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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

24 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 7.62x39 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 7,62x39 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
  15. There was a big new update to that New York Times sto­ry from last month cre­at­ed when Paul Man­afort’s lawyers acci­den­tal­ly filed a legal response to the courts that revealed a bunch of text. Text about Man­afort and Rick Gates giv­ing polling data to Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik in the spring of 2016 and ask­ing him to give it to their key Ukrain­ian clients, Sergei Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhme­tov. And at this meet­ing, Man­afort and Kil­imnik dis­cussed a Ukrain­ian peace plan.

    The updates to this sto­ry are pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant in some ways. First, we’re learn­ing that the meet­ing between Man­afort, Gates, and Kil­imnik did­n’t hap­pen in the spring of 2016. It hap­pened on August 2, 2016 in the Grand Havana Room in Man­hat­tan. So instead of the polling data hand off hap­pen­ing dur­ing the pri­maries it hap­pened at the start of the gen­er­al elec­tion after Trump and Hillary got their nom­i­na­tions.

    And that date for this meet­ing, August 2, is rais­ing the ques­tion of whether or not it real­ly was Oleg Deri­pas­ka who received the polling data, not Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov. Recall that the New York Times report last month orig­i­nal­ly report­ed Oleg Deri­pas­ka as the per­son he asked Kil­imnik to give the polling data to before they cor­rect­ed the arti­cle and named Lyovochkin and Ahk­me­tov as the recip­i­ent.

    But it turns out Deri­paska’s pri­vate jet did hap­pen to make a three hour stop over in Newark right after mid­night on August 3, a few hours after the end of the meet­ing. Many are ask­ing of Kil­imnik flew back on Deri­paska’s plane. Deri­pas­ka denies this and goes as far as claim­ing that he’s nev­er met Kil­imnik, which seems kind of hard to believe giv­en that Deri­pas­ka was a client of Man­afort and Kil­imnik’s ser­vices for years. So the shift of the date of this meet­ing from the “spring” of 2016 to August 2 of 2016 puts it right around the time of a mys­te­ri­ous Deri­pas­ka-owned plane trip to the NYC area, rekin­dling the sus­pi­cions that the meet­ing involved the han­dover of polling data to a Krem­lin con­nect­ed indi­vid­ual. And as the fol­low­ing Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle describes, the pre­sumed hand off of Trump polling data at that meet­ing to peo­ple that are assumed to be work­ing for the Krem­lin has become cen­tral to the Mueller team’s inves­ti­ga­tion. In oth­er words, the Mueller team is either now assum­ing Deri­pas­ka was the ulti­mate recip­i­ent of the polling data or the Muller team is assum­ing that Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov were work­ing with the Krem­lin.

    Anoth­er new piece of infor­ma­tion that are lead­ing many to con­clude that Deri­pas­ka was the intend­ed recip­i­ent of the polling data is that Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik report­ed­ly con­tact­ed Man­afort on July 29, 2016, say­ing he had spent 5 hours talk­ing with the man who had giv­en Man­afort “the biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago,” and that he had impor­tant mes­sages to relay to Man­afort as a result. The ref­er­ence to “black caviar” is assumed to be a ref­er­ence mon­ey, and many are con­clud­ing that this points fur­ther in the direc­tion of Deri­pas­ka. The obvi­ous prob­lem with that analy­sis is that “sev­er­al years ago” at that time would have been a ref­er­ence to 2013, which is right in the mid­dle of the ‘Haps­burg Group’ lob­by­ing effort when Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov were pay­ing Man­afort mil­lions of dol­lars to man­age the secret lob­by­ing cam­paign to get Ukraine allowed into the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment. Plus, Man­afort’s and Kil­imnik’s deal­ings with Deri­pas­ka large­ly end­ed by 2010 after Deri­pas­ka accused them of embez­zling his mon­ey.

    So that “biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago” com­ment from Kil­imnik strong­ly points towards ref­er­ence to Lyovochkin mean­ing that, once again, we find that one of the clues point­ing toward Man­afort engag­ing in col­lu­sion with the Krem­lin in fact points towards col­lu­sion with Lyovochkin and the pro-West­ern fac­tion of Ukraine’s oli­garchy. Plus, there’s been no retrac­tion of the New York Times cor­rec­tion that it was Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov, and not Deri­pas­ka, who received the polling data.

    So is the Deri­pas­ka flight to New York the sole basis for the new assess­ment that Deri­pas­ka got the data? Not quite. The change in the date of this Man­hat­tan meet­ing, from the “spring of 2016” to August 2, has raised ques­tions about the source for last mon­th’s arti­cle claim­ing Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov were the real recip­i­ents of hte polling data.

    But there’s anoth­er rea­son for new sus­pi­cions that Deri­pas­ka was the recip­i­ent of the polling data, although there are big prob­lems with that the­o­ry as we’ll see: Mar­cy Wheel­er recent­ly had a post on her emp­ty­wheel blog that dis­cussed the tran­scripts of a court hear­ing regard­ing the Mueller pros­e­cu­tion team’s charges that Man­afort broke his coop­er­a­tion agree­ment by con­tin­u­ing to lie to them released ear­li­er this month. And as Wheel­er not­ed, the redac­tions in the sec­tion of that tran­script where pros­e­cu­tors are talk­ing about the hand off of the polling data might hint at Deri­pas­ka being the real intend­ed recip­i­ent of the polling data, imply­ing the source for the New York Times report was feel­ing incor­rect infor­ma­tion to the reporters when they claimed Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov were the recip­i­ents. What is the basis for Wheel­er’s infer­ence that the redact­ed name of the polling data recip­i­ent was actu­al­ly “Deri­pas­ka”? The num­ber of char­ac­ters in the redact­ed name, which is 9. “Deri­pas­ka” has 9 let­ters, “Akhme­tov” 8 and “Lyovochkin” 10 let­ters. So when you com­bine that with the new rev­e­la­tion about the hand off of the data tak­ing place in Man­hat­tan hours before Deri­paska’s plane land­ed in New York City it’s tempt­ing to con­clude that, yes, Oleg Deri­pas­ka was the actu­al intend­ed recip­i­ent of that polling data.

    But that analy­sis is flawed in one key way: there are mul­ti­ple ways to spell Lyovochk­in’s last name and some of those vari­ants are 9‑letters (Lyovochkin, Lyvochkin, Lovochkin, Liovochkin). You can find plent of arti­cles spelling his name using any of those four vari­a­tions, although “Lyovochkin” and “Lovochkin” appear to be used the most. Crit­i­cal­ly, Lyovochkin him­self appears to use the 9‑letter ver­sion “Lovochkin”. We can con­clude that based on the fact that his per­son­al web­site is lovochkin.org. There is no lyovochkin.org or liovochkin.org or lyovochkin.org. Only lovochkin.org. In oth­er words, tech­ni­cal­ly we should always be refer­ring to him as Lovochkin, not Lyovochkin.

    So if we assume that US courts are using the spelling that Lovochkin him­self uses, the 9‑letter redact­ed name would con­tin­ue to be con­sis­tent with Lovochkin being one of the intend­ed recip­i­ents of that polling data. There’s still the ques­tions raised by Deri­paska’s plane coin­ci­dence and the fact that the source for last months arti­cle claimed the polling data took place in the spring of 2016, which is very dif­fer­ent from the August 2 date we now have. But there’s still been no retrac­tion by the New York Times of that cor­rec­tion that Lyovochkin and Akhme­tov, and not Deri­pas­ka, were the actu­al recip­i­ents of the polling data.

    Anoth­er cir­cum­stan­tial fac­tor point­ing in the direc­tion of Lovochkin being the recip­i­ent of the polling data is the fact that Man­afort and Kil­imnik had a long, close, and ongo­ing work­ing rela­tion­ship with Lovochkin at that point. Plus, as we learned from the ear­li­er report, Lovochkin still owed Man­afort mil­lions of dol­lars for ser­vices he had been pro­vid­ing. And as we’re going to see, there was a New York Times report from August 1, 2016, that raised the ques­tion of whether or not Man­afort was still a client of Lovochkin at that point even after becom­ing Trump’s cam­paign man­ag­er.

    So Lovochkin owed Man­afort mon­ey for past ser­vices and may have hand­ed Lovochkin polling data. Might the pur­pose of hand­ing off the polling data to Lovochkin have been for the pur­pose of hav­ing the Oppo­si­tion Bloc Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal machin­ery under Lovochk­in’s com­mand assist the 2016 Trump cam­paign as a form of pay­ing back Man­afort? Who knows, but the real­i­ty is that Lovochkin and Akhme­tov ran the polit­i­cal machine that Man­afort helped rebuild fol­low­ing the 2014 Maid­i­an protests and the col­lapse of the Par­ty of Regions. Did that Oppo­si­tion Bloc polit­i­cal machine include an online dirty tricks team that could have secret­ly been used by the Trump cam­paign? It’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty worth keep­ing in mind.

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind that one day after this August 2 meet­ing between Man­afort, Gates, and Kil­imnik in Man­hat­tan there was the August 3, 2016, Trump Tow­er meet­ing with Don­ald Trump Jr., Erik Prince, George Nad­er, and Joel Zamen in to secret­ly inform Trump that the crown princes of the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia (MBZ and MBS) want­ed to help Trump beat Hillary using Zamen’s Psy-Group to run a dig­i­tal dirty tricks cam­paign. So at almost the same time Man­afort was hand­ing polling data over to either Lovochkin or Deri­pas­ka, Trump Jr. was meet­ing about the UAE and Sau­di secret psy op sup­port. The Trump cam­paign clear­ly hit its for­eign col­lu­sion stride in ear­ly August.

    Anoth­er aspect of this August 2 meet­ing that pros­e­cu­tors appear to have fix­at­ed on regard­ing the poten­tial signs of Trump cam­paign col­lu­sion with the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment is the fact that Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik is involved and his his­to­ry with the GRU. The fact that Kil­imnik’s GRU ties appear to be large­ly lim­it­ed to going to a Sovi­et lan­guage school with GRU ties does­n’t appear to be fac­tored in. And the fact that Kil­imnik went on to work for the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute from 1994 — 2005 and then spent the sub­se­quent years work­ing with Paul Man­afort as the two tried to move Ukraine and the Par­ty of Regions into the West­’s orbit (work­ing close­ly with Lovochkin for much of this) also appears to be com­plete­ly ignored. So a high­ly sus­pect inter­pre­ta­tion of Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik appears to now be at the “heart” of the Mueller team’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump team Russ­ian col­lu­sion

    Final­ly, the Mueller teams report­ed­ly views the fact that Man­afort and Kil­imnik and Gates report­ed­ly dis­cussed a Ukrain­ian peace plan at the August 2 meet­ing as high­ly sus­pi­cious, espe­cial­ly because the plan would have involved the lift­ing of sanc­tions on Rus­sia. Which seems like a rather odd hangup since a peace plan would prob­a­bly involve the lift­ing of Russ­ian sanc­tions. For instance, there was the peace plan put for­ward by Ukrain­ian oli­garch Vik­tor Pinchuk in Decem­ber 2016 that angered much of the Ukrain­ian estab­lish­ment when called for painful com­pro­mis­es to find peace, includ­ing putting aside the issue of Crimea and Ukrain­ian mem­ber­ship in the EU and Nato. Recall how Pinchuk is a mem­ber of the Atlantic Coun­cil, a vocal advo­cate for a new Cold War with Rus­sia, and one of the financiers the ‘Haps­burg Group’ ini­tia­tive. Even Pinchuk would be seen as a Russ­ian spy based on his peace plan by the stan­dards of the Mueller team.

    Ok, let’s start off with this Wash­ing­ton Post report from a few days ago describ­ing how Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors now view that August 2 meet­ing and the poten­tial hand-off of the polling data to Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik as being at the “heart” of their ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    How Manafort’s 2016 meet­ing with a Russ­ian employ­ee at New York cig­ar club goes to ‘the heart’ of Mueller’s probe

    By Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Tom Ham­burg­er
    Feb­ru­ary 12, 2019 at 4:43 PM

    The 2016 nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tions had recent­ly con­clud­ed and the pres­i­den­tial race was hit­ting a new lev­el of inten­si­ty when Paul Man­afort, Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign chair­man, ducked into an unusu­al din­ner meet­ing at a pri­vate cig­ar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tow­er head­quar­ters in Man­hat­tan.

    Court records show that Man­afort was joined at some point by his cam­paign deputy, Rick Gates, at the ses­sion at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-pan­eled space with floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows offer­ing panoram­ic views of the city.

    The two Amer­i­cans met with an over­seas guest, a long­time employ­ee of their inter­na­tion­al con­sult­ing busi­ness who had flown to the Unit­ed States for the gath­er­ing: a Russ­ian polit­i­cal oper­a­tive named Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik.

    The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump cam­paign offi­cials and Kil­imnik, who pros­e­cu­tors allege has ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence, has emerged in recent days as a poten­tial ful­crum in spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion.

    It was at that meet­ing that pros­e­cu­tors believe Man­afort and Kil­imnik may have exchanged key infor­ma­tion rel­e­vant to Rus­sia and Trump’s pres­i­den­tial bid. The encounter goes “very much to the heart of what the spe­cial counsel’s office is inves­ti­gat­ing,” pros­e­cu­tor Andrew Weiss­mann told a fed­er­al judge in a sealed hear­ing last week.

    One sub­ject the men dis­cussed was a pro­posed res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict over Ukraine, an issue of great inter­est to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to a par­tial­ly redact­ed tran­script of the Feb. 4 hear­ing.

    Dur­ing the hear­ing, the judge also appeared to allude to anoth­er pos­si­ble inter­ac­tion at the Havana Room gath­er­ing: a hand­off by Man­afort of inter­nal polling data from Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to his Russ­ian asso­ciate.

    The new details pro­vide a rare hint at what Mueller is exam­in­ing in the final stretch of his near­ly 21-month-old inves­ti­ga­tion — and under­score his deep inter­est in the Grand Havana Room gath­er­ing, which end­ed with the three men leav­ing through sep­a­rate doors, as Judge Amy Berman Jack­son not­ed.

    Weiss­mann said in the hear­ing that one of the spe­cial counsel’s main tasks is to exam­ine con­tacts between Amer­i­cans and Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 race and deter­mine whether Trump asso­ciates con­spired with the Russ­ian-backed inter­fer­ence cam­paign.

    “That meet­ing — and what hap­pened at that meet­ing — is of sig­nif­i­cance to the spe­cial coun­sel,” he said point­ed­ly.

    The hear­ing was held in a closed court­room, and only a par­tial tran­script was released because the spe­cial coun­sel has argued that pub­lic dis­clo­sure of the issues dis­cussed could harm “ongo­ing law enforce­ment inves­ti­ga­tions.”

    ...

    In a 2017 state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Post, he denied any con­nec­tion to Russ­ian intel­li­gence. Kil­imnik said the Grand Havana Room meet­ing had noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics or the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Instead, he called the ses­sion a “pri­vate” vis­it, dur­ing which he and Man­afort gos­siped about “bills unpaid by our clients” and the polit­i­cal scene in Ukraine, where Man­afort had worked as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant for a decade before join­ing Trump’s cam­paign.

