the start of Euromaidan. . . .”
  9. Of great significance as well, is the maneuvering around a warrant for the arrest of Ukrainian oligarch and Lovochkin partner Dmytro Firtash. The role of Victoria Nuland in this maneuvering is particularly significant: ” . . . . On October 30 2013 — as Yanukovych was wavering over the Association Agreement with the EU — the US issued an arrest warrant for Firtash. The US withdrew the arrest warrant four days later — after US deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland met Yanukovych in Kyiv, and received assurances that Yanukovych would sign the Association Agreement, Firtash said during extradition hearings in Vienna in 2015 that first revealed the details of the case. But come the Vilnius Summit, Yanukovych failed to sign. The arrest warrant was reissued in March 2014, and Firtash was arrested in Vienna on March 12, 2014. . . . .”

“Wheels up: Paul Manafort’s flight records show how he supervised EU top brass in the run-up to Ukraine revolution” by Graham Stack in Berlin; BNE Intellinews; 07/02/2018

. . . . The Firtash connection

The private jet flights and personal connections show that Manafort’s partner in this lobbying effort was Yanukovych’s chief of staff Lovochkin.

Lovochkin said that he had also “always been a strong supporter of the European integration of Ukraine,” but denied that he had supervised Manafort’s lobbying. Kwasniewski confirmed that Lovochkin was in the pro-EU camp.

Lovochkin is the junior partner of billionaire oligarch Dmytro Firtash who made his fortune trading gas via notorious company Rosukrenergo, who had made his fortune trading gas via notorious company Rosukrenergo, that allegedly skimmed off hundreds of millions of dollars for the Russian and Ukrainian elite. Lovochkin and Firtash together also control Ukraine’s largest TV channel, Inter.

Manafort’s continued participation in post-Yanukovych Ukraine also points to his ties to Lovochkin and Firtash. While most members of the Yanukovych administration fled to Russia or were arrested after February 2014, Lovochkin has continued his political career with impunity, despite having served at the heart of Yanukovych’s regime for four years.

Post Yanukovych’s ousting, Manafort may have attended top-level Ukrainian political meetings where the oligarchs decided who would govern.

On March 25 he flew out of Vienna to Kyiv. His visit to Vienna had coincided with a crucial meeting between Petro Poroshenko and Vienna-based Firtash in that city. Lovochkin had also attended the meeting at which Firtash agreed to back Poroshenko for the post of president, rather than former boxer Vitaly Klichko, effectively crowning Poroshenko president.

In November 13, 2014, as details of a new government were being hammered out after the parliamentary elections, the flight data records that Manafort flew from Kyiv to Nice, France, on a private jet with Ihor Tarasiuk, the business partner of Poroshenko’s first deputy chief of staff, Yuri Kosiuk. Tarasiuk denied taking the flight to bne IntelliNews, although he confirmed the personal data provided was correct.

Manafort’s Ukraine engagements actually increased following Yanukovych’s ouster in February 2014. In March to June 2014, he spent a total of 27 days in Ukraine, whereas during the four preceding Euromaidan months, November-February 2014, Manafort only visited Ukraine three times for a total of nine days.

According to the Mueller indictment, Manafort was engaged as lobbyist for Lovochkin’s new party Opposition Bloc, widely regarded as funded by Firtash. This explains Manafort’s long stays in Ukraine during the post-Maidan election campaigns, according to the flight data: one week prior to the presidential elections in May 2014, and one month prior to the parliamentary elections in October 2014.

Manafort’s flight data concludes with a four-week stay in Ukraine through to October 27, 2015. This period coincides with the campaign for regional elections, which cemented Lovochkin’s Opposition Bloc as a dominant force across south and east Ukraine. Only months after the close of electioneering in conflict-wracked Ukraine, Manafort was electioneering in the US, on behalf of the controversial candidate for the world’s most powerful office.

Maidan mystery

Manafort’s flight data sheds no light however on his relationship, if any, to the Euromaidan revolution. Euromaidan was triggered by events in Kyiv on the night of November 29, when police violently dispersed a small demonstration of pro-EU students who were protesting after Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement. The violence prompted a huge demonstration occupying the heart of Kyiv on December 1.

All we have are cryptic messages exchanged between Manafort’s daughters, one of whose phones was hacked in 2016. Manafort confirmed the hack and corroborated some of the messages to Politico.

According to messages between the sisters discussing Manafort’s actions in Ukraine, it was Manafort’s idea “to send those people out and get them slaughtered. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts [sic] and what not […] As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.” Manafort’s daughter called her father’s money “blood money.”

The remarks were made by those privy to the deepest secrets of Manafort’s personal life. They evoke the suspicion that Manafort manipulated the Maidan protests and the police violence to influence international opinion.

The appearance of the Manafort messages in 2016 reignited speculation in Ukraine that none other than Lovochkin instigated the attack on the students’ demonstration on November 29, 2013, to trigger outrage against Yanukovych.

Some of the timeline fits this interpretation: On the day before the police attack, reporters noted Yulia Lovochkina openly fraternising with the students on the Maidan. Lovochkin’s TV crews covered the 4am events closely, and Lovochkin immediately tendered his resignation in protest at the police violence.

The next day, Lovochkin’s TV channel played footage of the worst of the police violence on heavy rotation on prime time news. News anchors intoned that Yanukovych had “shed the blood of Ukrainian children.” Whereas the student protests had attracted hundreds, protests on Sunday December 1 against the police violence attracted hundreds of thousands. This was the start of Euromaidan.

Authoritative chronicler of the Euromaidan revolution Sonya Koshkina, as well as Ukrainian prosecutors, have argued it was anti-EU hardliners who were responsible for attacking the students.

But on the third anniversary of events, November 29, 2016, Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov told the BBC that “Lovochkin was the author of the dispersal of the [students’] Maidan, and should be in prison, not in parliament.”

Lovochkin denies any role in the attack on the students. “I submitted my resignation because of President Yanukovych’s decision to decline signing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) […] and the use of force against peaceful protesters in Kyiv following it,” he said.

What was Lovochkin’s motivation to break with Yanukovych so abruptly over Europe, whether or not he was involved in the violence? According to Koshkina, Lovochkin was “a placeman of Firtash and one of the architects of the regime,” hardly a nationalist or freedom-loving liberal. But in June 2013 the US had indicted Firtash for alleged bribery in India. On October 30 2013 — as Yanukovych was wavering over the Association Agreement with the EU — the US issued an arrest warrant for Firtash.

The US withdrew the arrest warrant four days later — after US deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland met Yanukovych in Kyiv, and received assurances that Yanukovych would sign the Association Agreement, Firtash said during extradition hearings in Vienna in 2015 that first revealed the details of the case. But come the Vilnius Summit, Yanukovych failed to sign. The arrest warrant was reissued in March 2014, and Firtash was arrested in Vienna on March 12, 2014. . . . .

 

Discussion

14 comments for “FTR #1022 “Edwin” Manafort, the Coming of Fascism to Ukraine and the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op”

  1. Well this is awesome: Ivan Katchanovski, a Canadian academic who has been forensically studying the evidence of the Maidan sniper attacks and concluded that much of the sniper fire was coming from Maidan-controlled buildings, has a wonderfully succinct digital multimedia ‘poster’ (an ‘iPoster’) for his work that was presented during the 2018 American Political Science Association conference in Boston. It’s like most academic posters that gives a high level overview of the findings of his research and filled with embedded videos. You can view it Here’s the contents of the poster. Be sure to check out the numerous images and videos included in the actual iPoster online:

    The Maidan Massacre in Ukraine: Revelations from Trials and Investigations

    Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D.
    University of Ottawa

    Previous Studies

    The Maidan massacre in Ukraine in February 2014 led to or contributed to

    * Violent overthrow of the semi-democratic pro-Russian government
    * Russian annexation of Crimea
    * Civil war in Donbas
    * Russian covert military intervention in Donbas in support of separatists
    * Conflict between the West and Russia

    (See Black and Johns, 2016; Hahn, 2017; Katchanovski, 2015a, 2015b, 2016a, 2016b, 2017; Kudelia, 2016, 2018)

    Only a few previous scholarly studies of this crucial case of political violence

    * All by political scientists

    Most previous studies find that this was a false flag mass killing involving sections of Maidan leadership and far right and involved the massacre of the police (Hahn, 2017; Katchanovski, 2015, 2016)

    Kudelia (2018) argues that the violence was initiated by the Maidan protesters, who killed and wounded many policemen and that the Berkut police then massacred unarmed protesters in turn

    * But the previous studies did not examine systematically evidence revealed by Maidan massacre trials and investigations
    * Many scholars uncritically cited Maidan politicians, government officials, and the media concerning this massacre without examining evidence, including from trial and investigations, for example, misattributing the massacre to government snipers (See, for example, Marples and Mills, 2015; Wilson, 2014).

    Ukrainian and Western governments and media dominant narratives

    * Government snipers and/or a Berkut anti-riot police unit massacred peaceful Maidan protesters on a Yanukovych order
    * Killed protesters commemorated by the government and media in Ukraine as national heroes
    * Limited media reporting and official statements about the Maidan massacre trial even though this is the trial of the century in Ukraine
    * Charges against Yanukovych, his internal affairs and security ministers, and a special Berkut unit are generally taken at face value
    * With some limited exceptions, no media reporting or officials statements about revelations of evidence at the trial regarding snipers in Maidan-controlled locations or such evidence is dismissed as a conspiracy theory or fake

    Research Question & Data

    Research Question

    * What does evidence made public by the Maidan massacre trials and Ukrainian government investigations reveal about which of the parties of the conflict was involved in this mass killing?

    Data and Methodology

    * Several hundred hours of online video recordings of Maidan massacre trials
    * Over 2,000 court decisions concerning investigation of the massacre from the official court decisions database in Ukraine
    * Focus on the Maidan massacre trial of 5 Berkut policemen charged with the massacre on February 20, 2014

    Qualitative and quantitative interviews analysis

    * Examines trial and investigation testimonies of more than 100 wounded protesters and relatives of the killed protesters, Yanukovych, and his Internal Troops commander
    * Testimonies by witnesses at the trial, investigation, media, and social media

    Content analysis

    * Analysis and synchronization of videos, audio recordings, and photos of the Maidan massacre shown during the trial, in the media, and social media
    * Comparisons of the trial and investigation data with other evidence, such as synchronised videos of the massacre and testimonies of witnesses in the media and social media
    * Comparison with results of forensic ballistic and medical examinations and investigative experiments made public at the trial
    * Online video appendixes with English-language subtitles contain relevant video segments from the Maidan massacre trial, the media, and social media for analysis and replication purposes

    Revelations about Snipers
    The Maidan massacre trial & investigation revealed various evidence that Maidan protesters on February 20 were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings

    * At least 25 out of 66 wounded Maidan protesters, with whose shooting Berkut policemen are charged, testified at the trial & investigation that they were shot from Maidan-controlled buildings/ areas & 29 testified that they witnessed snipers there or were told about them by other protesters (See Video Appendix D)
    [see video]
    * Many witness testimonies at the trial & investigation about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings (Video Appendix E)
    [see video]

    Such testimonies are consistent with some 200 witness testimonies in media and social media about snipers in Maidan areas, including over 70 video testimonies.

    * Six Maidan politicians and activists publicly testified that they witnessed involvement of specific top Maidan leaders in the massacre, such as their deployment of snipers and evacuation of snipers who were captured by Maidan-protesters
    * An ex-sponsor of the Right Sector to testify at the trial

    (See Video Appendix B).
    [see video]

    They are also generally consistent with testimonies of 5 Georgian ex-military in Italian, Israeli, Macedonian, & Russian media and their depositions provided to Berkut lawyers for the trial. They testified that their groups received weapons, payments, & orders to massacre both police and protesters from specific Maidan and Georgian politicians & instructions from a far-right linked ex-US Army sniper and then saw Georgian, Baltic States, and specific far right Right Sector-linked Ukrainian snipers shooting from specific Maidan-controlled buildings (see Italian & Israeli TV documentaries (English language versions))
    [see video]
    [see video]
    [see video]

    These Georgians revealed in the media their names, passport numbers & border stamps, copies of plane tickets, videos and photos in Ukraine or Georgian military, and other evidence in support of their testimonies

    * Identities, presence in Ukraine, and Georgian military service of some of them corroborated by evidence & other sources
    * Maidan massacre trial decision authorised two of them testify at the trial via video link from Armenia

    The Prosecutor General Office investigation revealed in October 2016 that one of the leaders of far right Svoboda and its member of the parliament occupied a Hotel Ukraina room from which a sniper in reported Maidan style green helmet was filmed shooting by BBC and ICTV in the direction of the Maidan protesters and the BBC journalists. (See Video Appendix A)

    Three Maidan snipers admitted in BBC and Ukrainian media interviews that the massacre on February 20 started with them and other Maidan snipers shooting at the police from the Music Conservatory and forcing the police units to flee the Maidan square which they besieged (see BBC report and Katchanovski, 2015b)
    [see video]

    * Investigation determined that one of them killed two policemen during the massacre from a hunting version of Kalashnikov assault rifle
    * Kyiv court decisions revealed that the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigated leaders and members of the far right Right Sector, neo-Nazi “Warriors of Narnia,” Sokil, a youth affiliate of far right Svoboda party, far right Bratstvo and other unidentified Maidan activists for their suspected involvement in the killing and wounding of the Interior Troops servicemen and the Berkut police on February 18-20 (see, for example, Ukhvala, 2016a).
    * Right Sector members match killers of two Interior Troops members on February 18

    The Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigation determined based on their testimonies and investigative experiments that almost half of protesters (77 out of 157) were wounded on February 20 from other sectors than the Berkut police and did not charge Berkut with their shooting

    * Since the investigation determined that government snipers did not massacre the Maidan protesters this suggests that these protesters were wounded from the Maidan-controlled buildings/areas
    * E,g., a female #Maidan medic, whose wounding on Maidan was widely blamed by Western & Ukrainian media and politicians on government snipers
    [see video]

    No such testimonies admitting involvement in the massacre or knowledge of such involvement by the Berkut policemen, ex-police and security services commanders, and ex-Yanukovych government officials

    * This includes both those charged with the massacre and those not charged and serving the new Maidan government or remaining in Ukraine
    * Charged Berkut policemen denied that they massacred protesters
    Their lawyers argue at the trial that both protesters and police were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings
    * Yanukovych and his commander of Internal Troops testified at the trial as witnesses via video link from Russia the same and that they did not give orders to massacre protesters.
    * They were only charged in 2017 in absentia with ordering the massacre
    * Such testimonies of policemen and senior ex-government officials publicly accused or charged with the mass killing are in line with their personal, political, and monetary incentives but they are generally consistent with various other evidence

    No specific evidence of orders by then president Yanukovych, his internal affairs and security service ministers, or police and security service commanders to massacre unarmed protesters has been revealed at the trials or made public by the prosecution or other sources

    A minority of wounded protesters testified at the trial and investigation that they were shot by government snipers or Berkut police

    * Most of these testimonies are not consistent with forensic medical examinations, in particular, about their steep/slope wound directions and their positions in videos, investigation finding that protesters were not massacred by government snipers
    * There is lack of such forensic examinations, videos, and witness testimonies is a many of these cases or the evidence is contradictory
    * Such testimonies by wounded Maidan protesters are much more likely to be biased because of personal, monetary and political incentives to corroborate the dominant government, media and prosecution narrative of the massacre compared to opposite incentive of testimonies by wounded Maidan protesters about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and areas

    Investigation by the Military Prosecutor Office in Lviv found that the Maidan protesters in Khmelnytskyi were killed and wounded by unidentified Maidan shooter from the Security Service of Ukraine regional headquarters porch that was occupied by Maidan protesters. This is consistent with the content analysis of videos of this massacre (see Video Appendix C).

    Forensic Examinations

    Official forensic medical examinations

    * Absolute majority of protesters shot on February 20 from side & back directions
    * 40 out of 48 killed protesters, with whose murder Berkut policemen are charged, had slope wounds & 1 even
    * 36 with slope wounds were killed when police was on similar level on the ground
    * E.g. 3 protesters in US architecture company 3-D model for Maidan lawyers but their wounds made nearly straight

    Locations & directions of Dmytriv wounds in forensic medical reports (Report, 2015a) & Krovavyi (2014) & Trial (2016) videos & their & bullet direction misrepresentations by SITU (2018), New York Times (2018), BBC (2014) & prosecution
    [see image]
    They are consistent with bullet trajectories in videos & photos (see Video Appendix C)
    [see video]

    Forensic examinations and a video of his shooting suggest that one protester shot in his side at nearly even level was killed from a Maidan direction

    Out of 7 killed protesters with no forensic information about their wounds direction made public:

    * Three were shot by hunting pellets before the Berkut special company appeared in the Maidan area
    * One was shot by an expanding hunting bullet of a US caliber which does not match caliber of government units firearms
    * One was killed, inter alia, by a handgun bullet behind a wall that made it physically impossible to shoot him from Berkut positions
    * Two other were killed at the same time and place as the many other protesters

    (See Video Appendix A)

    Similarly, 48 out of 51 wounded protesters, whose wound directions were revealed at the trial and with whose shooting on February 20th Berkut policemen were charged, had wounds at significant slopes.

    * Common sense and forensic textbooks suggest that this is consistent with shooting by snipers in/on buildings.

    Sideways and back locations and directions of their wounds in the absolute majority of cases also point to shooting from Maidan-controlled buildings located on both sides and in the back of advancing protesters and not from their front by the Berkut police (see Map).

    * One does not need to be a forensic expert to determine whether overall locations and directions of wounds at the times and spots identified at the trial and in synchronized videos of the massacre point to the Berkut positions on the ground in front of the protesters or to Maidan-controlled buildings on the protesters’ left and right sides and in the back of the protesters

    Forensic ballistic examinations

    * Reported that 19 protesters were killed on February 20 by 7.62x39mm caliber bullets
    * Stated that they could not determine if the bullets were fired from Kalashnikov assault rifles of this caliber, hunting versions of Kalashnikov assault rifles, or other weapons of this caliber, such as Simonov carbine (SKS)
    * They indicated that one protester was killed from Vepr carbine, a hunting version of Kalashnikov machine gun
    * Three other protesters were killed by pellets used in hunting.
    * Two protesters were killed by expanding hunting bullets. Their caliber did not match calibers of weapons used by the special Berkut company, whose members were charged with killing them.
    * A forensic ballistic examination conducted by government institute experts on the prosecution request with use of an automatic computer based IBIS-TAIS system in January 2015 found that bullets extracted from killed protesters, trees, and the Hotel Ukraina rooms did not match police database of bullet samples from any 7.62×39 caliber Kalashnikov assault rifles of members of the entire Kyiv Berkut regiment, including the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters
    * Findings of this computer-based ballistic examination and results of some 40 other ballistic examinations were reversed in a couple of ballistic examinations conducted manually in the very end of the investigation
    * This suggests that these reversals are unreliable, and ballistic experts could not explain them at the trial

    Forensic examinations along with testimonies of wounded protesters & witnesses, locations & positions of the killed & wounded protesters in videos & photos, & Google Earth map of the massacre site suggest that at least absolute majority of protesters, including Dmytriv, were shot by snipers in the Maidan-controlled buildings (See map and Video Appendix A)

    [see Map of the Maidan massacre on February 20]

    Killing and wounding of a small minority of protesters by the Berkut police, in particular, by ricochets or in cross-fire with snipers in the Maidan-controlled buildings, cannot be excluded because of lack of data or contradictory data

    * But their killing and wounding in the same locations and at the same time as other protesters suggest that most of them were also likely shot by the Maidan snipers.

    Government investigation determined that most of protesters killed on February 18-19 were shot with hunting pellets and smoothbore rifles used in hunting

    The government investigation revealed that the absolute majority of 11 policemen killed on February 18-19, and all 4 policemen killed on February 20 were shot from similar types and calibers of hunting pellets and bullets, handgun bullets, and 7,62×39 bullets as the protesters

    Court rulings revealed that the weapons used by two wounded Right Sector activists in a separatist checkpoint attack in April 2014 were the same weapons from which two Internal Troops servicemen were killed and three other policemen wounded on the Maidan on February 18 (Ukhvala, 2016b).

    Cover-up & Stonewalling

    * Investigation denies that there were snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings & not investigates them in spite of overwhelming evidence revealed by investigation & trial & publicly available evidence, such as testimonies by over 100 wounded protesters & over 200 witnesses, & videos, photos & audio of snipers in/on these buildings, including their shooting at protesters & police (Video Appendix A).
    [see video]

    The Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was one of the top Maidan politicians, declared that the investigation of the Maidan massacre is de facto completed

    * Public statements by 6 Maidan politicians and activists and 5 Georgians about involvement of snipers and Maidan leaders in the massacre and its cover-up have not been investigated
    * Ex-president of Georgia hastily detained and expelled from Ukraine a day before his testimony concerning “Georgian snipers” at the Maidan massacre trial
    * Similarly, a public statement by a Maidan member of the parliament that one of titusky leaders, who was involved in killing of a journalist on February 19, worked for a business of leading Maidan activists and that they knew about the massacar in advance also has not been investigated

    Failure by the investigation to determine bullet trajectories with help of forensic ballistic experts even after the Maidan massacre trial ordered such examinations, specifically to determine if these trajectories were from the Maidan-controlled buildings

    * The investigation instead of ballistic experts used complex forensic examinations by medics to determine sectors of fire without on-site visits and any measurements and explanations provided
    * At least several dozens of such examinations were conducted by the same three medical experts during the last weeks of the investigation
    * Not ballistic experts but architects from a US architecture company were hired by Maidan victims lawyers with involvement of the prosecution to determine bullet trajectories of 3 selected killed protesters out of 49 killed and 157 wounded protesters for the trial concerning February 20th Maidan massacre
    * Both these complex medical examinations and the 3-D model by New York architecture company provided practically identical bullet trajectories/sectors of fire from Berkut barricades on the ground in cases of these 3 killed protesters.
    * But wounds locations and steep slopes of the entry and exit wounds in forensic medical examinations used both by the medical and architectural experts in determining these ballistic trajectories differ significantly from their locations and nearly horizontal levels in the 3-D model by SITU Research
    * This concerns not only Dmytriv wounds but also Dyhdalovych and Parashchuk wounds
    (See images concerning Dmyriv above and Dyhdalovych below, Report (2015a, 2015b); SITU (2018)).
    [see image of Dyhdalovych wounds locations and directions and their misrepresentation in SITU model]

    Bullet wounds locations and their steep slopes along with bullet holes appearing in shields right after their killings in the same spot within 2 minutes and a testimony of a protester who was in the same spot that he saw Dyhdalovych shot by a sniper on the Bank Arkada point to the top of this building as a location of snipers who killed both Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv.

    (See Map, Video Appendix A).

    * These bullet holes and the testimonies of two protesters, who witnessed their killings, about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings shooting Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv were not mentioned at the trial
    * Similarly,videos and audio recordings of snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and publicly available testimonies of numerous other Maidan protesters about such snipers were not mentioned by the investigation and at the Maidan massacre trial

    The landscape, the street, & trees on the site of the massacre would be almost completely changed into a park and a new Maidan massacre museum by February 2019 and it would be physically impossible to conduct on-site investigative experiments to determine bullet trajectories

    A new ballistic expert examinations of bullets that was ordered by the Maidan massacre trial has not started for more than 1 year after the court decision

    No forensic video and audio examinations were conducted by the investigation

    The Prosecutor General Office reversed without any explanations their own previous investigation findings

    * Admissions that protesters were massacred by snipers from the Hotel Ukraina from SKS carbines and that at least 3 protesters were killed from this hotel and 10 others were also killed from significant heights
    * Investigations of the massacres of the police and the protesters were separated even though they happened on the same days and in the same places
    * No forensic examinations comparisons of bullets extracted from bodies of the police and the protesters in spite of various evidence that they were shot by same groups of snipers
    * Similar unexplained reversals of forensic examinations of bullets and directions of wounds of protesters a few weeks before the investigation submitted the case to a court for trial
    * Similar unexplained reversals at the trial testimonies of many wounded protesters previously provided to the investigation

    The Prosecutor General Office has been headed by Maidan politicians or close allies of the current president of Ukraine and the investigation of the massacre has been under control of Maidan government leaders from the start

    Two factions of main ruling Maidan parties blocked creation of a parliamentary commission concerning Maidan massacre investigation

    Key pieces of forensic evidence of the massacre on February 20 disappeared when it was under the Maidan opposition or Maidan government control or when it was in the possession of the Maidan government investigation without anyone responsible identified and prosecuted

    * Almost all shields and helmets of killed and wounded protesters since bullet holes in them or their absence could identify locations of the shooters
    * Many bullets extracted from bodies of the protesters and the police, trees, soil, a flower box, and the Maidan buildings
    * Some trees with bullets and/or bullet holes were cut soon after the massacre, and the prosecution admitted this three years afterwards
    * Recordings of live online streams and other videos from the time of shooting at the police from the Maidan-controlled buildings in the early morning of February 20
    * Security cameras recordings from the Hotel Ukraina, the Bank Arkada, and other Maidan-controlled buildings at the time when snipers were located there
    * Bullets extracted from bodies of protesters in Khmelnytskyi
    * A leader of a Maidan organization and its members were revealed and investigated by the Prosecutor General Office for evacuating and hiding firearms of the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters on February 20

    Noone was charged with killing and wounding the majority of Maidan protesters on February 18-19

    * Berkut policemen charged with killing the first 3 protesters and wounding 33 protesters on February 18 were released by the courts and allowed by the law enforcement to flee Ukraine
    * The same concerns a Berkut commander whose company was charged with killing of 48 protesters on February 20
    * Forensic evidence in killings protesters and the police on February 18-19 has not been made public
    * A protester who killed another protester by driving him over in a seized truck and was tried was released under an amnesty law for crimes committed by Maidan protesters during the “Euromaidan”

    Nobody is charged with killing of a Georgian protester on February 20 and circumstances of his killing and its investigation are not made public

    Nobody is charged and tried for killing and wounding policemen on February 18-20

    * Charges of killing two policemen against one Maidan sniper who publicly admitted in the Ukrainian media this were dropped and replaced by milder charges by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine

    The Maidan massacre trial was restarted from the beginning, has not completed testimonies of relatives of killed and wounded protesters, and it would not produce a verdict before the 2019 presidential elections

    Several attacks by the neo-Nazi C14 and other far right groups disrupted and threatened the trial

    * C14 took refuge in the Canadian Embassy shortly before the Maidan massacre, and one of its ex-leaders stated that the C14 knew about the massacre in advance

    No such evidence of systematic cover-up by the Yanukovych government leaders and Berkut members

    * Yanukovych treason trial revealed various evidence that he fled Ukraine following several associations attempts by Maidan forces, including far right
    * He, his ministers and Internal Troops ex-commander volunteered to testify via video links about the massacre at the trials
    * Absolute majority of Berkut members, who were charged with the massacre did not flee Ukraine until they were to be charged with the massacre or after they were charged

    Not a single person is convicted for killing and wounding some 100 protesters and the police on February 18-20, 2014

    Conclusion

    Maidan massacre trial and investigation evidence have revealed various evidence that at least the absolute majority of 49 killed and 157 wounded Maidan protesters on February 20, 2014 were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings

    * Such evidence includes testimonies of the majority of wounded protesters and many witnesses, forensic medical and ballisitic examinations, and investigation own finding that about half of Maidan protesters were wounded from other locations than the Berkut police

    Various indications of stonewalling of the Maidan massacre investigations and the trials by the Maidan government officials and by far right organizations

    Various indications of the cover-up of much of the key evidence of the massacre

    Such revelations from the Maidan massacre trials and investigations corroborate previous studies findings that this massacre was a false flag mass killing with involvement of elements of Maidan leadership and the far right and that it included the massacre of the police

    The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation

    ——————

    Ivan Katchanovski. The Maidan Massacre in Ukraine: Revelations from Trials and Investigations. Poster presented at: 2018 Conference of the American Political Studies Associate; 2018 Aug 30-Sept; Boston, MA

    “The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation”

    That’s a great way to summary his presentation at the end. Because as big as the question is over what actually happened during the Maidan massacre, a much larger question is why almost no one cares about answering that question.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 31, 2018, 2:18 pm
  2. There was another remarkable guilty plea on Friday that manages to tie together Cambridge Analytica, the hacks of the Democrats, Paul Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik, and Serhii Lovochkin. And it involves someone who as largely been out of this whole story until now: GOP political consultant Sam Patten just plead guilty to a number of crimes and is now a cooperating witness. The crimes include violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) like Paul Manafort. So it should come as no surprise that he worked with Manafort.

    And guess who Patten was acting as a foreign agent for: Serhii Lovochkin! Yep. At least in part. Patten formed a consulting company in the US with Konstantin Kilimnik – Manafort’s long-time Ukrainian consulting partner (who previously worked for the International Republican Institute) – and it was through this company that Patten provided services to Lovochkin that he didn’t disclose, hence the FARA violation charge. They also provided consulting services for Lovochkin’s Opposition Bloc in general, earning about $1 million in services. Those services included lobbying US politicians.

    Recall how Manafort and Lovochkin were reportedly quite close during Manafort’s time working for Yanukovych, so if Patten formed a consulting business with Kilimnik that suggests Patten and Manafort may have been close. The business was formed in 2015, in the post-Maidan period when Manafort was advising the Opposition Bloc, Patten and Manafort were likely working closely together on this.

    The particular services Patten provided Lovochkin that got him into trouble are also quite interesting: Lovochkin wanted to donate $50,000 to Trump’s inauguration and also get tickets to the inauguration. But foreigners were barred from giving money to the inauguration, so Patten got an American to act as a “straw purchaser” to buy four tickets using $50,000 Lovochkin sent to an account in Cyprus. This American used the $50,000 to buy four tickets the next day. The tickets were used by Patten, Kilimnik, Lovochkin, and another Ukrainian. We don’t yet know who that other Ukrainian was.

    We also technically don’t know that Lovochkin is the oligarch Patten worked for because he’s not named in the guilty plea. Lovochkin’s office wouldn’t say if it believed he was the oligarch described in the court documents, but in an email it said: “Mr Lyovochkin was indeed invited to the inauguration and had the honor to attend. At the same time, he did not pay for that.” So that looks like an admission.

    Patten also plead guilty to lying to the Senate about his foreign lobbying work for the Ukrainians and then later destroying evidence. Patten admitted that he knew he was required to register as an agent for a foreigner but failed to do so after Lovochkin said “he did not want them to” until an unspecified future date. So while Patten’s firm worked for the Opposition Bloc in general, it sounds like Lovochkin, the deputy head of the Opposition Bloc, was the particular oligarch who they answered to when providing these services.