    ‘An unusu­al time’

    There have long been ques­tions about why Man­afort would break away from his duties run­ning Trump’s cam­paign to meet with his Russ­ian employ­ee, an encounter The Post first report­ed in 2017.

    ...

    Pros­e­cu­tors have alleged that among the false state­ments Man­afort made to inves­ti­ga­tors dur­ing his inter­views in recent months were key lies about the Aug. 2 meet­ing and oth­er inter­ac­tions with Kil­imnik.

    Manafort’s lawyers have acknowl­edged he gave incom­plete and some­times con­flict­ing infor­ma­tion dur­ing 12 inter­views and two ses­sions in front of a grand jury. But they said he did not intend to lie, but was instead con­fused and at times for­get­ful.

    Jack­son told the lawyers she will prob­a­bly rule Wednes­day on whether she believes that Man­afort lied to pros­e­cu­tors, a deci­sion that could impact his sen­tenc­ing in March.

    The Grand Havana Room meet­ing took place dur­ing a crit­i­cal moment in the 2016 race.

    Less than two weeks ear­li­er, the issue of Russia’s role in the cam­paign explod­ed into view when Wik­iLeaks pub­lished thou­sands of emails stolen from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date Hillary Clinton’s sup­port­ers imme­di­ate­ly fin­gered Rus­sia in the hack, a view lat­er embraced by U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Instead of con­demn­ing the Krem­lin, Trump mock­ing­ly asked Rus­sia to find emails Clin­ton had delet­ed while serv­ing as sec­re­tary of state. “Rus­sia, if you’re lis­ten­ing, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are miss­ing,” he said at a July 27 news con­fer­ence.

    Trump also made a series of pub­lic state­ments in July that appeared to echo Krem­lin talk­ing points on for­eign pol­i­cy. In an inter­view with the New York Times, he ques­tioned the U.S. com­mit­ment to defend­ing NATO part­ners from Russ­ian aggres­sion. Then he promised to look into rec­og­niz­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Crimea.

    “You know, the peo­ple of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Rus­sia than where they were,” he said in an ABC News inter­view July 31.

    In court last week, pros­e­cu­tors focused on Manafort’s choice to meet with Kil­imnik in per­son dur­ing this peri­od.

    “There is an in-per­son meet­ing at an unusu­al time for some­body who is the cam­paign chair­man to be spend­ing time and to be doing it in per­son,” Weiss­mann said.

    At the same time, Man­afort was strate­giz­ing about how to use his promi­nent role with the Trump cam­paign to halt a per­son­al finan­cial spi­ral, court records show. He owed mil­lions in prop­er­ty tax­es and for home improve­ments, insur­ance poli­cies, cred­it cards and oth­er debts, accord­ing to doc­u­ments intro­duced dur­ing his tri­al in Vir­ginia last sum­mer.

    Man­afort viewed Kil­imnik — his liai­son to high-lev­el Ukrain­ian politi­cians and Russ­ian bil­lion­aire Oleg Deri­pas­ka — as key to lever­ag­ing his unpaid role as Trump’s cam­paign chair­man, emails reviewed by The Post show. The two were in fre­quent con­tact dur­ing Manafort’s tenure at Trump’s cam­paign, accord­ing to court records.

    A Russ­ian army vet­er­an who had trained at a mil­i­tary lan­guage acad­e­my known as a feed­er school for the intel­li­gence ser­vices, Kil­imnik had worked for Man­afort since 2005, when he began serv­ing as a trans­la­tor for Manafort’s Ukraine oper­a­tion.

    In doc­u­ments filed in court last year, Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors wrote that Gates, Manafort’s deputy, said Kil­imnik told him he had for­mer­ly been an offi­cer in the GRU, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit accused of engi­neer­ing the 2016 elec­tion inter­fer­ence. Pros­e­cu­tors said the FBI has assessed that Kilimnik’s intel­li­gence ties con­tin­ued into 2016.

    Kil­imnik was also well known at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, and offi­cials there met with him fre­quent­ly to dis­cuss Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his work. Dur­ing last week’s hear­ing, pros­e­cu­tors acknowl­edged there was “no ques­tion” Kil­imnik had been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with State Depart­ment offi­cials.

    Man­afort told the Times in Feb­ru­ary 2017 he had nev­er “know­ing­ly” spo­ken to a Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cer. “It’s not like these peo­ple wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cer,’?” he added.

    ‘Tues­day would be best’

    In April 2016, Man­afort emailed Kil­imnik to ask if the “OVD oper­a­tion” had seen the pos­i­tive press Man­afort was receiv­ing for his Trump work, The Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. That was an appar­ent ref­er­ence to Deri­pas­ka, a one­time Man­afort busi­ness part­ner.

    “How do we use to get whole?” Man­afort wrote.

    Kil­imnik has told The Post he came to the Unit­ed States and met with Man­afort on May 7 to dis­cuss busi­ness issues. Then, on July 7, Man­afort emailed Kil­imnik, ask­ing him to inform Deri­pas­ka that if he need­ed “pri­vate brief­in­gs” about the cam­paign, “we can accom­mo­date.”

    A Deri­pas­ka spokes­woman has said he was nev­er offered nor received cam­paign brief­in­gs. Man­afort spokesman Jason Mal­oni also said no brief­in­gs for Deri­pas­ka took place, telling The Post in 2017 the email ex­changes reflect­ed an “innocu­ous” effort to col­lect past debts.

    On July 29, 2016, Kil­imnik wrote Man­afort a cryp­tic note.

    Kil­imnik told Man­afort he had met that day with the man who had giv­en Man­afort “the biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago.” The Post has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors believed Kilimnik’s ref­er­ence to “black caviar” was a code for mon­ey.

    Kil­imnik wrote that he and the man had talked for five hours and he had impor­tant mes­sages to relay to Man­afort as a result. Kil­imnik asked when Man­afort would be avail­able to meet.

    “Tues­day would be best,” Man­afort respond­ed. The fol­low­ing Tues­day was Aug. 2.

    When they saw each oth­er days lat­er at the Grand Havana Room, one top­ic the men dis­cussed was a peace pro­pos­al for Ukraine, an agen­da item Rus­sia was seek­ing as a key step to lift pun­ish­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, accord­ing to court records.

    Pros­e­cu­tors have accused Man­afort of lying to them about how fre­quent­ly he and Kil­imnik dis­cussed the mat­ter — ini­tial­ly telling inves­ti­ga­tors he would not “coun­te­nance” the idea because he viewed it as a “back­door” of some kind. Despite Manafort’s claim of dis­in­ter­est, pros­e­cu­tors said he and Kil­imnik con­tin­ued to pur­sue the sub­ject in sev­er­al sub­se­quent meet­ings, includ­ing one in Jan­u­ary 2017 when the Russ­ian was in Wash­ing­ton for Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

    In court, Manafort’s lawyers con­tend­ed that he was can­did about the dis­cus­sions when remind­ed by pros­e­cu­tors and denied that his account has been incon­sis­tent.

    ‘An extreme­ly sen­si­tive issue’

    There are also indi­ca­tions in the tran­script of last week’s hear­ing that pros­e­cu­tors have explored whether it was at the Man­hat­tan cig­ar bar that Man­afort shared polling data relat­ed to the 2016 White House race with Kil­imnik — anoth­er top­ic about which Man­afort lied, they allege.

    The shar­ing of that data was first dis­closed, appar­ent­ly inad­ver­tent­ly, in a court fil­ing by Manafort’s attor­neys last month. At the time, it was unclear when Man­afort passed along the infor­ma­tion to his Russ­ian employ­ee — as well as the sub­stance of the mate­r­i­al.

    Dur­ing last week’s hear­ing, the judge devot­ed a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of time to dis­cussing what appeared to be the polling data — some­thing she not­ed Man­afort ini­tial­ly said “just was pub­lic infor­ma­tion.”

    Weiss­mann said Man­afort had a motive to lie about shar­ing mate­r­i­al with Kil­imnik as he was run­ning Trump’s cam­paign. “It’s obvi­ous­ly an extreme­ly sen­si­tive issue,” the pros­e­cu­tor said, adding, “We can see what it is that he would be wor­ried about.”

    What exact­ly might have been shared with Kil­imnik at the Grand Havana Room appears to be a mat­ter of dis­pute.

    On the day of the gath­er­ing, Man­afort sent Gates an email ask­ing him to print mate­r­i­al for a meet­ing, accord­ing to court records. The sub­stance of the mate­r­i­al has not been pub­licly dis­closed.

    An attor­ney for Gates declined to com­ment.

    Jack­son indi­cat­ed in the hear­ing that Gates has tes­ti­fied that the mate­r­i­al was shared at the Grand Havana Room gath­er­ing. “Didn’t he say it hap­pened at the meet­ing?” she asked.

    “I don’t believe so,” respond­ed Richard W. West­ling, an attor­ney for Man­afort.

    West­ling not­ed that the email Gates print­ed did not specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­ence Kil­imnik, imply­ing the mate­r­i­al may not have been for the Russ­ian. And he argued that Gates has offered incon­sis­tent accounts and should not be believed.

    Manafort’s defense team also sug­gest­ed that the infor­ma­tion was too detailed to be help­ful and would have been use­less to Kil­imnik. “It frankly, to me, is gib­ber­ish ... It’s not eas­i­ly under­stand­able,” West­ling said.

    Jack­son appeared skep­ti­cal. “That’s what makes it sig­nif­i­cant and unusu­al,” the judge said.

    As a long­time aide to Man­afort, Kil­imnik had expe­ri­ence using pub­lic sur­veys. In a Feb­ru­ary 2017 inter­view, Kil­imnik described to Radio Free Europe the key role polling has played in Manafort’s polit­i­cal con­sult­ing.

    “I’ve seen him work in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, and he real­ly just does, you know, takes very seri­ous­ly his polling and, you know, he can stand, you know, two weeks going through the data, and he’ll come with the best strat­e­gy you can ever have, and he’ll put it on the table of the can­di­date,” Kil­imnik said.

    It is unclear how long Kil­imnik remained in the Unit­ed States after the Grand Havana Room meet­ing.

    Flight records show that a pri­vate plane belong­ing to Deri­pas­ka land­ed at Newark Lib­er­ty Inter­na­tion­al Air­port short­ly after mid­night on Aug. 3, just hours after Kil­imnik and Man­afort met. The plane spent only a few hours on the ground before tak­ing off again and return­ing to Moscow.

    Laris­sa Belyae­va, a spokes­woman for Deri­pas­ka, said the plane car­ried only mem­bers of his fam­i­ly.

    “We can con­firm that Mr. Deri­pas­ka has nev­er lent his pri­vate jet to Mr. Kil­imnik nor has ever had any inter­ac­tion with him,” she said.

    ...

    ———–

    “How Manafort’s 2016 meet­ing with a Russ­ian employ­ee at New York cig­ar club goes to ‘the heart’ of Mueller’s probe” by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Tom Ham­burg­er; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/12/2019

    “It was at that meet­ing that pros­e­cu­tors believe Man­afort and Kil­imnik may have exchanged key infor­ma­tion rel­e­vant to Rus­sia and Trump’s pres­i­den­tial bid. The encounter goes “very much to the heart of what the spe­cial counsel’s office is inves­ti­gat­ing,” pros­e­cu­tor Andrew Weiss­mann told a fed­er­al judge in a sealed hear­ing last week.

    It’s the “heart” of the inves­ti­ga­tion at this point. An August 2 meet­ing in Man­hat­tan between Man­afort, Gates, and Kil­imnik, with the tan­ta­liz­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty of a hand off of polling data:

    ...
    The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump cam­paign offi­cials and Kil­imnik, who pros­e­cu­tors allege has ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence, has emerged in recent days as a poten­tial ful­crum in spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion.

    ...

    One sub­ject the men dis­cussed was a pro­posed res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict over Ukraine, an issue of great inter­est to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to a par­tial­ly redact­ed tran­script of the Feb. 4 hear­ing.

    Dur­ing the hear­ing, the judge also appeared to allude to anoth­er pos­si­ble inter­ac­tion at the Havana Room gath­er­ing: a hand­off by Man­afort of inter­nal polling data from Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to his Russ­ian asso­ciate.

    The new details pro­vide a rare hint at what Mueller is exam­in­ing in the final stretch of his near­ly 21-month-old inves­ti­ga­tion — and under­score his deep inter­est in the Grand Havana Room gath­er­ing, which end­ed with the three men leav­ing through sep­a­rate doors, as Judge Amy Berman Jack­son not­ed.

    Weiss­mann said in the hear­ing that one of the spe­cial counsel’s main tasks is to exam­ine con­tacts between Amer­i­cans and Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 race and deter­mine whether Trump asso­ciates con­spired with the Russ­ian-backed inter­fer­ence cam­paign.

    “That meet­ing — and what hap­pened at that meet­ing — is of sig­nif­i­cance to the spe­cial coun­sel,” he said point­ed­ly.
    ...

    Many have not­ed that Trump also made some com­ments regard­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine around that time that are viewed as pro-Krem­lin. Like his com­ments that he’s heard that many of the peo­ple of Crimea would pre­fer the coun­try be part of Rus­sia over Ukraine. And while it may have been high­ly polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect for Trump to say that, it actu­al­ly appears be true based on polling and should­n’t real­ly be a sur­prise giv­en the demo­graph­ics of Crimea and its his­to­ry. That does­n’t excuse the annex­a­tion of Crimea from an inter­na­tion­al law per­spec­tive but it is a notable com­pli­ca­tion in any sort of peace plan when it comes to the fate of Crimea. And as we’ll see below, even viru­ent­ly anti-Russ­ian Ukrain­ian oli­garchs like Vik­tor Pinchuk were push­ing peace plans that did­n’t involve the return of Crimea:

    ...
    Trump also made a series of pub­lic state­ments in July that appeared to echo Krem­lin talk­ing points on for­eign pol­i­cy. In an inter­view with the New York Times, he ques­tioned the U.S. com­mit­ment to defend­ing NATO part­ners from Russ­ian aggres­sion. Then he promised to look into rec­og­niz­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Crimea.

    “You know, the peo­ple of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Rus­sia than where they were,” he said in an ABC News inter­view July 31.
    ...

    And note how Man­afort’s deci­sion to meet­ing with Kil­imnik is viewed as high­ly sus­pect by pros­e­cu­tors under the assump­tion that Kil­imnik was a GRU spy, which seems to ignore the real­i­ty that Man­afort were long-time part­ners and were report­ed­ly in fre­quent con­tact through­out Man­afort’s time work­ing on the Trump cam­paign:

    ...
    In court last week, pros­e­cu­tors focused on Manafort’s choice to meet with Kil­imnik in per­son dur­ing this peri­od.

    ...