    Another service Patten provided was writing op-eds on behalf of his Ukrainian clients and getting them in US media. This included a pro-Trump February 2017 op-ed by Lovochkin that appeared in US News & World Report.

    So Patten is already tied to crime that puts Lovochkin in the orbit of Manafort and the Trump team during that critical inauguration period when so many interests were scrambling to get closer to Trump. But there’s also the Cambridge Analytica angle. As the following article notes, Patten’s bio on his website says he “worked with one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies to introduce new technologies and methodologies” during the 2014 US election, so he was apparently part of SCL’s initial work for the GOP during the 2014 midterms. This included work on micro-targeting. There’s no evidence yet that he worked with Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work for the Trump campaign.

    Patten also admitted to a British academic researcher last year regarding his work at Cambridge Analytica that, “I’ve worked in Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and [the American] system isn’t very different.” Recall how SCL/Cambridge Analytica spinoff AIQ was doing consulting work for Ukrainian oligarch Sergei Taruta, who, like Lovochkin, appears to be an Ukrainian oligarch who straddles the East/West divide in the country while generally supporting moving Ukraine towards the West. So it would be interesting to learn if Patten’s work in Ukraine involved services Taruta of Lovochkin.

    And here’s the part of Patten’s background that ties into the hacks: Patten apparently played a central role in SCL Group’s 2015 work in Nigeria for then-president Goodluck Johnathan. And as we saw, SCL used an “Israeli team” of hackers to hack Johnathan’s opponent! In other words, Patten has experience running political hacking operations and he gained that experience while working at Cambridge Analytica parent SCL.

    Given how he connects up so many of the different aspects of this mess it’s kind of amazing that he was largely off the #TrumpRussia radar up to this point:

    The Guardian

    Manafort associate paid Trump inauguration $50,000 in Ukrainian cash

    * Sam Patten pleads guilty under Foreign Agents Registration Act
    * Republican once worked with Cambridge Analytica

    Jon Swaine
    Fri 31 Aug 2018 15.20 EDT

    A Republican political consultant linked to Paul Manafort and Cambridge Analytica has admitted to funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration committee.

    Sam Patten used the money to buy tickets for the oligarch and a Russian associate to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to a plea agreement made public on Friday. The inauguration fund was not allowed to accept money from foreigners.

    The disclosure came as Patten pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying in the US for pro-Russia politicians from Ukraine. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Patten, 47, admitted causing the Ukrainian funds to be paid to the inauguration committee, and to lying to a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in an attempt to cover this up. He was not charged for these actions.

    He pleaded guilty to one count of working as an unregistered agent for the oligarch’s Ukrainian political party, Opposition Bloc, which also employed Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Patten was released on bail by judge Amy Berman Jackson following a hearing in Washington.

    The charge was brought by the US attorney’s office in the capital, which took over the case following a referral from Mueller’s office. The court filings indicated that Patten had been in discussions with Mueller’s office for at least three months.

    A spokesman for the US attorney’s office said the charge against Patten was a felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and also carried potential fines. Stuart Sears, an attorney for Patten, declined to comment.

    A spokeswoman for Thomas Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inauguration committee, did not respond to requests for comment.

    The filings recounted how Patten formed a consulting company in the US with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative with alleged ties to intelligence services. Kilimnik, identified as “foreigner A” in the filings, has also worked extensively with Manafort, who was a consultant to Opposition Bloc in Ukraine.

    After discovering foreigners were barred from giving money to the inauguration, Patten enlisted another American to buy four tickets. The oligarch paid $50,000 to Patten and Kilimnik’s company from an account in Cyprus. Patten then wrote the American “straw purchaser” a $50,000 check and the American used these funds to buy the tickets the following day. The tickets were used by Patten, Kilimnik, the oligarch and another Ukrainian.

    Patten then lied about this arrangement during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee in January 2018, he admitted on Friday. He failed to provide requested documents, gave misleading evidence and then after his interview deleted files relating to his work for the Ukrainians.

    In all, according to the court documents, Patten’s firm was paid about $1m for advising Opposition Bloc and lobbying US politicians on its behalf. Patten worked to set up meetings for Kilimnik and the oligarch with state department officials and members of Congress, including senators on the foreign relations committee and House members on the foreign affairs committee.

    Patten admitted that he knew he was required to register as an agent for a foreigner but failed to do so after the Ukrainian oligarch said “he did not want them to” until an unspecified future date.

    Patten also drafted opinion articles for the Ukrainian oligarch and succeeded in having at least one published by a national American media outlet in February 2017.

    The Ukrainian figure and media outlet were not identified in the charging documents. A pro-Trump article was published by US News & World Report in February 2017 under the byline of Serhiy Lyovochkin, an Opposition Bloc MP who was a senior official in Ukraine’s former pro-Kremlin administration.

    Enxhi Myslmi, a spokeswoman for US News & World Report, said: “To our knowledge, no one at US News has been contacted by law enforcement regarding the publication of this piece.”

    Lyovochkin’s office declined to say if it believed he was the oligarch described in the court documents. In an unsigned email, it said: “Mr Lyovochkin was indeed invited to the inauguration and had the honor to attend. At the same time, he did not pay for that.”

    Earlier this month, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud arising from the Mueller investigation. During the trial, a former colleague testified that Manafort received payments from Lyovochkin and disguised them as loans to avoid paying tax.

    Patten also carried out work for Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct consultancy that is under scrutiny for its work on Trump’s 2016 election campaign. A page on Patten’s website that has since been removed said he “worked with one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies to introduce new technologies and methodologies” during the 2014 US election.

    During an interview last year with a British academic researcher, Patten said: “I’ve worked in Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and [the American] system isn’t very different.”

    ———-

    “Manafort associate paid Trump inauguration $50,000 in Ukrainian cash” by Jon Swaine; The Guardian; 08/31/2018

    Sam Patten used the money to buy tickets for the oligarch and a Russian associate to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to a plea agreement made public on Friday. The inauguration fund was not allowed to accept money from foreigners.”

    That’s the core of the crime Patten is charged with: arranging for the secret payment of foreign funds to the Trump inauguration fund in addition to lying to a Senate committee. And he’s agreed to cooperate with Mueller as part of his plea deal. That has to have Trump and the rest of the GOP freaked out:

    The disclosure came as Patten pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying in the US for pro-Russia politicians from Ukraine. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Patten, 47, admitted causing the Ukrainian funds to be paid to the inauguration committee, and to lying to a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in an attempt to cover this up. He was not charged for these actions.

    He pleaded guilty to one count of working as an unregistered agent for the oligarch’s Ukrainian political party, Opposition Bloc, which also employed Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Patten was released on bail by judge Amy Berman Jackson following a hearing in Washington.

    And while, on the surface, these crimes might seem relatively insignificant in the context of the larger #TrumpRussia investigation, when you look at who Patten is, his history, and who the foreign oligarch is that he worked for that Patten suddenly starts looking like a potentially central character in this scandal. The fact that this he set up a consulting service with Konstantin Kilimnik to provide consulting services puts him squarely in Paul Manafort’s Ukraine consulting network. Given the ties between Kilimnik and Manafort and the work Manafort was doing for the Opposition Bloc in 2015, we should probably view the Kilimnik/Patten clients as basically Manafort’s clients. And the fact that their services included helping Lovochkin illegally get Trump inauguration tickets gives is an idea of how far Patten was willing to go to please his Ukrainian clients:


    The filings recounted how Patten formed a consulting company in the US with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative with alleged ties to intelligence services. Kilimnik, identified as “foreigner A” in the filings, has also worked extensively with Manafort, who was a consultant to Opposition Bloc in Ukraine.

    After discovering foreigners were barred from giving money to the inauguration, Patten enlisted another American to buy four tickets. The oligarch paid $50,000 to Patten and Kilimnik’s company from an account in Cyprus. Patten then wrote the American “straw purchaser” a $50,000 check and the American used these funds to buy the tickets the following day. The tickets were used by Patten, Kilimnik, the oligarch and another Ukrainian.

    And then he lied about this all to the Senate and destroyed evidence, which is pretty interesting given that those services included lobbying senators congress on behalf his Ukrainian clients:


    Patten then lied about this arrangement during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee in January 2018, he admitted on Friday. He failed to provide requested documents, gave misleading evidence and then after his interview deleted files relating to his work for the Ukrainians.

    In all, according to the court documents, Patten’s firm was paid about $1m for advising Opposition Bloc and lobbying US politicians on its behalf. Patten worked to set up meetings for Kilimnik and the oligarch with state department officials and members of Congress, including senators on the foreign relations committee and House members on the foreign affairs committee.

    Patten admitted that he knew he was required to register as an agent for a foreigner but failed to do so after the Ukrainian oligarch said “he did not want them to” until an unspecified future date.

    And some of those US lobbying services included get opinion articles for their clients inserted into the US media, including a pro-Trump piece ostensibly written by Lovochkin himself in US News & World Report:


    Patten also drafted opinion articles for the Ukrainian oligarch and succeeded in having at least one published by a national American media outlet in February 2017.

    The Ukrainian figure and media outlet were not identified in the charging documents. A pro-Trump article was published by US News & World Report in February 2017 under the byline of Serhiy Lyovochkin, an Opposition Bloc MP who was a senior official in Ukraine’s former pro-Kremlin administration.

    Enxhi Myslmi, a spokeswoman for US News & World Report, said: “To our knowledge, no one at US News has been contacted by law enforcement regarding the publication of this piece.”

    And while Lovochkin’s is never named in the guilty plea, it’s pretty obvious he’s the oligarch Patten was directly working for:


    Lyovochkin’s office declined to say if it believed he was the oligarch described in the court documents. In an unsigned email, it said: “Mr Lyovochkin was indeed invited to the inauguration and had the honor to attend. At the same time, he did not pay for that.”

    Earlier this month, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud arising from the Mueller investigation. During the trial, a former colleague testified that Manafort received payments from Lyovochkin and disguised them as loans to avoid paying tax.

    And then there’s Patten’s work for Cambridge Analytica. Work that, by his own admission, included work in Ukraine:


    Patten also carried out work for Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct consultancy that is under scrutiny for its work on Trump’s 2016 election campaign. A page on Patten’s website that has since been removed said he “worked with one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies to introduce new technologies and methodologies” during the 2014 US election.

    During an interview last year with a British academic researcher, Patten said: “I’ve worked in Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and [the American] system isn’t very different.”

    “I’ve worked in Ukraine, Iraq, I’ve worked in deeply corrupt countries, and [the American] system isn’t very different.” What a line.

    And as the following article notes, Patten’s work for Cambridge Analytica wasn’t just some random work there. He worked for Cambridge Analytica’s 2014 work in the US elections for the GOP, including work on micro-targeting. And, more importantly, Patten played a central role in SCL’s 2015 work in Nigeria that included the use of an “Israeli team” to hack their client’s opponent:

    Raw Story

    Manafort associate Sam Patten’s guilty plea could help Mueller nail Cambridge Analytica for rigging 2016 election

    Travis Gettys
    31 Aug 2018 at 12:55 ET

    The Paul Manafort associate who pleaded guilty Friday as part of a cooperation agreement could help investigators fill in some blanks about Cambridge Analytica’s work for the Trump campaign.

    Lobbyist Sam Patten agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors after admitting to failing to register in as a foreign agent for his lobbying work for a Ukrainian political party.

    Patten worked with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair who was convicted last week of tax and bank fraud, and suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik, who was indicted this summer in the special counsel probe.

    Another longtime Manafort associate, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty in February to lying to federal authorities and conspiracy to commit fraud, and he testified in court against his former boss.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller referred the Patten case to the U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia as part of his sprawling investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia.

    Patten worked at the Oregon officer of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, where he helped the data company develop voter targeting operations ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

    The lobbyist described that work on his professional website, saying that he helped conduct beta tests of voter micro-targeting that he boasted were “adopted by at least one major U.S. presidential candidate.”

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hired Cambridge Analytica during his Republican primary run, but after he dropped out the data company was hired by Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who oversaw the campaign’s digital operations.

    Mueller is investigating the company, which was owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

    There’s no evidence that Patten did any work for the Trump campaign or Cambridge Analytica, whose board included Trump’s campaign CEO and former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

    But he played a central role in SCL Group’s work in Nigeria in early 2015, when the Cambridge Analytica parent company reportedly hired Israeli hackers to steal emails and dig compromising information on the candidate challenging incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan.

    ———-

    “Manafort associate Sam Patten’s guilty plea could help Mueller nail Cambridge Analytica for rigging 2016 election” by Travis Gettys; Raw Story; 08/31/2018

    “Patten worked at the Oregon officer of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, where he helped the data company develop voter targeting operations ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.”

    So in 2014 he was working in SCL’s Oregon office, where he helped the company develop voter-targeting operations. And that included beta-testing of voter micro-targeting that he boasted were “adopted by at least one major U.S. presidential candidate.” Keep in mind that both Ted Cruz and Trump hired Cambridge Analytica so they were both employing these micro-targeting services:


    The lobbyist described that work on his professional website, saying that he helped conduct beta tests of voter micro-targeting that he boasted were “adopted by at least one major U.S. presidential candidate.”

    This is, however, no evidence yet that he was working on Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work for Trump:


    There’s no evidence that Patten did any work for the Trump campaign or Cambridge Analytica, whose board included Trump’s campaign CEO and former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

    Given how controversial that work was it wouldn’t be a shocker if he intentionally left that kind of work off of his public bio. Especially if that work including orchestrating some of the ‘dark arts’ political services Cambridge Analytica was known to offer its clients. Services Patten likely has experience deploying given the lead role he played in SCL’s 2015 Nigerian consulting services that included hiring hackers to hack their client’s opponent:


    But he played a central role in SCL Group’s work in Nigeria in early 2015, when the Cambridge Analytica parent company reportedly hired Israeli hackers to steal emails and dig compromising information on the candidate challenging incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan.

    So that’s the latest twist to emerge from the Mueller investigation.

    It’s also imptorant to keep in mind that the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica appears to have been reformed as “Emerdata”, a company offering similar services and with UAE money behind it. Also recall the Saudi/UAE delegation that secretly met at Trump Tower in early August of 2016 offering services very similar to Cambridge Analytica to help Trump win.
    So there appears to be a concerted UAE effort to invest in cutting edge Cambridge Analytica-style political dirty tricks operations, which raises the question of how much UAE involvement there may have been in Cambridge Analytica/SCL’s operations in 2015-2016. It’s one of many open questions that remain in this investigation.

    So as we can see, Sam Patten is both a man of mystery and potentially a kind of ‘missing link’ in the larger #TrumpRussia investigation. And he’s apparently cooperating with investigators at this point. That’s one helluva guilty plea.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 1, 2018, 2:12 pm
  3. Here’s an interesting fun-fact about Sam Patten, the long-time associate of Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik who just pleaded guilty to a series a crimes including helping Sergii Lovochkin (Viktor Yanukovych’s former chief of staff) secretly donate $50,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund in exchange for tickets to the inauguration. First, recall how Patten and Kilimnik set up a consulting company in 2015 that consulted extensively for the new Opposition Bloc party. Well, as the following article points out, Patten’s consulting work wasn’t limited to the Opposition Bloc. It turns out Patten worked on the 2015 mayoral campaign of Vitalii Klitschko for mayor of Kiev. Klitschko was, of course, one of the key leaders of the Maidan protests who was elected mayor of Kiev in May of 2014. Don’t forget that the notorious “F*ck the EU” wiretapped call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt that took place in early February 2014 was a discussion over whether or not Klitschko or Arseniy Yatseniuk should replace Yanukovych. Nuland called for Yatseniuk over Klitschko, but Klitschko was still clearly a prominent enough leader of the Maidan protests that he was one of two people under consideration to lead a post-Maidan Ukraine.

    So we have Patten consulting for the Opposition Bloc AND one of the key Maidan leaders a year after the Maidan protests. But get this: it was reportedly Sergei Lovochkin who recruited Patten to work on Klitschko’s campaign. In addition, Lovochkin’s oligarch partner, Dmytro Firtash, also boasted in 2015 that he was involved with Klitshko’s mayoral campaign:

    The Atlantic

    A Suspected Russian Spy, With Curious Ties to Washington

    A longtime Republican operative has been in contact with a suspected Russian intelligence agent for nearly two decades. What does it mean for Robert Mueller’s investigation?

    Natasha Bertrand
    Apr 6, 2018

    A longtime Republican operative with ties to the controversial data firm hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign team also has a nearly two-decade-long friendship and business relationship with a suspected Russian intelligence agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, who has landed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s crosshairs.

    The Washington-based operative, Sam Patten, would not tell me whether he has been interviewed by Mueller’s team as part of their investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But Patten said that his relationship with Kilimnik—a former officer in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) who worked closely with Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, for over a decade—has “been thoroughly explored by relevant government entities.”

    Patten’s long friendship with Kilimnik—which stems from their time working together at the International Republican Institute in Moscow between 2001 and 2003—would likely be enough to draw scrutiny from Mueller, who appears to have homed in on Kilimnik as a potentially significant link between the Trump campaign and Russia. The special counsel’s office alleged in a court filing late last month that Kilimnik still had ties to Russian intelligence services in 2016, and that his conversations with Gates in September of that year are relevant to the investigation. Manafort and Gates’s arrival to the campaign team coincided with the most pivotal Russia-related episode of the election: the release of emails that had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee by hackers working for the GRU, Russia’s premier military-intelligence unit.

    “We’ve known each other for more than 15 years, and we periodically look for places we can work together,” Patten told me of Kilimnik. Their relationship is also proof that Kilimnik’s ability to ingratiate himself with American political consultants went beyond Manafort and Gates—a fact that could serve as a new data point in examining Russia’s ties to Republican operatives in the U.S. By the spring of 2015—when, as my colleague Frank Foer wrote, Manafort’s “life had tipped into a deep trough”—Kilimnik was already working on a new venture with Patten that appeared to be focused on targeted messaging in foreign elections.

    That venture, first reported by The Daily Beast this week, was a private LLC incorporated in February 2015 called Begemot Ventures International (BVI) with a mission to “build the right arguments before domestic and international audiences.” Kilimnik is listed as the firm’s principal and Patten is listed as an executive, according to company records, and the company is registered to Patten’s office address in Washington. A website for Begemot—which was built almost two years after the company was incorporated—links to Patten’s email for inquiries, but does not list the company’s clients.

    It is not clear why Patten, who already had a consulting firm registered in D.C., decided to open a brand-new company with Kilimnik. Asked whether any of the firm’s clients were in Russia or Ukraine, Patten replied, “It would be poor business to talk about our clients, but I can tell you declaratively that none of the clients have involvement in the particular circus in the U.S. that seems to have become a news industry in and of itself,” an apparent reference to the Russia investigation. He confirmed that the company, which he described as providing “strategic communications advice for clients outside the U.S.,” is still active, but said it has no projects ongoing at this time.

    “BVI has only worked for clients outside U.S. in other countries,” Patten said. “As a result of all this, I regret it probably won’t be working for anyone anymore, but you never know. Life can be unpredictable.” Patten said that, “to the best of [his] knowledge,” Kilimnik “was no longer working for Manafort when BVI was formed.” But he acknowledged that Kilimnik and Manafort, who began working together in Kiev in 2005, “remained in touch, as is well-known.” Patten’s work in Ukraine dovetailed with Manafort’s. About eight months after BVI was incorporated, in October 2015, Patten was in Ukraine advising Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko on his reelection campaign. On his website, Patten writes that he “helped steer Mayor Klitschko to reelection in Ukraine’s capital and largest city in one of the toughest anti-government atmospheres in that country’s history.”

    Serhiy Lyovochkin—the former chief of staff to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who hired Manafort to rebrand the pro-Russia Party of Regions in 2014—brought Patten onto Klitschko’s team, Ukrainian media reported at the time. Dmitry Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch with ties to Manafort who is known for bankrolling pro-Russia candidates in Ukraine, also boasted in 2015 that he was involved in Klitschko’s campaign. Asked whether Manafort coordinated with Patten and/or Kilimnik on Klitschko’s reelection campaign, a spokesman for Manafort said he had “nothing to add.”

    Patten describes himself as an “international political consultant” on his website, but he worked at the Oregon office of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, helping to fine-tune the firm’s voter targeting operations in the runup to the 2014 midterm elections, according to investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, now a columnist for Middle East Eye. Patten alluded to this work on his website, writing that he worked with “one of London’s most innovative strategic communications companies” on “a beta run of a cutting-edge electoral approach” that “included taking micro-targeting to the next level” during the 2014 congressional cycle. Those technologies, he wrote, were “adopted by at least one major U.S. presidential candidate.”

    Both Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump employed Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 election. Mueller is now scrutinizing the Trump campaign’s ties to Cambridge Analytica, whose board included Trump’s campaign CEO and former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Bannon interviewed Patten in July 2016 for his SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, about a group Patten represents called the Committee to Destroy ISIS. There is no evidence that Patten did any work with Cambridge Analytica or the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. But his relationship with the data firm did not end with the 2014 midterm elections. According to The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, Patten ““played a central role”” in the firm’s work in Nigeria in early 2015—work that included hiring Israeli computer hackers to search for “kompromat,” or compromising information, on the candidate challenging the incumbent president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan. Patten didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Nigeria campaign.

    Patten said that he remains in touch with Kilimnik, who he believes has been unfairly scrutinized. “As you might imagine, the barrage of shade and innuendo that has been cast on him since Manafort had his time in Trump Tower has not been something he’d welcomed, nor anything that could objectively be called fair,” Patten said, referring to Manafort’s role on the campaign, which was headquartered at Trump Tower.

    ———-

    “A Suspected Russian Spy, With Curious Ties to Washington” by Natasha Bertrand; The Atlantic; 04/06/2018

    That venture, first reported by The Daily Beast this week, was a private LLC incorporated in February 2015 called Begemot Ventures International (BVI) with a mission to “build the right arguments before domestic and international audiences.” Kilimnik is listed as the firm’s principal and Patten is listed as an executive, according to company records, and the company is registered to Patten’s office address in Washington. A website for Begemot—which was built almost two years after the company was incorporated—links to Patten’s email for inquiries, but does not list the company’s clients.”

    Note how the stated purpose of Patten’s and Kilimnik’s Begemot Ventures International was to “build the right arguments before domestic and international audiences.” Given how the whole “Hapsburg Group” initiative was about shaping international (European and US) opinion of Ukraine’s government and given the close involvement Sergii Lovochkin and his sister had with that effort, you have to wonder if Patten and Kilimnik were involved in some sort of post-Maidan version of the Hapburg Group to continue influencing US and European attitudes towards Ukraine.

    Regardless, the fact that Patten and Kilimnik were brought onto the Klitschko’s team by Lovochkin and Firtash adds further weight to the conclusion that Lovochkin (and Manafort) were basically leading a pro-EU faction of Yanukovych’s Part of Regions during that crucial Hapsburg Group period:


    “BVI has only worked for clients outside U.S. in other countries,” Patten said. “As a result of all this, I regret it probably won’t be working for anyone anymore, but you never know. Life can be unpredictable.” Patten said that, “to the best of [his] knowledge,” Kilimnik “was no longer working for Manafort when BVI was formed.” But he acknowledged that Kilimnik and Manafort, who began working together in Kiev in 2005, “remained in touch, as is well-known.” Patten’s work in Ukraine dovetailed with Manafort’s. About eight months after BVI was incorporated, in October 2015, Patten was in Ukraine advising Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko on his reelection campaign. On his website, Patten writes that he “helped steer Mayor Klitschko to reelection in Ukraine’s capital and largest city in one of the toughest anti-government atmospheres in that country’s history.”

    Serhiy Lyovochkin—the former chief of staff to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who hired Manafort to rebrand the pro-Russia Party of Regions in 2014—brought Patten onto Klitschko’s team, Ukrainian media reported at the time. Dmitry Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch with ties to Manafort who is known for bankrolling pro-Russia candidates in Ukraine, also boasted in 2015 that he was involved in Klitschko’s campaign. Asked whether Manafort coordinated with Patten and/or Kilimnik on Klitschko’s reelection campaign, a spokesman for Manafort said he had “nothing to add.”

    “Asked whether Manafort coordinated with Patten and/or Kilimnik on Klitschko’s reelection campaign, a spokesman for Manafort said he had “nothing to add.””

    That sure sounds like a quiet “yes” from Manafort’s spokesperson. Given that both Kilimnik and Patten were working for Klitschko it would almost be surprising if Manafort wasn’t working for him too. And wouldn’t that be quite a twist if true.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2018, 11:15 am
  4. Just a quick note: that bne Intellinews article by Graham Stack about Paul Manafort’s flight records is currently available on the bne Intellinews site again. So we don’t have to rely on the Wayback Machine for that crucial article.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 20, 2018, 12:20 pm
  5. Rob Goldstone just did an interview. The main topic was of course the role he played in arranging the June 9th Trump Tower meeting. Most of it is a rehashing of what we’ve already heard but there are some interesting new tidbits. For instance, Goldstone reiterates that none of the “dirt” on Hillary Clinton Goldstone offered in his initial emails to Donald Trump, Jr. ever materialized. But he also confirms that Trump Jr. did come into that meeting anticipating – and very happy to accept – “opposition research” on Hillary that he believed was coming from the Russian government.

    Goldstone is also open to believing that the meeting could have been a set-up by Russian-intelligence, saying, “I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting.”

    And Goldstone makes a claim that points towards a potentially significant legal risk to Trump, Jr.: Goldstone believe that it wasn’t the initial email he sent to Trump Jr. that secured the meeting. Instead, there were a series of followup calls between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov where the actual meeting was worked out. Phone records obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee show Agalarov and Trump Jr. had three calls days before the meeting, each two to three minutes long, on June 6 and 7, 2016. Goldstone said it wasn’t until after the final call that Trump Jr. sent an email setting a date for the meeting. And yet, during his Senate testimony, Trump Jr. said he did not recall speaking with Agalarov. So it sounds like Trump Jr. may have been caught in a lie while under oath, although saying he “did not recall” could potentially give him some wiggle-room.

    Goldstone also said that it was only after the calls between Trump Jr. and Agalarov that Trump Jr. introduced Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort into the discussion and said they would be attending the meeting. And this where a more complete understanding of the history of Paul Manafort could be particularly helpful. Because if, as is widely assumed, Paul Manafort was acting as a Kremlin agent this whole time it doesn’t seem like it would be a very big deal if Paul Manafort attended a meeting where the Russian government offered illicit help to the Trump campaign. If, on the other hand, Manafort was seen by the Kremlin as a pro-Western change agent who has been trying to pull Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and into the arms of the EU, suddenly inviting Paul Manafort to the meeting could have been seen as an unacceptable risk.

    And that raises a rather fascinating possibility: what if this Russian delegation really was planning involved with Russian intelligence and really was planning on providing some sort of “dirt” on Hillary at that meeting – not necessarily the hacked documents but something – and they had to basically drop those plans because they didn’t trust Manafort. Might that explain why the meeting was apparently such a waste of time according to all the participants? Of course, it’s possible they are all lying and there really was some sort of dirt on Hillary passed to the Trump team during that meeting. But if it panned out the way they all describe it and no real dirt was discussed or handed over during the meeting, and it really was a Russian intelligence operation, the fact that Manafort’s inclusion in the meeting was done at the last minute means it’s worth keeping in mind that Manafort’s profile as a pro-West change agent could have made him a last minute ‘fly in the collusion ointment’ who forced the meeting to devolve into the worthless gathering that all the participants claim it was:

    NBC News

    Rob Goldstone wishes he’d never set up that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians
    Goldstone, who arranged the Trump Tower meeting at the request of a pop star, says Mueller’s team wanted to know about links between Trump and Russia.

    by Sarah Fitzpatrick, Cynthia McFadden and Ken Dilanian / Sep.24.2018 / 3:33 AM CDT / Updated 7:06 AM CDT

    The British-born music publicist who helped arrange that infamous meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Democrats now believes the meeting could have been a set-up by Russian intelligence, he told NBC News in an exclusive television interview.

    “I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting,” Rob Goldstone told NBC’s Cynthia McFadden in a wide-ranging interview, in which he also discussed Trump’s behavior in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.

    Asked if he had conveyed a “dirty offer” to the Trump team in brokering the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Goldstone said, “Yes. That is true.”

    “That [dirt] didn’t materialize,” said Goldstone, but he believes the apparent willingness of campaign officials to accept dirt is what drew the scrutiny of congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Goldstone’s account of the meeting, which he says he relayed in detail to Mueller’s grand jury in March, is largely consistent with how it’s been described by other participants. He says Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya talked in a meandering fashion about U.S. sanctions against Russians — and the financier who lobbied for those sanctions, Bill Browder — but didn’t offer any information about Trump’s foe in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton. He considered the Russian’s presentation “complete and utter nonsense,” he said.

    Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., came into the room anticipating — and very happy to accept — “opposition research” he believed was coming from the Russian government.

    Goldstone himself had promised as much, in an email to Trump Jr. saying the Russian had information that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” and that it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

    Goldstone says he was asked to set up the meeting — and relay the offer of incriminating information about Clinton — by Emin Agalarov, on behalf of his father Aras Agalarov, one of Russia’s wealthiest developers. At the time, Goldstone was working as a publicist for the younger Agalarov, who had launched a career as a Russian pop star.

    The email, Goldstone said, “was written in about three minutes on my cell phone with scant information, with my own, I suppose, way of interpreting what I believe my client was trying to get across, and puffing it. That’s what I do. I’m a publicist.”

    Goldstone now says he had no direct knowledge that the Russian government was trying to help Trump, but assumed such because he had observed the favorable treatment then-candidate Trump received from Russian press at the time, and saw first-hand how Russians treated Trump with great affection and enthusiasm during his visit to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.

    But he did believe, he said, that Veselnitskaya had Kremlin connections, something that has proven to be true. In an April interview with NBC News, she acknowledged she had worked closely with and provided information to the Russian prosecutor general, a high-ranking Kremlin official.

    Goldstone believes it wasn’t his email that secured the meeting, but a series of calls afterward between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov. Goldstone was not on the line.

    Phone records obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee indicate Agalarov and Trump Jr. had three calls, each two to three minutes long, on June 6 and 7, 2016. In his Senate testimony, Trump Jr. said he did not recall speaking with Agalarov.