    Man­afort viewed Kil­imnik — his liai­son to high-lev­el Ukrain­ian politi­cians and Russ­ian bil­lion­aire Oleg Deri­pas­ka — as key to lever­ag­ing his unpaid role as Trump’s cam­paign chair­man, emails reviewed by The Post show. The two were in fre­quent con­tact dur­ing Manafort’s tenure at Trump’s cam­paign, accord­ing to court records.
    ...

    Also note how there’s no men­tion by pros­e­cu­tors of Kil­imnik’s decade of work at the DC-based Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute before team­ing up with Man­afort. And even the US Embassy in Kiev admit­ted that Kil­imnik met with offi­cials there fre­quent­ly to dis­cuss Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics:

    ...
    A Russ­ian army vet­er­an who had trained at a mil­i­tary lan­guage acad­e­my known as a feed­er school for the intel­li­gence ser­vices, Kil­imnik had worked for Man­afort since 2005, when he began serv­ing as a trans­la­tor for Manafort’s Ukraine oper­a­tion.

    In doc­u­ments filed in court last year, Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors wrote that Gates, Manafort’s deputy, said Kil­imnik told him he had for­mer­ly been an offi­cer in the GRU, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit accused of engi­neer­ing the 2016 elec­tion inter­fer­ence. Pros­e­cu­tors said the FBI has assessed that Kilimnik’s intel­li­gence ties con­tin­ued into 2016.

    Kil­imnik was also well known at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, and offi­cials there met with him fre­quent­ly to dis­cuss Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his work. Dur­ing last week’s hear­ing, pros­e­cu­tors acknowl­edged there was “no ques­tion” Kil­imnik had been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with State Depart­ment offi­cials.
    ...

    Regard­ing the sus­pi­cion about Deri­pas­ka, we do have to acknowl­edge the April 2016 email Man­afort sent to Kil­imnik ask­ing of the “OVD oper­a­tion” (Deri­pas­ka) had seen the pos­i­tive press he was get­ting and ask­ing “how do we use to get whole?”, which is pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to the ongo­ing dis­pute Deri­pas­ka had with Man­afort and Kil­imnik going back to their work for him in 2008–2010. Giv­en that Lovochkin and Ahk­me­tov report­ed­ly owned Man­afort mil­lions in 2016, you have to won­der if have those two pay off Deri­pas­ka direct­ly (they pay back Man­afort by pay­ing Deri­pas­ka) was part of the plan to “get whole” :

    ...
    ‘Tues­day would be best’

    In April 2016, Man­afort emailed Kil­imnik to ask if the “OVD oper­a­tion” had seen the pos­i­tive press Man­afort was receiv­ing for his Trump work, The Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. That was an appar­ent ref­er­ence to Deri­pas­ka, a one­time Man­afort busi­ness part­ner.

    “How do we use to get whole?” Man­afort wrote.

    Kil­imnik has told The Post he came to the Unit­ed States and met with Man­afort on May 7 to dis­cuss busi­ness issues. Then, on July 7, Man­afort emailed Kil­imnik, ask­ing him to inform Deri­pas­ka that if he need­ed “pri­vate brief­in­gs” about the cam­paign, “we can accom­mo­date.”

    A Deri­pas­ka spokes­woman has said he was nev­er offered nor received cam­paign brief­in­gs. Man­afort spokesman Jason Mal­oni also said no brief­in­gs for Deri­pas­ka took place, telling The Post in 2017 the email ex­changes reflect­ed an “innocu­ous” effort to col­lect past debts.
    ...

    And then there’s the July 29, 2016 email Kil­imnik sent to Man­afort that trig­gered the August 2 meet­ing. Crit­i­cal­ly, Kil­imnik refers to the the man who had giv­en Man­afort “the biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago,” which would have been right in the mid­dle of the ‘Haps­burg Group’ lob­by­ing cam­paign Lovochkin, Pinchuk, and oth­er pro-West­ern Ukrain­ian oli­garchs were secret­ly financ­ing. So Kil­imnik appar­ent­ly had a 5 hour meet­ing with Lovochkin and then con­tact­ed Man­afort about the need to relay the mes­sages:

    ...
    On July 29, 2016, Kil­imnik wrote Man­afort a cryp­tic note.

    Kil­imnik told Man­afort he had met that day with the man who had giv­en Man­afort “the biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago.” The Post has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors believed Kilimnik’s ref­er­ence to “black caviar” was a code for mon­ey.

    Kil­imnik wrote that he and the man had talked for five hours and he had impor­tant mes­sages to relay to Man­afort as a result. Kil­imnik asked when Man­afort would be avail­able to meet.

    “Tues­day would be best,” Man­afort respond­ed. The fol­low­ing Tues­day was Aug. 2.
    ...

    The August 2 meet­ing hap­pens, and it involves the dis­cus­sion of a peace plan. A peace plan that seems like­ly to have been Lovochk­in’s design giv­en the cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence. The plan involved the lift­ing of Russ­ian sanc­tions, which is seen as high­ly sus­pect despite the fact that any peace plan would almost cer­tain­ly involve the lift­ing of sanc­tions. It’s as if main­tain­ing those sanc­tions at all costs is seen as a nation­al secu­ri­ty issue for the US which is some­what bizarre:

    ...
    When they saw each oth­er days lat­er at the Grand Havana Room, one top­ic the men dis­cussed was a peace pro­pos­al for Ukraine, an agen­da item Rus­sia was seek­ing as a key step to lift pun­ish­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, accord­ing to court records.

    Pros­e­cu­tors have accused Man­afort of lying to them about how fre­quent­ly he and Kil­imnik dis­cussed the mat­ter — ini­tial­ly telling inves­ti­ga­tors he would not “coun­te­nance” the idea because he viewed it as a “back­door” of some kind. Despite Manafort’s claim of dis­in­ter­est, pros­e­cu­tors said he and Kil­imnik con­tin­ued to pur­sue the sub­ject in sev­er­al sub­se­quent meet­ings, includ­ing one in Jan­u­ary 2017 when the Russ­ian was in Wash­ing­ton for Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

    In court, Manafort’s lawyers con­tend­ed that he was can­did about the dis­cus­sions when remind­ed by pros­e­cu­tors and denied that his account has been incon­sis­tent.
    ...

    Impor­tant­ly, as we’re going to see below, the par­tic­u­lar peace plan dis­cussed by Kil­imnik and Man­afort does not appear to be the same peace plan being pushed by Felix Sater and Andrei Arte­menko.

    Then there’s the hand­off of the polling data. One of the new details we’re learn­ing is that the non-pub­lic polling data hand­ed over was appar­ent­ly much more detailed than pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged, mak­ing it the kind of data that could be poten­tial­ly use­ful for use in manip­u­lat­ing the 2016 elec­tion:

    ...
    ‘An extreme­ly sen­si­tive issue’

    There are also indi­ca­tions in the tran­script of last week’s hear­ing that pros­e­cu­tors have explored whether it was at the Man­hat­tan cig­ar bar that Man­afort shared polling data relat­ed to the 2016 White House race with Kil­imnik — anoth­er top­ic about which Man­afort lied, they allege.

    The shar­ing of that data was first dis­closed, appar­ent­ly inad­ver­tent­ly, in a court fil­ing by Manafort’s attor­neys last month. At the time, it was unclear when Man­afort passed along the infor­ma­tion to his Russ­ian employ­ee — as well as the sub­stance of the mate­r­i­al.

    Dur­ing last week’s hear­ing, the judge devot­ed a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of time to dis­cussing what appeared to be the polling data — some­thing she not­ed Man­afort ini­tial­ly said “just was pub­lic infor­ma­tion.”

    Weiss­mann said Man­afort had a motive to lie about shar­ing mate­r­i­al with Kil­imnik as he was run­ning Trump’s cam­paign. “It’s obvi­ous­ly an extreme­ly sen­si­tive issue,” the pros­e­cu­tor said, adding, “We can see what it is that he would be wor­ried about.”

    ...

    Manafort’s defense team also sug­gest­ed that the infor­ma­tion was too detailed to be help­ful and would have been use­less to Kil­imnik. “It frankly, to me, is gib­ber­ish ... It’s not eas­i­ly under­stand­able,” West­ling said.

    Jack­son appeared skep­ti­cal. “That’s what makes it sig­nif­i­cant and unusu­al,” the judge said.
    ...

    Final­ly, the fact that Oleg Deri­paska’s plane did in fact arrive at Newark Lib­er­ty Inter­na­tion­al Air­port short­ly after mid­night on August 3 for a few hours does remain a high­ly sus­pi­cious event:

    ...
    It is unclear how long Kil­imnik remained in the Unit­ed States after the Grand Havana Room meet­ing.

    Flight records show that a pri­vate plane belong­ing to Deri­pas­ka land­ed at Newark Lib­er­ty Inter­na­tion­al Air­port short­ly after mid­night on Aug. 3, just hours after Kil­imnik and Man­afort met. The plane spent only a few hours on the ground before tak­ing off again and return­ing to Moscow.

    Laris­sa Belyae­va, a spokes­woman for Deri­pas­ka, said the plane car­ried only mem­bers of his fam­i­ly.

    “We can con­firm that Mr. Deri­pas­ka has nev­er lent his pri­vate jet to Mr. Kil­imnik nor has ever had any inter­ac­tion with him,” she said.
    ...

    This has led to the under­stand­able spec­u­la­tion that Kil­imnik returned to Moscow on that plane. And Deri­paska’s com­plete denials don’t exact­ly ease those sus­pi­cions. Because as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, not only does Deri­pas­ka claim that Kil­imnik was not on the plane back to Moscow, he claims that he’s nev­er actu­al­ly met Kil­imnik. And that seems rather hard to believe giv­en the fact that he was a client of Man­afort of Kil­imnik and Kil­imnik was appar­ent Man­afort’s con­tact for Deri­pas­ka.

    Although as the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, Kil­imnik’s emails do indi­cate that his out­reach to Deri­pas­ka gen­er­al­ly ran through a Deri­pas­ka aide named “Vic­tor” – or, as Kil­imnik referred to him occa­sion­al­ly, “V.” This is a ref­er­ence to Vic­tor Boyarkin. So it’s pos­si­ble that the Manafort/Kilimnik past rela­tion­ship with Deri­pas­ka was always done through Vic­tor Boyarkin and Deri­pas­ka nev­er met Kil­imnik in per­son. But it’s a denial that’s beside the point when it comes to whether or not Deri­pas­ka was involved in that August 2 meet­ing giv­en the old busi­ness rela­tion­ship between Man­afort, Kil­imnik, and Deri­pas­ka. It’s one of the com­pli­ca­tions with this whole mess: all of the play­ers lack cred­i­bil­i­ty so their denials are large­ly meang­in­g­less. That does­n’t mean that we can con­clude that Kil­imnik was on that plane, but Deri­paska’s over-the-top denial of ever meet­ing Kil­imnik ever does­n’t lend cred­i­bil­i­ty to his denial about the plane trip:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    A Russ­ian oli­garch offers a sig­nif­i­cant denial in the Mueller probe

    Oleg Deri­pas­ka denies he ever inter­act­ed with Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik, Paul Manafort’s asso­ciate in Ukraine. Some have sug­gest­ed Kil­imnik might have met with the Putin ally and relayed his mes­sages to Man­afort.

    By Aaron Blake
    Feb­ru­ary 12, 2019 at 5:55 PM

    The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Tom Ham­burg­er are out with a must-read recon­struc­tion of the Aug. 2, 2016, meet­ing between Paul Man­afort and his asso­ciate in Ukraine, Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik. This is the increas­ing­ly intrigu­ing meet­ing that spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III has zeroed in on in his Rus­sia col­lu­sion probe, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

    And at the end, they include a new and note­wor­thy denial from the Oleg Deri­pas­ka, the Russ­ian oli­garch whose ties to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Man­afort have put him at the cen­ter of it all.

    “We can con­firm that Mr. Deri­pas­ka has nev­er lent his pri­vate jet to Mr. Kil­imnik, nor has ever had any inter­ac­tion with him,” Deri­pas­ka spokes­woman Laris­sa Belyae­va said.

    Some media reports have sug­gest­ed that Deri­pas­ka might have lent his per­son­al jet to Kil­imnik around the time of the Aug. 2 meet­ing in New York. Flight records show it land­ed in Newark short­ly after mid­night on Aug. 3 and took off a few hours lat­er. Deripaska’s team has denied that part before.

    What’s new here, though, is the sec­ond part of the denial: Deri­pas­ka say­ing he’s nev­er even spo­ken with Kil­imnik.

    That’s sig­nif­i­cant because Kil­imnik was report­ed to have been a liai­son between Man­afort and Deri­pas­ka. There have even been sug­ges­tions that Kil­imnik might have met with Deri­pas­ka short­ly before his meet­ing with Man­afort on Aug. 2.

    ...

    Deri­pas­ka, though, has now com­plete­ly denied that he ever met with Kil­imnik. It’s pos­si­ble that he’s lying, but a five-hour meet­ing between Kil­imnik and a huge Russ­ian tycoon is poten­tial­ly some­thing Mueller’s team could find out about – espe­cial­ly on a spe­cif­ic date.

    Let’s assume for a moment that this denial is accu­rate — that Kil­imnik wasn’t refer­ring in his July 29 email to meet­ing with Deri­pas­ka, but rather some­one else. That actu­al­ly makes some log­i­cal sense. At oth­er points in his emails, Kil­imnik ref­er­ences how his out­reach to Deri­pas­ka gen­er­al­ly ran through an aide named “Vic­tor” – or, as Kil­imnik referred to him occa­sion­al­ly, “V.” (Time mag­a­zine has iden­ti­fied this aide as Vic­tor Boyarkin, who, like Kil­imnik, has alleged ties to the Russ­ian intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.)

    ...

    ———-

    “A Russ­ian oli­garch offers a sig­nif­i­cant denial in the Mueller probe” by Aaron Blake; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/12/2019

    Some media reports have sug­gest­ed that Deri­pas­ka might have lent his per­son­al jet to Kil­imnik around the time of the Aug. 2 meet­ing in New York. Flight records show it land­ed in Newark short­ly after mid­night on Aug. 3 and took off a few hours lat­er. Deripaska’s team has denied that part before.”

    It’s undoubt­ed­ly a tempt­ing area of spec­u­la­tion: why did Deri­paska’s plane show up short­ly after this meet­ing? Did Kil­imnik fly back on that plane to Moscow? If so, that would have been an incred­i­ble risk to take from an oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty stand­point if Kil­imnik real­ly was in the mid­dle of a Trump cam­paign-Krem­lin col­lu­sion effort giv­en all the var­i­ous ways this trip could have been dis­cov­ered. After all, there are flight records.

    But what’s most remark­able is Deri­paska’s denial that he’s ever spo­ken with Kil­imnik. Although, as the arti­cle notes, Kil­imnik’s emails have ref­er­ences to how his out­reach to Deri­pas­ka went through a Deri­pas­ka aide, Vic­tor Boyarkin:

    ...
    What’s new here, though, is the sec­ond part of the denial: Deri­pas­ka say­ing he’s nev­er even spo­ken with Kil­imnik.