    “I don’t know what was discussed,” Goldstone said. “What I do believe is that it is almost [incredible] to think that this conversation or these conversations could have taken place without discussion of funding, Russian funding, illegal funding, Democrats, Hillary, and it being of use to the campaign. I — I just can’t understand how — how it wouldn’t have been touched upon.”

    Goldstone noted that it wasn’t until after the final call that Trump Jr. sent an email setting a date for a meeting, and saying his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort would be joining. Goldstone said he found it “odd” that those senior campaign officials would be included if they did not expect the conversation to be substantive.

    Afterwards, the Agalarovs continued to seek another meeting for Veselnitskaya with the Trump team. Goldstone says the requests came shortly after Trump’s victory in November 2016, and then again around the time of the inauguration. Goldstone says he did not pursue the meetings, and does not believe any took place.

    Goldstone said those follow-up meetings were of particular interest to special counsel Mueller’s team, and he was asked about them before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C.

    “They asked a lot of questions about my connection to the Trumps, Trump’s connection to the Agalarovs, [Aras] Agalarov’s connection to the Kremlin, Trump’s connection the Kremlin, to the Agalarovs.”

    “They seemed most interested in why this meeting may have come about and why the Agalarovs may have wanted it,” said Goldstone, “[and] also two follow-up requests for meetings.”

    They obviously wanted to talk to me about my email and the reasons behind it,” said Goldstone, adding that the investigators’ responses to his testimony indicated “they sort of understood it was a puffed up email.”

    Goldstone says that on the day of his grand jury testimony in March, he was picked up in an unmarked car by two FBI agents and driven to an underground entrance to what looked like an office building. He rode a freight elevator up to a grand jury room.

    “It was like a lecture room in a college,” Goldstone said. “There were about 22 or 23 people there, [across] three tiers. And then there’s a long table.”

    “The investigators, they have notes and documents and an overhead projector and all — which I thought was a little bit old-fashioned. And then there’s a table for me that has nothing. And my bottle of water. Even now, it makes me kind of shudder a little bit.”

    Goldstone said the grand jury was comprised of a wide range of people. “There were a couple of older folk. Most of them, I would say, they ranged probably from late 20s, early 30s, to their 50s. Black, white, Latino. There were a couple of really studious-looking people that were in the front row — I actually thought to myself, oh, if anyone was going to ask a question or float a question or — probably these two.”

    The Mueller team also wanted to know about his time with Trump in Moscow in 2013, he said.

    Asked whether he believed the Russian government may have seen Trump as someone they could use, Goldstone said, “I think it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they would have realized early on that he’s somebody who certainly had affection for Russia — and whose willingness to be there and meet with them and accept this kind of unquestioning adulation — maybe that does make you a target for that.”

    Goldstone says he is sure Trump spent the night at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, despite Trump allegedly telling ex-FBI Director James Comey he didn’t sleep there. The dossier on Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele alleges he had an unusual dalliance with prostitutes at the Ritz. Trump denies it. Goldstone says he never heard about such a thing, and believed he would have.

    Goldstone says there was an attempt to arrange a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump during the Miss Universe pageant, but it ultimately did not occur. “I was in the room for that call with Mr. Trump and with Emin and Aras. And it was President Putin’s spokesman, a man by the name of Dmitry Peskov. And he spoke with Aras. And Emin translated and said, ‘Unfortunately, although Mr. Putin would love to meet with Donald Trump today, the meeting can no longer go ahead because the king of Holland has been delayed in traffic.'”

    “And he said something else that was interesting. He did say that President Putin was very keen to meet Mr. Trump, and would make himself available at any other opportunity where their paths coincided, and invited him to the Sochi Olympics.” Goldstone says Trump later received a wooden box and a note from the Russian leader.

    Goldstone is not facing any charges, and has appeared voluntarily in front of Mueller’s grand jury and multiple congressional committees. Goldstone said he partially agreed with a quote attributed to Steve Bannon, that the meeting was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” and that the Trump team should have called the FBI rather than accept it.

    Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort all should have known the sit-down was improper, Goldstone said.

    “People have said to me, ‘Shouldn’t I have known?’ Well, shouldn’t they have known? I know nothing about politics, I set up a meeting. Shouldn’t they have known?”

    Though he can offer no evidence, Goldstone finds it hard to imagine that then-candidate Trump was unaware of the meeting, as Trump has said.

    “It was taking place in his conference room and it was taking place with his campaign chair sitting and attending the meeting, as well as his son and his son-in-law. So, you know, the publicist in me would say, ‘It’s a bit of a stretch if he’s a floor or two above to believe that he doesn’t know it’s going on.'”

    Goldstone says his personal and professional life has been turned upside down by his role in the Trump-Russia saga. He describes the onslaught of press attention and speculation as “terrifying.”

    Goldstone has written a book, “Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How an Email Trumped My Life,” which he hopes will provide context for his role.

    While he says he is still angry with Emin Agalarov for getting him involved, he blames himself for not listening to the “little voice in my head” that told him the meeting was a bad idea.

    He says he now believes the meeting came about because Emin and Donald Jr. have something in common — a desire to please their fathers: “It’s like they did it for daddy, both of them.”

    Scott Balber, an attorney for the Agalarovs, said, “It is absolutely false that anyone from the Russian government or Russian intelligence services asked the Agalarovs to arrange the meeting. Whoever voiced these allegations is simply making it up.”

    A representative of Paul Manafort declined to comment, while representatives of Jared Kushner did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. declined to comment. Rudolph Giuliani, attorney for President Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    ———-

    “Rob Goldstone wishes he’d never set up that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians” by Sarah Fitzpatrick, Cynthia McFadden and Ken Dilanian; NBC News; 09/24/2018

    “The British-born music publicist who helped arrange that infamous meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Democrats now believes the meeting could have been a set-up by Russian intelligence, he told NBC News in an exclusive television interview.

    Goldstone is now open to the idea that the whole meeting could have been a set-up by Russian intelligence. Although if you look at his precise wording it’s a pretty vague endorsement of the idea, where he simply says, “I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting”:


    “I’m willing to believe that I don’t know who wanted this meeting,” Rob Goldstone told NBC’s Cynthia McFadden in a wide-ranging interview, in which he also discussed Trump’s behavior in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.

    And while Goldstone appears to remain uncertain as to whether or not the Russian government was behind the initial push to set up this meeting, Goldstone makes it clear that Don Jr. thought the Russian government was behind it:


    Asked if he had conveyed a “dirty offer” to the Trump team in brokering the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Goldstone said, “Yes. That is true.”

    “That [dirt] didn’t materialize,” said Goldstone, but he believes the apparent willingness of campaign officials to accept dirt is what drew the scrutiny of congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Goldstone’s account of the meeting, which he says he relayed in detail to Mueller’s grand jury in March, is largely consistent with how it’s been described by other participants. He says Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya talked in a meandering fashion about U.S. sanctions against Russians — and the financier who lobbied for those sanctions, Bill Browder — but didn’t offer any information about Trump’s foe in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton. He considered the Russian’s presentation “complete and utter nonsense,” he said.

    Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., came into the room anticipating — and very happy to accept — “opposition research” he believed was coming from the Russian government.

    Goldstone himself had promised as much, in an email to Trump Jr. saying the Russian had information that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” and that it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

    Goldstone then goes to say that he had no direct knowledge the Russian government was behind the meeting, but he assumed that was the case based on the positive coverage the Russian media was giving Trump at the time and the enthusiasm for Trump he witnessed during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant:


    Goldstone says he was asked to set up the meeting — and relay the offer of incriminating information about Clinton — by Emin Agalarov, on behalf of his father Aras Agalarov, one of Russia’s wealthiest developers. At the time, Goldstone was working as a publicist for the younger Agalarov, who had launched a career as a Russian pop star.

    The email, Goldstone said, “was written in about three minutes on my cell phone with scant information, with my own, I suppose, way of interpreting what I believe my client was trying to get across, and puffing it. That’s what I do. I’m a publicist.”

    Goldstone now says he had no direct knowledge that the Russian government was trying to help Trump, but assumed such because he had observed the favorable treatment then-candidate Trump received from Russian press at the time, and saw first-hand how Russians treated Trump with great affection and enthusiasm during his visit to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.

    But he did believe, he said, that Veselnitskaya had Kremlin connections, something that has proven to be true. In an April interview with NBC News, she acknowledged she had worked closely with and provided information to the Russian prosecutor general, a high-ranking Kremlin official.

    Now here’s the part of the interview that could point to potentially serious legal trouble for Trump Jr: Goldstone claims that there were multiple short phone calls between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov on June 6 and 7, and it was only after that final phone call that the meeting was schedule. And phone records of these calls were indeed obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Trump Jr. told the Senate that he did not recall speaking with Agalarov, which seems like a very likely lie. Goldstone also suggests that there’s no way these conversations between Trump Jr. and Agalarov didn’t involve discussions about some sort of Russian government assistance with the campaign since that was supposed to be the entire point of the meeting based on the intial emails:


    Goldstone believes it wasn’t his email that secured the meeting, but a series of calls afterward between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov. Goldstone was not on the line.

    Phone records obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee indicate Agalarov and Trump Jr. had three calls, each two to three minutes long, on June 6 and 7, 2016. In his Senate testimony, Trump Jr. said he did not recall speaking with Agalarov.

    “I don’t know what was discussed,” Goldstone said. “What I do believe is that it is almost [incredible] to think that this conversation or these conversations could have taken place without discussion of funding, Russian funding, illegal funding, Democrats, Hillary, and it being of use to the campaign. I — I just can’t understand how — how it wouldn’t have been touched upon.”

    And then Goldstone points something out that suddenly becomes potentially quite significant in the context of Paul Manafort acting as a pro-Western change agent during his work in Ukraine: It was only AFTER the final call between Trump Jr. and Agalarov that Trump Jr. emailed him to inform him that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort would be at the meeting. So if Russian intelligence really was behind the meeting, what would the sudden insertion of Paul Manafort into this situation have done to their plans:


    Goldstone noted that it wasn’t until after the final call that Trump Jr. sent an email setting a date for a meeting, and saying his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort would be joining. Goldstone said he found it “odd” that those senior campaign officials would be included if they did not expect the conversation to be substantive.

    Goldstone goes on to point out that the Agalarovs tried to set up new meetings with Natalia Veselnitskaya after the 2016 election and again around the time of the inauguration. Curiously, Goldstone says he did no pursue the meetings and does not believe any took place. So did the Agalarovs asked him to arrange another round of meeting and he refused to do so? If so, that’s odd.

    But it’s also worth noting that if Veselnitskaya really was acting on behalf of the Kremlin it’s not like there weren’t plenty of other instances in the post-election period when we have word of the Trump team meeting with Kremlin representatives. Don’t forget that it was during the post-election period when all the ‘back channel’ machinations took place. For instance, there was the December 1, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during which Jared Kushner reportedly told Kislyak he wanted to set up a secret back channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin. And then all of the subsequent meetings associated with that ‘back channel’. So if the Veselnitskaya team really was requesting new meetings during this time it’s interesting that it apparently wasn’t pursued given the Trump team’s apparent desire for a Kremlin back channel and the fact that Veselnitskaya allegedly acted as back channel earlier:


    Afterwards, the Agalarovs continued to seek another meeting for Veselnitskaya with the Trump team. Goldstone says the requests came shortly after Trump’s victory in November 2016, and then again around the time of the inauguration. Goldstone says he did not pursue the meetings, and does not believe any took place.

    Goldstone said those follow-up meetings were of particular interest to special counsel Mueller’s team, and he was asked about them before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C.

    “They asked a lot of questions about my connection to the Trumps, Trump’s connection to the Agalarovs, [Aras] Agalarov’s connection to the Kremlin, Trump’s connection the Kremlin, to the Agalarovs.”

    “They seemed most interested in why this meeting may have come about and why the Agalarovs may have wanted it,” said Goldstone, “[and] also two follow-up requests for meetings.”

    They obviously wanted to talk to me about my email and the reasons behind it,” said Goldstone, adding that the investigators’ responses to his testimony indicated “they sort of understood it was a puffed up email.”

    Finally, Goldstone points out the obvious: that it’s hard to imagine Trump senior was well aware of the Trump Tower meeting:


    Though he can offer no evidence, Goldstone finds it hard to imagine that then-candidate Trump was unaware of the meeting, as Trump has said.

    “It was taking place in his conference room and it was taking place with his campaign chair sitting and attending the meeting, as well as his son and his son-in-law. So, you know, the publicist in me would say, ‘It’s a bit of a stretch if he’s a floor or two above to believe that he doesn’t know it’s going on.'”

    Don’t forget that it was on June 7, 2016, when Trump Sr. teased that he had a major speech on the corruption of Hillary Clinton coming up. That speech never happened, but a week later the initial reports of the DNC hacks and the subsequent release of hacked documents by “Guccifer 2.0” did start happening.

    It’s all a reminder that the circumstantial evidence makes it very clear that the Trump team tried to collude with the Kremlin. Whether or not they did so remains unclear, but they certainly wanted to. And given everything we’ve learned about Paul Manafort and the fact that he was inserted into these secret negotiations at the last minutes, we now have to ask whether or not the presence of Paul Manafort actually complicated those collusion attempts by scaring off the Kremlin. Wouldn’t that be quite a twist.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 24, 2018, 3:18 pm
  6. @Pterrafractyl–

    A more probable analysis: this whole thing is horseshit.

    Trump’s “Russian dealings” are almost certainly a penetration “op” with spook Felix Sater directing traffic. That Russian intel agents may have attended any Trump-team meetings is consistent not only with counter-intelligence methodology but would be unsurprising simply in light of the fact that Trump was the GOP nominee and might be President.

    Remember, when Trump made his call for the Russians to “hack” Hillary’s server, her email account had been taken offline several years earlier for the Benghazi circus.

    Hell, it was Hillary Clinton’s State Department (under Barack Obama) that engineered the whole “Reboot with Russia,” that came to an end with Eddie the Friendly Spook’s odyssey.

    As far as Family Trump–they are all corrupt and will seek money, assistance and influence wherever they can find it.

    Donald, Sr. would fuck a bush if he thought there was a snake in it.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | September 24, 2018, 4:29 pm
  7. Here’s a pair of article that contain some interesting info about how the Hapsburg Group got started and who was behind it: First, recall the recent report about Psy-Group – the Israeli cyber-intelligence/propaganda firm that was apparently hired by the UAE and Saudis to assist the 2016 Trump campaign – and the fact that Psy-Group’s representative, George Birnbaum, got into contact with Rick Gates days after Gates and Manafort joined the Trump team in March of 2016. We are told that Birnbaum contacted Eckart Sager who passed alont Gates’s contact information. We are also informed that Sager is one of the individuals who was illegally contacted by Paul Manafort in what was clearly some sort of witness tampering attempt.

    So while it’s certainly tempting to assume that Manafort may have been reaching out to Sager to discuss what they were going to tell authorities about the attempts by Birnbaum to get in contact with Gates over the Psy-Group proposal, it’s probably the case that Manafort was contact Sager primarily over Sager’s involvement with the Hapsburg Group. Because as the following articles makes clear, Sager and partner, Alan Friedman, were deeply involved in setting up the Hapsburg Group and it was apparently all initially Friedman’s idea that he floated to Manafort in 2011.

    First, here’s an article from June about how the Manafort team accidentally revealed that Friedman and Sager were the two public relations executives that Manafort secretly reached out to during his witness tampering attempts:

    The Washington Post

    U.S. filing inadvertently identifies public relations executives, former politicians in Manafort case

    By Spencer S. Hsu
    June 18, 2018

    (This file has been updated to include additional details of the court filing and comments from individuals whose names were disclosed in the inadvertent release.)

    Court officials inadvertently released a court filing Wednesday that identified two European public relations executives allegedly approached to solicit false testimony to aid Paul Manafort and also revealed names of several senior former European politicians one executive suggested approaching about a secret lobbying campaign for Ukraine.

    The filing in Washington by prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was a clerical error, a court spokeswoman said. The filing was withdrawn within minutes by court officials and reposted with redactions, in keeping with a judge’s order from earlier in the day.

    The filing identified the PR executives as former journalists Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager of FBC Media, or Factbased Communications Media, a London-based firm that has since gone into bankruptcy.

    Friedman and Sager did not respond to requests for comment earlier this week when their firm was linked to Manafort in news accounts, and they did not respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday afternoon after the release.

    Also included in the filing was a June 2012 memo from Friedman addressed to Manafort that named politicians Friedman sought to enlist as part of a “small chorus of high-level third-party endorsers and politically credible friends,” to help lobby for Ukraine.

    It is not clear how many of the European politicians mentioned were ever approached and which, if any, were paid by Manafort to act as lobbyists. The list included politicians from Austria, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Spain.

    The names released Wednesday had been withheld in a June 7 indictment charging Manafort and a Russian associate with two counts of obstructing justice for their alleged attempts to have witnesses give misleading testimony about the foreign lobbying.

    Among the charges filed against Manafort in the Mueller probe is an accusation Manafort failed to register with the U.S. as a lobbyist for a foreign government. The overtures to the potential witnesses in the case allegedly involved attempts to have them say the lobbying effort was only in Europe, court filings show.

    The former campaign manager for President Trump is accused of laundering more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for Ukraine, as well as tax and bank fraud charges. He faces an arraignment Friday in Washington on the counts of obstructing justice and also a hearing on whether his home detention should be revoked pending trials due to the witness tampering counts.

    Prosecutors have alleged that Manafort funneled more than 2 million euros through four accounts in 2012 and 2013 to pay a group of politicians, called the “Hapsburg group.” The group included a former European chancellor and prime minister that in redacted filings is referred to as “Foreign Politician A,” who with others lobbied members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs, prosecutors assert.

    The obstruction of justice charges revolve around allegations that Manafort and his longtime manager in Kiev, Konstantin Kilimnik, 47, tried to influence two public-relations executives who were involved in lobbying work in 2012 on behalf of pro-Russian Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions.

    According to court filings, after Manafort was accused in February of secretly lobbying without registering as a lobbyist, he and Kilimnik repeatedly contacted the two executives to emphasize that their past work together did not involve American officials and therefore did not constitute lobbying in the United States.

    Politicians considered for the “Hapsburg group” included former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, Italian ex-prime minister Romano Prodi, member of parliament Adolfo Urso, Belgian judge Jean-Paul Moerman, and the European Union’s chief diplomat for a decade before 2009, and Javier Solana, of Spain, according to the court filing accidentally posted.

    The filing, which is part of prosecutors’ case, contains a June 2012 memo from Friedman to Manafort asserting that Gusenbauer had told Friedman he was willing to help organize the lobbying effort at an annual rate of 300,000 euros. Gusenbauer has been quoted in several news reports repeatedly saying that he was not aware that the effort was financed by Manafort or the Ukraine government.

    Prodi said in a telephone interview he was never approached to lobby for Ukraine and did not know of Manafort’s involvement, but contracted with and was paid by Gusenbauer to attend a series of conferences and author op-ed articles promoting closer E.U.-Ukraine ties.

    “No one’s ever asked me to do any lobbying, and I’ve consistently maintained the need for Ukraine’s rapprochement to Europe,” Prodi said, adding, “although this may just be my opinion, I deem that coherent with my previous task as President of the European Commission.”

    Urso confirmed that he had been offered but did not agree to take part in “a working group promoted by the Ukrainian government,” calling it “incompatible with my role as an MP of the Italian Republic,” Urso said he did know that Manafort was involved.

    Moerman in a telephone interview said that he had never been contacted by Manafort or his team.

    “I do not know these people. I do not see why my name appears here. I do not know who Paul Manafort is,” said Moerman, a judge on the Belgian Constitutional Court. “I have nothing to do with this,” he said.

    An aide to Solana declined to comment.

    ———-

    “U.S. filing inadvertently identifies public relations executives, former politicians in Manafort case” by Spencer S. Hsu; The Washington Post; 06/18/2018

    “Court officials inadvertently released a court filing Wednesday that identified two European public relations executives allegedly approached to solicit false testimony to aid Paul Manafort and also revealed names of several senior former European politicians one executive suggested approaching about a secret lobbying campaign for Ukraine.”

    Whoops! So the names of the two European public relations executives Manafort reached out to was accidentally made public. And those two PR executives happen to be Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager of FBC Media:


    The filing in Washington by prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was a clerical error, a court spokeswoman said. The filing was withdrawn within minutes by court officials and reposted with redactions, in keeping with a judge’s order from earlier in the day.

    The filing identified the PR executives as former journalists Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager of FBC Media, or Factbased Communications Media, a London-based firm that has since gone into bankruptcy.

    Now, here’s a New York Times article from July that has more information of Alan Friedman’s background and the role he played in the creation of the Hapsburg Group. It turns out Friedman, an American, is both a long-time journalists and a shady businessman. He’s worked for the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and is basically a celebrity journalist in Italy. Throughout much of his journalistic career in recent decades he was also working as a consultant, leading to various conflict of interest issues with his employers.

    On June 25, 2011, Friedman wrote a memo to Manafort proposing a strategy to help bolster Yanukovych’s government. Friedman then apparently took the lead in 2012 in actually assembling the team of European politicians.

    And as the article notes, when Manafort secretly contact Friedman this year Friedman interpreted that as suborning perjury and informed investigators. So it was Alan Friedman, the guy who came to Manafort with the Hapsburg Group proposal, who apparently got Manafort thrown back in jail for witness tampering:

    The New York Times

    How Alan Friedman, Italy’s Professional American, Put Paul Manafort in Jail

    By Jason Horowitz
    July 30, 2018

    FLORENCE, Italy — Alan Friedman is Italy’s professional American. A former journalist with a baritone voice and perfect, if heavily accented, Italian, he has for decades provided the American perspective to Italians.

    He hosted and produced Italian television shows, ran in elite circles, wrote the authorized biography of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and still contributes columns to the country’s most prestigious newspapers.

    But for all his fame and influence in Italy, few had heard of Mr. Friedman in the United States until he helped land President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in jail.

    Documents filed last month by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of the investigation into Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 American presidential election, showed that Mr. Friedman worked closely with Mr. Manafort in creating the so-called Hapsburg Group.

    That was the informal name of a group of European politicians surreptitiously paid through overseas accounts controlled by Mr. Manafort, starting in 2011, to lobby American politicians to support Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the leader of Ukraine and a favorite of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

    Neither Mr. Manafort nor Mr. Friedman registered as lobbyists, a potential violation of an American law intended as a bulwark against foreign agents’ peddling influence in American politics.

    “I never registered as a foreign agent because I never was one,” Mr. Friedman told The Guardian newspaper. “I was a communications guy.”

    Mr. Manafort faces prosecution for his failure to register as well as for financial crimes related to Ukraine. His trial is expected to begin Tuesday.

    When the group was revealed in February, Mr. Manafort desperately sought to give Mr. Friedman a “heads up about Hapsburg,” Mr. Friedman’s lawyer has said. That included messages on WhatsApp saying, “This is Paul.”

    Mr. Friedman told investigators that he considered the messages an effort to “suborn perjury.” A judge agreed and in June revoked Mr. Manafort’s bail for witness tampering.

    Now Mr. Friedman, 62, has gone uncharacteristically silent on the issue even as he travels around Italy promoting his book “This Is Not America,” which begins with his 2016 interview with Donald J. Trump, then a presidential candidate.

    Mr. Manafort and his associate Rick Gates had a hand in arranging the interview, which was outside the usual media channels and led campaign aides to question its purpose, according to a person familiar with the issue who was granted anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

    But Mr. Friedman stopped being a reporter long ago. Instead, he has become an American exemplar of Italy’s transactional culture, its sometimes provincial sensitivity to the view from abroad and its porous lines between journalists, publicists and political operatives.

    The sources Mr. Friedman cultivated as a reporter became his clients or instruments of lobbying pressure for Mr. Manafort. According to the documents Mr. Mueller filed, they are alleged to have included Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister, former president of the European Commission and longtime acquaintance of Mr. Friedman.

    “Of course I know Alan Friedman,” Mr. Prodi said in a recent interview, before adding that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group. “He is writing books about Italian politics since 20 years. How can I not know Alan Friedman?”

    Mr. Friedman, the son of Jews who escaped Germany after Kristallnacht, attended the Bronx High School of Science and New York University before graduating from the London School of Economics and the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

    He made his name in journalism at The Financial Times, where he became the Italy correspondent in 1983. In 1988, he published “Agnelli: Fiat and the Network of Italian Power,” a book about the Italian mogul Giovanni Agnelli. Apparently he learned a thing or two.

    “He became a famous person,” said Dietmar Alfons, who was Mr. Friedman’s companion for nearly 20 years. “It was the first time somebody attacked the Agnelli family, rightly so. And at the end, they made peace and they became friends.”

    In 1994, The International Herald Tribune, then jointly owned by The New York Times and The Washington Post, hired Mr. Friedman as an economics columnist. He impressed some editors with his intelligence, showed entrepreneurial energy and started an I.H.T. television show.

    But it was in Italy that he became a star. “He understands better than others the Italians,” Mr. Alfons said.

    In 1998, Mr. Friedman formed Fact Based Communications, which produced television programs in London and Rome. But his side jobs and consulting bothered Walter Wells, then the I.H.T.’s editor.

    “I didn’t like the mix of his business and our journalism,” said Mr. Wells, who fired Mr. Friedman in 2003, the year The Times took full ownership of the newspaper. He said Mr. Friedman had responded, “Are you going to leave a nice note on the bulletin board?”

    The next year, Mr. Friedman joined The Wall Street Journal while continuing to pursue his own business. But in 2011, he suffered setbacks.

    That spring, Mr. Friedman hired Alessandro Proto, a real estate agent to the stars, to help him sell an estate he shared with Mr. Alfons in the hills of Tuscany. Mr. Proto, who was eventually convicted and jailed for fraud unrelated to his business with Mr. Friedman, said in an interview that Mr. Friedman had hoped to sell the villa for 18 million euros, or about $21 million at current exchange rates.

    Mr. Proto claimed to have cooked up a scheme, for which he says Mr. Friedman paid him more than €40,000, to plant stories in the Italian media that the villa would be used as a honeymoon locale by Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and Catherine Middleton after their wedding. Mr. Friedman, he said, took to calling the effort “Operation Royal Misdirection.”

    Mr. Friedman declined to comment.

    The royal honeymoon story appeared in Corriere della Sera and other publications. Emails provided by Mr. Proto to The Times showed that Mr. Friedman took an active role.

    “I understand the question is very interesting to the Italian press,” Mr. Friedman told the Corriere reporter. “But really I can’t say anything.”

    Months later, in August 2011, The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that the Malaysian government had paid Mr. Friedman’s company millions of euros to produce television programs, a fact he had withheld from the BBC, which aired the programs. Embarrassed, the BBC suspended the programming.

    Even before that falling out, Mr. Friedman was pursuing new ventures. On June 25, 2011, he had written a memo to Mr. Manafort proposing a strategy to help bolster Mr. Yanukovych, the embattled Ukrainian leader.

    The two signed a contract that paid nearly €1.2 million, or about $1.4 million, to Mr. Friedman’s account in the British Virgin Islands, linked to a bank in Zurich, for a lobbying campaign “aimed at media, decision makers, think tanks and business and political leaders in Europe and the United States.”

    By June 2012, Mr. Friedman had begun “to assemble a small chorus of high-level European third-party endorsers” to act on Ukraine’s behalf, he wrote Mr. Manafort in an email, according to documents filed by the Justice Department.

    He informed Mr. Manafort that Alfred Gusenbauer, the former chancellor of Austria, would disburse funds and that he “embraced the idea of what he called ‘underground commenting.’”

    In subsequent emails, Mr. Friedman told Mr. Manafort that a member of the group would be “happy to speak” with a United States senator to “delay or tone down or stop the resolution” condemning Mr. Yanukovych’s jailing of a political opponent.

    In March 2013, the same month Mr. Friedman’s parents and sister came to Italy for his marriage to Gabriella Carignani, the descendant of a noble Tuscan family, Mr. Friedman helped arrange a lobbying trip to Washington for Mr. Prodi.

    In February 2014, he wrote to Mr. Prodi asking him to “please review” an opinion piece for submission to The New York Times that would appear under Mr. Prodi’s name. The article argued that Mr. Yanukovych could bring Ukraine back from the brink of collapse and that European leaders should not threaten sanctions against him or the nation.

    Mr. Friedman then wrote Mr. Gates, in an email now filed as Exhibit K in the government’s case, that Mr. Prodi had requested to make a change in “the very last sentence.” Weeks later, opinion page editors at The Times wrote a representative of Mr. Prodi that in order to publish the piece, they needed evidence for some of Mr. Prodi’s assertions.

    The Times Op-Ed page said that Mr. Prodi’s representative, redacted in the court documents, was Glenn Selig, the president of Selig Multimedia. In 2017, Mr. Selig became a spokesman for Mr. Gates. And in January of this year, he was killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Kabul, where his colleagues told The Tampa Bay Times he was working on a potential counterextremism project for a government agency.

    The paper’s requests to Mr. Selig made their way to Mr. Gates, who then wrote Mr. Friedman that he had addressed the concerns, but that Mr. Friedman should “make any changes you deem necessary.” He added, “No pride of authorship here.”

    In a recent interview, Mr. Prodi said, “I wrote the article,” and added of Mr. Friedman, “Maybe we exchanged some language, but the article is mine.”

    Mr. Prodi said he received payment for his advocacy through Mr. Gusenbauer, and assumed the project was funded by European businessmen, not Ukraine. He said he had no official relationship with Mr. Friedman and was sure “I didn’t receive one dollar by Alan Friedman.”

    “If you ask me whether Alan Friedman mentioned a lobby group and so on, I tell you never. Never, never, never,” Mr. Prodi added, saying he didn’t know “on which side Alan was working.”

    In the motion to revoke Mr. Manafort’s bail, the government said that Mr. Manafort’s goal had been to notify members of the Hapsburg Group to say, if contacted, that they lobbied “exclusively in Europe.”

    Asked by a reporter on Feb. 24, the day Mr. Manafort called Mr. Friedman, whether he had ever talked to American officials, Mr. Prodi said, “No, no, no, no.”

    Later that day, as news reports revealed his trip to Washington, Mr. Prodi called back and said he had forgotten about the trip. “Let’s clear that up,” he said.

    Involvement with Mr. Manafort, while a headache now, paid off then for Mr. Friedman, not least with his coveted interview with Mr. Trump. But Mr. Friedman had concealed his business arrangement with Mr. Manafort.