    That’s sig­nif­i­cant because Kil­imnik was report­ed to have been a liai­son between Man­afort and Deri­pas­ka. There have even been sug­ges­tions that Kil­imnik might have met with Deri­pas­ka short­ly before his meet­ing with Man­afort on Aug. 2.

    ...

    Let’s assume for a moment that this denial is accu­rate — that Kil­imnik wasn’t refer­ring in his July 29 email to meet­ing with Deri­pas­ka, but rather some­one else. That actu­al­ly makes some log­i­cal sense. At oth­er points in his emails, Kil­imnik ref­er­ences how his out­reach to Deri­pas­ka gen­er­al­ly ran through an aide named “Vic­tor” – or, as Kil­imnik referred to him occa­sion­al­ly, “V.” (Time mag­a­zine has iden­ti­fied this aide as Vic­tor Boyarkin, who, like Kil­imnik, has alleged ties to the Russ­ian intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.)
    ...

    So that over-the-top denial by Deri­pas­ka just adds to the mys­tery.

    But, again, we can’t ignore the facts that when Kil­imnik emailed Man­afort on July 29 to set up that meet­ing, say­ing he had spent five hours speak­ing “with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar sev­er­al years ago” is almost cer­tain­ly a ref­er­ence to some­one pay­ing him in 2013 for his work on the Haps­burg Group lob­by­ing effort that that strong­ly points towards Sergei Lovochkin and Rinat Akhme­tov, as the New York Times report­ed last month. The Deri­pas­ka flight adds to the intrigue but it does­n’t negate all of those facts that Lovochkin and Ackhme­tov appear to be the indi­vid­u­als who spoke with Kilminik and prompt­ed that August 2 meet­ing.

    Next, here’s a July 31, 2016, New York Times arti­cle (pub­lished August 1, 2016) about Man­afort’s his­to­ry of work in Ukraine. And as it notes at the end, the ques­tion of whether or not Man­afort and Kil­imnik were still work­ing for Sergei Lovochkin at that point in time remained an open ques­tion:

    The New York Times

    How Paul Man­afort Wield­ed Pow­er in Ukraine Before Advis­ing Don­ald Trump
    Paul Man­afort, Don­ald J. Trump’s cam­paign chair­man, last month in Cleve­land before the

    By Steven Lee Myers and Andrew E. Kramer
    July 31, 2016

    WASHINGTON — Few polit­i­cal con­sul­tants have had a client fail quite as spec­tac­u­lar­ly as Paul Manafort’s did in Ukraine in the win­ter of 2014.

    ...

    It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine end­ed with his work with Mr. Trump’s cam­paign. A com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retain­er or how much he had been paid.

    Mr. Man­afort has not reg­is­tered as a lob­by­ist rep­re­sent­ing Ukraine, which would require dis­clos­ing his earn­ings, though at least one com­pa­ny he sub­con­tract­ed, the pub­lic rela­tions firm Edel­man, did in 2008. It received a retain­er of $35,000 a month to pro­mote Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts as prime min­is­ter “toward mak­ing Ukraine a more demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try.”

    ———-

    “How Paul Man­afort Wield­ed Pow­er in Ukraine Before Advis­ing Don­ald Trump” by Steven Lee Myers and Andrew E. Kramer; The New York Times; 07/31/2016

    It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine end­ed with his work with Mr. Trump’s cam­paign. A com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retain­er or how much he had been paid.”

    Yep, as of August of 2016, it remained unclear if Man­afort was­n’t still work­ing for Sergei Lovochkin. So when Kil­imnik tells Man­afort on July 29 that he had a five hour meet­ing with the “black caviar” man, he may have been refer­ring to some­one Man­afort and Kil­imnik were still doing work for.

    Ok, now regard­ing the fix­a­tion on the lift­ing of sanc­tions as part of a peace plan that inves­ti­ga­tors appear to view as high­ly sus­pi­cious, here’s an arti­cle from Feb­ru­ary of 2017, in the wake of the ini­tial reports on the Sater/Artkemenko peace plan, that describe the var­i­ous peace plans that had been talked about in recent months. One of those plans was Kil­imnik’s plan, which appeared to focus on rein­cor­po­rat­ing the sep­a­ratist regions into Ukraine by hav­ing the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and oth­er oppo­si­tion par­ties lead a dia­logue. It also men­tioned the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Vik­tor Yanukovych play­ing a role. And while such a move is wide­ly viewed as sus­pect in the West, the fact that Yanukovych appeared to be intent on mov­ing Ukraine into the West­’s orbit (which is the Haps­burg Group lob­by­ing effort was all about) can’t be ignored. If the EU had sim­ply not made a hor­ri­ble offer to Ukraine that large­ly involved mass aus­ter­i­ty it would prob­a­bly would already have Ukraine in the trade agree­ment right now. Plus, the sep­a­ratist regions broke away after what they per­ceived to be a coup against a legit­i­mate­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent. So the idea of bring­ing Yanukovych back to lead the peace talks actu­al­ly makes a great deal of sense if vol­un­tar­i­ly rein­cor­pat­ing the sep­a­ratist regions real­ly is the goal.

    And then there’s Vik­tor Pinchuk’s plan from Decem­ber of 2016. Pinchuk’s plan involved explic­it­ly putting aside the ques­tion of the fate of Crimea and the incre­men­tal lift­ing of sanc­tions on Rus­sia in order to achieve peace. And this was the plan from an Atlantic Coun­cil and one of Ukraine’s biggest voic­es for a New Cold war against Rus­sia. So as inves­ti­ga­tors vix­ate on peace plans and talks of lift­ing sanc­tions as a sign of Krem­lin col­lu­sion, keep in mind Pinchuk’s peace plan:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    Every­one Seems To Have A Peace Plan For Ukraine

    By Christo­pher Miller
    Feb­ru­ary 23, 2017 17:52 GMT

    KYIV — It seems that peace plans for Ukraine are every­where these days.

    Amid a recent surge in vio­lence in east­ern Ukraine and yet anoth­er failed cease-fire in the near­ly 3‑year-old con­flict are a wave of new pro­pos­als to bring peace to the cri­sis-strick­en nation — and from some unex­pect­ed places.

    ...

    Each new plan — made by a mix of known politi­cians and shad­owy oper­a­tives — has sparked fierce debate in Kyiv polit­i­cal cir­cles and among the Ukrain­ian pub­lic.

    And the sus­pect­ed moti­va­tions behind the peace offer­ings run the gamut, from per­son­al ambi­tion to a Krem­lin plot to destroy Ukraine.

    Bal­azs Jara­bik, a non­res­i­dent schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, told RFE/RL that he thinks the main rea­son for the peace plans seems to be to weak­en Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, who remains in lim­bo between the increas­ing­ly dis­par­aged Min­sk agree­ments and “vic­to­ry.”

    “Min­sk is unpop­u­lar, peace is not. Peo­ple are fed up with the war and the cor­rup­tion [among gov­ern­ment offi­cials],” Jara­bik said.

    ...

    The Kil­imnik Plan

    The most recent of the new peace plans came from Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik, the one-time assis­tant in Kyiv to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Man­afort.

    Call­ing his plan the Mar­i­upol Plan after the south­east­ern Ukrain­ian city that is the largest in the Donet­sk region con­trolled by the gov­ern­ment and which sits smack against the front line — Kil­imnik envis­ages it replac­ing the cur­rent Min­sk agree­ments and Nor­mandy for­mat talks between Ukraine, Rus­sia, Ger­many, and France.

    Despite his con­nec­tion to Man­afort, who lived in Ukraine and worked as an advis­er to Yanukovych for years, Kil­imnik empha­sized that the Amer­i­can strate­gist has had no part in this plan, which he says remains flu­id.

    The plan, he said, was raised by “many peo­ple who are will­ing to start [a] dia­logue” between east­ern Ukraine and the rest of the coun­try “and this should be one of the roles of the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and oth­er oppo­si­tion par­ties, which under­stand the neces­si­ty of bring­ing Don­bas back into Ukraine.” The Oppo­si­tion Bloc is the revamped, pro-Moscow polit­i­cal fac­tion once called the Par­ty of Regions and led by Yanukovych..

    Right now, there is no dia­logue between Ukraine and the lead­ers of the sep­a­ratist-held areas, Alek­san­dr Zakharchenko and Ihor Plot­nit­sky. Kyiv con­sid­ers them “ter­ror­ists” and Kil­imnik said they “have blood on their hands, [so] it will be very dif­fi­cult for Poroshenko and oth­ers to nego­ti­ate with them.”

    How­ev­er, “in the­o­ry, a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing Don­bas, such as Yanukovych or some­one else who has at least not killed peo­ple and can stop the war and fix the local econ­o­my, might be an option,” Kil­imnik explained.

    Many Ukraini­ans, though, believe the for­mer president’s hands are drip­ping with blood as they hold him respon­si­ble for the deaths of more than 100 pro­test­ers shot by riot police dur­ing the Euro­maid­an protests in Kyiv in 2014. Ukraine has charged Yanukovych with trea­son — an alle­ga­tion he denies.

    Peace in Ukraine “is up for Ukraini­ans to fig­ure out, and the only way to pro­ceed is a nation­al con­sen­sus and dia­logue,” Kil­imnik said.

    The Yanukovych Plan

    Yanukovych, in an inter­view with a group of West­ern reporters on Feb­ru­ary 21, shared his own 10-page pro­pos­al, which he said he has sent to Trump and the lead­ers of Rus­sia, Ger­many, France, and Poland, accord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal and Der Spiegel.

    Der Spiegel said the plan has six points lead­ing to a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict.

    “Four relate to the ‘inves­ti­ga­tion into the crimes com­mit­ted on the Maid­an in Feb­ru­ary 2014,’ for which he pro­pos­es a spe­cial com­mis­sion to be estab­lished by the Coun­cil of Europe,” the Ger­man news out­let report­ed.

    Yanukovych also called for the sep­a­ratist lead­ers in Donet­sk and Luhan­sk to be includ­ed in nego­ti­a­tions with Ukrain­ian offi­cials. The sixth point out­lines a plan for a ref­er­en­dum to be held on the sta­tus of the Don­bas if Kyiv doesn’t ful­fill its part of the Min­sk deal.

    The Arte­menko Plan

    Anoth­er peace plan has caused a scan­dal in Wash­ing­ton and Kyiv.

    This one, pro­posed by Ukrain­ian law­mak­er Andriy Arte­menko, is the most detailed and is believed to have land­ed on the desk of Michael Fly­nn, who resigned as U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er on Feb­ru­ary 13 after alleged mis­lead­ing state­ments about con­ver­sa­tions with the Russ­ian ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton in Decem­ber.

    ...

    The Taru­ta Plan

    Ser­hiy Taru­ta, the Ukrain­ian bil­lion­aire indus­tri­al­ist and for­mer gov­er­nor of Donet­sk, pro­posed at the end of Jan­u­ary his “three prin­ci­ples” plan to restore legit­i­ma­cy, secu­ri­ty, and trust.

    It calls for rein­stat­ing the last legit­i­mate­ly elect­ed Don­bas offi­cials from 2010 and appeal­ing to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to rec­og­nize them. A UN peace­keep­ing con­tin­gent would keep the region secure while those offi­cials work to rein­te­grate it with greater Ukraine.

    ...

    The Pinchuk Plan

    Bil­lion­aire oli­garch Vik­tor Pinchuk caused a stir in Kyiv when he pro­posed a plan in an op-ed in The Wall Street Jour­nal in late Decem­ber.

    The arti­cle was head­lined: Ukraine Must Make Painful Com­pro­mis­es For Peace With Rus­sia, and the plan laid out in the paper sug­gest­ed that Kyiv set aside the issue of Crimea and hopes of Euro­pean Union and per­haps even NATO mem­ber­ship in exchange for peace in the Don­bas.

    “We should also make clear that we are ready to accept an incre­men­tal roll­back of sanc­tions on Rus­sia as we move toward a solu­tion for a free, unit­ed, peace­ful, and secure Ukraine,” Pinchuk wrote. “The Ukrain­ian lives that will be saved are worth the painful com­pro­mis­es I have pro­posed.”

    Mustafa Nayyem, a law­mak­er and vocal crit­ic of the pro­pos­al, said in doing this that “we will not save thou­sands of lives, but with our sup­port and recog­ni­tion, doom mil­lions of peo­ple to legal­ized slav­ery.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Every­one Seems To Have A Peace Plan For Ukraine” by Christo­pher Miller; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 02/23/2017

    “Bal­azs Jara­bik, a non­res­i­dent schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, told RFE/RL that he thinks the main rea­son for the peace plans seems to be to weak­en Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, who remains in lim­bo between the increas­ing­ly dis­par­aged Min­sk agree­ments and “vic­to­ry.””

    That sen­ti­ment expressed by Bal­azs Jara­bik, a non­res­i­dent schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace, seems to cap­ture the views of many in the West regard­ing any peace plan for Ukraine: that they are all designed to weak­en Kiev and a capit­u­la­tion to the Krem­lin. It’s a sen­ti­ment that the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tors appear to share, which is a rather big com­pli­ca­tion for peace.

    Kil­imnik’s plan appears to focus on using the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and oth­er oppo­si­tion par­ties to essen­tial­ly lead a dia­logue that can bring the sep­a­ratist regions back into Ukraine peace­ful­ly. Vik­tor Yanukovych could even play a role accord­ing to Kil­imnik’s plan:

    ...
    The Kil­imnik Plan

    ...

    Call­ing his plan the Mar­i­upol Plan after the south­east­ern Ukrain­ian city that is the largest in the Donet­sk region con­trolled by the gov­ern­ment and which sits smack against the front line — Kil­imnik envis­ages it replac­ing the cur­rent Min­sk agree­ments and Nor­mandy for­mat talks between Ukraine, Rus­sia, Ger­many, and France.

    Despite his con­nec­tion to Man­afort, who lived in Ukraine and worked as an advis­er to Yanukovych for years, Kil­imnik empha­sized that the Amer­i­can strate­gist has had no part in this plan, which he says remains flu­id.

    The plan, he said, was raised by “many peo­ple who are will­ing to start [a] dia­logue” between east­ern Ukraine and the rest of the coun­try “and this should be one of the roles of the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and oth­er oppo­si­tion par­ties, which under­stand the neces­si­ty of bring­ing Don­bas back into Ukraine.” The Oppo­si­tion Bloc is the revamped, pro-Moscow polit­i­cal fac­tion once called the Par­ty of Regions and led by Yanukovych..

    Right now, there is no dia­logue between Ukraine and the lead­ers of the sep­a­ratist-held areas, Alek­san­dr Zakharchenko and Ihor Plot­nit­sky. Kyiv con­sid­ers them “ter­ror­ists” and Kil­imnik said they “have blood on their hands, [so] it will be very dif­fi­cult for Poroshenko and oth­ers to nego­ti­ate with them.”

    How­ev­er, “in the­o­ry, a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing Don­bas, such as Yanukovych or some­one else who has at least not killed peo­ple and can stop the war and fix the local econ­o­my, might be an option,” Kil­imnik explained.
    ...

    And then there was Vik­tor Pinchuk’s plan, which left unre­solved the sta­tus of Crimea and opened the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the incred­men­tal roll­back of sanc­tions on Rus­sia. This is com­ing from one of the most pro-West­ern oli­garchs in Ukraine:

    ...
    The Pinchuk Plan

    Bil­lion­aire oli­garch Vik­tor Pinchuk caused a stir in Kyiv when he pro­posed a plan in an op-ed in The Wall Street Jour­nal in late Decem­ber.

    The arti­cle was head­lined: Ukraine Must Make Painful Com­pro­mis­es For Peace With Rus­sia, and the plan laid out in the paper sug­gest­ed that Kyiv set aside the issue of Crimea and hopes of Euro­pean Union and per­haps even NATO mem­ber­ship in exchange for peace in the Don­bas.

    “We should also make clear that we are ready to accept an incre­men­tal roll­back of sanc­tions on Rus­sia as we move toward a solu­tion for a free, unit­ed, peace­ful, and secure Ukraine,” Pinchuk wrote. “The Ukrain­ian lives that will be saved are worth the painful com­pro­mis­es I have pro­posed.”

    Mustafa Nayyem, a law­mak­er and vocal crit­ic of the pro­pos­al, said in doing this that “we will not save thou­sands of lives, but with our sup­port and recog­ni­tion, doom mil­lions of peo­ple to legal­ized slav­ery.”
    ...

    So that’s all part of the con­text of now noto­ri­ous August 2, 2016, meet­ing in Man­hat­tan. Increas­ing­ly, it looks like Sergei Lovochkin and Rinat Akhme­tov were the intend­ed recip­i­ents of the polling data, although we still don’t know what exact­ly Oleg Deri­paska’s role was or if it was a coin­ci­dence that his plane just hap­pened to be in the area at that time.

    And regard­ing Deri­pas­ka, keep in mind the reports about how the FBI had been try­ing to flip Deri­pas­ka from 2014–2016 and that Christo­pher Steele and Bruce Ohr were the two peo­ple direct­ly to flip him. So when we’re won­der­ing what Deri­paska’s plane was doing in the US at that point in 2016, the fact that the FBI was try­ing to flip him that year should be kept in mind.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 16, 2019, 5:31 pm
  16. Here’s a rather fas­ci­nat­ing fun fact about Sam Pat­ten, one of the more inter­est­ing fig­ures who got caught up in the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion over his work in Ukraine with Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik and mon­ey-laun­der­ing alle­ga­tions revolv­ing around for­eign dona­tions to Pres­i­dent Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion: The var­i­ous let­ters writ­ten in sup­port of Pat­ten dur­ing his sen­tenc­ing are pub­lic. One of those let­ters is from Pat­ten’s wife, Lau­ra Pat­ten. Accord­ing to her let­ter, Lau­ra worked as a CIA covert oper­a­tions offi­cer over­seas and, lat­er, as the Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Divi­sion Direc­tor at the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. And in her last gov­ern­ment posi­tion she was a Senior Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Offi­cer at the FBI’s Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, Transna­tion­al Orga­nized Crime (East) which cov­ers Ukraine. So that’s, uh, inter­est­ing.

    First, recall how Pat­ten and Kil­imnik set up a polit­i­cal con­sult­ing busi­ness with Kil­imnik in 2015 in Ukraine. Pat­ten met Kil­imnik when they both worked at the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute (IRI). Their con­sult­ing clients includ­ed the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and Sergei Lovochkin was the per­son they answered to for this work. And it was work for Lovochkin that was what part of led to the charges of vio­la­tions of the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA) when Pat­ten appar­ent­ly act­ed as a straw buy­er for tick­ets to Trump’s inau­gur­al ball on behalf of a Ukrain­ian. That Ukrain­ian turned out to be Sergei Lovochkin. Pat­ten paid the Trump inau­gu­ra­tion fund $50,000 for four tick­ets. Pat­ten also plead guilty to lying to the Sen­ate about his for­eign lob­by­ing work and then lat­er destroy­ing the evi­dence. Pat­ten also worked for Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca in 2014 and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca’s par­ent com­pa­ny, SCL, in 2015. Pat­ten appar­ent­ly played a cen­tral role in SCL’s 2015 work in Nige­ria that involved the use of a hack­ing team to obtain hacked doc­u­ments on their clien­t’s polit­i­cal oppo­nent.

    Also recall how Pat­ten’s work in Ukraine in 2015 also includ­ed con­sult­ing for Vitalii Klitschko, one of the lead­ers of the Maid­an protests.

    So Pat­ten is clear­ly a high­ly intrigu­ing fig­ure in this entire affair because he touch­es upon so many aspects of it but does so in a way that under­mines the pre­vail­ing nar­ra­tive. And now we’re learn­ing that Pat­ten’s wife was an FBI and CIA coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence offi­cial who’s work cov­ered Ukraine.

    Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle about Pat­ten receiv­ing a rather light sen­tence of just three years of pro­ba­tion, 500 hours of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, and a $5,000 fine. This sen­tence came down from U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Berman Jack­son, the same judge that sen­tenced Paul Man­afort. Jack­son accept­ed the pros­e­cu­tors’ request for lenien­cy while Pat­ten’s defense team cit­ed his sub­stan­tial assis­tance in sev­er­al ongo­ing, undis­closed inves­ti­ga­tions:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    W. Samuel Pat­ten sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion after steer­ing Ukrain­ian mon­ey to Trump inau­gur­al

    By Spencer S. Hsu
    April 12, 2019 at 12:28 PM

    An Amer­i­can polit­i­cal con­sul­tant whose guilty plea marked the first con­fir­ma­tion that ille­gal for­eign mon­ey was used to help fund Don­ald Trump’s inau­gur­al com­mit­tee was sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion Fri­day by a fed­er­al judge who cit­ed his coop­er­a­tion with U.S. pros­e­cu­tors.

    W. Samuel Pat­ten, 47, in August admit­ted steer­ing $50,000 from a pro-Russ­ian Ukrain­ian politi­cian to Trump’s com­mit­tee in an inves­ti­ga­tion spun off from spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion. Pat­ten acknowl­edged he was helped by a Russ­ian nation­al who is a long­time asso­ciate of for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, and the case was referred to pros­e­cu­tors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Wash­ing­ton and the Jus­tice Department’s nation­al secu­ri­ty divi­sion.

    Before he was sen­tenced, Pat­ten, accom­pa­nied in court by his wife, sis­ter and friends and neigh­bors, thanked the judge for her han­dling of his case and asked for a sen­tence that would per­mit him to “con­tin­ue in what­ev­er way I can to serve my coun­try.”

    In spar­ing Pat­ten from prison, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Berman Jack­son accept­ed pros­e­cu­tors’ request for lenien­cy and not­ed no fed­er­al sen­tenc­ing guide­line direct­ly applies to his offense of fail­ing to reg­is­ter as a for­eign lob­by­ist, which is pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison. Patten’s defense sought pro­ba­tion cit­ing the sub­stan­tial assis­tance he pro­vid­ed in sev­er­al ongo­ing, undis­closed inves­ti­ga­tions.

    He was sen­tenced to three years of pro­ba­tion, 500 hours of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and fined $5,000.

    Patten’s offens­es were “not a tech­ni­cal­i­ty, and not an over­sight,” Jack­son said in court, but seri­ous offens­es cal­cu­lat­ed to influ­ence pub­lic pol­i­cy and opin­ion in the Unit­ed States for a for­eign gov­ern­ment “with­out telling the Amer­i­can peo­ple that it was those very Ukraini­ans pay­ing you to do the talk­ing.”

    “The whole point, and only point, of the FARA (For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act) statute is to ensure trans­paren­cy in the pub­lic pol­i­cy and the polit­i­cal process,” Jack­son said. “If peo­ple don’t have the facts, then democ­ra­cy doesn’t work.”

    Pat­ten “earned the trust of the gov­ern­ment and became a reli­able and valu­able resource” for Mueller’s Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tors with the U.S. attorney’s office, Patten’s attor­ney Stu­art A. Sears said in sen­tenc­ing papers.

    Jack­son referred to that assis­tance, not­ing Pat­ten did not try to jus­ti­fy or blame his actions on oth­ers, “and more impor­tant­ly, you’ve done every­thing in your pow­er to make amends” by assist­ing pros­e­cu­tors.

    “This is not a pic­ture of some­one who’s moti­vat­ed by greed, some­one who sells his ser­vices to the high­est bid­der, or some­one who’s look­ing for a cushy or com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion,” Jack­son said.

    Pat­ten has been released on his own recog­ni­zance since plead­ing guilty Aug. 31.

    With­out that coop­er­a­tion in the case, Jack­son said she would have con­sid­ered some prison time for Patten’s lying in the Senate’s Rus­sia probe.

    The judge also dis­tin­guished his case from Mueller defen­dant Paul Manafort’s. The for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man was giv­en a 7 1/2- year prison term for hid­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars of income from undis­closed lob­by­ing work for a pro-Russ­ian Ukrain­ian politi­cian. Manafort’s term includes 30 months that Jack­son imposed for con­spir­a­cy to defraud the Unit­ed States by abus­ing FARA and oth­er laws.

    “Just to clar­i­fy, my pri­or sen­tence for Paul Man­afort was not” just for con­spir­ing to vio­late FARA, but also to vio­late for­eign bank account reg­is­tra­tion require­ments, income tax and mon­ey laun­der­ing laws, Jack­son said.

    Assis­tant U.S. Attor­ney Fer­nan­do Cam­poamor-Sanchez agreed, say­ing Pat­ten “real­ly is in a dif­fer­ent posi­tion [from oth­er FARA cas­es], we believe in a pos­i­tive way.”

    Pat­ten admit­ted in court doc­u­ments that he failed to reg­is­ter with the Jus­tice Depart­ment while he worked on behalf of a Rus­sia-aligned Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal par­ty. Pat­ten acknowl­edged arrang­ing for an Amer­i­can to act as a “straw donor” to give the $50,000 in exchange for four Trump inau­gu­ra­tion tick­ets for a Ukrain­ian busi­ness­man.

    Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, which raised a record $100 mil­lion, was attend­ed by an unusu­al­ly large num­ber of promi­nent for­eign busi­ness lead­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Russ­ian moguls, but for­eign­ers are barred from con­tribut­ing to the event.

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in Man­hat­tan, the attor­neys gen­er­al for the Dis­trict and New Jer­sey, and the House Intel­li­gence and Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tees have launched sep­a­rate inves­ti­ga­tions into the Trump com­mit­tee and top offi­cials in probes focused on dona­tions and spend­ing.

    Sears not­ed his client’s past work pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy abroad and his promis­ing start as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant. “With­out a doubt, Mr. Pat­ten earned his felony con­vic­tion in this case, the attor­ney said, but also earned a non-incar­cer­a­tion sen­tence. “He had a choice to make in this case, between his career and assist­ing the gov­ern­ment. He chose his coun­try. ... He sac­ri­ficed his career ... in order to help the gov­ern­ment and coop­er­ate in this case.”

    In plea papers, Pat­ten said he formed a com­pa­ny with a Russ­ian nation­al, iden­ti­fied as “For­eign­er A,” to engage in lob­by­ing and polit­i­cal con­sult­ing ser­vices.

    The com­pa­ny had received about $1 mil­lion since 2015 for its Ukraine con­sult­ing work, which includ­ed advis­ing a Ukrain­ian par­ty known as the Oppo­si­tion Bloc as well as some of its mem­bers, one of whom is a promi­nent Ukrain­ian busi­ness exec­u­tive iden­ti­fied only as “For­eign­er B.”

    Pros­e­cu­tors said Pat­ten helped the busi­ness exec­u­tive get meet­ings to lob­by mem­bers of Con­gress in 2015 and helped him author an op-ed in Feb­ru­ary 2017 that appears to match a U.S. News & World Report arti­cle argu­ing that Ukraine would do fine under Pres­i­dent Trump.

    The descrip­tion of “For­eign­er A” match­es Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik, a long­time Man­afort asso­ciate charged in Wash­ing­ton along with Man­afort with obstruc­tion of jus­tice and wit­ness tam­per­ing. Pros­e­cu­tors have said they believe that Kil­imnik has ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence. Kil­imnik has denied any such ties, and Pat­ten said he had no idea such links were alleged.

    The descrip­tion of “For­eign­er B” match­es Ser­hiy Lovochkin, a Ukrain­ian busi­ness exec­u­tive and politi­cian who served as a top aide to for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, a pro-Russ­ian politi­cian who was Manafort’s chief client.

    Pat­ten told pros­e­cu­tors that he worked with Kil­imnik to help Lovochkin route the ille­gal dona­tion to Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion. Pros­e­cu­tors do not say whether Kil­imnik attend­ed.

    Pat­ten also agreed that he mis­led the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee when he tes­ti­fied before the pan­el in Jan­u­ary.

    Lovochkin’s office has said he attend­ed the inau­gu­ra­tion but did not make the $50,000 pay­ment.

    Pat­ten acknowl­edged to the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that he false­ly min­i­mized his con­tact with U.S. offi­cials on behalf of for­eign clients and man­u­al­ly delet­ed 200,000 emails from his Gmail archive fold­er, his attor­ney said in court fil­ings. But he vol­un­tar­i­ly pro­vid­ed mate­ri­als that incrim­i­nat­ed him, includ­ing more than 1,300 pages of doc­u­ments, Sears wrote.

    ...

    U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al William P. Barr announced that Mueller con­clud­ed his probe March 27 with­out fur­ther indict­ments, but the spe­cial coun­sel had been refer­ring sev­er­al mat­ters to oth­er pros­e­cu­tors, includ­ing the U.S. attorney’s office for the Dis­trict.

    Pat­ten worked in the oil sec­tor in Kaza­khstan in the mid- to late 1990s and served as Maine cam­paign direc­tor for George W. Bush’s 2000 pres­i­den­tial run. He also briefly worked at the State Depart­ment under Bush and as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Iraq assist­ing offi­cials there in the post-Sad­dam Hus­sein peri­od.

    In a 2017 inter­view with The Post, Pat­ten said he met Kil­imnik in Moscow more than 15 years ago, when Kil­imnik was an employ­ee of the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute, a pro-democ­ra­cy group affil­i­at­ed with the U.S. Repub­li­can Par­ty. Pat­ten ran the office from 2001 to 2004. “I relied on him,” Pat­ten said in the inter­view.

    Kil­imnik left the IRI around 2005 to work for Man­afort in Kiev, the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal, even­tu­al­ly being named man­ag­er of Manafort’s Ukraine office. Pat­ten praised Kil­imnik at the time as a per­son who helped Man­afort nav­i­gate the com­pli­cat­ed Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal scene.

    ———-

    “W. Samuel Pat­ten sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion after steer­ing Ukrain­ian mon­ey to Trump inau­gur­al” by Spencer S. Hsu; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/12/2019

    “He was sen­tenced to three years of pro­ba­tion, 500 hours of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and fined $5,000.”