    In a video posted on his website on July 12, 2017, Mr. Friedman spoke in Italian about how Donald Trump Jr. had convened Mr. Manafort for a suspicious meeting with a Russian lawyer.

    “When you accept help from a foreign and hostile government in a campaign, it’s a crime,” he explained.

    ———-

    “How Alan Friedman, Italy’s Professional American, Put Paul Manafort in Jail” by Jason Horowitz; The New York Times; 07/30/2018

    “But for all his fame and influence in Italy, few had heard of Mr. Friedman in the United States until he helped land President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in jail.”

    So an Italian celebrity journalist, who happens to be an American long-time journalist, was one of the key figures behind the Hapsburg Group:


    Documents filed last month by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of the investigation into Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 American presidential election, showed that Mr. Friedman worked closely with Mr. Manafort in creating the so-called Hapsburg Group.

    That was the informal name of a group of European politicians surreptitiously paid through overseas accounts controlled by Mr. Manafort, starting in 2011, to lobby American politicians to support Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the leader of Ukraine and a favorite of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

    Neither Mr. Manafort nor Mr. Friedman registered as lobbyists, a potential violation of an American law intended as a bulwark against foreign agents’ peddling influence in American politics.

    “I never registered as a foreign agent because I never was one,” Mr. Friedman told The Guardian newspaper. “I was a communications guy.”

    Mr. Manafort faces prosecution for his failure to register as well as for financial crimes related to Ukraine. His trial is expected to begin Tuesday.

    And it was Friedman who appears to have informed investigators about Manafort’s efforts to secretly contact him. Friedman even told them he considered the message an effort to “suborn perjury”!


    When the group was revealed in February, Mr. Manafort desperately sought to give Mr. Friedman a “heads up about Hapsburg,” Mr. Friedman’s lawyer has said. That included messages on WhatsApp saying, “This is Paul.”

    Mr. Friedman told investigators that he considered the messages an effort to “suborn perjury.” A judge agreed and in June revoked Mr. Manafort’s bail for witness tampering.

    That had to be an ‘ouch’ for Manafort.

    Interestingly, it sounds like Friedman was able to assemble his Hapsburg Group team by cultivating his prior journalistic sources. Sources like Romano Prodi. So Friedman really does appear to have played a critical role in the creation of the Hapsburg Group. He used the trust sources had in him from previous work as a reporter to turn them into lobbyist for Ukraine:


    But Mr. Friedman stopped being a reporter long ago. Instead, he has become an American exemplar of Italy’s transactional culture, its sometimes provincial sensitivity to the view from abroad and its porous lines between journalists, publicists and political operatives.

    The sources Mr. Friedman cultivated as a reporter became his clients or instruments of lobbying pressure for Mr. Manafort. According to the documents Mr. Mueller filed, they are alleged to have included Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister, former president of the European Commission and longtime acquaintance of Mr. Friedman.

    “Of course I know Alan Friedman,” Mr. Prodi said in a recent interview, before adding that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group. “He is writing books about Italian politics since 20 years. How can I not know Alan Friedman?”

    Mr. Friedman, the son of Jews who escaped Germany after Kristallnacht, attended the Bronx High School of Science and New York University before graduating from the London School of Economics and the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

    He made his name in journalism at The Financial Times, where he became the Italy correspondent in 1983. In 1988, he published “Agnelli: Fiat and the Network of Italian Power,” a book about the Italian mogul Giovanni Agnelli. Apparently he learned a thing or two.

    “He became a famous person,” said Dietmar Alfons, who was Mr. Friedman’s companion for nearly 20 years. “It was the first time somebody attacked the Agnelli family, rightly so. And at the end, they made peace and they became friends.”

    In 1994, The International Herald Tribune, then jointly owned by The New York Times and The Washington Post, hired Mr. Friedman as an economics columnist. He impressed some editors with his intelligence, showed entrepreneurial energy and started an I.H.T. television show.

    But it was in Italy that he became a star. “He understands better than others the Italians,” Mr. Alfons said.

    In 1998, Friedman formed Fact Based Communications. That’s the firm Eckart Sager worked for. And it was this mix of side-businesses that irked his journalistic employers:


    In 1998, Mr. Friedman formed Fact Based Communications, which produced television programs in London and Rome. But his side jobs and consulting bothered Walter Wells, then the I.H.T.’s editor.

    “I didn’t like the mix of his business and our journalism,” said Mr. Wells, who fired Mr. Friedman in 2003, the year The Times took full ownership of the newspaper. He said Mr. Friedman had responded, “Are you going to leave a nice note on the bulletin board?”

    And then in 2011, Friedman was caught in a scheme were he apparently paid someone to plant stories in the Italian media claiming that a property Friedman was trying to sell was going to be used as a honeymoon locale by Prince William and Kate Middleton. This raises the question of whether or not Friedman was strapped for cash at this point or just greedy and unscrupulous:


    The next year, Mr. Friedman joined The Wall Street Journal while continuing to pursue his own business. But in 2011, he suffered setbacks.

    That spring, Mr. Friedman hired Alessandro Proto, a real estate agent to the stars, to help him sell an estate he shared with Mr. Alfons in the hills of Tuscany. Mr. Proto, who was eventually convicted and jailed for fraud unrelated to his business with Mr. Friedman, said in an interview that Mr. Friedman had hoped to sell the villa for 18 million euros, or about $21 million at current exchange rates.

    Mr. Proto claimed to have cooked up a scheme, for which he says Mr. Friedman paid him more than €40,000, to plant stories in the Italian media that the villa would be used as a honeymoon locale by Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and Catherine Middleton after their wedding. Mr. Friedman, he said, took to calling the effort “Operation Royal Misdirection.”

    Mr. Friedman declined to comment.

    The royal honeymoon story appeared in Corriere della Sera and other publications. Emails provided by Mr. Proto to The Times showed that Mr. Friedman took an active role.

    “I understand the question is very interesting to the Italian press,” Mr. Friedman told the Corriere reporter. “But really I can’t say anything.”

    Later in 2011, Friedman got caught working for the Malaysian government to produce television programs without informing the BBC which aired the shows:


    Months later, in August 2011, The Independent, a British newspaper, reported that the Malaysian government had paid Mr. Friedman’s company millions of euros to produce television programs, a fact he had withheld from the BBC, which aired the programs. Embarrassed, the BBC suspended the programming.

    And it was that same year, in June 25, 2011, that Friedman apparently approached Manafort about some sort of scheme to bolster the Yanukovych government. Presumably the initial idea was the bolster the Yanukovcyh government’s bid to join the EU trade association, although that’s not entirely clear:


    Even before that falling out, Mr. Friedman was pursuing new ventures. On June 25, 2011, he had written a memo to Mr. Manafort proposing a strategy to help bolster Mr. Yanukovych, the embattled Ukrainian leader.

    The two signed a contract that paid nearly €1.2 million, or about $1.4 million, to Mr. Friedman’s account in the British Virgin Islands, linked to a bank in Zurich, for a lobbying campaign “aimed at media, decision makers, think tanks and business and political leaders in Europe and the United States.”

    By June 2012, Mr. Friedman had begun “to assemble a small chorus of high-level European third-party endorsers” to act on Ukraine’s behalf, he wrote Mr. Manafort in an email, according to documents filed by the Justice Department.

    He informed Mr. Manafort that Alfred Gusenbauer, the former chancellor of Austria, would disburse funds and that he “embraced the idea of what he called ‘underground commenting.’”

    In subsequent emails, Mr. Friedman told Mr. Manafort that a member of the group would be “happy to speak” with a United States senator to “delay or tone down or stop the resolution” condemning Mr. Yanukovych’s jailing of a political opponent.

    In March 2013, the same month Mr. Friedman’s parents and sister came to Italy for his marriage to Gabriella Carignani, the descendant of a noble Tuscan family, Mr. Friedman helped arrange a lobbying trip to Washington for Mr. Prodi.

    So Friedman appears to be aa rather colorful, albeit somewhat shady, character. And in 2011, the same year he approached Manafort about starting the Hapsburg Group, he was acting extremely shady. In that sense he seems like a natural fit for the Ukrainian initiative.

    Still, in that entire review of Friedman, there is no indication as to why on earth he decided to get involved in Ukraine. Which raises the obvious question: did someone else hire Friedman to contact Manafort about setting up this Hapsburg Group initiative? Don’t forget that one of the biggest mysteries about the Hapsburg Group is to what extent it was operating on behalf of EU forces that wanted to see Ukraine join the Trade Association. Not just Ukrainian forces. So learning that Friedman approached Manafort with the idea only backs up those suspicions that the Hapsburg Group really was an international effort. Not just international in terms of who was involved but international in terms of who was behind the idea in the first place.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 10, 2018, 1:19 pm
  8. There was a potential bombshell story regarding Paul Manafort and Wikileaks a day after we learn that the Mueller team is charging Paul Manafort for repeatedly lying to prosecutors after making a plea deal: According to series of anonymous sources to the Guardian, Paul Manafort has held secret talks with Julian Assange on at least three occasions in 2013, 2015, and March of 2016. March of 2016 is, of course, the very same month that the hackers – alleged to be ‘Fancy Bear’/APT28 hackers – started their spearphishing hacking attempts on the DNC servers and the same month Manafort joined the Trump team as Trump’s campaign chairman. Not that Manafort officially joined Trump’s team on March 28, 2016, so the March 2016 meeting with Assange would have almost certainly taken place before that time. Also recall that March of 2016 is the same month George Papadopoulos was approached by the mysterious Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud. So that’s turning out to be a particularly important month in this whole story.

    There’s been a lot of focus on sourcing for this story in part because no other outlets have confirmed it. And based on the language of the story it sounds like the sources are people in the Ecuadorian government, although that’s ambiguous. Representatives for Wikileaks and Manafort deny the story.

    For the March 2016 meeting, the Ecuadorian staff reportedly did not log this visit as they normally do. The meeting lasted about 40 minutes. The 2013 visit apparently took place a year after Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy, according to the article. Keep in mind that Assange entered the Ecuadoran embassy in June of 2012, so assuming that “one year after” timing is accurate, that would place the 2013 visit around mid 2013. Manafort’s association with Assange goes back at least 5 years to 2012-2013, according to sources

    No details are given on when the 2015 visit took place, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the initial hack of the DNC’s servers – allegedly by ‘Cozy Bear’/APT29 – took place in May 2015. That hack was unusually ‘noisy’ and atypical for Russian government hackers, according to US cybersecurity officials watching it. And don’t forget that the FBI was made aware of this hack and tried and failed to notify the DNC of this hack starting in September of 2015. Also recall the right-wing operation – run by Barbara Ledeen, Newt Gingrich, and Judicial Watch – allegedly set up to search the dark web for hackers with Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails. So given the fact that the US government was well aware of the hack of the DNC server in 2015 and right-wing operatives were already putting out teams to search the dark web for hacked emails (or hire teams to hack them), we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Manafort’s alleged meeting with Assange in 2015 included a discussion of hacked emails, either hacks yet to come or hacks that already transpired. It also makes the timing of that alleged 2015 meeting particularly important.

    The article also notes that Manafort actually visited Ecuador in 2017 to hold talks with president-elect Moreno, ostensibly to drum up business for some of Manafort’s Chinese clients. But Manafort discreetly brought up the top of Assange’s situation, according to one of the sources. A second source, described as a “senior foreign ministry source” was skeptical that the topic of Assange would have come up. So we know at least one source is a senior member of a foreign ministry, although we don’t know which foreign ministry.

    So there’s the obvious big question of whether or not the meetings in 2015 and 2016 actually took place and whether or not hacked emails were discussed. But the 2013 meeting is also quite intriguing given that this was the time when Manafort was working on the “Hapsburg Group” lobbying campaign to convince the EU to allow Ukraine into a trade association with the EU despite Yanukovych’s jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko. And that raises the intriguing possibility that Manafort wanted to use Wikileaks as a means vehicle for discrediting Tymoshenko in the eyes of the EU. At this point this is just speculation, but the timing certainly points in that direction. Don’t forget that Manafort only agreed to cooperate with Mueller right before his second trial, and that was going to be the trial that explored what actually happened with the “Hapsburg Group” scheming.

    Josh Marshall also makes an important point to keep in mind about all this: if these meetings did indeed take place, there’s good reason to believe the US and UK governments would have known about these meetings simply because the Ecuadoran embassy in London is going to be under intense surveillance specifically because of Assange’s presence there. Ecuador would also obviously know about these visits, so if the Ecuadoran government was cooperating with the Mueller team and learned that Manafort was being charged with lying to Mueller, releasing this story to the press could be a way for Ecuador’s government to get out ahead of the story.

    So while we don’t know yet what lies Manafort told Mueller’s team that brought about this new round of charges, it sounds like those lies may have included lying about multiple secret meetings with Julian Assange:

    The Guardian

    Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say

    Trump ally met WikiLeaks founder months before emails hacked by Russia were published

    Luke Harding and Dan Collyns in Quito

    Tue 27 Nov 2018 09.23 EST

    Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

    Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

    It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

    Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

    In a series of tweets WikiLeaks said Assange and Manafort had not met. Assange described the story as a hoax.

    Manafort was jailed this year and was thought to have become a star cooperator in the Mueller inquiry. But on Monday Mueller said Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, despite agreeing to cooperate two months ago in a plea deal. According to a court document, Manafort had committed “crimes and lies” on a “variety of subject matters”.

    His defence team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

    Manafort’s first visit to the embassy took place a year after Assange sought asylum inside, two sources said.

    A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”.

    According to the sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.

    Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt.

    Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.

    Embassy staff were aware only later of the potential significance of Manafort’s visit and his political role with Trump, it is understood.

    The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

    The previously unreported Manafort-Assange connection is likely to be of interest to Mueller, who has been investigating possible contacts between WikiLeaks and associates of Trump including the political lobbyist Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr.

    One key question is when the Trump campaign was aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation – and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion.

    Earlier this year Mueller indicted 12 GRU intelligence officers for carrying out the hack, which began in March 2016.

    In June of that year WikiLeaks emailed the GRU via an intermediary seeking the DNC material. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

    According to sources, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych.

    Why Manafort might have sought out Assange in 2013 is unclear. During this period the veteran consultant was involved in black operations against Yanukovych’s chief political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Yanukovych had jailed. Manafort ran an extensive lobbying operation featuring European former politicians.

    He flew frequently from the US to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev – usually via Frankfurt but sometimes through London, flight records seen by the Guardian show.

    Manafort is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia. In August a jury convicted him of crimes arising from his decade-long activities in Ukraine. They include large-scale money laundering and failure to pay US tax. Manafort pleaded guilty to further charges in order to avoid a second trial in Washington.

    One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential US state department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

    According to the dossier written by the former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, Manafort was at the centre of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared”.

    In a memo written soon after the DNC emails were published, Steele said: “The [hacking] operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.”

    As a candidate Trump warmly welcomed the dump of DNC emails by Assange. In October 2016 he declared: “I love WikiLeaks.” Trump’s comments came after WikiLeaks released a second tranche of emails seized from the email account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

    The Trump White House subsequently sent out mixed messages over Assange and his legal fate. In 2017 and behind the scenes Assange tried to reach a deal with Trump’s Department of Justice that might see him avoid US prison.

    In May 2017, , Manafort flew to Ecuador to hold talks with the country’s president-elect Lenín Moreno. The discussions, days before Moreno was sworn in, and before Manafort was indicted – were ostensibly about a large-scale Chinese investment.

    However, one source in Quito suggests that Manafort also discreetly raised Assange’s plight. Another senior foreign ministry source said he was sceptical Assange was mentioned. At the time Moreno was expected to continue support for him.

    Last week a court filing released in error suggested that the US justice department had secretly charged Assange with a criminal offence. Written by the assistant US attorney, Kellen Dwyer, the document did not say what Assange had been charged with or when the alleged offence took place.

    ———-

    “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say” by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns; The Guardian; 11/27/2018

    “Manafort was jailed this year and was thought to have become a star cooperator in the Mueller inquiry. But on Monday Mueller said Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, despite agreeing to cooperate two months ago in a plea deal. According to a court document, Manafort had committed “crimes and lies” on a “variety of subject matters”.

    Yep, this report comes just one day after Mueller charged Manafort with repeatedly lying to the FBI despite a cooperation agreement. The timing is interesting.

    The 2016 meeting with in March, according to “a well-placed source”, although the article just says “The visit is tentatively dated to March”. So it sounds like there’s still some ambiguity on which month this meeting actually happened, although it seems like a safe bet that it would have happened before Manafort joined Trump’s team. And while the exact month of meeting is unclear, there are other details from “sources in Ecuador”, like what Manafort was wearing and how long it lasted, along with the fact that Manafort’s visit wasn’t logged. So we have an interesting mix of very specific details, like what Manafort wore to the embassy, with rather vague details about the actual timing of the visit:


    A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

    According to the sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.

    Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt.

    Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.

    Embassy staff were aware only later of the potential significance of Manafort’s visit and his political role with Trump, it is understood.

    The 2013 visit appears to be confirmed by two sources and took place “a year after Assange sought asylum inside”, which would put it around mid-2013. :


    Manafort’s first visit to the embassy took place a year after Assange sought asylum inside, two sources said.

    A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”.

    And that mid-2013 initial visit would put it right in the middle of the “Hapsburg Group” scheming:


    According to sources, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych.

    Why Manafort might have sought out Assange in 2013 is unclear. During this period the veteran consultant was involved in black operations against Yanukovych’s chief political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Yanukovych had jailed. Manafort ran an extensive lobbying operation featuring European former politicians.

    The Guardian also appears to have flight records of Manafort’s travels during this period and those flight records show that when Manafort would travel back and forth between Kiev and the US he would usually fly through Frankfurt but sometimes through London:


    He flew frequently from the US to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev – usually via Frankfurt but sometimes through London, flight records seen by the Guardian show.

    It’s not a particularly revealing detail to learn that Manafort was connecting through London when flying to the US, but it’s interesting that the Guardian has access to Manafort’s flight records. Recall how Graham Stack’s crucial reporting on Manafort’s activities during this same “Hapsburg Group” period relied on flight records that revealed Manafort was traveling on planes own by Viktor Yanukovych’s chief of staff Sergii Lovochkin. Did the Guardian get its hands on the same flight records or are the new flight records in the hands of journalists?

    Finally, one of the sources speaking with the Guardian asserts that Manafort traveled to Ecuador in May of 2017. The official reason was to hold talks with the country’s president-elect on behalf of Chinese investor clients. And this isn’t in dispute. Manafort’s meeting with Moreno was reported at the time. But according to one of these anonymous sources, Manafort also quietly raised the topic of Assange during this meeting, although a senior foreign ministry source disputes that:


    The Trump White House subsequently sent out mixed messages over Assange and his legal fate. In 2017 and behind the scenes Assange tried to reach a deal with Trump’s Department of Justice that might see him avoid US prison.

    In May 2017, , Manafort flew to Ecuador to hold talks with the country’s president-elect Lenín Moreno. The discussions, days before Moreno was sworn in, and before Manafort was indicted – were ostensibly about a large-scale Chinese investment.

    However, one source in Quito suggests that Manafort also discreetly raised Assange’s plight. Another senior foreign ministry source said he was sceptical Assange was mentioned. At the time Moreno was expected to continue support for him.

    Last week a court filing released in error suggested that the US justice department had secretly charged Assange with a criminal offence. Written by the assistant US attorney, Kellen Dwyer, the document did not say what Assange had been charged with or when the alleged offence took place.

    We’ll see if any of the evidence behind these claims emerges. But don’t forget that claims of Manafort visiting the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2013, 2015, and 2016 are the kinds of claims where there could be video evidence of it somewhere. Between US and UK monitoring who comes and goes in that embassy and the possibility that the sources are coming from Ecuador’s government itself, someone could have video of these trips unless Manafort was secret allowed into the building. Recall how one source claims the 2016 meeting lasted about 40 minutes and Manafort was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt. Those kinds of details would suggest there’s video evidence of this floating around somewhere, although it’s possible those details are based on the memory of Ecuadoran embassy staff, especially since the actual month of that 2016 meeting appears to be somewhat in doubt and its only tentatively placed in March of 2016.

    But also keep in mind that Manafort is completely denying all of this. So if he was denying this to Mueller, and not just the press, and there really is evidence of these meetings with Assange, that would give us an idea about some of things Mueller is charging Manafort with lying about at this point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2018, 3:35 pm
  9. Petro Poroshenko did an interview with NBC News on Tuesday about the situation in the Sea of Azov and there was a fascinating implied threat to President Trump contained in the interview. An implied threat to reopen Ukraine’s cooperation with US investigations into Paul Manafort.

    First, recall earlier reports from back in May about how the Ukrainian government basically froze all cooperation with US investigators looking into Paul Manafort’s activities in Ukraine and this was done by the Ukrainian government to please Trump and make him more likely to provide Ukraine with lethal military aid, specifically, the Javelin anti-tank missiles. Also recall how one of the reasons the Ukrainian government likely didn’t want to see Manafort fully investigated is because many people currently in the government would be implicated in those anti-corruption investigations, in particular investigations into the “black ledger”. Well, now that Ukraine is hoping to get naval military aid from the US in response to the Sea of Azov incident, Poroshenko is declaring that Ukraine is once again ready to cooperate with those US Manafort investigations:

    NBC News

    In interview, Ukrainian president asks Trump to deliver pointed message to Putin
    Petro Poroshenko warned Russia would “pay a huge price” if they invaded Ukraine.

    Nov. 27, 2018 / 2:47 PM CST / Updated Nov. 27, 2018 / 5:46 PM CST
    By Richard Engel and Corky Siemaszko

    KIEV, Ukraine — The president of Ukraine has a message that he wants President Donald Trump to personally deliver to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G-20 summit in Argentina:

    “Please, get out from Ukraine, Mr. Putin,” Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday.

    Poroshenko made the comments in a one-on-one interview with NBC News, which was conducted two days after Russian forces created an international crisis by attacking and seizing three Ukrainian vessels that were trying to pass through the Kerch Strait, a narrow artery that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

    The Ukrainian leader also told NBC News that his country is ready to cooperate with the investigation of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who spent nearly a decade in Ukraine as a consultant to a pro-Moscow political party.

    But asked if the Ukraine has any evidence that Manafort was getting paid directly by the Kremlin, Poroshenko said, “I am not personally connected with the process.”

    Poroshenko on Monday declared martial law in the provinces bordering Russia and convened his war cabinet after the Russian assault that left six Ukrainian sailors injured and two dozen more detained in a nearby port.

    The Russians have effectively controlled the Kerch Strait since they seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

    Poroshenko said his military is ready to defend its country but is counting on the United States to live up to its pledges to support Ukraine.

    “I count on the United States,” Poroshenko told NBC News. “I count on the United States people.”

    In the interview, Poroshenko also warned the Russians that Ukraine will not roll over if war comes.

    “We will fight for our freedom, we will fight for our democracy, we will fight for our soil,” he said. “The Russians will pay a huge price if they attack us.”

    After the vessels were seized on Sunday, Nikki Haley, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined other Western leaders in immediately pointing the finger of blame at the Kremlin and Putin.

    But Trump was reluctant to blame the Russian leader.

    “We don’t like what’s happening either way,” Trump said on Monday.

    Asked point-blank if he can count on Trump, Poroshenko answered diplomatically: “This is the international obligation of the United States.”

    ———–

    “In interview, Ukrainian president asks Trump to deliver pointed message to Putin” by Richard Engel and Corky Siemaszko;
    NBC News; 11/27/2018

    The Ukrainian leader also told NBC News that his country is ready to cooperate with the investigation of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who spent nearly a decade in Ukraine as a consultant to a pro-Moscow political party.”

    That sure sounds like a threat to Trump! It’s hard to come up with a different interpretation given the fact that the Ukrainian government was pretty open about cutting off that cooperation before as a means of placating Trump. So this appears to be Ukraine’s carrot/stick with the US as long as Trump is in office: keep starting and/or stopping the Manafort investigation cooperation.

    At the same time, it’s entirely possible this is a hollow threat given how an investigation into Manafort could threaten a number of Ukrainian politicians. Related to that possibility is Poroshenko’s claims that he has no idea if Manafort was getting paid directly by the Kremlin:


    But asked if the Ukraine has any evidence that Manafort was getting paid directly by the Kremlin, Poroshenko said, “I am not personally connected with the process.”

    Part of what that statement somewhat ironic is that the US investigation into Manafort appeared to uncover evidence that Manafort was actually briefly working for Poroshenko’s campaign in 2014 after the Maidan protests led to the downfall of the Yanukovych government. That was the claim made by Manafort’s long-time partner Rick Gates during an August 7th testimony. Gates went on to complain that a $1 million payment for the work in 2014 was “significantly past due”, although it’s unclear whether or not that for work done for Poroshenko and Yanukovych. So we have Gates testifying that, yes, there was consulting work done for Poroshenko in 2014 but we don’t know if the unpaid $1 million was related to that work.

    The claim also came up in an March 31, 2014 email to Gates from Tad Devine (who worked for Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016). Devine attached a draft agreement for Manafort’s firm to work on Poroshenko’s campaign, and wrote “This proposal anticipates that we will spend a lot of time between now and the election on the ground in Kyiv,” Devine wrote. So it sounds like they got pretty far in the negotiations.

    Poroshenko’s administration previously completely denied that it hired Manafort in 2014 or even considered the Manafort proposal in 2014. But on August 8th, a day after Gates’s testimony, the Poroshenko’s spokesperson did confirm that Poroshenko’s top strategist, Ihor Hryniv, did in fact meet with Manafort’s team to year the pitch. But they continue to insist that they never hired Manafort’s team. Hryniv asserts that Manafort was eager to work for Poroshenko and had come prepared with an elaborate strategy, polling numbers, and projections. But Hryniv says that Manafort “did not understand that the country changed after the Maidan” and so they didn’t use his services. :

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    Poroshenko Confirms 2014 Meeting With Manafort Team

    Last Updated: August 08, 2018 12:37 GMT

    By Christopher Miller

    KYIV — Before he became the victor in Ukraine’s 2014 snap presidential election, businessman Petro Poroshenko was scrambling to put together a winning campaign.

    That’s when his top strategist met with Paul Manafort, RFE/RL has confirmed.

    “We had a meeting, yes, but no relationship” with Manafort’s team, Poroshenko spokeswoman Darya Khudyakova confirmed to RFE/RL by phone on August 8.

    The confirmation stands in contrast to an official statement sent to RFE/RL from Poroshenko’s administration on August 2, which read: “Petro Poroshenko’s team has never cooperated with Manafort, nor with his people. Proposals came from them among others, but they were not even considered.”

    RFE/RL inquired about the meeting between the teams of Manafort and Poroshenko after an email surfaced this month ahead of Manafort’s trial, which is playing out in a U.S. district court in Alexandria, Virginia.

    The email in question discussed pitching work to someone named “P. P.,” a common nickname used to describe Poroshenko.

    The possibility of Manafort-Poroshenko cooperation surfaced again when Manafort’s former business partner and right-hand man in Ukraine, Rick Gates, testified in court on August 7 that their company had done consulting work for Poroshenko in 2014.

    Gates also complained that a $1 million payment for the work was “significantly past due” and “Manafort was quite upset the money had not been sent.” It is unclear if the payment was for work he did for Yanukovych or Poroshenko.

    ‘I Met Him And Listened To His Strategy’

    Khudyakova declined to give further details about the meeting and directed RFE/RL to then-Poroshenko strategist Ihor Hryniv, who she confirmed had met with Manafort.

    Hryniv could not immediately be reached for comment. But he did speak about his meeting with Manafort to Ukraiynska Pravda, telling the Ukrainian news outlet that the two had discussed cooperating on Poroshenko’s presidential campaign. He claimed the plan never came to fruition.

    “Manafort was trying to offer his services and his strategy for Poroshenko’s campaign, and I met him then [in 2014] and listened to his strategy,” Hryniv said. “But after these three hours, the conversation with him ended.”

    According to Hryniv, Manafort very much wanted to work on Poroshenko’s campaign and had come prepared with an elaborate strategy, polling numbers, and projections. But Manafort “did not understand that the country changed after the Maidan,” Hryniv added.

    Hryniv said Manafort’s ideas were suitable for the strategy he masterminded as Yanukovych’s political consultant in 2009-2010, but not for the post-revolutionary period of 2014.

    ‘Ready To Take On This Project’

    It is a March 31, 2014 email to Gates from Tad Devine that shows how serious Manafort’s team was about joining up with Poroshenko.

    The email was one of more than 400 released ahead of Manafort’s trial by his lawyers, who accused Special Council Robert Mueller’s team of trying to introduce evidence that is irrelevant to the case.

    Devine, a former Bernie Sanders campaign strategist who also worked with Manafort in Ukraine, writing Yanukovych’s 2010 victory speech, attached to his email to Gates a draft agreement for Manafort’s firm to work on Poroshenko’s campaign.

    “This proposal anticipates that we will spend a lot of time between now and the election on the ground in Kyiv,” Devine wrote.

    Devine said a strategy similar to one they had used in Serbia would likely work well for Poroshenko in Ukraine.

    “A powerful introduction of PP could resonate in Ukraine the way our campaign in Serbia resonated with voters,” Devine wrote. “Our slogan in Serbia was ‘A Future to Believe In,’ which is probably something that people in Ukraine are looking for and desperate to likewise achieve.”

    Gates replied that same day, telling Devine, “we are ready to take on this project.”

    While it remains unclear exactly what, if anything, Manafort’s team did for Poroshenko in the run-up to the presidential election, it is known that Manafort, Gates, and Devine went on to work for the Opposition Bloc as of June 2014, designing the former Party of Regions party’s strategy ahead of that autumn’s parliamentary elections.

    According to a PowerPoint file included in the documents released by Manafort’s lawyers, that strategy involved several points that current President Poroshenko and his pro-Western government deem to be pro-Russian. For instance, the idea of federalizing Ukraine, something that the Kremlin has long pushed for.

    ———–

    “Poroshenko Confirms 2014 Meeting With Manafort Team” By Christopher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; 08/08/2018

    “”We had a meeting, yes, but no relationship” with Manafort’s team, Poroshenko spokeswoman Darya Khudyakova confirmed to RFE/RL by phone on August 8.”

    We had a meeting, but no relationship. That was the new stance Poroshenko’s team took after previously denying Manafort’s pitch was even considered:


    The confirmation stands in contrast to an official statement sent to RFE/RL from Poroshenko’s administration on August 2, which read: “Petro Poroshenko’s team has never cooperated with Manafort, nor with his people. Proposals came from them among others, but they were not even considered.”

    But despite those shifting denials, Rick Gates appears to have bluntly testified that, yes, Manafort’s team did indeed to consulting work for Poroshenko, although it’s unclear whether or not the unpaid $1 million is related to that work:


    The possibility of Manafort-Poroshenko cooperation surfaced again when Manafort’s former business partner and right-hand man in Ukraine, Rick Gates, testified in court on August 7 that their company had done consulting work for Poroshenko in 2014.

    Gates also complained that a $1 million payment for the work was “significantly past due” and “Manafort was quite upset the money had not been sent.” It is unclear if the payment was for work he did for Yanukovych or Poroshenko.

    Then there’s March 31, 2014 email from Tad Devine that included an attached draft agreement for this work:


    ‘Ready To Take On This Project’

    It is a March 31, 2014 email to Gates from Tad Devine that shows how serious Manafort’s team was about joining up with Poroshenko.

    The email was one of more than 400 released ahead of Manafort’s trial by his lawyers, who accused Special Council Robert Mueller’s team of trying to introduce evidence that is irrelevant to the case.

    Devine, a former Bernie Sanders campaign strategist who also worked with Manafort in Ukraine, writing Yanukovych’s 2010 victory speech, attached to his email to Gates a draft agreement for Manafort’s firm to work on Poroshenko’s campaign.

    “This proposal anticipates that we will spend a lot of time between now and the election on the ground in Kyiv,” Devine wrote.

    Devine said a strategy similar to one they had used in Serbia would likely work well for Poroshenko in Ukraine.

    “A powerful introduction of PP could resonate in Ukraine the way our campaign in Serbia resonated with voters,” Devine wrote. “Our slogan in Serbia was ‘A Future to Believe In,’ which is probably something that people in Ukraine are looking for and desperate to likewise achieve.”

    Gates replied that same day, telling Devine, “we are ready to take on this project.”

    But Poroshenko’s top strategist downplays these revelations by admitting that, yes, he did meet with Manafort and heard his pitch. But it was pitch that Hryniv didn’t see as viable for the post-Maidan political environment:


    ‘I Met Him And Listened To His Strategy’

    Khudyakova declined to give further details about the meeting and directed RFE/RL to then-Poroshenko strategist Ihor Hryniv, who she confirmed had met with Manafort.

    Hryniv could not immediately be reached for comment. But he did speak about his meeting with Manafort to Ukraiynska Pravda, telling the Ukrainian news outlet that the two had discussed cooperating on Poroshenko’s presidential campaign. He claimed the plan never came to fruition.

    “Manafort was trying to offer his services and his strategy for Poroshenko’s campaign, and I met him then [in 2014] and listened to his strategy,” Hryniv said. “But after these three hours, the conversation with him ended.”

    According to Hryniv, Manafort very much wanted to work on Poroshenko’s campaign and had come prepared with an elaborate strategy, polling numbers, and projections. But Manafort “did not understand that the country changed after the Maidan,” Hryniv added.

    Hryniv said Manafort’s ideas were suitable for the strategy he masterminded as Yanukovych’s political consultant in 2009-2010, but not for the post-revolutionary period of 2014.

    So what was this strategy that Manafort pitches that Hryniv didn’t see as viable in the post-Maidan Ukraine? Well, according to Hryniv in the following article, “Manafort’s strategy was [for Poroshenko] to position himself as the candidate from the west and try to push his competitor out further to the east, and then gain the momentum and use the votes of western Ukraine to win.” Yep, Manafort wanted Poroshenko to brand himself as the “pro-West” candidate, which seems like a pretty reasonable branding given the situation at the time, where the government had literally collapsed following massive protests over the decision to NOT move much closer to the EU. Plus, Poroshenko had positioned himself as a pro-Maidan figure. But Hryniv apparently rejected it. So that’s all something to keep in mind regarding the mystery of the “Hapburg Group” and the fact that Manafort appeared to be acting a change agent trying to move Ukraine into the arms of the West: right after the collapse of Yanukovych’s government, Manafort wanted to run an aggressively ‘pro-West’ campaign for the guy that would replace Yanukovych:

    VOA News

    Manafort Bid to Run Poroshenko ’14 Campaign Rejected as Too Divisive

    August 10, 2018 9:18 PM

    KYIV, UKRAINE —

    The campaign strategist for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s 2014 election bid says Paul Manafort’s offer to guide the nascent political campaign was rejected because it would have further divided Ukrainians in the wake of deadly clashes of the Maidan revolution that ousted pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovich, Manafort’s former boss.

    Questions about Manafort’s role in the current Ukrainian president’s election surfaced during questioning at Manafort’s trial, which is under way in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

    Manafort’s former business partner and deputy in Ukraine, Rick Gates, who also worked for Trump, recently testified that Manafort was assisting Poroshenko shortly after Yanukovych was ousted in the populist revolution.

    On Wednesday, Poroshenko’s former campaign spokeswoman Darya Khudyakova denied any relationship with Manafort, saying, “We had a meeting, yes, but no relationship” with Manafort’s firm.

    Ukrainian legislator Ihor Hryniv, who served as Poroshenko’s 2014 campaign strategist, said Manafort initiated the meeting with Poroshenko’s team immediately after payments from the ousted Yanukovych regime stopped.

    “I did not know him prior to the meeting and did not try to get such a meeting,” Hryniv told VOA’s Ukrainian service on Friday.

    “Manafort offered his services in early March,” Hryniv added. “I believe he wanted to stay in Ukraine and work here. He understood that Poroshenko was the winning candidate, which was almost clear at this point, so he bet on the favorite. It is very easy to help when your candidate’s rating is 55 percent, not 4 percent.”

    That strategy that Manafort offered Poroshenko’s team, Hryniv said, would have further divided a country still recovering from a bloody mass uprising that toppled the Russia-backed regime and brought a pro-Western government to power.

    “In brief, Manafort’s strategy was [for Poroshenko] to position himself as the candidate from the west and try to push his competitor out further to the east, and then gain the momentum and use the votes of western Ukraine to win,” Hryniv said.

    “Our strategy of choice, to the contrary, was to promote unification of Ukraine,” he added. “To pull it together and ensure that the candidate had support of the whole country. This was the winning strategy for the first round.”

    Hryniv refuted the earlier allegations that Manafort could have worked for the campaign without pay, as Gates’ testimony implied.

    “I would like to see Manafort working free of charge,” Hryniv said.

    To this day, eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea remain occupied by Russian-backed forces, and citizens are still battling the corruption that the Euromaidan demonstrations sought to purge.

    ———-

    “Manafort Bid to Run Poroshenko ’14 Campaign Rejected as Too Divisive”; VOA News; 08/10/2018

    “That strategy that Manafort offered Poroshenko’s team, Hryniv said, would have further divided a country still recovering from a bloody mass uprising that toppled the Russia-backed regime and brought a pro-Western government to power.”

    Considering everything that’s happened in Ukraine over the last four years, where the demonization of the ethnic Russian populace and exaltation of viruently anti-Russian neo-Nazi groups like Svoboda and Right Sector has become a grim political reality, it’s kind of remarkable that Poroshenko’s chief strategist was apparently turned off by Manafort’s ‘pro-West’ pitch. But that’s what Hryniv is claiming:


    “In brief, Manafort’s strategy was [for Poroshenko] to position himself as the candidate from the west and try to push his competitor out further to the east, and then gain the momentum and use the votes of western Ukraine to win,” Hryniv said.

    “Our strategy of choice, to the contrary, was to promote unification of Ukraine,” he added. “To pull it together and ensure that the candidate had support of the whole country. This was the winning strategy for the first round.”

    So we still don’t know what, if any, work Manafort actually did for Poroshenko’s 2014 campaign. But it sure sounds like they did some sort of work. Will we eventually find out what work was done now that Poroshenko is offering to reestablish Ukraine’s cooperation in the US’s investigation into Manafort? We’ll see. Although that presumably depends on whether or not the US provides lethal maritime aid, at which point Ukraine will presumably end cooperation with the Manafort investigation again.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 29, 2018, 1:10 pm
  10. Here’s an important followup to the report by The Guardian a few days ago alleging that Paul Manafort personally met with Julian Assange in 2013, 2015, and March of 2016, right before he joined the Trump campaign. Recall how that report was based on multiple anonymous sources and included references to documents by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency that were seen by the Guardian. Also recall how, due the nature of the allegations, the US, and UK governments would almost certainly know whether or not the allegations are true given their surveillance of the Ecuadoran embassy in London. The Ecuadoran government would also obviously know if this was true or not. So it was a story based on anonymous sources, one described as a “well-placed source” in the article, and circumstantial evidence suggests those sources were people involved with either the US, UK, or Ecuadoran governments.

    Well, it’s been a few days since the story came out and no other publications have confirmed the story, leading to growing speculation that it was all made up:

    Colombia Journalism Review

    Claims and counterclaims fly around Guardian Manafort–Assange scoop

    By Jon Allsop, CJR
    November 29, 2018

    Even by the dramatic standards of the Mueller investigation, it was a bombshell moment when, on Tuesday, The Guardian’s Luke Harding and Dan Collyns reported that Paul Manafort met repeatedly with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy, including around the time Manafort became chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. With the special counsel’s recent focus around the Trump campaign’s ties to WikiLeaks—looking, specifically, at the latter’s dump of internal Democratic Party emails procured from Russian hackers—The Guardian’s story introduced a huge new lead (and one that other reporters believe was not previously on Mueller’s radar).

    Both Manafort and WikiLeaks strongly denied that the meetings took place. Manafort called The Guardian’s story “deliberately libelous” and said he was weighing his legal options. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, tweeted that it was willing to bet The Guardian a million dollars and “its editors head” that the paper was wrong, then started to crowdfund a lawsuit (as of this morning, it posted $33,000 in donations). No other news outlet has yet been able to confirm The Guardian’s reporting.

    It’s not unusual for aggrieved subjects to push back—and while the denials had a noteworthy vehemence, that sentiment was arguably proportionate to the severity of The Guardian’s charges. Credible observers with no skin in the game—for example, the national security blogger Marcy Wheeler—however, also expressed skepticism. In a statement yesterday, The Guardian sought to shore up its story, stressing that it relied on a number of sources and that neither Manafort nor Assange had issued denials prior to publication. The statement could have been stronger, however: “Noticeably missing [was] a line stating that The Guardian is confident in the accuracy of its story,” CNN’s Oliver Darcy noted on Twitter.

    The controversy took another weird turn yesterday as Politico published an article by “Alex Finley,” who was identified, at the bottom of the post, as a former CIA officer writing under a pseudonym. “Finley” suggests, without citing any real evidence, that malicious actors—Russia, perhaps—may have fabricated the Manafort–Assange story, then planted it to discredit The Guardian in general and Harding, who has written widely on potential Russian collusion in the 2016 election, in particular.

    “Finley’s” article should be taken with a mountain of salt (if taken at all). Nonetheless, in a roundabout way it gets to the heart of a knotty problem for reporters. The Mueller beat has always been characterized by uncertainty: even excellent reporting has relied on a very incomplete picture. And what we do know sits within a vipers’ nest of double-crossing and deception. Just before The Guardian story broke this week, Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort lied to them after striking a deal to help them; then it emerged that Manafort’s lawyer had repeatedly contacted Trump’s legal team during that period of cooperation. Manafort is angling for a presidential pardon, some speculated. Yesterday, in an interview with the New York Post, Trump refused to rule that out.

    Only time will tell if The Guardian successfully navigated this thicket of lies. For the time being, its story should at least be taken seriously, despite legitimate doubt. Just because other outlets can’t verify it does not make it untrue, as New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt noted eloquently on his paper’s podcast, The Daily, yesterday. “We’re at a stage in the Mueller–Trump story where we’re sort of looking to see whether there is another shoe to drop,” Schmidt says. “Whether there is another big story here that moves the narrative forward, or if we simply know as much as we’re going to know.”

    ….

    ———-

    “Claims and counterclaims fly around Guardian Manafort–Assange scoop” by Jon Allsop, Colombia Journalism Review; 11/29/2018

    “It’s not unusual for aggrieved subjects to push back—and while the denials had a noteworthy vehemence, that sentiment was arguably proportionate to the severity of The Guardian’s charges. Credible observers with no skin in the game—for example, the national security blogger Marcy Wheeler—however, also expressed skepticism. In a statement yesterday, The Guardian sought to shore up its story, stressing that it relied on a number of sources and that neither Manafort nor Assange had issued denials prior to publication. The statement could have been stronger, however: “Noticeably missing [was] a line stating that The Guardian is confident in the accuracy of its story,” CNN’s Oliver Darcy noted on Twitter.

    Yep, it’s not just Manafort and Wikileaks who are disputing this story. People like Marcy Wheeler are also raising questions and even the Guardian itself wouldn’t issue a statement confidently backing the accuracy of the story.

    And then it got really weird, with Politico publishing an article written by an anonymous ex-CIA agent, “Alex Finley”, who suggests that this was all actually part of some sort of Russian disinformation operation intended to discredit Luke Harding:


    The controversy took another weird turn yesterday as Politico published an article by “Alex Finley,” who was identified, at the bottom of the post, as a former CIA officer writing under a pseudonym. “Finley” suggests, without citing any real evidence, that malicious actors—Russia, perhaps—may have fabricated the Manafort–Assange story, then planted it to discredit The Guardian in general and Harding, who has written widely on potential Russian collusion in the 2016 election, in particular.

    “Finley’s” article should be taken with a mountain of salt (if taken at all). Nonetheless, in a roundabout way it gets to the heart of a knotty problem for reporters. The Mueller beat has always been characterized by uncertainty: even excellent reporting has relied on a very incomplete picture. And what we do know sits within a vipers’ nest of double-crossing and deception. Just before The Guardian story broke this week, Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort lied to them after striking a deal to help them; then it emerged that Manafort’s lawyer had repeatedly contacted Trump’s legal team during that period of cooperation. Manafort is angling for a presidential pardon, some speculated. Yesterday, in an interview with the New York Post, Trump refused to rule that out.

    Again, recall how there were multiple sources for Harding’s article, including sources described as “well-placed”, and they gave the Guardian Ecuadoran intelligence documents. So unless these sources were anonymous to Harding and his co-author too, it seems rather implausible that Russian spies would somehow be able to orchestrate such a disinformation campaign. And yet that’s what this anonymous former CIA agent suggests may have happened:

    Politico

    Did Someone Plant a Story Tying Paul Manafort to Julian Assange?

    By ALEX FINLEY
    November 28, 2018

    A bombshell report in the Guardian on Tuesday claims Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, met directly with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, several times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

    If true, the ramifications are immense. It means the guy running Trump’s campaign met directly with the head of the organization that served as a tool of Russia’s intelligence services, distributing stolen Democratic emails in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election. It could be the proverbial smoking gun that shows Trump’s campaign knew it was receiving help from Russian intelligence services and perhaps even aided the operation.

    Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, the reporters behind the Guardian story, do not name their sources, although they claim to have multiple, and they write that they have seen an internal document from Ecuador’s intelligence service listing “Paul Manaford [sic]” as a visitor to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Manafort, for his part, has called the Guardian’s report “totally false and deliberately libelous.” And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Certainly I remain confident in the White House’s assertion that the president was involved in no wrongdoing, was not involved in any collusion.”

    While the immediate reaction to the story was a collective “Wow!”, it is fair to take a step back and remain wary. Rather than being the bombshell smoking gun that directly connects the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks, perhaps the report is something else entirely: a disinformation campaign. Is it possible someone planted this story as a means to discredit the journalists?

    A number of parties in the Trump-Russia circus have an interest in discrediting the media. Russian President Vladimir Putin has solidified his power in Russia by systematically quashing the free press and controlling the message through friendly media outlets, including the likes of RT and Sputnik. Trump, too, has consistently shouted “Fake News!” at any story he doesn’t like and has made it a theme of late to refer to the media as “the enemy of the people,” a term that has been used by dictators throughout time, including to devastating effect by Joseph Stalin.

    Harding is likely a major target for anyone wrapped up in Russia’s intelligence operation against the West’s democratic institutions. He has written a book about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia—literally titled Collusion, as well as numerous articles related to the case, including about the Steele Dossier, Russia’s plans to help rescue Assange from London and spirit him away to Moscow, Russia’s novichok poisoning operation against Sergei Skripal, and a slew of other “Russia-is-up-to-no-good” stories.

    If this latest story about Manafort and Assange is false—that is, if, for example, the sources lied to Harding and Collyns (or if the sources themselves were lied to and thus thought they were being truthful in their statements to the journalists), or if the Ecuadorian intelligence document is a fake, the most logical explanation is that it is an attempt to make Harding look bad. This, in turn, would call into question any of Harding’s past reporting and could be raised any time someone mentions his reporting as evidence of wrongdoing. Any mention of Harding going forward would include the caveat, “according to a reporter who was once duped.” The underlying question would always be: How can anything he writes be trusted?

    We’ve seen this game before, even recently. In November last year, when Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of having several inappropriate relationships with very young girls, a woman approached a Washington Post reporter to tell her story about underage sex with Moore. She was, in fact, working for Project Veritas, a conservative group that purports to police and expose media bias, and had made the story up wholesale, hoping the Post would run it and that Veritas could then debunk it and paint the Post as “fake news.” Presumably, this would have discredited negative reporting about Moore and thus boosted his chances of winning. Unfortunately for the woman, the Post reporters did their due diligence and never published her false account. A woman working for a company hired by Harvey Weinstein similarly attempted to plant a false story in New York magazine in an attempt to discredit any accusations against Weinstein.

    It’s an old tactic, used to prime an audience not to believe anything they hear from those whose role it is to hold people in power to account. Autocratic leaders have long planted the seeds of doubt so that no one in their intended audience will believe any information except what the leader himself tells them. The message is simple: Only the leader can be trusted.

    I find it hard to believe Harding would not go to great lengths to confirm his story. He must know he is a target for disinformation. But that is not to say it could not happen.

    Interestingly, Russia’s disinformation network has jumped into the ring to promote skepticism of the story. Sputnik, one of Russia’s propaganda networks, called the story into question and bolstered the skepticism by quoting tweets from Eva Golinger, a former adviser to the government of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and a current contributor to RT’s Spanish-language network; Ivor Crotty, another RT contributor; and WikiLeaks, which the U.S. government has called a nonstate hostile actor and a tool of Russian intelligence. RT, also a Kremlin mouthpiece, echoed Sputnik and WikiLeaks. Do you see a pattern here?

    But even if someone managed to dupe the reporters and plant a false story, that tells us something, too. Namely, that someone is nervous and eager to lay the groundwork for yelling “fake news!” at whatever other stories are about to drop. Either they want you not to believe what is, in fact, a true story, or they planted a fake story because they want you not to believe the journalists and any other information that has yet to come out.

    As of this writing, no other news outlet has confirmed the Guardian’s story about Manafort meeting Assange. So is it fake or is it real? If it is real and others confirm it, it would be damning, and many people have an interest in trying to discredit it. On the other hand, if someone managed to dupe Harding and his colleague, it would mean someone was ready to put a lot of effort into discrediting the journalists in order to sow doubt about a wide swath of reporting. In either case, someone has already primed a large audience to dismiss this Manafort-Assange story and any other information that might tie the Trump campaign to Russia. That implies more bad news is coming for Trump and Manafort.

    ———-

    “Did Someone Plant a Story Tying Paul Manafort to Julian Assange?” by ALEX FINLEY; Politico; 11/28/2018

    “As of this writing, no other news outlet has confirmed the Guardian’s story about Manafort meeting Assange. So is it fake or is it real? If it is real and others confirm it, it would be damning, and many people have an interest in trying to discredit it. On the other hand, if someone managed to dupe Harding and his colleague, it would mean someone was ready to put a lot of effort into discrediting the journalists in order to sow doubt about a wide swath of reporting. In either case, someone has already primed a large audience to dismiss this Manafort-Assange story and any other information that might tie the Trump campaign to Russia. That implies more bad news is coming for Trump and Manafort.”

    It’s a valid observation by Alex Finley: If someone really did trick these journalists, they must have put a fair amount of work into it given that the story involved multiple sources and even Ecuadoran intelligence documents.

    But then Finley goes on to suggest that it’s actually Russia who tricked Harding and his co-author. The evidence? Well, a lot of Russia news outlets came out skeptical of the story. That’s seriously the evidence:


    A number of parties in the Trump-Russia circus have an interest in discrediting the media. Russian President Vladimir Putin has solidified his power in Russia by systematically quashing the free press and controlling the message through friendly media outlets, including the likes of RT and Sputnik. Trump, too, has consistently shouted “Fake News!” at any story he doesn’t like and has made it a theme of late to refer to the media as “the enemy of the people,” a term that has been used by dictators throughout time, including to devastating effect by Joseph Stalin.

    Harding is likely a major target for anyone wrapped up in Russia’s intelligence operation against the West’s democratic institutions. He has written a book about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia—literally titled Collusion, as well as numerous articles related to the case, including about the Steele Dossier, Russia’s plans to help rescue Assange from London and spirit him away to Moscow, Russia’s novichok poisoning operation against Sergei Skripal, and a slew of other “Russia-is-up-to-no-good” stories.

    I find it hard to believe Harding would not go to great lengths to confirm his story. He must know he is a target for disinformation. But that is not to say it could not happen.

    Interestingly, Russia’s disinformation network has jumped into the ring to promote skepticism of the story. Sputnik, one of Russia’s propaganda networks, called the story into question and bolstered the skepticism by quoting tweets from Eva Golinger, a former adviser to the government of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and a current contributor to RT’s Spanish-language network; Ivor Crotty, another RT contributor; and WikiLeaks, which the U.S. government has called a nonstate hostile actor and a tool of Russian intelligence. RT, also a Kremlin mouthpiece, echoed Sputnik and WikiLeaks. Do you see a pattern here?

    But even if someone managed to dupe the reporters and plant a false story, that tells us something, too. Namely, that someone is nervous and eager to lay the groundwork for yelling “fake news!” at whatever other stories are about to drop. Either they want you not to believe what is, in fact, a true story, or they planted a fake story because they want you not to believe the journalists and any other information that has yet to come out.

    It’s quite a twist to the unraveling of this story: multiple anonymous sources, who appears to likely be affiliated with either US, UK, or Ecuadoran intelligence, feed Harding this story. No other news outlets pick up on it and it starts looking like it might be disinformation. And then we have an anonymous former CIA agent pen a piece about how it may have been a Russian intelligence disinformation operation and her primary evidence is that Russian media outlets were skeptical of the story.

    So it’s looking increasingly like the ‘Paul Manafort met Assange’ story was indeed disinformation. We’ll see. Maybe some sort of follow up story is on the way. Either way, this is clearly a good to reflect on all the other Trump-Russia stories we’ve seen that were also based on anonymous sources that have never been confirmed by more than a single news outlet. For instance, remember the exclusive story in the Daily Beast from March of this year that claimed that “Guccifer 2.0” was actually traced directly back to the GRU when a GRU officer forgot to turn on his virtual private network, and it was all based on anonymous sources? Well, we haven’t seen any follow up or confirmation of that story in any other publications. And don’t forget that Mueller’s indictment of the 12 GRU officers over the hacking operation never actually referenced the ‘evidence’ indicated in that story. Might that story have also been one of these disinformation stories? It’s a question that wasn’t asked at the time the Daily Beast story came out. Can we ask now?

    It’s also worth asking what the implications are if this Manafort-Assange story is indeed disinformation and actually came from a Western intelligence agency. That seems like a pretty big deal.

    And regarding the possibility that this really was a Russian disinformation operation targeting Harding in order to discredit him, keep in mind that worrying about Russian operations against him is kind of Luke Harding’s specialty, so if the Russians really did pull this off that would be pretty impressive

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 30, 2018, 3:36 pm
  11. It certainly seems like clumsy covert tradecraft when an old hand like Paul Manafort risks getting caught on surveillance systems while
    visiting Assange at Equador’s London embassy. However Luke Harding is, to say the least, somewhat of a polarizing figure.
    From off-guardian.org Sept. 9 2015 a piece entitled “Luke Harding: the hack who came in from the cold”:

    “Harding was accused of plagiarism by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine of the eXile for publishing
    an article under his own name that lifted large passages almost verbatim from their work.”

    Mark Ames @MarkAmesExile tweeted 6 April 2018 “Can anyone explain why Luke Harding – caught plagiarizing when I was in Moscow-
    entrusted with so many leaks?”

    Off-shore money laundering expert Lucy Komisar replied 7 September 2018 “Harding was not going to reveal that an important Panama
    Papers/Mossack Fonseca shell company owner was William Browder who used it to launder Russian profits. As Harding is a Browder acolyte,
    that fact stayed hidden.”
    Browder himself is a dubious American ex-pat carpetbagger who waded into the corrupt privatization schemes initiated during Boris
    Yeltsin’s reign which gave birth to the rise of the Russian oligarchy of gangsters/entrepreneurs. Browder was convicted in absentia of
    deliberate bankruptcy and tax-evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison. Komisar has maintained a steady attack on Browder’s
    Magnitsky hoax at her website thekomisarscoop.com.

    And so having a CIA operative using a pen name (shades of E. Howard Hunt) to defend Harding while pointing the finger once again at
    Russia has all the earmarks of Operation Mockingbird redux.

    Posted by Dennis | December 2, 2018, 7:31 pm
  12. Well that story changed fast: there was a ‘blockbuster’ report earlier this week that initially appeared to demonstrate evidence of the Trump campaign passing polling data to the Kremlin. Specifically, it was a revealed that Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik allegedly discussed a Ukrainian ‘peace plan’ during a meeting in Madrid in early 2017. It’s unclear if this is the same plane as the ‘peace plan’ Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Andreii Artemenko, Alexander Rovt, and Curk Weldon were working on (which started in early 2016). Artemenko is claiming that he never met Manafort or Kilimnik and that this must of been a different peace plan. So that would be interesting, albeit somewhat unsurprising, if Manafort and Kilimnik were at least aware of that same ‘peace plan’ and potentially working on it. But it would be pretty notable if they were working on a different plan from the Artemenko plan.

    But here’s the big revelation from the report: Manafort and Rick Gates both passed polling data – most of it public data, but some private – to Konstantin Kilimnik in the “spring of 2016”. Keep in mind that “spring” technically begins in March, the same month the ‘Fancy Bear’ phishing attacks started against the DNC. Although “spring” could also be as late as June.

    Critically, it was also initially reported that Manafort and Gates asked Kilimnik to pass the information along to Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who Manafort and Kilimnik previously worked for (before Deripaska accused them of embezzling his money). If true, it would potentially have been evidence of the Trump campaign manager passing the kind of data to a Kremlin oligarch that could have been used for selecting US voters to politically target.

    But then there was a correction to the report: it turns out Manafort and Gates didn’t ask Kilimnik to pass the polling data to Deripaska. They asked Kilimnik to pass the data along to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov. And as the article notes, Manafort thought Lyovochkin(Lyvochkin/Lovochkin) and Akhmetov owed him millions of dollars from past services that had yet to be paid.

    Recall how Lyovochkin appears to have been Manafort’s key partner within the Yanukovych administration in orchestrating the ‘Hapsburg Group’ lobbying campaign – a lobbying campaign designed to convinced the EU to allow Ukraine into a trade agreement and away from Russia’s orbit – and the evidence that Lyovochkin may have simultaneously played roles in both pushing for the initial government crackdown on the pro-EU protestors and then fomented the public backlash that sparked the Maidan protests.

    Also recall how Kilimnik formed a lobbying company with Sam Patten, a GOP political consultant with a recent history of working for Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL (he worked for SCL in 2015 on the Nigerian campaign, where SCL hired hackers to use against their client’s opponent). This lobbying business resulted in Patten getting charged with violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) when it was revealed that Lyovochkin was one of his clients and the firm was lobbying on behalf of Lyovochkin’s Opposition Bloc party. And recall how Patten’s and Kilimnik’s 2015 work in Ukraine was for Vitali Klitschko’s mayoral campaign and it was Lyovochkin who arranged for Patten to do that work. So Patten and Kilimnik were consulting for one of the key pro-Maidan figures in 2015 and Lyovochkin was behind that, which is just one of the many pieces of circumstantial evidence that suggests Lyovochkin has been basically working as a pro-Western Ukrainian politician for some time now.

    Finally, recall how Kilimnik’s background doesn’t just include his education at a GRU-connected language institute. He also went on to work for the International Republican Institute before teaming up with Manafort to start their Ukrainian consulting work in 2004. It was Rinat Akhmetov, the riches man in Ukraine and the primary financier behind the Party of Regions/Opposition Bloc political parties, who initially wanted to hired Manafort’s services.

    So now we learn that Manafort and Gates wanted Kilimnik to pass polling data to Lyovochkin and Akhmetov relatively early on in the 2016 race during the “spring” of 2016 while the primaries were still going on. And based on what we’ve seen about Manafort’s and Lyovochkin’s time working together, they appear to have a close working relationship on covert operations like the ‘Hapsburg Group’ lobbying initiative and the provocations against the Maidan protestors. And we’re also learning that Manafort thought Lyovochkin and Akhmetov owed him millions. Might this polling data have been given to them for the purpose of providing some sort of ‘service’ for the Trump campaign? We definitely can’t rule it out, but if there was some sort of service being provided for Manafort it’s hard to see it being in the service of the Kremlin given Lyovochkin’s background:

    The New York Times

    Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Polling Data With Russian Associate
    Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted last year of 10 felonies.

    By Sharon LaFraniere, Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman
    Jan. 8, 2019

    WASHINGTON — As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

    Mr. Manafort’s lawyers made the disclosure by accident, through a formatting error in a document filed to respond to charges that he had lied to prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation into Russian interference in the election.

    The document also revealed that during the campaign, Mr. Manafort and his Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, discussed a plan for peace in Ukraine. Throughout the campaign and the early days of the Trump administration, Russia and its allies were pushing various plans for Ukraine in the hope of gaining relief from American-led sanctions imposed after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

    The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump.

    Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

    Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the person said. The oligarchs had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant.

    A representative for Mr. Akhmetov said he did not request or receive any data from Mr. Kilimnik and has had no contact with either Mr. Kilimnik or Mr. Manafort since before the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Lyovochkin did not respond to a request for comment.

    Why Mr. Manafort wanted them to see American polling data is unclear. He might have hoped that any proof that he was managing a winning candidate would help him collect money he claimed to be owed for his work on behalf of the Ukrainian parties.