    Three years of pro­ba­tion. That was what Pat­ten got for a crime that could have been pun­ish­able for up to five years in prison. Pros­e­cu­tors asked for lenien­cy and the defense cit­ed “the sub­stan­tial assis­tance he pro­vid­ed in sev­er­al ongo­ing, undis­closed inves­ti­ga­tions”:

    ...
    Before he was sen­tenced, Pat­ten, accom­pa­nied in court by his wife, sis­ter and friends and neigh­bors, thanked the judge for her han­dling of his case and asked for a sen­tence that would per­mit him to “con­tin­ue in what­ev­er way I can to serve my coun­try.”

    In spar­ing Pat­ten from prison, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Berman Jack­son accept­ed pros­e­cu­tors’ request for lenien­cy and not­ed no fed­er­al sen­tenc­ing guide­line direct­ly applies to his offense of fail­ing to reg­is­ter as a for­eign lob­by­ist, which is pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison. Patten’s defense sought pro­ba­tion cit­ing the sub­stan­tial assis­tance he pro­vid­ed in sev­er­al ongo­ing, undis­closed inves­ti­ga­tions.

    ...

    Patten’s offens­es were “not a tech­ni­cal­i­ty, and not an over­sight,” Jack­son said in court, but seri­ous offens­es cal­cu­lat­ed to influ­ence pub­lic pol­i­cy and opin­ion in the Unit­ed States for a for­eign gov­ern­ment “with­out telling the Amer­i­can peo­ple that it was those very Ukraini­ans pay­ing you to do the talk­ing.”

    “The whole point, and only point, of the FARA (For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act) statute is to ensure trans­paren­cy in the pub­lic pol­i­cy and the polit­i­cal process,” Jack­son said. “If peo­ple don’t have the facts, then democ­ra­cy doesn’t work.”

    Pat­ten “earned the trust of the gov­ern­ment and became a reli­able and valu­able resource” for Mueller’s Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tors with the U.S. attorney’s office, Patten’s attor­ney Stu­art A. Sears said in sen­tenc­ing papers.

    Jack­son referred to that assis­tance, not­ing Pat­ten did not try to jus­ti­fy or blame his actions on oth­ers, “and more impor­tant­ly, you’ve done every­thing in your pow­er to make amends” by assist­ing pros­e­cu­tors.

    “This is not a pic­ture of some­one who’s moti­vat­ed by greed, some­one who sells his ser­vices to the high­est bid­der, or some­one who’s look­ing for a cushy or com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion,” Jack­son said.
    ...

    So that’s pret­ty notable that there are sev­er­al ongo­ing, undis­closed inves­ti­ga­tions and Pat­ten has pro­vid­ed sub­stan­tial assis­tance.

    And keep in mind that Pat­ten and Kil­imnik met while they were both work­ing at the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute, a pro-democ­ra­cy group affil­i­at­ed with the U.S. Repub­li­can Par­ty. It’s quite a resume item for Kil­imnik, some­one who is rou­tine­ly referred to as a GRU agent these days:

    ...
    Pat­ten worked in the oil sec­tor in Kaza­khstan in the mid- to late 1990s and served as Maine cam­paign direc­tor for George W. Bush’s 2000 pres­i­den­tial run. He also briefly worked at the State Depart­ment under Bush and as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Iraq assist­ing offi­cials there in the post-Sad­dam Hus­sein peri­od.

    In a 2017 inter­view with The Post, Pat­ten said he met Kil­imnik in Moscow more than 15 years ago, when Kil­imnik was an employ­ee of the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute, a pro-democ­ra­cy group affil­i­at­ed with the U.S. Repub­li­can Par­ty. Pat­ten ran the office from 2001 to 2004. “I relied on him,” Pat­ten said in the inter­view.
    ...

    Ok, now here’s an excerpt from the let­ter Pat­ten’s wife, Lau­ra Pat­ten, wrote in sup­port of Sam where she describes how she worked as a CIA covert oper­a­tions offi­cer over­seas and, lat­er, as the Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Divi­sion Direc­tor at the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. And in her last gov­ern­ment posi­tion she was a Senior Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Offi­cer at the FBI’s Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, Transna­tion­al Orga­nized Crime (East) which cov­ers Ukraine:

    Case 1:18-cr-00260-ABJ Doc­u­ment 37–1 Filed 04/08/19

    March 12, 2019

    Dear Judge Jack­son,

    My name is Lau­ra Pat­ten and I write in sup­port of William Samuel Pat­ten, Jr., who awaits sen­tenc­ing in your court for his fail­ure under the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA). I write as a wife, an Amer­i­ca, and a Unit­ed States nation­al secu­ri­ty expert.

    I have devot­ed the bulk of my adult life to pro­mot­ing U.S. inter­ests and pro­tect­ing our nation from for­eign adver­saries, first as a Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency covert oper­a­tions offi­cer over­seas, and lat­er as an overt Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Divi­sion Direc­tor at the Depart­ment of Ener­gy here in Wash­ing­ton. In my last gov­ern­ment posi­tion, I served as a Senior Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Offi­cer detailed to the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion’s Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, Transna­tion­al Orga­nized Crime (East), which cov­ers Ukraine and broad swaths of the for­mer Sovi­et empire. In 2017, I joined a pri­vate firm where I still work. I hold a Mas­ter’s in Inter­na­tion­al Affairs from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, and am pur­su­ing a Ph.D.

    ...

    Described as a ‘lob­by­ist’ in the media, most of Sam’s pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties have involved pro­vid­ing strate­gic cam­paign and com­mu­ni­ca­tions advice to polit­i­cal can­di­dates, busi­ness lead­ers, and human rights advo­cates. He is a vocal oppo­nent of Vladimir Putin and oth­er author­i­tar­i­ans. Over the years, Sam devel­oped an exper­tise sup­port­ing clients strug­gling against cor­rupt regimes in chal­leng­ing for­eign envi­ron­ments. Sam so pas­sion­ate­ly believes in giv­ing voice to the voice­less, that I lost track of how many times he accept­ed pro-bono clients.

    ...

    Before he was charged, I wit­nessed Sam share with Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, Con­gres­sion­al Mem­bers and staff, aca­d­e­mics, jour­nal­ists, and mil­i­tary offi­cers, his insights and obser­va­tions from work­ing over­seas. Sam was forth­com­ing about his work with any­one who asked. Respect­ed thought-lead­ers fre­quent­ed our home and solicit­ed Sam’s analy­sis of com­plex events relat­ed to the for­mer Sovi­et Union, includ­ing his work in Ukraine — a small aspect of which he failed to reg­is­ter and caused him to be charged. In that vein, as far back as 2014, I wrote and spoke to my FBI super­vi­sors, as well as to Spe­cial Agents assigned to Wash­ing­ton Field Office coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence squads, about Sam’s abil­i­ty and will­ing­ness to help them access and ana­lyze for­eign sub­jects of inves­tiga­tive val­ue — includ­ing those that are per­ti­nent to this case. This illus­trates that, while Sam’s fail­ure to for­mal­ly reg­is­ter is his respon­si­bil­i­ty, and his respon­si­bil­i­ty alone, the omis­sion was not intend­ed to hide his for­eign asso­ci­a­tions from the US gov­ern­ment.

    Recent­ly, the gov­ern­ment announced it believes that Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian cit­i­zen, For­eign­er A, was in the throes of a Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency dur­ing the peri­od in which he worked with Sam. This news, if cor­rect, is dev­as­tat­ing to me and Sam. Gen­er­a­tions of our fam­i­ly have stood against Russ­ian aggres­sion, both pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly. One does not have to look as far back as Sam’s pater­nal step-grand­fa­ther’s well-doc­u­ment­ed resis­tance to Russ­ian black­mail. Once could look at my gov­ern­ment career, in which I spent years, and received awards for, active­ly coun­ter­ing Russ­ian intel­li­gence agen­cies both here and abroad. Or one could look at the reports that I made to prop­er fed­er­al author­i­ties after Sam and I appear to have been poi­soned dur­ing a 2016 FBI-autho­rized trip to Rus­sia — reports that I filed through offi­cial gov­ern­ment chan­nels and for which there was zero fol­low-up from author­i­ties.

    As a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence offi­cer, I was aware of, and engaged in, mul­ti­ple efforts to warn Amer­i­can cit­i­zens when a spe­cif­ic for­eign threat actor tar­get­ed him or her. Thus, I am left won­der­ing what would have hap­pened had our gov­ern­ment warned us, per nor­mal and cus­tom­ary nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­to­cols, about what it believes if For­eign­er A’s affil­i­a­tion with Russ­ian intel­li­gence? Cer­tain­ly, had we known what the gov­ern­ment believed, in light of my pro­fes­sion Sam would have ceased his asso­ci­a­tion with For­eign­er A and not part­nered with him for busi­ness in the Unit­ed States, where FARA applies, or any­where else in the world. We also may have been able to help the gov­ern­ment, in some small way, thwart Russ­ian inter­fer­ence.

    ...

    ———–

    “I have devot­ed the bulk of my adult life to pro­mot­ing U.S. inter­ests and pro­tect­ing our nation from for­eign adver­saries, first as a Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency covert oper­a­tions offi­cer over­seas, and lat­er as an overt Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Divi­sion Direc­tor at the Depart­ment of Ener­gy here in Wash­ing­ton. In my last gov­ern­ment posi­tion, I served as a Senior Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Offi­cer detailed to the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion’s Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, Transna­tion­al Orga­nized Crime (East), which cov­ers Ukraine and broad swaths of the for­mer Sovi­et empire. In 2017, I joined a pri­vate firm where I still work. I hold a Mas­ter’s in Inter­na­tion­al Affairs from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, and am pur­su­ing a Ph.D.”

    It’s quite a back­ground for the wife of one of the fig­ures who is alleged­ly at the heart of a Krem­lin col­lu­sion scheme. And note the ref­er­ence to Lau­ra appar­ent­ly speak­ing with the FBI in 2014 (the year of the Maid­an protests and down­fall of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment) about Sam’s abil­i­ty and will­ing­ness to help them access and ana­lyze for sub­jects of inves­tiga­tive val­ue — includ­ing those that are per­ti­nent to this case:

    ...
    Before he was charged, I wit­nessed Sam share with Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, Con­gres­sion­al Mem­bers and staff, aca­d­e­mics, jour­nal­ists, and mil­i­tary offi­cers, his insights and obser­va­tions from work­ing over­seas. Sam was forth­com­ing about his work with any­one who asked. Respect­ed thought-lead­ers fre­quent­ed our home and solicit­ed Sam’s analy­sis of com­plex events relat­ed to the for­mer Sovi­et Union, includ­ing his work in Ukraine — a small aspect of which he failed to reg­is­ter and caused him to be charged. In that vein, as far back as 2014, I wrote and spoke to my FBI super­vi­sors, as well as to Spe­cial Agents assigned to Wash­ing­ton Field Office coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence squads, about Sam’s abil­i­ty and will­ing­ness to help them access and ana­lyze for­eign sub­jects of inves­tiga­tive val­ue — includ­ing those that are per­ti­nent to this case. This illus­trates that, while Sam’s fail­ure to for­mal­ly reg­is­ter is his respon­si­bil­i­ty, and his respon­si­bil­i­ty alone, the omis­sion was not intend­ed to hide his for­eign asso­ci­a­tions from the US gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    Also note Lau­ra’s appar­ent­ly befud­dle­ment at the gov­ern­men­t’s charges that “For­eign­er A” (Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik) was “in the throes of a Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency dur­ing the peri­od in which he worked with Sam”. High­ly under­stand­able befud­dle­ment giv­en that Kil­imnik was an IRI employ­ee for ten year. But it must be espe­cial­ly befud­dling giv­en that Lau­ra was an FBI and CIA coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence offi­cer whose work includ­ed Ukraine. One would think this assess­ment of Kil­imnik as a GRU agent would have come up dur­ing the course of her work before now:

    ...
    Recent­ly, the gov­ern­ment announced it believes that Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian cit­i­zen, For­eign­er A, was in the throes of a Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency dur­ing the peri­od in which he worked with Sam. This news, if cor­rect, is dev­as­tat­ing to me and Sam. Gen­er­a­tions of our fam­i­ly have stood against Russ­ian aggres­sion, both pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly. One does not have to look as far back as Sam’s pater­nal step-grand­fa­ther’s well-doc­u­ment­ed resis­tance to Russ­ian black­mail. Once could look at my gov­ern­ment career, in which I spent years, and received awards for, active­ly coun­ter­ing Russ­ian intel­li­gence agen­cies both here and abroad. Or one could look at the reports that I made to prop­er fed­er­al author­i­ties after Sam and I appear to have been poi­soned dur­ing a 2016 FBI-autho­rized trip to Rus­sia — reports that I filed through offi­cial gov­ern­ment chan­nels and for which there was zero fol­low-up from author­i­ties.

    As a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence offi­cer, I was aware of, and engaged in, mul­ti­ple efforts to warn Amer­i­can cit­i­zens when a spe­cif­ic for­eign threat actor tar­get­ed him or her. Thus, I am left won­der­ing what would have hap­pened had our gov­ern­ment warned us, per nor­mal and cus­tom­ary nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­to­cols, about what it believes if For­eign­er A’s affil­i­a­tion with Russ­ian intel­li­gence? Cer­tain­ly, had we known what the gov­ern­ment believed, in light of my pro­fes­sion Sam would have ceased his asso­ci­a­tion with For­eign­er A and not part­nered with him for busi­ness in the Unit­ed States, where FARA applies, or any­where else in the world. We also may have been able to help the gov­ern­ment, in some small way, thwart Russ­ian inter­fer­ence.
    ...

    “As a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence offi­cer, I was aware of, and engaged in, mul­ti­ple efforts to warn Amer­i­can cit­i­zens when a spe­cif­ic for­eign threat actor tar­get­ed him or her. Thus, I am left won­der­ing what would have hap­pened had our gov­ern­ment warned us, per nor­mal and cus­tom­ary nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­to­cols, about what it believes if For­eign­er A’s affil­i­a­tion with Russ­ian intel­li­gence?

    Why did­n’t the US gov­ern­ment warn Lau­ra that her hus­band’s busi­ness part­ner is a GRU agent? It’s a pret­ty mas­sive ques­tion that will pre­sum­ably remain offi­cial­ly unad­dressed. And that’s all part of what makes the remark­ably lenient sen­tenc­ing for Sam Pat­ten so notable.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 12, 2019, 1:20 pm
  17. There was nev­er real­ly any ques­tion as to whether or not the tes­ti­mo­ny of Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee would be a dis­as­ter. The ques­tion was what kind of dis­as­ter. And now we know what kind of dis­as­ter: a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis dis­as­ter where Barr repeat­ed­ly argues that pres­i­dents can legal­ly obstruct inves­ti­ga­tions into them­selves that they view as unfair and they are being false­ly accused:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Five Points

    Barr’s Most Absurd Defens­es Of Trump’s Obstruc­tive Con­duct

    By Alle­gra Kirk­land
    May 1, 2019 3:59 pm

    By now, it’s pret­ty clear that Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr thinks there was noth­ing unusu­al — let alone poten­tial­ly crim­i­nal — about Pres­i­dent Trump’s inter­ven­tion in the fed­er­al Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. Not the repeat­ed push­es to fire spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, not the pub­lic fum­ing about being the inno­cent vic­tim of a fed­er­al “witch hunt,” not the tweet­ed threats to the fam­i­ly of his for­mer per­son­al attor­ney.