    About the same time, Mr. Manafort was also trying to curry favor with Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin and an associate of Mr. Kilimnik. In July 2016, Mr. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, told Mr. Kilimnik that he could offer Mr. Deripaska “private briefings,” according to emails reported by The Washington Post. Mr. Deripaska had claimed Mr. Manafort owed him millions from a failed business venture, and Mr. Manafort may have been trying to use his status in the campaign to hold him at bay.

    The surprise disclosures about Mr. Manafort were the latest in two years of steady revelations about contacts between associates of Mr. Trump’s and Russian officials or operatives. In another development on Tuesday, the Russian lawyer who met with senior campaign officials at Trump Tower in June 2016 was charged with obstruction of justice in an unrelated case. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said that the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, had pretended to a federal judge that she was purely a private defense lawyer when in fact she was working with the Russian government to thwart the civil prosecution of a Russian company.

    Of the various Russian intermediaries to the Trump campaign, Mr. Kilimnik appears to be one of the most important to Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. A Russian citizen and resident, he faces charges from Mr. Mueller’s team of tampering with witnesses who had information about Mr. Manafort, but Mr. Kilimnik is not expected to ever stand trial. He did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment on Tuesday.

    His relationship with Mr. Manafort dates back years. The two men worked together to promote a Russia-aligned politician, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who rose to Ukraine’s presidency, was ousted in a popular uprising and fled to Russia in 2014. The two men continued working together over the next three years as Mr. Manafort’s financial troubles grew and investigators began to investigate a fraud scheme that eventually led to his conviction for 10 felonies.

    In August 2016, apparently just before Mr. Manafort was fired from the Trump campaign, he and Mr. Kilimnik met to discuss a plan for Ukraine that seemed to further Russia’s interests. They also met several times afterward, including once in Madrid in early 2017. In an interview in February 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, Mr. Kilimnik suggested the plan would have involved reviving the political fortunes of Mr. Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian leader.

    For Russia, trying to influence the incoming Trump administration’s policy on Ukraine was of paramount importance. The economic sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea damaged the Russian economy, and various emissaries have tried to convince administration officials to broker a resolution to a long-running guerrilla war between Russia and Ukraine.

    In one previously reported case, for instance, an obscure Ukrainian lawmaker, Andrii V. Artemenko, worked with two associates of Mr. Trump’s, Felix Sater and Michael D. Cohen, to deliver one Ukraine “peace plan” to the White House. The plan landed on the desk of Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, just before he was forced to resign.

    In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Artemenko said that investigators working for Mr. Mueller had questioned him extensively about his efforts to promote that plan. Mr. Artemenko said he knew neither Mr. Manafort nor Mr. Kilimnik and stressed that his plan was different from theirs.

    Prosecutors have accused Mr. Manafort of lying not only about his interactions with Mr. Kilimnik, but about other matters, including his contacts with senior administration officials in early 2017 and a payment related to a pro-Trump political action committee to cover his legal expenses. In November, after a dozen meetings with Mr. Manafort, they broke off the plea agreement with him, citing what they said was a series of lies.

    In their filing, Mr. Manafort’s defense lawyers said that Mr. Manafort never intentionally misled federal authorities. Instead, they cast him as a sick man — troubled by “severe” gout, as well as by depression and anxiety — who made misstatements because of a faulty memory and lack of access to his own records.

    They nevertheless said that they would not seek a hearing to challenge the prosecutors’ accusations that he lied, a decision that brings Mr. Manafort one step closer to being sentenced for his crimes.

    The decision not to seek a hearing reflected the dearth of legal choices for Mr. Manafort, 69, who has been in jail in Northern Virginia since mid-June. One prosecution resulted in his jury conviction in August for bank fraud, tax fraud and other financial crimes. A second led to his guilty plea in September on two conspiracy charges, including one stemming from a witness-tampering scheme with Mr. Kilimnik. Mr. Manafort faces at least 10 years in prison.

    The plea agreement gives the prosecutors the power to almost unilaterally decide whether Mr. Manafort has violated it. Unless Mr. Manafort can show they acted in bad faith — a high bar — their judgment stands. The prosecutors could also decide to file new charges against Mr. Manafort for lying to them, but apparently they do not plan to do so, according to Tuesday’s filing.

    “They have him so deeply in the soup here that what both sides are almost saying is that this doesn’t matter,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor.

    Correction: January 8, 2019
    A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

    ———-

    “Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Polling Data With Russian Associate” by Sharon LaFraniere, Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman; The New York Times; 01/08/2019

    “Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.”

    So mostly public polling data was passed along to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016, with Lyovochkin and Akhmetov being two of the intended recipients:


    Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the person said. The oligarchs had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant.

    A representative for Mr. Akhmetov said he did not request or receive any data from Mr. Kilimnik and has had no contact with either Mr. Kilimnik or Mr. Manafort since before the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Lyovochkin did not respond to a request for comment.

    Why Mr. Manafort wanted them to see American polling data is unclear. He might have hoped that any proof that he was managing a winning candidate would help him collect money he claimed to be owed for his work on behalf of the Ukrainian parties.

    Then, we are told that Manafort and Kilimnik met in August of 2016 to discuss some sort of plan for Ukraine and then met several times in early 2017 again to discuss the plan. Artemenko insists that this must have been a different plan:


    In August 2016, apparently just before Mr. Manafort was fired from the Trump campaign, he and Mr. Kilimnik met to discuss a plan for Ukraine that seemed to further Russia’s interests. They also met several times afterward, including once in Madrid in early 2017. In an interview in February 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, Mr. Kilimnik suggested the plan would have involved reviving the political fortunes of Mr. Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian leader.

    For Russia, trying to influence the incoming Trump administration’s policy on Ukraine was of paramount importance. The economic sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea damaged the Russian economy, and various emissaries have tried to convince administration officials to broker a resolution to a long-running guerrilla war between Russia and Ukraine.

    In one previously reported case, for instance, an obscure Ukrainian lawmaker, Andrii V. Artemenko, worked with two associates of Mr. Trump’s, Felix Sater and Michael D. Cohen, to deliver one Ukraine “peace plan” to the White House. The plan landed on the desk of Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, just before he was forced to resign.

    In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Artemenko said that investigators working for Mr. Mueller had questioned him extensively about his efforts to promote that plan. Mr. Artemenko said he knew neither Mr. Manafort nor Mr. Kilimnik and stressed that his plan was different from theirs.

    So it’s worth recalling that, back when we first learned about the Ukrainian peace plan proposal in early 2017, there were reports that there was an alternate deal to abandon the Minsk peace accords that was being put forward by Victor Punchuk, Serhiy Taruta, Vadym Chernysh, and Andriy Yermolayev, the head of Nova Ukraina think tank, which is close to Serhiy Lyovochkin. Might this plan have been the plan Manafort and Kilimnik were discussing?:

    Kyiv Post

    Artemenko goes from obscurity to notoriety

    24 Feb 2017
    BY VERONIKA MELKOZEROVA, OKSANA GRYTSENKO

    Andrey Artemenko said he wanted to be a peacemaker. But within a week of the New York Times revealing on Feb. 19 that the little-known Ukrainian parliamentarian had brought to Washington a plan to end Russia’s war against Ukraine, he faced widespread criticism in his homeland. He could even be charged with treason.

    That’s because Artemenko’s plan was distinctly pro-Kremlin. The Radical Party lawmaker’s ideas included leasing Crimea to Russia for 50 years and the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia by the United States.

    It didn’t take long for the blowback to arrive.

    On Feb. 20, Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko told journalists in parliament that Artemenko had been expelled from the party.

    “He (Artemenko) has positioned himself as a ‘peacemaker’, so we expect that he will also give up being a lawmaker,” said Lyashko. “Let those who suggest leasing Crimea first give their apartments to robbers to rent.”

    But Artemenko is not the only Ukrainian politician to reach out to the White House behind President Petro Poroshenko’s back.

    Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and leader of Batkivshchyna Party, had a brief meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Feb. 3, during which Trump reportedly promised her that he would “not abandon Ukraine.”

    And Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine and a political ally of Tymoshenko, says he visited the U.S. in December and January.

    Nalyvaichenko told the Kyiv Post he met there with former Republican Senator Jim DeMint, a Trump advisor and president of the conservative the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Bob Corker, a Republican senator from Tennessee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

    Nalyvaichenko said he delivered to the U.S. Department of Justice proof of “political corruption by (Ukraine’s) top officials.” He said also delivered to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office materials about alleged money laundering and the illegal use of offshore companies by Poroshenko’s business partner and lawmaker Ihor Kononenko.

    Back in 2015, Nalyvaichenko gave the compromising materials on Poroshenko to Artemenko, which he claimed to also give to the U.S. authorities.

    At the same time, Nalyvaichenko called Artemenko’s idea of leasing Crimea to Russia unacceptable, and said he had brought to the U.S. his own peace plan.

    Many peacemakers

    Artemenko, who stays in the Rada as an independent parliamentarian, told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 22 that he saw his plan as the only reasonable alternative to the failed Minsk peace process.

    “Minsk doesn’t work – that’s obvious,” Artemenko said, adding that it was especially obvious after Russia said on Feb. 18 it recognized the “passports” issued by the Luhansk and Donetsk-based separatists who call the territories they occupy “republics.”

    Artemenko is not the only one to suggest an alternative to Minsk. Since December, suggestions to abandon the failed Minsk peace deal have also been made by oligarch Victor Pinchuk, businessman and former governor of Donetsk Oblast Serhiy Taruta, Vadym Chernysh, the minister for the temporarily occupied territories, and Andriy Yermolayev, the head of Nova Ukraina think tank, which is close to Serhiy Lyovochkin, a top lawmaker from the Opposition Bloc and ex-president Viktor Yanukovych’s former chief of staff.

    Like Pinchuk or Artemenko, Yermolayev proposed Ukraine adopt a neutral status and also launch a direct dialogue between Ukraine and the separatist authorities. Under the plan, the separatist-held zone would be demilitarized and placed under the control of UN peacekeepers and armed monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

    Lyashko later claimed the Kremlin was behind Artemenko’s plan. He said that Artemenko worked on the plan with Lyovochkin, Opposition Bloc faction leader Yuriy Boyko, and Ukrainian politician and close friend of Putin Viktor Medvedchuk.

    Medvedchuk’s spokesperson Oleg Babanin told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 22 that the politician had had nothing to do with Artemenko’s plan. He described Lyashko’s claims as “not serious.”

    Artemenko confirmed that he worked on the plan with several Ukrainian lawmakers, but said they are now afraid to admit this because of the negative public reaction to the proposed deal.

    ———-

    “Artemenko goes from obscurity to notoriety” BY VERONIKA MELKOZEROVA, OKSANA GRYTSENKO; Kyiv Post; 02/24/2017

    “Artemenko is not the only one to suggest an alternative to Minsk. Since December, suggestions to abandon the failed Minsk peace deal have also been made by oligarch Victor Pinchuk, businessman and former governor of Donetsk Oblast Serhiy Taruta, Vadym Chernysh, the minister for the temporarily occupied territories, and Andriy Yermolayev, the head of Nova Ukraina think tank, which is close to Serhiy Lyovochkin, a top lawmaker from the Opposition Bloc and ex-president Viktor Yanukovych’s former chief of staff.

    First, recall that Serhiy Taruta was involved in that bizarre fake congressional hearing and was using the services of Cambridge Analytica-spinoff AIQ to do it.

    Was there just one ‘peace plan’ or multiple? And if there were multiple schemes, which ones were Manafort and Kilimnik working on? Is it possible that Manafort and Kilimnik were actually working on a completely different plan from Sater and Cohen? That would be pretty amazing, but given how compartmentalized the lives of these people are we can’t rule it out.

    So that all adds some additional mystery in terms of what exactly Manafort was up to. But it’s worth keeping in mind that one of Manafort’s specialties as a political consulting was reading polls. That’s what he did for a living and the ostensible reason he was hired to be Trump’s campaign manager. And his long-time partner in that job was Konstantin Kilimnik. And that points towards one obvious possibility for giving this kind of polling data – most of which was public – to Kilimnik: So Kilimnik could analyze it and give a second opinion. Sure, not being an American would presumably complicate the analysis. But don’t forget that Manafort’s specialty was going into countries he didn’t know and acting as a poll-driven political consultant. So Manafort’s own resume is a testimony to fact that this kind of work doesn’t have to be done by someone very familiar with the country where the campaigning is taking place. Might that have been one of the reasons for handing this data off to Kilimnik? Perhaps, but that still leaves the mystery of why Lyovochkin and Akhmetov would have found it useful, especially since they apparently owed Manafort millions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 10, 2019, 1:00 pm
  13. Now that the relationship between Paul Manafort and Sergei Lovochkin (Lyvochkin/Lyovochkin) has become a key area of inquiry in the #TrumpRussia investigation following the revelation that Manafort passed polling information in the spring of 2016 to Konstantin Kilimnik and requested that Kilimnik pass the information along to Rinat Akhmetov and Sergei Lyovochkin, it worth noting that the questions swirling around Manafort, Lovochkin, and the twin periods of violence that precipitated the collapse of the Yanukovych government – the December 2013 attack by the Ukrainian security forces on the protesters who emerged right after the pullout of the EU trade agreement negotiations that sparked the Maidan protests and the February 2014 sniper attacks during the Maidan protests – are now questions at the heart of the #TrumpRussia investigation.

    Because if Manafort and Lovochkin were engaged in some sort of high-risk gambit in the 2016 campaign, the possibility that the two may have engaged in a high risk regime change gambit in Ukraine two years earlier is obviously highly relevant. And since that high risk regime change gambit in Ukraine appeared to be a pro-EU gambit, that makes the Manafort/Lovochkin coordination in Ukraine a particularly important chapter of history for understanding what Manafort may have been up to in 2016.

    Along those lines, given the circumstantial evidence that Manafort and Lovochkin were involved in instigating the initial December 2013 police crackdown on the protestors – evidence in the form of Lovochkin’s television station suddenly giving the protests wall-to-wall coverage sympathetic to the protestors at the same time Lovochkin resigned as chief of staff and Paul Manafort’s daughters hacked text messages claiming that it was her dad’s idea “to send those people out and get them slaughtered. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts [sic] and what not […] As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.” – here’s another interesting piece of evidence: It turns out that one of the two Ukrainian officials who investigators focused on who allegedly gave direct orders for the 2013 crackdown – Vladimir Sivkovych – worked in the Kyiv offices of Paul Manafort’s firm, Davis Manafort:

    Kyiv Post

    In Manafort’s World, Everyone Had A Price

    By Josh Kovensky.
    Published Oct. 12, 2018. Updated Oct. 12 2018 at 10:40 am

    For the first few months Paul Manafort worked in Ukraine, his home was a luxury hotel in downtown Donetsk – the Donbass Palace. There, on assignment for local tycoon Rinat Akhmetov in early 2005, Manafort would work from the room, reached by associates via the hotel telephone.

    But when an Ukrainska Pravda reporter called through to his room, Manafort hung up, refusing to talk to the reporter, who later described him in a story as “famous for an indiscriminate assortment of clients.”

    As history has since shown, by that time Manafort was already winding up his work with this broad “assortment of clients,” focusing instead on one. From then on, Manafort would work for the Party of Regions, burnishing the image of then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and in Western capitals while running errands for the party’s wealthy backers around the world.

    Documents from the court cases that have dogged Manafort since then, and interviews with those who encountered him during this period, tell a markedly different story about his time in Ukraine than has previously been portrayed. He comes off as a man intimately acquainted with post-Soviet dealmaking, leading him to break the law in running an illegal pro-Western lobbying campaign to convince the European Union to sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine.

    Manafort pitched the campaign to Yanukovych in practical terms — “to ensure that you never have to deal with a 2004 scenario again” — a reference to the Orange Revolution, which saw Yanukovych lose in a repeat second-round presidential vote to Viktor Yushchenko.

    Manafort pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent in September after being convicted of tax and bank fraud in an August trial. He has agreed to cooperate with the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    The big three

    While court documents and trial testimony show that six Ukrainian oligarchs and public officials financed Manafort’s work, three people stand out as playing the biggest roles during his time in Ukraine.

    They are Akhmetov, Yanukovych Presidential Administration Chief Serhiy Lovochkin, and billionaire gas trader Dmytro Firtash.

    Each has his own distinct interests, shaped by their separate backgrounds.

    Akhmetov

    Akhmetov emerged from the bloody world of Donetsk in the 1990s as the billionaire head of System Capital Management — a steel and energy conglomerate spanning all of Ukraine, but with a focus in the country’s east.

    With huge cash flows, Akhmetov began to invest in politics, supporting the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych in the 2004 presidential election.

    Yanukovych lost in a runoff election to Viktor Yushchenko, after mass voting fraud provoked protests known as the Orange Revolution.

    It was in this tumult that Manafort first came to Ukraine, arriving in December 2004 ostensibly to work on a potential IPO for SCM.

    But in a 2010 memo to Yanukovych, Manafort himself says that his work for SCM was a front.

    “As we did in the early days, with SCM being my technical client while I, in fact, focused on your program, we would find another client (preferably not SCM since they have had this burden already), who would pay for my services under a multi-year contract,” Manafort wrote.

    An Akhmetov spokesman denied the veracity of Manafort’s statement in the memo, saying that SCM had not worked with Manafort since 2005. Prosecutors accused Manafort in his first trial of operating undisclosed shell companies in Cyprus to receive money from his Ukrainian clients, supposedly on the advice of former deputy Prime Minister and Akhmetov ally Borys Kolesnikov.

    Kolesnikov disputed the notion that Manafort would have needed help.

    “So Paul Manafort, arriving in Ukraine after 80 election campaigns in 20 countries of the world, needed someone’s advice???” Kolesnikov wrote in a Facebook message.

    “It’s as ridiculous as the black ledger,” he added, referring to the handwritten ledger of secret payments alleged to have been made by Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, found after the former president fled Ukraine.

    Lovochkin

    The vast majority of Manafort’s payments — in the order of around $40 million — ended up coming from Lovochkin, a tall, well-connected Kyivan who came out of the country’s political elite.

    His father, Volodymyr, was a longtime official in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. Volodymyr Lovochkin worked as director of the prison service’s punishment enforcement department at the same time that his son was scaling the Kyiv political ladder — a useful position in a world where Yanukovych, a convicted felon who served time in Soviet prisons, was playing a kingmaker role in Ukrainian politics.

    The younger Lovochkin entered politics in the 1990s through the banking sector, before becoming an aide in the Kuchma government and an advisor to then-Donetsk Oblast Governor Yanukovych.

    Lovochkin quickly earned himself a reputation as a dealmaker. According to Opposition Bloc Member of Parliament Nestor Shufrich, a former Party of Regions member, “in December 2004, and at the end of November, the ‘Orange’ protestors had access to Kuchma precisely through (Lovochkin).” The two sides “reached an agreement through Lovochkin,” he added.

    By 2006, Lovochkin had become an official in Yanukovych’s Cabinet of Ministers, while the Ukrainian press began to link him with oligarch Firtash.

    Firtash

    From a small village in Ukraine’s west, Firtash began to pop up in the early 2000s as a businessman delivering gas from Turkmenistan while buying up fertilizer plants.

    His empire metastasized throughout the decade, culminating in RosUkrEnergo: a middleman company formed to move gas from Russia, through Ukraine, to Western Europe that later dissolved amid accusations of mafia involvement and price inflation.

    The RosUkrEnergo case drew the attention of the U.S. government, while Firtash continued to play a kingmaking role in the Party of Regions specifically, and in Ukrainian politics as a whole.

    Firtash and Lovochkin control the Inter TV channel, one of Ukraine’s most influential media sources, and a useful tool for their political projects.

    Narodniy Front Member of Parliament Serhiy Vysotsky told the Kyiv Post last month that Lovochkin would provide access to Firtash in exchange for financing.

    “Lovochkin guaranteed entrance to the necessary offices… under Yanukovych or (Viktor) Yushchenko, and Firtash worked out the business schemes. And through the business schemes he bought influence, through Inter, the Party of Regions, and later the Opposition Bloc,” he said.

    Turning to EU

    Manafort worked with the above-mentioned three up through the 2010 presidential election, which saw Yanukovych beat Yulia Tymoshenko in a runoff.

    In a meeting with U.S.Ambassador John Tefft in the runup to the election, Manafort purportedly said that he had “a double-digit lead” against Tymoshenko, who was “moving to discredit the election process as the only means of stopping Yanukovych.”

    After Yanukovych’s election, Manafort turned his sights on the government’s foreign outreach. In a memo to Yanukovych two weeks after his victory, Manafort laid out a strategy in which he would be the “manager” of “a plan to manage strategy, public relations and international affairs for President Yanukovych.”

    The document calls for the government to “develop advocates within the diplomatic and political communities of Europe and the United States” in order “to ensure that you never have to deal with a 2004 scenario again.”

    A big part of the campaign was managing Ukraine’s move towards signing an Association Agreement and trade agreement with the EU.

    Caught by a mixture of geography, history, and politics between Russia and Europe, Ukraine would use the deal to edge towards EU accession and away from Kremlin influence.

    Memos released by prosecutors after Manafort’s plea deal show him masterminding a covert lobbying campaign in favor of Ukraine taking a European path.

    In one June 2012 memo to associates Konstantin Kilimnik, Rick Gates, and Alan Friedman, Manafort said it was necessary “to aggressively promote Ukraine’s compliance with (Western) demands and make the case that Ukraine is committed to building a democratic society.”

    Officials working in Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time told the Kyiv Post that the government’s main priorities were tamping down criticism of the 2011 prosecution and imprisonment of Tymoshenko, vetting a new criminal code written by Presidential Administration aide Andriy Portnov, and portraying the 2012 parliamentary elections as free and fair.

    “We should make the case that if the West is serious about helping to build a rule of law society, it should stop attacking Ukraine and begin to work with the government to train and assist in the implementation of the new laws,” Manafort wrote in the memo, adding that he intended “to assemble a small group of high-level European highly influencial (sic) champions and politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship to the Government of Ukraine.”

    The campaign continued through 2013, with most of the financing coming from Lovochkin. A report in BNE Intellinews shows that Manafort flew around Europe for the campaign on Lovochkin’s aircraft.

    By the time the November 2013 EU summit in Vilnius came around, Brussels was ready to ink the agreement. But Yanukovych, susceptible to buyouts, was not — he refused to sign the deal, sparking protests on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square.

    The protests started small, with students huddled on Maidan. But in the early morning of Nov. 30, a Berkut unit brutally attacked the students, sparking huge demonstrations the next day which later snowballed into a revolution that took down Yanukovych.

    It’s not clear who ordered the catalyzing attack on the students, but one theory — supported by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky — holds Lovochkin responsible for the attack.

    Lovochkin denies the accusation, telling the Kyiv Post in a statement “let me remind you that I submitted my resignation because of President Yanukovych’s decision to refuse to sign the (free trade agreement with the EU) at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, and (because of) the use of force against peaceful protesters in Kyiv following it.” His press service said investigators had found no evidence of his involvement.

    Investigations have focused on two officials who allegedly gave direct orders for the purge — one is Vladimir Sivkovych, a former KGB agent who worked with the Davis Manafort firm in Kyiv, and the other is then-Kyiv City Administration Chairman Oleksandr Popov.

    In a leaked phone call with Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Member of Parliament Mustafa Nayyem, Kolomoisky called Popov “Lovochkin’s,” adding “I think there’s a question. Who owned Popov?”

    Shufrich, the former Party of Regions member of parliament, said in December 2017 that “it couldn’t have happened without Lovochkin and Sivkovych.”

    Concrete details of who ordered the attack — and whether Manafort had any role or knowledge of it — remain unknown. Those directly involved have scattered. Sivkovych fled to Russia in 2014, while Popov was fired over the beatings in December 2013, before being exonerated.

    But an excerpt of hacked texts from Manafort’s daughters have lent more credence to the theory that the attack could have figured in a broader political campaign.

    “To send those people out and get them slaughtered,” wrote one of Manafort’s daughters to the other. “Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts (sic) and whatnot?”

    “As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.”

    She later called money her father had made in Ukraine, “blood money.”

    Cops on the take

    Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison after Kyiv Judge Rodion Kireyev found her guilty of abusing her authority on Oct. 11, 2011.

    The international community condemned the verdict, with observers at the time seeing it as a major step away from accepting the legal norms required for eventual EU accession.

    Manafort sprang into action, bringing in prestigious U.S. law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom to write a report whitewashing the prosecution. Heading the team was a former White House Counsel to Barack Obama, Gregory Craig.

    Manafort’s plea agreement reveals, however, that Skadden was involved much more deeply than was previously known, and that an unnamed oligarch financed many of the firm’s activities.

    The firm “was retained to represent Ukraine itself, including in connection with the Tymoshenko case and to provide training to the trial team prosecuting Tymoshenko,” Manafort’s plea agreement reads.

    A lawsuit filed by Tymoshenko against Firtash in New York City claimed that Firtash financed the Tymoshenko report. A judge dismissed the former Prime Minister’s case with prejudice, and Tymoshenko did not raise the claim elsewhere.

    At the same time, Andriy Portnov was working on updating Ukraine’s criminal code from the 1962 Soviet version on which it was then based.

    Ukrainian diplomats were faced with the task of convincing European bodies like the European Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that the legal changes were legitimate and in line with European principles.

    Manafort sent Portnov — who fled to Russia after EuroMaidan, before receiving residency in Austria — to Washington D.C. in February 2013. In a memo to Lovochkin about the visit, Manafort wrote “(the tone) was genuinely positive, open-minded, constructive, and did not focus on (Yulia Tymoshenko).”

    Portnov continues to use his mastery of the country’s criminal code to defend Ukrainians from afar.

    “He knows how to use the criminal code — he created it,” said Kyiv political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

    The enablers

    None of this — neither Manafort’s mass movement of undeclared cash into the United States nor the lobbying campaign to legitimize Yanukovych — would have been possible without the help of rich, politically connected Westerners.

    The Hapsburg Group was conceived specifically to wield the influence that such people — in this case former Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski, former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi — could provide.

    A section of one February 2013 memo to Yanukovych — entitled “back-channel diplomacy” — describes the Hapsburg Group’s efforts to “finalize the (EU Association) agreement.”

    Manafort wrote in the memo that the Hapsburg strategy had been successful in dispelling concerns over Tymoshenko’s prosecution and other issues, because “the participants are significant European leaders who are viewed as objective regarding Ukraine. This has allowed them to make their points without any apparent self-interest, thus giving their comments more weight and impact.”

    On the U.S. side, Skadden’s Greg Craig is under investigation for failing to register as a foreign agent as part of his engagement, U.S. media reports indicate.

    He left the law firm in April 2018 amid the investigation. Skadden refunded the Ukrainian government $567,000 in June 2017 over payment issues from the $4 million report.

    ———-

    “In Manafort’s World, Everyone Had A Price” by Josh Kovensky; Kyiv Post; 10/12/2018

    “Investigations have focused on two officials who allegedly gave direct orders for the purge — one is Vladimir Sivkovych, a former KGB agent who worked with the Davis Manafort firm in Kyiv, and the other is then-Kyiv City Administration Chairman Oleksandr Popov.”

    It’s quite an intriguing fun fact: Vladimir Sivkovych, one of the two Ukrainian officials suspected of giving direct orders to attack the protestors in 2013, worked with the Davis Manafort firm in Kyiv.

    While it remains unknown who actually gave the order, the other suspect, then–Kyiv City Administration Chairman Oleksandr Popov, appears to have been exonerated and Opposition Bloc Member of Parliament Nestor Shufrich claims the attack couldn’t have happened without Lovochkin and Sivkovych:


    Shufrich, the former Party of Regions member of parliament, said in December 2017 that “it couldn’t have happened without Lovochkin and Sivkovych.”

    Concrete details of who ordered the attack — and whether Manafort had any role or knowledge of it — remain unknown. Those directly involved have scattered. Sivkovych fled to Russia in 2014, while Popov was fired over the beatings in December 2013, before being exonerated.

    Then there’s the claims of Ihor Kolomoisky that Lovochkin as directly responsible. Keep in mind that Kolomoisky, or really any of these figures, isn’t exactly a trustworthy individual on these matters. But note Lovochkin’s rebuttal: he points out that he resigned as Yanukovych’s chief of staff specifically because Yanukovych pulled out of the EU trade agreement talks and because of the attacks on the protestors. It, again, highlights how Lovochkin appeared to be fully on board with the push to shift Ukraine towards a European path. Which, ironically, is part of the circumstantial evidence pointing towards Lovochkin being behind those orders to attack the protestors:


    By the time the November 2013 EU summit in Vilnius came around, Brussels was ready to ink the agreement. But Yanukovych, susceptible to buyouts, was not — he refused to sign the deal, sparking protests on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square.

    The protests started small, with students huddled on Maidan. But in the early morning of Nov. 30, a Berkut unit brutally attacked the students, sparking huge demonstrations the next day which later snowballed into a revolution that took down Yanukovych.

    It’s not clear who ordered the catalyzing attack on the students, but one theory — supported by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky — holds Lovochkin responsible for the attack.

    Lovochkin denies the accusation, telling the Kyiv Post in a statement “let me remind you that I submitted my resignation because of President Yanukovych’s decision to refuse to sign the (free trade agreement with the EU) at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, and (because of) the use of force against peaceful protesters in Kyiv following it.” His press service said investigators had found no evidence of his involvement.

    In a leaked phone call with Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Member of Parliament Mustafa Nayyem, Kolomoisky called Popov “Lovochkin’s,” adding “I think there’s a question. Who owned Popov?”

    And, of course, there’s the circumstantial evidence of Andrea Manafort’s hacked text messages where she explicitly describes her dad orchestrating some sort of violence against the Ukrainian protestors to grab the world’s attention. We don’t know if he was referring to the 2013 attacks or the 2014 sniper attacks, but she was clearly referring to one of those events:


    But an excerpt of hacked texts from Manafort’s daughters have lent more credence to the theory that the attack could have figured in a broader political campaign.

    “To send those people out and get them slaughtered,” wrote one of Manafort’s daughters to the other. “Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts (sic) and whatnot?”

    “As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.”

    She later called money her father had made in Ukraine, “blood money.”

    So there was already a good deal of circumstantial evidence pointing towards Manafort and Lovochkin both playing key roles in instigating the December 2013 attack by the Berkut on the protestors, and we can add Vladimir Sivkovych’s work at the Kyiv offices of Manafort Davis to that circumstantial evidence.

    And as the following article about the testimony of Rick Gates notes, Gates explicitly testified that Sivkovych was working for Manfort Davis during his testimony.