    Trump was just upset that he was a tar­get of an inves­ti­ga­tion he felt to be “unfair,” Barr said again dur­ing a Wednes­day hear­ing before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee.

    But Barr also offered some new cre­ative jus­ti­fi­ca­tions of Trump’s con­duct — one of which was so far-fetched that it prompt­ed laugh­ter in the hear­ing room.

    Here are the instances that stuck out to us.

    1 Trump didn’t have a “cor­rupt motive”; he was just frus­trat­ed by Mueller’s con­flicts!

    In Barr’s under­stand­ing, Trump only ordered his White House Coun­sel Don McGahn to fire Mueller because he was con­cerned about Mueller’s sup­posed con­flicts of inter­ests.

    “If the Pres­i­dent is being false­ly accused — and the evi­dence now sug­gests that the accu­sa­tions against him were false — and he knew they were false, and he felt that this inves­ti­ga­tion was unfair, pro­pelled by his polit­i­cal oppo­nents, and was ham­per­ing his abil­i­ty to gov­ern, that is not a cor­rupt motive for replac­ing an inde­pen­dent coun­sel,” Barr tes­ti­fied.

    McGahn told Mueller that the con­flicts Trump cit­ed were “sil­ly” and “not real.” They include the life­long Repub­li­can ex-FBI director’s efforts to get reim­bursed from Trump’s Vir­ginia golf club after can­celling his mem­ber­ship over a decade ago. Oth­er sup­posed con­flicts: sev­er­al mem­bers of Mueller’s large team had donat­ed to Demo­c­ra­t­ic politi­cians.

    2 Trump has the “con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty” to end probes he thinks are bogus

    Barr expand­ed on this the­o­ry in a lat­er round of ques­tion­ing, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D‑VT) asked about Trump’s pos­si­ble motives for obstruc­tion.

    Barr admit­ted that Trump could have such motives even if there was no “under­ly­ing crime” i.e. that Mueller did not prove that Trump’s cam­paign express­ly vio­lat­ed the law by con­spir­ing with Rus­sia. But then he said it was with­in Trump’s “con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty” to han­dle the probe as he saw fit.

    “In this sit­u­a­tion with the Pres­i­dent who has con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty to super­vise pro­ceed­ings, if, in fact, a pro­ceed­ing was not well-found­ed, if it was a ground­less pro­ceed­ing, or based on false alle­ga­tions, the Pres­i­dent does not have to sit there con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly and allow it to run its course,” Barr said.

    “The Pres­i­dent could ter­mi­nate that pro­ceed­ing and it would not be a cor­rupt intent because he was being false­ly accused,” Barr con­tin­ued. “And he would be wor­ried about the impact on his admin­is­tra­tion. That is impor­tant because most of the obstruc­tion claims that are being made here, or episodes, do involve the exer­cise of the President’s con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty and we now know that he was being false­ly accused.”

    3 The McGahn inci­dents were just about spin­ning the press

    Barr was ques­tioned repeat­ed­ly about Trump’s orders that McGahn fire Mueller in June 2017, then lie about the inci­dent some six months lat­er — even cre­at­ing a false White House record deny­ing the whole thing ever hap­pened.

    Barr tes­ti­fied that Trump could have gen­uine­ly believed that the press, led by the New York Times, mis­re­port­ed this sto­ry and that he sim­ply want­ed McGahn to cor­rect the record.

    “There is evi­dence that the Pres­i­dent actu­al­ly thought and believed that the Times arti­cle was wrong,” Barr said. “That is evi­dence on the P resident’s side of the ledger that he actu­al­ly thought it was wrong and was ask­ing for its cor­rec­tion. It is also pos­si­ble, the report says, that the President’s intent was direct­ed at the pub­lic­i­ty and the press. The gov­ern­ment has to prove things beyond a rea­son­able doubt.”

    4 Dis­cour­ag­ing flip­ping isn’t obstruc­tion

    When Trump dis­cour­aged his asso­ciates from coop­er­at­ing with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, he was prob­a­bly just try­ing to make sure they didn’t lie to get a bet­ter deal, Barr said.

    Trump’s many tweets, pub­lic com­ments and pri­vate exhor­ta­tions to Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Michael Fly­nn, Paul Man­afort and oth­ers to remain “strong” and not “flip” were “not obstruc­tion,” Barr said.

    “The evi­dence, I think what the President’s lawyers would say, is that the President’s state­ments about flip­ping are quite clear and express and uni­form­ly the same which is, by flip­ping he meant suc­cumb­ing to pres­sure on unre­lat­ed cas­es to lie and com­pose in order to get lenient treat­ment,” Barr tes­ti­fied. “That is not — it’s a dis­cour­ag­ing flip­ping in that sense, it’s not obstruc­tion.”

    TPM’s Tier­ney Sneed report­ed that this rhetor­i­cal back­flip­ping prompt­ed laugh­ter in the hear­ing room.

    5 Barr still doesn’t get Mueller’s rea­son­ing on obstruc­tion

    After pour­ing over the 488-page report, over­see­ing its redac­tion, and repeat­ed­ly offer­ing his pub­lic assess­ment of it, Barr said Wednes­day that he still doesn’t quite get what Mueller had to say about the Trump obstruc­tion ques­tion.

    Asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R‑LA) why Mueller didn’t reach a con­clu­sion on this top­ic, Barr said he “real­ly couldn’t reca­pit­u­late it.”

    “The deputy was with me, the prin­ci­ple asso­ciate deputy,” Barr said, describ­ing a March 5 meet­ing with Mueller to dis­cuss the final report. “We didn’t real­ly get a clear under­stand­ing of the rea­son­ing. And the report, I’m not sure exact­ly what the full line of rea­son­ing is and that’s one of the rea­sons I didn’t want to try to put words in Bob Mueller’s mouth.”

    Mueller relays in the report that he adhered to Jus­tice Depart­ment pol­i­cy that a sit­ting pres­i­dent can’t be indict­ed, in part because they are unable to defend them­selves in court. The spe­cial coun­sel express­ly said that he would have exon­er­at­ed Trump on this issue if he could, but could not. He laid out mul­ti­ple rea­sons why Trump would want to obstruct this par­tic­u­lar inves­ti­ga­tion, includ­ing the fear that Mueller would dis­cov­er evi­dence of a crime.

    ...

    ———–

    “Barr’s Most Absurd Defens­es Of Trump’s Obstruc­tive Con­duct” by Alle­gra Kirk­land; Talk­ing Points Memo; 05/01/2019

    ““If the Pres­i­dent is being false­ly accused — and the evi­dence now sug­gests that the accu­sa­tions against him were false — and he knew they were false, and he felt that this inves­ti­ga­tion was unfair, pro­pelled by his polit­i­cal oppo­nents, and was ham­per­ing his abil­i­ty to gov­ern, that is not a cor­rupt motive for replac­ing an inde­pen­dent coun­sel,” Barr tes­ti­fied.”

    It’s not cor­rupt for a pres­i­dent to replace the inde­pen­dent coun­sel inves­ti­gat­ing them as long as the pres­i­dent knows the accu­sa­tions are false. That’s seri­ous­ly what the attor­ney gen­er­al argue in front of Con­gress. Beyond that, Barr went on to argue that Trump would­n’t just have the con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty to replace an inde­pen­dent coun­sel. Trump could shut the entire thing down, as long as he feels he’s being false­ly accused and the inves­ti­ga­tion is ground­less:

    ...
    Barr expand­ed on this the­o­ry in a lat­er round of ques­tion­ing, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D‑VT) asked about Trump’s pos­si­ble motives for obstruc­tion.

    Barr admit­ted that Trump could have such motives even if there was no “under­ly­ing crime” i.e. that Mueller did not prove that Trump’s cam­paign express­ly vio­lat­ed the law by con­spir­ing with Rus­sia. But then he said it was with­in Trump’s “con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty” to han­dle the probe as he saw fit.

    “In this sit­u­a­tion with the Pres­i­dent who has con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty to super­vise pro­ceed­ings, if, in fact, a pro­ceed­ing was not well-found­ed, if it was a ground­less pro­ceed­ing, or based on false alle­ga­tions, the Pres­i­dent does not have to sit there con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly and allow it to run its course,” Barr said.

    “The Pres­i­dent could ter­mi­nate that pro­ceed­ing and it would not be a cor­rupt intent because he was being false­ly accused,” Barr con­tin­ued. “And he would be wor­ried about the impact on his admin­is­tra­tion. That is impor­tant because most of the obstruc­tion claims that are being made here, or episodes, do involve the exer­cise of the President’s con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty and we now know that he was being false­ly accused.”
    ...

    So that’s obvi­ous­ly a huge dis­as­ter. Because now it’s no longer a ques­tion about whether or not the obstruc­tion of jus­tice alle­ga­tions in the Mueller report (and the obstruc­tion of jus­tice Trump engaged in pub­licly) con­sti­tute impeach­able offens­es for Trump. Barr just made impeach­ment of him­self a polit­i­cal issue. Arguably an urgent polit­i­cal issue. And that more or less guar­an­tees that impeach­ment is going to be a cen­tral issue head­ing into 2020.

    But as with so much of this #Rus­si­a­Gate sto­ry, the open obstruc­tion of jus­tice on the part of the Trump team does­n’t negate the many prob­lems with the under­ly­ing nar­ra­tive we are told about what hap­pened in 2016. And those under­ly­ing prob­lems can, in turn, feed into the Trump team’s charges that they were com­plete­ly set up and are total­ly inno­cent. So as the impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tions grow in scope and seri­ous­ness, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a seri­ous reex­am­i­na­tion of the facts sur­round­ing this case is going to grow as a result of the Trump team adopt­ing a “Trump can legal­ly obstruct as long as he was false­ly accused” defense strat­e­gy.

    And that’s all what makes the fol­low­ing sto­ry so poten­tial­ly explo­sive: Remem­ber those sto­ries from mid-2014, short­ly after the Maid­an protests top­pled the gov­ern­ment in Ukraine, about how Ukraine has about a quar­ter of the nat­ur­al gas reserves in Europe and a nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny with big stakes in Ukraine, Buris­ma, had hired Hunter Biden, who hap­pens to be the son of then-vice pres­i­dent Joe Biden? Well, that sto­ry is now back in the news. For rather con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly omi­nous rea­sons: it turns out that Ukraine’s new gov­ern­ment opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma in 2014. Flash for­ward to March of 2016 and Joe Biden showed up in Kiev and threat­ened to with­hold $1 bil­lion in loans for Ukraine if the gov­ern­ment did­n’t fire Shokin. Shokin was fired lat­er that day and the probe into Buris­ma was sub­se­quent­ly dropped. This sequence of events is unsur­pris­ing­ly now being spun by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as a move by Joe to pro­tect Hunter’s com­pa­ny.

    But the Trump admin­is­tra­tion isn’t just spec­u­lat­ing as to whether or not Biden may have pushed for the fir­ing of Shokin to protest Buris­ma and Hunter. No, it turns out Trump has been send­ing Rudolph Giu­liani to Ukraine to have him meet with offi­cials there to talk about this case and encour­age the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to reopen the case against Buris­ma. Recall how Giu­lian­i’s firm has been by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to do cyber­se­cu­ri­ty work and Giu­liani appears to be close to Ukrain­ian oli­garch Pavel Fuks (Fuchs).

    The probe of Buris­ma was reopened in March of this year by the same pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al who closed it in 2016, Yuriy Lut­senko. It was seen by many at the time as a move by the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion to get the sup­port of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in the midst of a tough reelec­tion bid.

    So, as we saw with Ukraine’s inves­ti­ga­tions into Paul Man­afort, we have anoth­er Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion that could have a big impact on US pol­i­tics. But in this instance we have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion open­ly push­ing for Ukraine to reopen an inves­ti­ga­tion pri­mar­i­ly to embar­rass Joe Biden, a poten­tial 2020 oppo­nent. But it’s also being done in the mid­dle of a Trump dri­ve to absolve him­self of obstruc­tion of jus­tice charges by some­how prov­ing that inves­ti­ga­tion against him was ille­git­i­mate and that makes any­thing that rais­es ques­tions about the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s inter­ac­tions with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment poten­tial­ly use­ful for Trump’s defense.

    In addi­tion, Giu­liani is open­ly admit­ting that he got involved with this because he’s seek­ing to counter the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion with evi­dence that Democ­rats con­spired with sym­pa­thet­ic Ukraini­ans to trig­ger the ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump cam­paign in 2016. Giu­liani explains that his inter­est in the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion was an out­growth of that. So this push by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to reex­am­ine what role Ukraine played in the 2016 fias­co is like­ly to only deep­en as this because a fun­da­men­tal part of Trump’s defense against obstruc­tion of jus­tice.

    Now, as we’re going to see, when you look at the broad­er con­text of the fir­ing of Vik­tor Shokin, it’s pret­ty clear that Biden was sim­ply deliv­er­ing a mes­sage that not just the US gov­ern­ment but EU gov­ern­ments had been push­ing for for many months before the fir­ing. There were even push­es with­in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion for its own inves­ti­ga­tions into Buris­ma and Biden report­ed­ly did­n’t get involved in that. And those calls from West­ern gov­ern­ments for Shok­in’s fir­ing was part of a much larg­er demand by Ukraine’s west­ern back­ers for a larg­er gov­ern­ment over­haul after Ukraine failed to imple­ment an ambi­tious reform and anti-cor­rup­tion agen­da (in part because that agen­da involved mass pri­va­ti­za­tions and aus­ter­i­ty). But that broad­er con­text is large­ly left out of the pub­lic under­stand­ing of the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion and the role Biden played in the fir­ing of Shokin at this point, mak­ing this a polit­i­cal­ly potent sto­ry for now. So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s attempts to whip of a new Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma leads to more focus on the actu­al his­to­ry of Ukraine dur­ing the post-Maid­an peri­od. Because if there’s one cen­tral area where the entire #Rus­si­a­Gate sto­ry falls apart it’s the parts of the sto­ry involv­ing Ukraine, espe­cial­ly Paul Man­afort’s role in Ukraine but not lim­it­ed to that. It’s also going to be inter­est­ing to say what kind of pay back the Trump admin­stra­tion gives to Ukraine in exchange for reopen­ing this inves­ti­ga­tion. More mis­siles?