    The article also gives more information on the group of Ukrainian oligarchs behind the ‘Hapsburg Group’. According to gates, there were six oligarchs involved with the effort, each playing different roles. Lovochkin played the largest role in paying Manafort during the lobbying effort period period. The article notes that U.S. government exhibits show offshore accounts linked to Lovochkin funneling $42,042,307 to Manafort from 2010 to 2013.

    There’s Sergey Tigipko. According to Gates, Tigipko was behind the actual financing of the ‘Hapsburg Group’ through a Cyprus firm Tigipko controlled called Dresler Holdings.

    Borys Kolesnikov, Ukraine’s former infrastructure minister, initially advising Manafort and Gates to use the Cypriot payment structure.

    Andriy Klyuyev, a former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council and the brief, final head of Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration, was responsible for financing “polling work” as well as “political campaigns” for the Party of Regions, according to Gates. Government exhibits show payments of $4,190,111 for the work.

    Then there’s Victor Pinchuk. According to US prosecutors, Manafort received $5 million from Pinchuk through a Cypriot company called Plymouth Consultants Limited. Recall how Pinchuk is a financier of the Atlantic Council and has been one of the loudest advocates for a ‘New Cold War’ with Russia. Pinchuk still sits on the advisory board of the Atlantic Council. Recall how Dmitri Alperovitch, the founder of CrowdStrike and the leading figure behind the initial conclusion that Russian government hackers were behind the DNC hack, is also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    And there was another rather stunning revelation in Gates’s testimony: according to Gates, in the summer of 2014, the FBI started investigating the Cyprus money-laundering operation used to finance the ‘Hapsburg Group’ efforts. Gates and Manafort were interviewed by the FBI and told them all about it. Inexplicably, the allegations — and admissions — that Manafort and Gates made to U.S. investigators went untouched until 2017. So that’s all part of the context of what the US government knew about Manafort’s work in Ukraine.

    So from the prosecution and testimony of Rick Gates we learned a lot more about who was behind Manafort’s work in Ukraine during the ‘Hapsburg Group’ years, figures like Victor Pinchuk in addition to Lovochkin and Akhmetov. We also learn that Gates and Manafort told FBI investigators in teh summer of 2014 about the Cyprus money laundering used to finance the Hapsburg Group but this went untouched by investigators until 2017. And we also got confirmation that Vladimir Sivkovych was indeed working for Manafort Davis:

    Kyiv Post

    Dirty Money: Manafort trial exposes seedy realities of Ukrainian politics

    By Josh Kovensky.
    Published Aug. 10, 2018. Updated Aug. 10 2018 at 10:37 am

    After the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution sent his former boss fleeing to Russia, American political consultant Paul Manafort — who raked in $65 million from ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions — was bothered by one question: Why didn’t he have enough money?

    One Manafort associate frantically tried to have former Party of Regions kingmaker Serhiy Lovochkin wire $500,000 to Manafort “to calm Paul down.”

    When his 2014 tax bill came in, Manafort panicked, calling a half-million dollar increase a “disaster” and writing “WTF?”

    Grubbing for cash would prove to be a theme for Manafort, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s former campaign manager. He is on trial in Northern Virginia this week on multiple federal fraud charges that he concealed millions in proceeds from his political consulting business from U.S. tax authorities and laundered the cash into America through luxury purchases.

    But documents, emails, and testimony from his former partner, Rick Gates, has left Manafort and his former Ukrainian backers scrambling as the cover was lifted from the opaque and dirty world of Ukrainian political financing.

    “If non-registered money was used for the payment, then this can be qualified as tax evasion,” said former special investigations unit chief prosecutor Serhiy Gorbatyuk. “If an investigation establishes that the money for the payment was stolen, then it could also be embezzlement.”

    Yanukovych’s former backers, including former presidential chief of staff Lovochkin and billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, rushed to deny Gates’ claims that they were among the Ukrainian tycoons who financed the Manafort operation.

    “The statements made by Mr. Gates over the course of the court hearings totally undermine the credibility of Mr. Gates as a trusted witness,” a Lovochkin spokeswoman told the Kyiv Post, while Akhmetov spokeswoman Kateryna Ostroushko denied that Akhmetov’s SCM financed Manafort’s work in Ukraine.

    Gates testified to a scheme that saw six Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians — Lovochkin, Akhmetov, Sergey Tigipko, Borys Kolesnikov, Victor Pinchuk and Andriy Klyuyev — pay Manafort millions of dollars through Cyprus-located offshores in exchange for “building the Party of Regions.”

    Manafort benefited handsomely from the arrangement, using the funds to buy luxury items like a $15,000 ostrich leather jacket and allegedly laundering millions of dollars through U.S. real estate purchases.

    When federal prosecutor Greg Andres asked Gates what the Ukrainian side expected to receive for their ‘investment,’ the answer was clear:

    “They benefited financially through contracts or ownership of certain companies or percentages of companies,” Gates said.

    Manafort is being prosecuted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked with investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any related crimes.

    Most of the oligarchs and politicians named by Gates as paying Manafort issued blanket denials to the Kyiv Post.

    Manafort faces a maximum sentence of 305 years in prison, if convicted and not subsequently pardoned. Jurors could go to deliberations as early as next Friday.

    A second trial in Washington DC will test claims that Manafort failed to register as a lobbyist for Ukraine.

    Gates takes the stand

    Gates joined Manafort in Ukraine in 2007, helping to rebuild the Party of Regions as a political force after its disastrous fall in 2004, when the Orange Revolution and the Ukrainian Supreme Court cancelled a rigged presidential election in Yanukovych’s favor that year. In a revote on Dec. 26, 2004, Viktor Yushchenko won the presidency.

    After the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych and his backers were left in the political wilderness. In response, Gates said, Akhmetov and others hired Manafort to help catapult them back into power.

    Calling Manafort “one of the most, you know, politically brilliant strategists I’ve ever worked with,” Gates testified that Akhmetov had tasked Manafort with helping create the Party of Regions.

    “The relationship was such that Mr. Manafort, in essence, brought [Yanukovych] back from the proverbial political dead,” Gates said.

    Manafort’s company — DMP International — brought on a team of around a dozen people for the Party of Regions contracts. That included Phil Griffin and Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who worked as Manafort’s translator.

    Gates also testified that Vladimir Sivkovych, a former Ukrainian politico, also worked at DMP’s Kyiv office.

    Sivkovych fled to Moscow amid accusations that he organized a violent dispersal of EuroMaidan Revolution protesters on Nov. 30, 2013.

    Six Ukrainians and one Russian — metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska — stand accused of financing Manafort’s work.

    Manafort and Gates set up several Cyprus-based offshore accounts through a local law firm.

    The Ukrainians would send them money within Cyprus from their own offshores. Prosecutors allege that Manafort concealed the income from U.S. tax authorities, and then laundered it back into the U.S. through direct debit payments on luxury purchases.

    Gates testified that the Cyprus payments were structured via direct meetings with “the relevant leaders of the party.”

    “They would craft a budget for the political campaign for any given year,” Gates said. “They would agree to an amount and typically agree to a payment structure.”

    A certain division of labor appears to have emerged among the different oligarchs.

    Tigipko

    Tigipko, for example, was tasked with financing the Party of Regions’ lobbying efforts for the European Union and the U.S., Gates testified, through a Cyprus firm he controlled called Dresler Holdings.

    Government exhibits show Dresler paying an offshore controlled by Manafort $5.3 million in 2012.

    At the time, the Yanukovych administration had set up a Brussels-based nongovernmental organization called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. That company organized a lobbying campaign in Washington D.C. and across European capitals in part through a group called the “Hapsburg Group.”

    Composed of former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the group had one main task: To convince Western policymakers that the Yanukovych administration’s prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was not political, and that it shouldn’t interfere with Ukraine joining European institutions.

    One former Manafort associate who requested anonymity to speak freely speculated that Tigipko’s role in financing the lobbying effort was in exchange “for other benefits he could gain from Yanukovych.”

    Oleg Voloshyn, a former Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, noted that Tigipko had been “charged with raising parliamentary support for pro-EU legislation needed for visa liberalization and [the political and economic Association Agreement].”

    Lovochkin

    Gates said that Lovochkin, the former head of the Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration, played the largest role in paying Manafort.

    U.S. government exhibits show offshores linked to Lovochkin funnelling $42,042,307 to Manafort from 2010 to 2013 — around two-thirds of the total that Manafort is documented to have received for his Party of Regions work.

    Gates testified that Akhmetov and Lovochkin partnered after the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution to finance the creation of Opposition Bloc, for which Manafort was paid an additional $5 million.

    Kolesnikov

    Borys Kolesnikov, Ukraine’s former infrastructure minister, appears in testimony and statements from prosecutors as initially advising Manafort and Gates to use the Cypriot payment structure.

    In sum, government exhibits show Kolesnikov paying $8,716,184 to Manafort between 2010 and 2013 through a series of Cypriot offshores.

    Klyuyev

    Andriy Klyuyev, a former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council and the brief, final head of Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration, appears in Gates’ testimony as well.

    Gates told the jury that Klyuyev was responsible for financing “polling work” as well as “political campaigns” for the Party of Regions. Government exhibits show payments of $4,190,111 for the work, through a company called Novirex Sales LLP.

    Klyuyev could not be reached for comment. A former business associate and attorney for him, Reinhard Proksch, did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

    Pinchuk

    Prosecutors, supported by testimony from Gates, said that Manafort received $5 million from billionaire oligarch Pinchuk through a Cypriot company called Plymouth Consultants Limited.

    Pinchuk has eked out a role for himself as a savvy positioner in Ukrainian politics. He married the daughter of former President Leonid Kuchma, and found ways to channel money to both candidates before the 2016 presidential election.

    Gates testified that the money came for work on a “legal project.”

    Cyprus cash, Kyiv spin

    After Yanukovych fled to Russia amid the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, Manafort was left without clients.

    He apparently began to scramble for new work to cover cash shortfalls left by a life of luxury. At one point, he turned towards the fledgling campaign of current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

    Bloc Petro Poroshenko member of parliament Ihor Hryniv told Ukrainian media that Manafort had “tried to offer his services,” but that the engagement involved nothing more than a “three-hour conversation.”

    Manafort ended up working for Opposition Bloc in 2014, corresponding with both Akhmetov and Lovochkin over strategy for the party. In many ways, it was a repeat of Manafort’s position 10 years before, when Akhmetov asked him to build a political party in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution.

    But this time the FBI had begun to take a look.

    In the summer of 2014, amid an FBI probe into assets allegedly stolen by Yanukovych, Gates flew to France to “notify” Lovochkin that he and Manafort would meet with investigators. Gates testified that he wanted to receive more information about the Cyprus payment structures before the FBI interview took place.

    Gates said that he and Manafort told FBI agents about some of the Cyprus accounts and offshores used in the payment schemes.

    And inexplicably, the allegations — and admissions — that Manafort and Gates made to U.S. investigators went untouched until 2017.

    Ball in Ukraine’s court

    Exhibits filed by prosecutors, as well as Gates’s testimony, appear to lead to a litany of wrongdoing by some of Ukraine’s most powerful figures.

    One company that Gates linked to Lovochkin — Telmar Investments — does not appear on his official asset declaration, for example.

    “Mr. Lovochkin has never owned a company named Telmar Investments,” his spokeswoman said in a statement. “In accordance with Ukrainian legislation, Mr. Lovochkin has declared all his property and assets and this information is publicly available.”

    When asked about the matter, a spokeswoman for the National Agency on Corruption Prevention declined to say whether the agency would look into the new information.

    “This is a matter for the General Prosecutor’s Office,” she said.

    Yury Bezschasny, acting head of the prosecutor’s special investigations division, said that he could only use documents received via official legal requests, which have so far gone unanswered.

    “We need official responses and documents from the Americans,” Bezschasny said. “The name Lovochkin on a document alone is not enough for us to draw an conclusion.”

    National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine spokeswoman Daryna Manzhura did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

    NABU, which confirmed that Manafort figured into an investigation into Party of Regions “black accounting” before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, issued a statement in May 2018 saying that it “is not authorized to conduct an official investigation into Paul Manafort’s involvement in receiving funds from the Party of Regions.”

    Gorbatyuk, the former special investigations prosecutor, doubted that any investigation would reach a conclusion.

    “Even if a criminal case is registered, that doesn’t mean that it will actually be investigated,” he said. When asked what the likelihood of a real case would be based on the allegations, he replied, “low.”

    ———-

    “Dirty Money: Manafort trial exposes seedy realities of Ukrainian politics” by Josh Kovensky; Kyiv Post; 08/10/2018

    “Gates testified to a scheme that saw six Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians — Lovochkin, Akhmetov, Sergey Tigipko, Borys Kolesnikov, Victor Pinchuk and Andriy Klyuyev — pay Manafort millions of dollars through Cyprus-located offshores in exchange for “building the Party of Regions.””

    It wasn’t just Akhmetov and Lovochkin behind the Hapsburg Group lobbying effort. Oligarchs like Sergey Tigipko, Borys Kolesnikov, Andriy Klyuyev, and Victor Pinchuk were also involved in the financing and planning of the effort. That was all part of Rick Gates’s testimony, in addition to Gates confirming that Vladimir Sivkovych worked at the Kyiv office of Davis Manafort:


    Gates takes the stand

    Gates joined Manafort in Ukraine in 2007, helping to rebuild the Party of Regions as a political force after its disastrous fall in 2004, when the Orange Revolution and the Ukrainian Supreme Court cancelled a rigged presidential election in Yanukovych’s favor that year. In a revote on Dec. 26, 2004, Viktor Yushchenko won the presidency.

    Manafort’s company — DMP International — brought on a team of around a dozen people for the Party of Regions contracts. That included Phil Griffin and Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer who worked as Manafort’s translator.

    Gates also testified that Vladimir Sivkovych, a former Ukrainian politico, also worked at DMP’s Kyiv office.

    Sivkovych fled to Moscow amid accusations that he organized a violent dispersal of EuroMaidan Revolution protesters on Nov. 30, 2013.

    Lovochkin paid for the bulk of Gates’s and Manafort’s working for the Party of Region from 2010-2013, with ~$42 million going to him during this period from Lovochkin’s offshore entities. Another $5 million was paid to manafort in 2014 following the Maidan protests for Manafort’s work in forming the new Opposition Bloc:


    Lovochkin

    Gates said that Lovochkin, the former head of the Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration, played the largest role in paying Manafort.

    U.S. government exhibits show offshores linked to Lovochkin funnelling $42,042,307 to Manafort from 2010 to 2013. — around two-thirds of the total that Manafort is documented to have received for his Party of Regions work.

    Gates testified that Akhmetov and Lovochkin partnered after the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution to finance the creation of Opposition Bloc, for which Manafort was paid an additional $5 million.

    Sergey Tigipko appears to be the oligarch who actually financed the Hapsburg Group efforst, using a Cyprus firm he allegedly controlled, Dresler Holdings:


    Tigipko

    Tigipko, for example, was tasked with financing the Party of Regions’ lobbying efforts for the European Union and the U.S., Gates testified, through a Cyprus firm he controlled called Dresler Holdings.

    Government exhibits show Dresler paying an offshore controlled by Manafort $5.3 million in 2012.

    Borys Kolesnikov advised Manafort on how to use the Cypriot payment structure, and also appears to have paid Manafort $8.7 million from 2010-2013:


    Kolesnikov

    Borys Kolesnikov, Ukraine’s former infrastructure minister, appears in testimony and statements from prosecutors as initially advising Manafort and Gates to use the Cypriot payment structure.

    In sum, government exhibits show Kolesnikov paying $8,716,184 to Manafort between 2010 and 2013 through a series of Cypriot offshores.

    Andriy Klyuyev financed Manafort’s polling work and other payments for “political campaigns” for the Party of Regions, paying Manafort $4.1 million. It’s a reminder that Manafort must have a pretty top notch polling operation in Ukraine, which is worth keeping in mind given that the passing of polling information to Manafort’s Ukrainian clients is now part of the #TrumpRussia investigation. It would be interesting to know how well-staffed that polling operation was in the spring of 2016 after Manafort joined the Trump campaign:


    Klyuyev

    Andriy Klyuyev, a former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council and the brief, final head of Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration, appears in Gates’ testimony as well.

    Gates told the jury that Klyuyev was responsible for financing “polling work” as well as “political campaigns” for the Party of Regions. Government exhibits show payments of $4,190,111 for the work, through a company called Novirex Sales LLP.

    And then there’ Victor Pinchuk, who sits on the advisory board of the Atlantic Council. Pinchuk paid Manafort $5 million, although it’s unclear what services were rendered for that money:


    Pinchuk

    Prosecutors, supported by testimony from Gates, said that Manafort received $5 million from billionaire oligarch Pinchuk through a Cypriot company called Plymouth Consultants Limited.

    Pinchuk has eked out a role for himself as a savvy positioner in Ukrainian politics. He married the daughter of former President Leonid Kuchma, and found ways to channel money to both candidates before the 2016 presidential election.

    Gates testified that the money came for work on a “legal project.”

    So that’s a more expansive look at who Manafort was working with on the Hapsburg Group efforts. Interestingly, when those efforts failed, resulting in the Maidan protests (possibly sparked by Manafort) and the collapse of the Yanukovych government, Manafort offered to work for Petro Poroshenko’s presidential campaign in 2014. In one sense, tt’s quite a turn of events. But when viewed in the context of the Hapsburg Group, it’s a very logical turn of events:


    Cyprus cash, Kyiv spin

    After Yanukovych fled to Russia amid the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, Manafort was left without clients.

    He apparently began to scramble for new work to cover cash shortfalls left by a life of luxury. At one point, he turned towards the fledgling campaign of current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

    Bloc Petro Poroshenko member of parliament Ihor Hryniv told Ukrainian media that Manafort had “tried to offer his services,” but that the engagement involved nothing more than a “three-hour conversation.”

    Poroshenko didn’t end up taking Manafort up on his offer, so Manafort went back to working on the creation of the new Opposition Bloc for Akhmetov and Lovochkin. And it was around this time, in the summer of 2014, that the FBI’s investigation into the assets allegedly stolen by Yanukovych led the FBI to question Gates and Manafort about the Cyprus money-laundering to finance the Hapsburg Group. Gates testified that he and Manafort told the FBI all about this, but the investigation was dropped until 2017:


    Manafort ended up working for Opposition Bloc in 2014, corresponding with both Akhmetov and Lovochkin over strategy for the party. In many ways, it was a repeat of Manafort’s position 10 years before, when Akhmetov asked him to build a political party in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution.

    But this time the FBI had begun to take a look.

    In the summer of 2014, amid an FBI probe into assets allegedly stolen by Yanukovych, Gates flew to France to “notify” Lovochkin that he and Manafort would meet with investigators. Gates testified that he wanted to receive more information about the Cyprus payment structures before the FBI interview took place.

    Gates said that he and Manafort told FBI agents about some of the Cyprus accounts and offshores used in the payment schemes.

    And inexplicably, the allegations — and admissions — that Manafort and Gates made to U.S. investigators went untouched until 2017.

    So that’s all part of what we know about the figures behind Manafort’s work in Ukraine and the Hapsburg Group lobbying effort. Vladimir Sivkovych, one of the two main suspects in ordering the attacks on the protestors in 2013, actually worked at the Manafort Davis Kyiv office. And figures like Victor Pinchuk, a member of the Atlantic Council advisory board, paid Manafort at least $5 million for services. Two facts that have becoming increasingly relevant to understanding the nature of the relationship between Manafort, Lovochking, Akhmetov, and the possible reasons for Manafort’s sharing of US polling data with them in the spring of 2016.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 12, 2019, 4:48 pm
  14. There was a recent piece in the New York Times about the Mueller investigation looking into the surprising number of Ukrainians who ended up ended the Trump inauguration. As we should expect, the investigation also includes a number of questions about basic criminality in how the Trump inauguration fund was operated. Did the Trump Org self-enrich by renting its own properties and services at inflated prices? Was the inauguration fund accepting money from foreigners? Did it accept secret donations? Those are some of the questions investigators are reportedly asking.

    Part of what makes this particular angle of the #TrumpRussia investigation potentially very explosive is that Ivanka Trump might be implicated in the decision to overcharge the inauguration fund for the use of Trump properties and services. It’s the kind of crime that is largely independent of any questions of foreign collusion, so it’s sort of ‘low hanging fruit’ legally. How will Trump respond to ‘low hanging’ legal fruit that might implicate Ivanka? We’ll see, but it’s not like Don Jr. is potentially in trouble here. This is Ivanka.

    Another part of this story that should be potentially quite explosive is the fact that the Ukrainians who were in attendance that the inaugural parties are the same Ukrainians we’ve seen who don’t appear to be Kremlin cronies but quite the opposite.

    Andrei Artemenko is one of the Ukrainian figures who was in Washington during the inauguration. He claims he didn’t attend any of the inaugural festivities and instead met with Republicans to discuss his peace plan. Recall how Artemenko helped found the virulently anti-Russian neo-Nazi Right Sector party. Foreign Policy described Artemenko as “Tall and brawny, Artemenko is a populist politician with ties to the far-right Ukrainian military-political group “Right Sector” and a member of the pro-Western opposition parliamentary coalition led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party. In Kiev, he’s known for being outspoken and politically ambitious.” Also recall how the middle-man who introduced Artemenko to Felix Sater and Michael Cohen was Alexander Oronov, Michael Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law, Alexander Oronov, was a Ukrainian oligarch who co-owned an ethanol company with Viktor Topolov. Topolov and Artemenko are close associates. And that “peace plan” he was negotiating with Felix Sater and Michael Cohen included a scheme for upgrading Ukraine’s nuclear power plants to ween Ukraine off of Russian electricity, with the goal of disconnecting Ukraine from Russia’s power grid by 2025. It’s typically called a “pro-Russian” peace plan because it would have involved the lifting of sanctions, as is the case in the New York Times article below, which ignores the fact that any peace plan, whether or came from pro-Russian or pro-EU forces, would involve the lifting of sanctions. Because of course that would be part of it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a peace plan.

    Another Ukrainian oligarch at the inauguration was Serhiy Lyovochkin (Lovochkin/Lyvochkin), the former chief of staff of Viktor Yanukovych. Recall how Lyovochkin was Paul Manafort’s key partner in financing and orchestrating the ‘Hapsburg Group’ lobbying effort, which happened to be an effort to pull Ukraine out of the Kremlin’s orbit and towards the EU by overcoming EU and US opposition to Ukraine joining the EU Trade Association agreement. Also recall how Lyovochkin and Manafort are the two key suspects of being behind the orders for the Berkut to violently crackdown and sweep away the protestors who gathered following the collapse of the EU Trade Association talks in December of 2013. Lyovoshkin’s television station gave the protestors extensive and very sympathetic coverage, helping to spark the broader Maidan protests that culminated the in sniper attacks and the collapse of the Yanukoych government in February of 2014.Lyovochkin was rumored to have considered resigning around this time and was fired by Yanukovitch in January 2014.

    So, despite the frequent media characterization of Lyovochkin as ‘pro-Russian’, he’s clearly a pro-EU Ukrainian oligarch and he’s one of the attendees of the Trump inaugural Liberty Ball that investigators are looking into. That includes looking into possible campaign finance money-laundering crimes.

    And don’t forget about that recent report about Paul Manafort handing US polling data off to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016. It was initially reported that Manafort asked Kilimnik to hand that data off to Kremlin oligarch Oleg Deripaska but that was later corrected when it was revealed that Manafort had actually asked Kilimnik to hand the polling data off to Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov.

    Related to Lyovochkin’s attendance at these inaugural events is the story about GOP consultant Sam Patten pleading guilty to funneling $50,000 to the Trump inaugural fund using an American straw buyer for four tickets. And it was Lyovochkin who paid for the four tickets. That’s how he attended the Liberty Ball. The other three tickets were given to Kilimnik, Patten, and an unknown Ukrainian. Patten formed a consulting company in the US with Konstantin Kilimnik. Both Patten and Kilimnik had previously worked for the International Republican Institute. It was through this consulting company that Patten provided services to Lovochkin that he didn’t disclose, hence the FARA violation charge. Patten also worked at Cambridge Analytica and SCL and played a central role in SCL’s 2015 work the Nigerian government that involved obtaining hacked documents. So Sam Patten is like a GOP dirty tricks specialist who was also a specialist at working with Ukrainian oligarchs, making him perfect for a task like setting up a straw buyer to get Lyovochkin, Kilimnik, and Patten himself tickets to the inaugural events.

    One of the other Ukrainian oligarchs who attended the inaugural events that investigators are looking into is Pavel Fuks (Fuchs). Recall how Fuks and is the Ukrainian-Russian oligarch who as a Moscow property developer and was involved with one of Trump’s earlier attempts to build a Trump Tower Moscow back in 2008. He relocated to Ukraine in 2017 and has been sanctioned by Russia. Fuchs is quite close to the mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes. In May of 2017, Rudolph Giuliani was hired by the city of Kharviv to do some sort of cybersecurity work for the city through his company Giuliani Security. Giuliani was also working on creating “a U.S. office for supporting investment in the city.”

    As the New York Times article below points out, Fuks stayed at Trump International Hotel and spent time with Vitaliy Khomutynnik, a Ukrainian MP and wealthy businessman. Khomutynnik had been a Party of Regions member until February 21, 2014, when 28 Party of Regions members left the party after two days of sniper attacks at the Maidan. That group of Party of Regions members that left in the days following the sniper violence created the Revival (Vidrodzhennia) party and Khomutynnik became its leader. These Revival party members were described by one expert as a group of oligarchs aligned with Ihor Kolomoisky, a powerful Ukrainian oligarch who funder of the volunteer battalions including the Azov battalion. So neither Fuks nor Kohmutynnik appear to be particularly Kremlin-aligned these days. According the New York Times article below, Fuks and Khomutynnik talked with Republican Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Ed Royce during the inauguration. McCarthy was the Majority Leader at the time and Royce was head of the House Foreign Affairs committee.

    The New York Times article below lists a pair of Ukrainian oligarch who haven’t really shown up in any of the previous #TrumpRussia-related stories: Serhiy Kivalov and Borislav Bereza. Both attended the Liberty Ball, but wouldn’t say how they got their tickets. Bereza claimed he got his tickets free from someone “connected to Illinois,” though he said, “I don’t remember for sure.”

    Kivalov is a former Party of Regions parliamentary member who is now part of the Opposition Bloc. Kivalov is known for heading the 2004 elections commission that initially declared Viktor Yanukovych the winner of that election over Viktor Yuschenko, leading to the Orange Revolution protests. Kivalov is also known for sponsoring a 2012 law that made the Russian language (and 18 other regional languages) official languages in the Ukrainian states where a large enough portion of the populace speaks those languages. Kivalov touted the law as being in keeping with the EU’s dedication to supporting minority rights. So Kivalov is clearly in the Party of Regions/Opposition Bloc camp. But as figures like Lyovochkin, Fuks, and Kohmutynnik make clear, that camp has a pro-EU faction and it was this faction that was well-represented at the inaugural events. Is Kivalov also part of that faction? That’s unclear at this point, but it’s quite notable that virtually all of the other Ukrainian politicians at the inaugural events that we know of at this point were appear to be of the pro-EU variety. Of course, as we’ll see in the New York Times article, they are all described as “pro-Russian”, generally by referencing their past associations with the Party of Regions, as is the unfortunate norm across the media in the coverage of this story.

    Borislav Bereza is a Ukrainian member of parliament as an independent candidate and a former spokesperson for Right Sector. He’s also Orthodox Jewish which is remarkable given how filled that party is with neo-Nazis, but that might explain why he was chosen as the group’s spokesperson because he’s perfect for whitewashing the nature of the group. There’s a fascinating 2014 interview of Bereza in Tablet magazine where he simultaneously asserts that Right Sector itself isn’t the far right bigoted it’s portrayed as being but is instead a cross-section of Ukrainian society at the same time he acknowledges that the party is filled with anti-Semites and homophobes (that’s quite a cross-section). So Bereza, like Artemenko, is pretty clearly a far right politician associated with one of the most anti-Russian parties in Ukraine, albeit an unusual one. Bereza characterized the ball as “a place where, over a glass of champagne, you are introduced to people who have influence in the new administration of the White House. These are the traditions of the United States,” on Facebook. He also attributed the claims about Ukrainians’ paying for tickets to jealousy from those who were not invited in response to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko accusing rivals of paying as much as $200,000 for inaugural tickets.

    So that’s what we know about the Ukrainians that investigators are looking into regarding Trump inaugural actions. But before we get that New York Times article, here’s a look at a ProPublica report from last month that describes another key area of inquiry by investigators: whether or not there were campaign finance money-laundering crimes committed by the Trump team in order to both self-enrich off of the record amounts of money that was flowing into the Trump inaugural fund and hide the full scope of the donations that were pouring in.

    The possible crimes also include obscuring foreign donations. Obscuring foreign money flowing into the inaugural fund is, of course, exactly what Sam Patten engaged in when he set up an American straw buyer to purchase four tickets to the Liberty Ball using $50,000 of Lyovochkin’s money. But as the following article describes, the potential for foreign money secretly flowing into the inaugural funds looks to be potentially much more extensive and Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s long-time consulting partner in Ukraine and the deputy to the chairman of the inaugural, appeared to be playing a key role. According to some vendors providing services for the inauguration, Gates was asking donors to make donations directly to the vendors. The explanation Gates gave to these vendors was that the inaugural committee had received more money than was initially targeted, and, therefore, he wished to reduce the publicly reported sum raised. So Rick Gates, who worked hand in glove with Manafort during Manfort’s time in Ukraine, was also setting up an inaugural donation back channel in order to hide donations. So in addition to American straw buyers, we know there was a potential back channel available for making effectively secret donations to the inauguration.

    As the ProPublica report also points out, the question of whether or not the Trump Organization was self-enriching by overcharging for fees and services (fees like charging exorbitant prices for renting Trump’s properties where the events were held and overpaying for Trump Org staffers involved with the event) could become a true legal nightmare for President Trump. Why? Because Ivanka Trump might be at the center of those self-enrichment decisions. So while many of the questions swirling around the Trump inauguration and the Ukrainian lobbying effort that appeared to be taking place are the kinds of questions that Trump himself might not fear too much because the answers point in the direction of Manafort’s work with the pro-EU faction of Ukrainians, we still shouldn’t be too surprised if Trump starts acting extra insane as the investigation into the inauguration plays out given the Ivanka angle and the fact that Rick Gates apparently led the scheme to hide donations and he’s now a cooperating witness:

    ProPublica

    Trump’s Inauguration Paid Trump’s Company — With Ivanka in the Middle
    As the inaugural committee planned the landmark celebration, internal concerns were raised about whether Trump’s Washington hotel was overcharging for event space. The spending could be a violation of the law.

    by Ilya Marritz, WNYC, and Justin Elliott
    Dec. 14, 2018, 1:19 p.m. EST

    When it came out this year that President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went.

    It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.

    The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.

    During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

    If the Trump hotel charged more than the going rate for the venues, it could violate tax law. The inaugural committee’s payments to the Trump Organization and Ivanka Trump’s role have not been previously reported or disclosed in public filings.

    “The fact that the inaugural committee did business with the Trump Organization raises huge ethical questions about the potential for undue enrichment,” said Marcus Owens, the former head of the division of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees nonprofits.

    Inaugural workers had other misgivings. Rick Gates, then the deputy to the chairman of the inaugural, asked some vendors to take payments directly from donors, rather than through the committee, according to two people with direct knowledge. The vendors felt the request was unusual and concerning, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements. It is not clear whether any vendors took him up on his request.

    The revelations about the inauguration’s finances show how Trump blurred the lines between his political and business lives, as the real estate mogul ascended to the presidency.

    On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal investigation into whether the inaugural committee misspent money and whether donors gave in return for political favors, citing people familiar with the matter. In addition, The New York Times reported that prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funnelled money to the inauguration.

    Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee, which was chaired by his friend the businessman Tom Barrack, raised nearly $107 million from donors including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and AT&T. The January 2017 festivities cost almost twice President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, previously the most expensive. The nonprofit that planned Trump’s inauguration booked many spaces in the Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office building near the White House, including a ballroom, hotel rooms and work spaces, as well as paying for meals there, according to several people who worked on the inauguration.

    How the inaugural committee managed to spend all the money it raised remains a mystery, nearly two years after the event. While groups that support political candidates or issues must publicly detail their spending, an inaugural committee is required to list only its top five contractors. That leaves about $40 million unaccounted for.

    If the Trump hotel charged the inaugural committee above-market rates, it could violate tax rules, according to Owens, the nonprofit tax expert who is now a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb.

    If a person with “substantial influence” over a nonprofit group charges the group above-market rates in a transaction with their outside business, the IRS can impose steep fines. In this case, Donald Trump could qualify as a person with such influence. Should the tax agency find that a violation occurred, the Trump Organization would have to refund any overcharge and the inaugural committee would be hit with a 25 percent tax on the money, Owens said.

    Owens added that IRS audits of nonprofits are increasingly rare. Since the inaugural committee was incorporated in Virginia, the state attorney general there could also have standing to investigate its operations.

    The inaugural committee spent money at the Trump International in Washington in other ways as well. Many workers came from California and New York and stayed at the hotel, eating their meals there and holding meetings. Receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica show they typically paid about $350 a night. According to an inaugural worker, 15 to 20 inaugural workers stayed at the hotel most nights for roughly a month in the run-up to the inauguration, at a total cost of what could be more than $200,000.

    The day before Trump’s swearing in, the inaugural committee hosted a Leadership Luncheon in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom, featuring his cabinet nominees and major donors. “This is a gorgeous room,” the president-elect told the crowd. “A total genius must have built this place.” And the night of the inauguration itself, Trump’s family and close allies such as Sean Hannity celebrated into the early morning at an exclusive after-party in the Trump hotel’s grand lobby. Thousands of red, white and blue balloons were released from the rafters.

    Some vendors for the inauguration became concerned when Gates, a top inaugural committee official, asked them to take payments outside of the normal committee invoicing process, according to two people with knowledge of what happened. He proposed that they be paid for their work directly from a would-be donor rather than by the committee. Gates told the vendors that the inaugural committee had received pledges of more money than was initially targeted, and, therefore, he wished to reduce the publicly reported sum raised.

    In a separate episode this year, a U.S. lobbyist pleaded guilty to helping a Ukrainian businessman and member of Parliament buy tickets to the inauguration, in violation of rules barring the committee from taking foreign money. The inaugural committee was not accused of wrongdoing in that case.

    ———-

    “Trump’s Inauguration Paid Trump’s Company — With Ivanka in the Middle” by Ilya Marritz, WNYC, and Justin Elliott; ProPublica; 12/14/2018

    “The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.”

    Imagine that: Having the Trump Organization run the inauguration turned out to be a giant corrupt mess. And Ivanka appears to be at the center of the questions involving the Trump Org’s self-enrichment. But there’s also the question of foreign donors illegally funneling money into the inauguration. It’s a multi-faceted corrupt mess:


    During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

    If the Trump hotel charged more than the going rate for the venues, it could violate tax law. The inaugural committee’s payments to the Trump Organization and Ivanka Trump’s role have not been previously reported or disclosed in public filings.

    On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal investigation into whether the inaugural committee misspent money and whether donors gave in return for political favors, citing people familiar with the matter. In addition, The New York Times reported that prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funnelled money to the inauguration.

    And it was none other than cooperating witness Rick Gates who appears to be leading the efforts to secretly direct donations into inauguration. Gate’s strategy was simple: have the donor directly pay the vendors. But there’s a problem with that plan: the vendors now know about it. And some of them are talking:


    “The fact that the inaugural committee did business with the Trump Organization raises huge ethical questions about the potential for undue enrichment,” said Marcus Owens, the former head of the division of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees nonprofits.

    Inaugural workers had other misgivings. Rick Gates, then the deputy to the chairman of the inaugural, asked some vendors to take payments directly from donors, rather than through the committee, according to two people with direct knowledge. The vendors felt the request was unusual and concerning, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements. It is not clear whether any vendors took him up on his request.

    Some vendors for the inauguration became concerned when Gates, a top inaugural committee official, asked them to take payments outside of the normal committee invoicing process, according to two people with knowledge of what happened. He proposed that they be paid for their work directly from a would-be donor rather than by the committee. Gates told the vendors that the inaugural committee had received pledges of more money than was initially targeted, and, therefore, he wished to reduce the publicly reported sum raised.

    So how much money was secretly donating to the inaugural funds and secretly embezzled by the Trump Org? We don’t know. But of the record $107 million in reported donations, $40 million remains unaccounted for:


    Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee, which was chaired by his friend the businessman Tom Barrack, raised nearly $107 million from donors including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and AT&T. The January 2017 festivities cost almost twice President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, previously the most expensive. The nonprofit that planned Trump’s inauguration booked many spaces in the Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office building near the White House, including a ballroom, hotel rooms and work spaces, as well as paying for meals there, according to several people who worked on the inauguration.

    How the inaugural committee managed to spend all the money it raised remains a mystery, nearly two years after the event. While groups that support political candidates or issues must publicly detail their spending, an inaugural committee is required to list only its top five contractors. That leaves about $40 million unaccounted for.

    And as the report notes, in a separate, a U.S. lobbyist (Sam Patten) pleaded guilty to helping a Ukrainian businessman and member of Parliament (Serhei Lyovochkin) buy tickets to the inauguration (tickets used by Patten, Lyovochkin, Kilimnik, and an still unknown Ukrainian to attend the Liberty Ball):


    In a separate episode this year, a U.S. lobbyist pleaded guilty to helping a Ukrainian businessman and member of Parliament buy tickets to the inauguration, in violation of rules barring the committee from taking foreign money. The inaugural committee was not accused of wrongdoing in that case.

    And as we’ve seen, when you pan out and look at the bigger picture, the case of Sam Patten’s straw buying isn’t really a separate episode. It’s all part of the larger question of the nature of the Ukrainian delegation that attended the inauguration and the role this pro-EU Ukrainian network may have played in the whole #TrumpRussian 2016 campaign activities.

    Now here’s the recent New York Times article that describes that pro-EU faction of Ukrainians who attended the inauguration. Of course, they are all described as “pro-Russian” Ukrainians despite all the evidence to the contrary, so keep in mind all of the evidence to the contrary that doesn’t get mentioned:

    The New York Times

    Prosecutors Examining Ukrainians Who Flocked to Trump Inaugural

    By Kenneth P. Vogel, Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Iuliia Mendel

    Jan. 10, 2019

    WASHINGTON — Hours after he was sworn in as America’s 45th president, Donald J. Trump and his wife, Melania, swayed together to a rendition of the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way,” as hundreds of their wealthiest and most influential supporters held aloft smartphones to capture the Trumps’ first dance following the inauguration.

    Serhiy Kivalov, a Ukrainian lawmaker known for pro-Russian initiatives, took photos of the dance, as well as of his coveted tickets and passes to the soiree where it took place, the Liberty Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, posting them on Facebook and declaring that “it was an honor” to attend.

    He was one of at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who made their way to Washington for the inauguration, several of whom attended the Liberty Ball. Most had more on their dance cards than just parties.

    They attended meetings and orchestrated encounters at Trump International Hotel with influential Republican members of Congress and close allies of President Trump. Representing a range of views, including a contingent seen as sympathetic to Moscow, they positioned themselves as brokers who could help solve one of the thorniest foreign policy problems facing the new administration — the ugly military stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and the tough sanctions imposed on Moscow following its seizure of Crimea.

    The transition of power in Washington attracted officials and business executives from around the world seeking entree and influence with the new administration. While many parties and other gatherings during that period were open to anyone, packages for more exclusive events organized by Mr. Trump’s presidential inaugural committee started at $25,000 for two tickets to one of the official black tie balls and other events, according to a brochure listing inaugural committee “underwriter benefits.”

    Evidence of the Ukrainians’ presence eventually prompted interest from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and has spawned a number of related inquiries by federal prosecutors. The investigations are playing out against growing indications that some of the Ukrainians who came to Washington for the inaugural, or their allies, were promoting grand bargains, or “peace” plans, that aligned with Russia’s interests, including by lifting sanctions.

    Such a deal would not just have given the new administration additional flexibility to bring Moscow into American diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, but could also have eased the way for a cast of characters with ties to Mr. Trump — some of whom in turn had ties to the Ukrainians who came to Washington — to move ahead on business deals that had been complicated by the sanctions.

    As recently as last month, prosecutors were asking witnesses about illegal foreign lobbying related to Ukraine. Another subject of questions has been whether foreigners from Ukraine and other countries used straw donors to disguise donations to the inaugural committee. Federal law prohibits foreigners from contributing to an inaugural committee, although they can attend events if Americans buy the tickets.

    Elements of the investigations have gotten new visibility in recent weeks.

    Lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was paid tens of millions of dollars over the last dozen years by Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests, inadvertently revealed on Tuesday that he had communicated about a Ukraine-Russia peace plan with a business associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

    The associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, is a Russian citizen who has been charged by Mr. Mueller with obstruction of justice for trying to shape the testimony of witnesses to the events that led to charges of illegal foreign lobbying against Mr. Manafort.

    Mr. Kilimnik was said in the inadvertently disclosed portions of the court filing to have received political polling data from Mr. Manafort in 2016. Mr. Manafort relayed a request to have Mr. Kilimnik pass the polling data to two Ukrainian oligarchs who had arranged or provided financing for Russia-aligned Ukrainian political parties for which Mr. Manafort had worked. One of the oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin, attended the Liberty Ball, according to one person familiar with the guest list and another who saw him there.

    Last month, prosecutors made a move that was seen as signaling the continuing cooperation of Sam Patten, an American consultant who had worked with Mr. Kilimnik and Russia-aligned Ukrainians looking to build ties to the Trump administration.

    Mr. Patten had pleaded guilty in late August to charges including funneling $50,000 in money from an unnamed foreigner who matched the description of Mr. Lyovochkin but was described in court papers only as “a prominent Ukraine oligarch” to buy tickets to exclusive Trump inauguration events for the oligarch, Mr. Kilimnik and someone described only as “another Ukrainian.”

    Other Ukrainians who came to Washington during the inauguration said prosecutors had been asking wide-ranging questions.

    “I have been interrogated twice by the F.B.I. and Mr. Mueller,” said Andrii V. Artemenko, who came to the inauguration as a Ukrainian member of Parliament bearing a peace proposal that was later criticized as pro-Russian.

    Mr. Artemenko said he had testified before Mr. Mueller’s grand jury last summer and had answered questions from the Mueller team “about what is my purpose of this trip, how I can get there, and what I did, how I got invitations and tickets and stuff.”

    On Capitol Hill, investigators from the House Oversight Committee, now under Democratic control, are looking into Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, who was a central player in the effort to build a new relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

    How active a role Mr. Flynn played in the discussions about a peace plan for Ukraine is unclear, but congressional investigators have been pursuing whether he or his former business partners might have gained financially if the sanctions on Russia were ended.

    The committee, whose chairman is Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, is continuing to pursue its investigation of Mr. Flynn’s business dealings and “his potential misuse of his public position when he was national security adviser,” a committee spokeswoman said.

    In 2017, a whistle-blower told committee investigators that Mr. Flynn had mentioned to a business associate around the time of the inauguration that the Russia sanctions would be “ripped up” as one of the administration’s first acts. Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower.

    Mr. Flynn had been part of a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but after his direct involvement ended, he remained close with people involved in the project..

    In a December 2017 letter to the Oversight Committee, an officer of the company that hired Mr. Flynn as an adviser on the project, ACU Strategic Partners, said that the allegations of the whistle-blower were “false and unfounded.”

    Mr. Flynn subsequently intersected with one of the Ukrainian efforts to resolve the problems with Russia.

    Mr. Artemenko, the former Ukrainian lawmaker, said in an interview that he did not attend any inaugural balls or other events that required paid tickets. Instead, he said he watched Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, which was free, and met with various Republicans to discuss his peace plan, which would have lifted sanctions against Russia and which he said had some support from the Kremlin.

    Days after the inauguration, Mr. Artemenko traveled to New York to discuss his peace plan with Michael D. Cohen, who was then Mr. Trump’s lawyer, and a former business partner of the president’s, Felix H. Sater, who had helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia. Mr. Cohen subsequently hand-delivered the peace plan to Mr. Flynn a week before Mr. Flynn was forced to resign after being caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

    Within days of the inauguration, the White House made inquiries to the State Department and Congress about what might be required to ease the sanctions. Resetting relations with the Russian government and Mr. Putin had been central to Mr. Trump’s foreign policy approach during the campaign, the transition and the first days of the new administration, and it is unclear what role, if any, the back-channel Ukrainian entreaties might have played.

    The official inquiries about an abrupt policy shift set off alarms at the State Department and in Congress.

    “I heard from various sources that there was a plan to summarily lift sanctions on Russia,” said Daniel Fried, a veteran diplomat who stayed on for the first several weeks of the Trump administration as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy. “I was approached by people who were nervous that the United States was about to do something irretrievably stupid.”

    Several other officials, some of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity, also recalled jarring questions from the new National Security Council under Mr. Flynn, including whether Ukraine was really part of Russia and whether Crimea wanted to be part of Russia.

    Even among Republicans, the idea of easing sanctions found little support. “If there’s any country in the world that doesn’t deserve sanctions relief, it’s Russia,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said in an interview with Politico a week after the inauguration.

    By March 2017, the White House’s sanctions relief trial balloon had wilted amid opposition from congressional leaders.

    But that has not stopped the prosecutorial scrutiny of those pushing plans to lift the sanctions around the inauguration, and their roles in prospective business deals that might have benefited from the lifting of the sanctions.

    Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including lying to congressional investigators about negotiations to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow. While Mr. Cohen had initially echoed Mr. Trump’s claim that talks about the Moscow project had ended before the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen admitted in his guilty plea that they extended into the summer of 2016.

    The sanctions posed a potential obstacle for the Trump Tower Moscow project, in which Mr. Sater, who is Russian-American, had positioned himself as a key player. Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen discussed financing from two Russian banks, VTB and GenBank, but the sanctions prohibited American citizens and companies from doing business with either of them, according to reporting by The New York Times and BuzzFeed.

    Another prominent businessman who had worked with Mr. Trump years earlier to try to erect a Trump building in Moscow, the Ukrainian-Russian developer Pavel Fuks, also was in Washington for the inauguration.

    Mr. Fuks, who has since fallen out of favor in Moscow and was placed under sanctions by the Kremlin, stayed at Trump International Hotel, and spent time with Vitaliy Khomutynnik, a businessman and parliamentarian who had been a member of the Russia-aligned party for which Mr. Manafort worked. Mr. Fuks and Mr. Khomutynnik talked with Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Ed Royce, both influential California Republicans at the time.

    Mr. Khomutynnik’s party posted photos of him with the congressmen on Facebook, and suggested that he extracted assurances that American-Ukrainian relations would grow stronger under Mr. Trump, without detailing any specific policy discussions.

    Mr. McCarthy’s office said that the encounter was random, and that the conversation was brief and perfunctory, and noted that Mr. McCarthy has supported sanctions against Russia.

    In Ukraine, a parliamentarian affiliated with the president, Petro Poroshenko, who is generally regarded as pro-Western, accused rival politicians of paying as much as $200,000 for inaugural tickets.

    Mr. Kivalov, the Ukrainian lawmaker who posted photos of the Trumps’ dance, did not respond to requests for comment about how he got his tickets to the Liberty Ball. Borislav Bereza, a Ukrainian lawmaker who posted a photo of himself in a tuxedo at the ball, said he got his tickets free from someone “connected to Illinois,” though he said, “I don’t remember for sure.”

    He attributed the claims about Ukrainians’ paying for tickets to jealousy from those who were not invited, and in a Facebook post he characterized the ball as “a place where, over a glass of champagne, you are introduced to people who have influence in the new administration of the White House. These are the traditions of the United States.”

    ———

    “Prosecutors Examining Ukrainians Who Flocked to Trump Inaugural” by Kenneth P. Vogel, Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Iuliia Mendel; The New York Times; 01/10/2019

    “The transition of power in Washington attracted officials and business executives from around the world seeking entree and influence with the new administration. While many parties and other gatherings during that period were open to anyone, packages for more exclusive events organized by Mr. Trump’s presidential inaugural committee started at $25,000 for two tickets to one of the official black tie balls and other events, according to a brochure listing inaugural committee “underwriter benefits.”

    $25,000 for two tickets to the official black tie balls and other events. That was the price of getting to mingle with the incoming administration. And it’s a price plenty of Ukrainians were willing to pay. And the fact that these Ukrainians tended to either have a past history of working with Paul Manafort (like Serhiy Lyovochkin) or were engaged in secret negotiations and schemes with Michael Cohen and Felix Sater during the campaign (like Andrei Artemenko) is what made these questions about possible campaign finance crimes involving the inaugural fund the kinds of questions the Mueller team is interested in:


    They attended meetings and orchestrated encounters at Trump International Hotel with influential Republican members of Congress and close allies of President Trump. Representing a range of views, including a contingent seen as sympathetic to Moscow, they positioned themselves as brokers who could help solve one of the thorniest foreign policy problems facing the new administration — the ugly military stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and the tough sanctions imposed on Moscow following its seizure of Crimea.

    Evidence of the Ukrainians’ presence eventually prompted interest from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and has spawned a number of related inquiries by federal prosecutors. The investigations are playing out against growing indications that some of the Ukrainians who came to Washington for the inaugural, or their allies, were promoting grand bargains, or “peace” plans, that aligned with Russia’s interests, including by lifting sanctions.

    Such a deal would not just have given the new administration additional flexibility to bring Moscow into American diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, but could also have eased the way for a cast of characters with ties to Mr. Trump — some of whom in turn had ties to the Ukrainians who came to Washington — to move ahead on business deals that had been complicated by the sanctions.

    As recently as last month, prosecutors were asking witnesses about illegal foreign lobbying related to Ukraine. Another subject of questions has been whether foreigners from Ukraine and other countries used straw donors to disguise donations to the inaugural committee. Federal law prohibits foreigners from contributing to an inaugural committee, although they can attend events if Americans buy the tickets.

    The article notes how Manafort received was paid tens of millions of dollars over the last dozen years by “Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests”. Again, keep in mind that these “Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests” included the Hapsburg Group lobbying effort Manafort was running with Serhiy Lyovochkin to get Ukraine allowed into the EU Trade Association. Also keep in mind that Konstantin Kilimnik spent a decade working for the International Republican Institute (IRI) – a US government-backed think-tank – and even worked for the Moscow branch of the IRI before teaming up with Manafort to work in Ukraine. So when we are reminded that Manafort handed polling data to Kilimnik and asked that the data be given to Serhiy Lyovochkin, that shouldn’t really be seen as an example of Manafort working with “Russian-aligned Ukrainian interests”:


    Lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was paid tens of millions of dollars over the last dozen years by Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests, inadvertently revealed on Tuesday that he had communicated about a Ukraine-Russia peace plan with a business associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

    The associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, is a Russian citizen who has been charged by Mr. Mueller with obstruction of justice for trying to shape the testimony of witnesses to the events that led to charges of illegal foreign lobbying against Mr. Manafort.

    Mr. Kilimnik was said in the inadvertently disclosed portions of the court filing to have received political polling data from Mr. Manafort in 2016. Mr. Manafort relayed a request to have Mr. Kilimnik pass the polling data to two Ukrainian oligarchs who had arranged or provided financing for Russia-aligned Ukrainian political parties for which Mr. Manafort had worked. One of the oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin, attended the Liberty Ball, according to one person familiar with the guest list and another who saw him there.

    Then the article mentions how it was GOP consultant Sam Patten who found the American straw buyer to buy four tickets for $50,000 using money donated by Lyovochkin. Patten, Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and an unknown Ukrainian attended the Liberty Ball with those tickets:


    Last month, prosecutors made a move that was seen as signaling the continuing cooperation of Sam Patten, an American consultant who had worked with Mr. Kilimnik and Russia-aligned Ukrainians looking to build ties to the Trump administration.

    Mr. Patten had pleaded guilty in late August to charges including funneling $50,000 in money from an unnamed foreigner who matched the description of Mr. Lyovochkin but was described in court papers only as “a prominent Ukraine oligarch” to buy tickets to exclusive Trump inauguration events for the oligarch, Mr. Kilimnik and someone described only as “another Ukrainian.”

    There there’s the presence of Andrei Artemenko, who also attended the inauguration and was pushing the peace plan he had been negotiating with Michael Cohen and Felix Sater. Unlike most of the other Ukrainians who attended the inauguration, Artemenko has no history with the Party of Regions or Opposition Bloc. Instead, his history is with Yulia Tymoshenko’s party, the Radical Party, and the virulently anti-Russian Right Sector. In other words, Artemenko is an unambiguously West-leaning Ukrainian politician. Artemenko claims he never actually attended any of the inaugural events that required expensive tickets and instead met with various Republicans to discuss his peace plan:


    Other Ukrainians who came to Washington during the inauguration said prosecutors had been asking wide-ranging questions.

    “I have been interrogated twice by the F.B.I. and Mr. Mueller,” said Andrii V. Artemenko, who came to the inauguration as a Ukrainian member of Parliament bearing a peace proposal that was later criticized as pro-Russian.

    Mr. Artemenko said he had testified before Mr. Mueller’s grand jury last summer and had answered questions from the Mueller team “about what is my purpose of this trip, how I can get there, and what I did, how I got invitations and tickets and stuff.”

    Mr. Artemenko, the former Ukrainian lawmaker, said in an interview that he did not attend any inaugural balls or other events that required paid tickets. Instead, he said he watched Mr. Trump’s inaugural address, which was free, and met with various Republicans to discuss his peace plan, which would have lifted sanctions against Russia and which he said had some support from the Kremlin.

    Days after the inauguration, Mr. Artemenko traveled to New York to discuss his peace plan with Michael D. Cohen, who was then Mr. Trump’s lawyer, and a former business partner of the president’s, Felix H. Sater, who had helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia. Mr. Cohen subsequently hand-delivered the peace plan to Mr. Flynn a week before Mr. Flynn was forced to resign after being caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

    Pavel Fuks, the Ukrainian-Russian Moscow property developer who worked on teh 2008 attempt to build Trump Tower Moscow (but since fallen out of favor with the Kremlin and relocated to Ukraine), was also at the inauguration and also met with Republicans. Fuks was there with Vitaliy Khomutynnik, the leader of the “Revival” faction of former Party of Regions politicians who broke off from the party in the days following the Maidan sniper attacks:


    Another prominent businessman who had worked with Mr. Trump years earlier to try to erect a Trump building in Moscow, the Ukrainian-Russian developer Pavel Fuks, also was in Washington for the inauguration.

    Mr. Fuks, who has since fallen out of favor in Moscow and was placed under sanctions by the Kremlin, stayed at Trump International Hotel, and spent time with Vitaliy Khomutynnik, a businessman and parliamentarian who had been a member of the Russia-aligned party for which Mr. Manafort worked. Mr. Fuks and Mr. Khomutynnik talked with Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Ed Royce, both influential California Republicans at the time.

    Mr. Khomutynnik’s party posted photos of him with the congressmen on Facebook, and suggested that he extracted assurances that American-Ukrainian relations would grow stronger under Mr. Trump, without detailing any specific policy discussions.

    Mr. McCarthy’s office said that the encounter was random, and that the conversation was brief and perfunctory, and noted that Mr. McCarthy has supported sanctions against Russia.

    Then we learn that Serhiy Kivalov and Borislav Bereza were both at the Liverty ball based on ther Facebook posts. They don’t say how they got the tickets. Kivalov is described as a “a Ukrainian lawmaker known for pro-Russian initiatives.” Keep in mind that one of main laws Kivalov is known for is 2012 language law that would have made Russian an official language in states where a large portion of the populace speaks Russian. It’s one of the main accomplishments Kivalov is known for. So when reading that Kivalov is known for pushing “pro-Russian” initiatives, that’s probably a reference to his sponsoring a law that was literally pro-the Russian language, which shouldn’t be seen as the sure-tell sign of a Kremlin stooge in a country where a large portion of the populace speaks Russian. And Bereza is a former spokesperson for Right Sector:


    Serhiy Kivalov, a Ukrainian lawmaker known for pro-Russian initiatives, took photos of the dance, as well as of his coveted tickets and passes to the soiree where it took place, the Liberty Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, posting them on Facebook and declaring that “it was an honor” to attend.

    Mr. Kivalov, the Ukrainian lawmaker who posted photos of the Trumps’ dance, did not respond to requests for comment about how he got his tickets to the Liberty Ball. Borislav Bereza, a Ukrainian lawmaker who posted a photo of himself in a tuxedo at the ball, said he got his tickets free from someone “connected to Illinois,” though he said, “I don’t remember for sure.”

    The article notes that, within days of the inauguration, the White House was making inquiries with the State Department and Congress about the easing of sanctions. Interestingly, it quotes Daniel Fried, described as a veteran diplomat who stayed on for the first several weeks of the Trump administration as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy. Recall how Fried expressed a sense of betrayal towards Paul Manafort, claiming that Manafort had for years assured the State Department that Viktor Yanukovych was going to be “the guy” to bring Ukraine into the Western orbit. Manafort obviously failed at this, but keep in mind how the EU made Ukraine a really bad offer that would have condemned Ukraine to intense austerity, with no prospects of eventual EU membership, that Yanukovych ultimately rejected. So it’s kind of hard to blame Manafort for not living up to his promises to the State Department but the fact that he was making such promises were made in the first place tells us a lot about the nature of Manafort’s work in Ukraine:


    Within days of the inauguration, the White House made inquiries to the State Department and Congress about what might be required to ease the sanctions. Resetting relations with the Russian government and Mr. Putin had been central to Mr. Trump’s foreign policy approach during the campaign, the transition and the first days of the new administration, and it is unclear what role, if any, the back-channel Ukrainian entreaties might have played.

    The official inquiries about an abrupt policy shift set off alarms at the State Department and in Congress.

    “I heard from various sources that there was a plan to summarily lift sanctions on Russia,” said Daniel Fried, a veteran diplomat who stayed on for the first several weeks of the Trump administration as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy. “I was approached by people who were nervous that the United States was about to do something irretrievably stupid.”

    Finally, the article notes how investigators are also looking into what sort of role Michael Flynn may have played in attempting to reboot the US’s relationship with Russia. While the role Flynn may have played in the peace plan discussions is still unclear, investigators are looking into whether or not Flynn and his business partners may have financial benefited from a lifting of Russian sanctions. The article also notes how a whistle-blower told congressional investigators that Flynn believed that ending the sanctions would allow a business project in he involved in to move forward. That project appears to be a scheme that would have involved partnering with Russia to building and maintain nuclear power plants across the Middle East. Recall how this scheme would have involved Saudi Arabia paying for the bulk of this nuclear power plant construction and was largely and appeared to have been largely pushed by Flynn’s US nuclear industry clients, including ex-US generals, going back to 2015. So when we’re talking about Flynn’s possible involvement in the Ukrainian peace plan scheme and the early moves by the Trump administration to lift Russian sanctions, keep in mind this is tied to a scheme involving Saudi Arabia and US nuclear power companies to enlist Russia in a scheme to build nuclear power plants across the Middle East and capture that emerging market:


    On Capitol Hill, investigators from the House Oversight Committee, now under Democratic control, are looking into Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, who was a central player in the effort to build a new relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

    How active a role Mr. Flynn played in the discussions about a peace plan for Ukraine is unclear, but congressional investigators have been pursuing whether he or his former business partners might have gained financially if the sanctions on Russia were ended.

    In 2017, a whistle-blower told committee investigators that Mr. Flynn had mentioned to a business associate around the time of the inauguration that the Russia sanctions would be “ripped up” as one of the administration’s first acts. Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower.

    Mr. Flynn had been part of a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but after his direct involvement ended, he remained close with people involved in the project..

    And we can’t forget that this this scheme to enlist Russia as a partner in building nuclear power plants across the Middle East is just one of numerous instances where we have Middle Eastern governments getting involved in the 2016 election. Including the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE offering to help Trump’s campaign win using Cambridge Analytica-style social media manipulation. We also can’t forget that the whole Seychelles “back channel” meeting was coordinated by the UAE and appeared to involve getting Russia to agree to some sort of ‘grand bargain’ that would have realigned Russia more towards Saudi/UAE interests.

    In other words, the question of what Michael Flynn may have been secretly up to during the 2016 campaign and during the transition period are questions heavily centered around his work on behalf of his non-Russian clients and questions about what role the Saudi and UAE governments may have played in the 2016 campaign. And that since this whole inaugural mess involves questions about illegal secret foreign donations, that obviously raises a lot questions about possible Middle Eastern illegal secret inaugural donations. Fortunately, it sounds like investigators are looking into that too, so hopefully we’ll eventually learn more about that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 19, 2019, 5:08 pm

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