    The New York Times

    Biden Faces Con­flict of Inter­est Ques­tions That Are Being Pro­mot­ed by Trump and Allies

    By Ken­neth P. Vogel and Iuli­ia Mendel
    May 1, 2019

    WASHINGTON — It was a for­eign pol­i­cy role Joseph R. Biden Jr. enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly embraced dur­ing his vice pres­i­den­cy: brow­beat­ing Ukraine’s noto­ri­ous­ly cor­rupt gov­ern­ment to clean up its act. And one of his most mem­o­rable per­for­mances came on a trip to Kiev in March 2016, when he threat­ened to with­hold $1 bil­lion in Unit­ed States loan guar­an­tees if Ukraine’s lead­ers did not dis­miss the country’s top pros­e­cu­tor, who had been accused of turn­ing a blind eye to cor­rup­tion in his own office and among the polit­i­cal elite.

    The pres­sure cam­paign worked. The pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, long a tar­get of crit­i­cism from oth­er West­ern nations and inter­na­tion­al lenders, was soon vot­ed out by the Ukrain­ian Par­lia­ment.

    Among those who had a stake in the out­come was Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an ener­gy com­pa­ny owned by a Ukrain­ian oli­garch who had been in the sights of the fired pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al.

    Hunter Biden was a Yale-edu­cat­ed lawyer who had served on the boards of Amtrak and a num­ber of non­prof­its and think tanks, but lacked any expe­ri­ence in Ukraine and just months ear­li­er had been dis­charged from the Navy Reserve after test­ing pos­i­tive for cocaine. He would be paid about $50,000 per month for his work for the com­pa­ny, Buris­ma Hold­ings.

    The broad out­lines of how the Bidens’ roles inter­sect­ed in Ukraine have been known for some time. The for­mer vice president’s cam­paign said that he had always act­ed to car­ry out Unit­ed States pol­i­cy with­out regard to any activ­i­ties of his son, that he had nev­er dis­cussed the mat­ter with Hunter Biden and that he learned of his son’s role with the Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­ny from news reports.

    But new details about Hunter Biden’s involve­ment, and a deci­sion this year by the cur­rent Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to reverse him­self and reopen an inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma, have pushed the issue back into the spot­light just as the senior Mr. Biden is begin­ning his 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    They show how Hunter Biden and his Amer­i­can busi­ness part­ners were part of a broad effort by Buris­ma to bring in well-con­nect­ed Democ­rats dur­ing a peri­od when the com­pa­ny was fac­ing inves­ti­ga­tions backed not just by domes­tic Ukrain­ian forces but by offi­cials in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. Hunter Biden’s work for Buris­ma prompt­ed con­cerns among State Depart­ment offi­cials at the time that the con­nec­tion could com­pli­cate Vice Pres­i­dent Biden’s diplo­ma­cy in Ukraine, for­mer offi­cials said.

    “I have had no role what­so­ev­er in rela­tion to any inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma, or any of its offi­cers,” Hunter Biden said Wednes­day in a state­ment. “I explic­it­ly lim­it­ed my role to focus on cor­po­rate gov­er­nance best prac­tices to facil­i­tate Burisma’s desire to expand glob­al­ly.”

    Hunter Biden, who left Burisma’s board last month, was one of many polit­i­cal­ly promi­nent Amer­i­cans of both major par­ties who made mon­ey in Ukraine over the last decade. In sev­er­al cas­es — most notably that of Paul Man­afort, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man — that busi­ness came under crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion that exposed a seedy side of the lucra­tive West­ern con­sult­ing indus­try in Ukraine.

    But the renewed scruti­ny of Hunter Biden’s expe­ri­ence in Ukraine has also been fanned by allies of Mr. Trump. They have been eager to pub­li­cize and even encour­age the inves­ti­ga­tion, as well as oth­er Ukrain­ian inquiries that serve Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal ends, under­scor­ing the Trump campaign’s con­cern about the elec­toral threat from the for­mer vice president’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    The Trump team’s efforts to draw atten­tion to the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which is already yield­ing cov­er­age in con­ser­v­a­tive media, has been led part­ly by Rudolph W. Giu­liani, who served as a lawyer for Mr. Trump in the inves­ti­ga­tion by the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Giuliani’s involve­ment rais­es ques­tions about whether Mr. Trump is endors­ing an effort to push a for­eign gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with a case that could hurt a polit­i­cal oppo­nent at home.

    Mr. Giu­liani has dis­cussed the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion, and its inter­sec­tion with the Bidens, with the oust­ed Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and the cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor. He met with the cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor mul­ti­ple times in New York this year. The cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al lat­er told asso­ciates that, dur­ing one of the meet­ings, Mr. Giu­liani called Mr. Trump excit­ed­ly to brief him on his find­ings, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions.

    Mr. Giu­liani declined to com­ment on any such phone call with Mr. Trump, but acknowl­edged that he has dis­cussed the mat­ter with the pres­i­dent on mul­ti­ple occa­sions. Mr. Trump, in turn, recent­ly sug­gest­ed he would like Attor­ney Gen­er­al William P. Barr to look into the mate­r­i­al gath­ered by the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors — echo­ing repeat­ed calls from Mr. Giu­liani for the Jus­tice Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate the Bidens’ Ukrain­ian work and oth­er con­nec­tions between Ukraine and the Unit­ed States.

    Mr. Giu­liani said he got involved because he was seek­ing to counter the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion with evi­dence that Democ­rats con­spired with sym­pa­thet­ic Ukraini­ans to help ini­ti­ate what became the spe­cial counsel’s inquiry.

    “I can assure you this all start­ed with an alle­ga­tion about pos­si­ble Ukrain­ian involve­ment in the inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian med­dling, and not Biden,” Mr. Giu­liani said. “The Biden piece is col­lat­er­al to the big­ger sto­ry, but must still be inves­ti­gat­ed, but with­out the pre­judg­ments that infect­ed the col­lu­sion sto­ry.”

    The deci­sion to reopen the inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma was made in March by the cur­rent Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employ­er more than two years ago. The announce­ment came in the midst of Ukraine’s con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and was seen in some quar­ters as an effort by the pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Yuriy Lut­senko, to cur­ry favor from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion for his boss and ally, the incum­bent pres­i­dent, Petro O. Poroshenko.

    Mr. Poroshenko lost his re-elec­tion bid in a land­slide last month. While the incom­ing pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, has said he will replace Mr. Lut­senko as pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Mr. Zelen­sky has not said whether the pros­e­cu­tors he appoints will be asked to con­tin­ue the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Kos­tiantyn H. Kulyk, a deputy for Mr. Lut­senko who was han­dling the cas­es before being reas­signed last month, told The New York Times that he was scru­ti­niz­ing mil­lions of dol­lars of pay­ments from Buris­ma to the firm that paid Hunter Biden.

    No evi­dence has sur­faced that the for­mer vice pres­i­dent inten­tion­al­ly tried to help his son by press­ing for the pros­e­cu­tor general’s dis­missal. Some of his for­mer asso­ciates, more­over, said Mr. Biden nev­er did any­thing to deter oth­er Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials who were push­ing for the Unit­ed States to sup­port crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions by Ukrain­ian and British author­i­ties — and poten­tial­ly to start its own inves­ti­ga­tion — into Buris­ma and its own­er, Myko­la Zlochevsky, for pos­si­ble mon­ey laun­der­ing and abuse of office.

    The Biden cam­paign cast the revival of the Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion as polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed and point­ed to the involve­ment of Mr. Giu­liani to ques­tion the motives behind the new scruti­ny.

    ...

    After grad­u­at­ing from Yale Law School, Hunter Biden took on a num­ber of roles that inter­sect­ed with his father’s polit­i­cal career, includ­ing work­ing with a Delaware-based cred­it card issuer, work­ing at the Com­merce Depart­ment under Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and work­ing as a lob­by­ist on behalf of var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties, asso­ci­a­tions and com­pa­nies.

    When his father was select­ed as Barack Obama’s run­ning mate in 2008, Hunter Biden ter­mi­nat­ed his lob­by­ing reg­is­tra­tions, which at the time includ­ed a com­pa­ny that had lob­bied the staff of the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee, on which his father had served, about online gam­bling issues.

    Months after his father became vice pres­i­dent, Mr. Biden joined with Christo­pher Heinz, the step­son of John Ker­ry, then a sen­a­tor, and Devon Archer, a Ker­ry fam­i­ly friend, to cre­ate a net­work of invest­ment and con­sult­ing firms with vari­a­tions of the name Rose­mont Seneca. Mr. Ker­ry would go on to become sec­re­tary of state.

    The firms and their part­ners pur­sued busi­ness with inter­na­tion­al enti­ties that had a stake in Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy deci­sions, often in coun­tries where con­nec­tions implied polit­i­cal influ­ence and pro­tec­tion.

    Among the com­pa­nies they did work for was Buris­ma, a nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny owned by Mr. Zlochevsky. Mr. Zlochevsky had served near­ly four years in the gov­ern­ment of the for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor F. Yanukovych, who stepped down in ear­ly 2014 and fled amid mass street protests.

    In the months after the col­lapse of Mr. Yanukovych’s gov­ern­ment, Mr. Zlochevsky also fled the coun­try as Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors opened mul­ti­ple inves­ti­ga­tions into him and his busi­ness­es. Britain’s Seri­ous Fraud Office froze Lon­don accounts linked to Mr. Zlochevsky con­tain­ing $23 mil­lion, declar­ing it was con­nect­ed to mon­ey laun­der­ing and Yanukovych-era cor­rup­tion. (The British pros­e­cu­tion lat­er col­lapsed because of what Amer­i­can offi­cials said was a lack of coop­er­a­tion from the office of the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al who pre­ced­ed Mr. Shokin.)

    When Mr. Shokin became pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al in Feb­ru­ary 2015, he inher­it­ed sev­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions into the com­pa­ny and Mr. Zlochevsky, includ­ing for sus­pi­cion of tax eva­sion and mon­ey laun­der­ing. Mr. Shokin also opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into the grant­i­ng of lucra­tive gas licens­es to com­pa­nies owned by Mr. Zlochevsky when he was the head of the Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Ecol­o­gy and Nat­ur­al Resources. Mr. Zlochevsky and Buris­ma have always vig­or­ous­ly dis­put­ed the accu­sa­tions against them.

    Views about the role of the Bidens in the mat­ter depend to some degree on ques­tions about Mr. Shokin’s motives. Among both Ukrain­ian and Amer­i­can offi­cials, there is con­sid­er­able debate about whether Mr. Shokin was intent on pur­su­ing a legit­i­mate inquiry into Buris­ma or whether he was mere­ly using the threat of pros­e­cu­tion to solic­it a bribe, as Mr. Zlochevsky’s defend­ers assert.

    Con­cerns about Mr. Shokin notwith­stand­ing, the cas­es against Buris­ma had high-lev­el sup­port from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. In April 2014, it sent top offi­cials to a forum on Ukrain­ian asset recov­ery, co-spon­sored by the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment, in Lon­don, where Mr. Zlochevsky’s case was high­light­ed.

    Ear­ly that year, Mr. Archer, the Ker­ry fam­i­ly friend, and Hunter Biden were part of a wave of Amer­i­cans who would come from across the Atlantic to help Buris­ma both with its sub­stan­tive legal issues and its image. Their sup­port allowed Buris­ma to cre­ate the per­cep­tion that it was backed by pow­er­ful Amer­i­cans at a time when Ukraine was espe­cial­ly depen­dent on aid and strate­gic back­ing from the Unit­ed States and its allies, accord­ing to peo­ple who worked in Ukraine at the time.

    First, Mr. Archer joined Burisma’s board. Around the same time, the com­pa­ny start­ed pay­ing the New York law firm Boies Schiller Flexn­er, where Hunter Biden was work­ing.

    The firm, which Mr. Biden left at the end of 2017, declined to describe the nature of Boies Schiller’s work for Buris­ma. But pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed finan­cial data from the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor general’s office show the com­pa­ny paid $283,000 to Boies Schiller for legal ser­vices in 2014.

    Soon after Mr. Archer joined Burisma’s board, Hunter Biden fol­lowed, despite being warned by asso­ciates who had expe­ri­ence in Ukraine to stay away from Mr. Zlochevsky, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions.

    A news release from the com­pa­ny said Hunter Biden would “be in charge of the hold­ings’ legal unit and will pro­vide sup­port for the com­pa­ny among inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions.” Mr. Biden said the news release mis­char­ac­ter­ized his role with Buris­ma. “At no time was I in charge of the company’s legal affairs,” he said.

    Among the Amer­i­cans brought in by Hunter Biden’s Amer­i­can busi­ness part­ners to help fend off the inves­ti­ga­tions was Blue Star Strate­gies, a con­sult­ing firm run by Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion vet­er­ans that had done sub­stan­tial work in Ukraine.

    A team from Blue Star, and an Amer­i­can lawyer Blue Star hired, John D. Buret­ta, who had served as a senior offi­cial in the Oba­ma Jus­tice Depart­ment, held two pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed meet­ings in Kiev, Ukraine’s cap­i­tal, with Mr. Lut­senko, who took office in May 2016 after Mr. Shokin’s dis­missal, accord­ing to peo­ple with direct knowl­edge of the meet­ings. Mr. Lut­senko denied attend­ing the meet­ing.

    Mr. Lut­senko ini­tial­ly took a hard line against Buris­ma. But with­in 10 months after he took office, Buris­ma announced that Mr. Lut­senko and the courts had “ful­ly closed” all “legal pro­ceed­ings and pend­ing crim­i­nal alle­ga­tions” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his com­pa­nies, and that the oli­garch had been removed by a Ukrain­ian court from “the want­ed list.” Mr. Zlochevsky returned to the coun­try.

    ...

    Amos J. Hochstein, who worked with Vice Pres­i­dent Biden on Ukraine issues as the State Department’s coor­di­na­tor for inter­na­tion­al ener­gy affairs, said the Oba­ma administration’s sup­port for pros­e­cut­ing Mr. Zlochevsky con­tra­dicts any impli­ca­tion that the elder Mr. Biden was seek­ing to oust Mr. Shokin in order to pro­tect his son or Mr. Zlochevsky.

    “I was in almost every sin­gle meet­ing that Vice Pres­i­dent Biden had with Pres­i­dent Poroshenko, I was on every trip, and I was on most of the phone calls, and there was nev­er a dis­cus­sion about his son, or Buris­ma,” Mr. Hochstein said. “None of these issues ever came up.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Biden Faces Con­flict of Inter­est Ques­tions That Are Being Pro­mot­ed by Trump and Allies” by Ken­neth P. Vogel and Iuli­ia Mendel;
    The New York Times; 05/01/2019

    “But new details about Hunter Biden’s involve­ment, and a deci­sion this year by the cur­rent Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to reverse him­self and reopen an inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma, have pushed the issue back into the spot­light just as the senior Mr. Biden is begin­ning his 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.”

    Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma has sud­den­ly become quite top­i­cal fol­low­ing the deci­sion by Joe Biden to jump into the 2020 race. Part of this is dri­ven by new details on that inves­ti­ga­tion. But com­pli­cat­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s nar­ra­tive is that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion appears to have been push­ing for inves­ti­ga­tions into Buris­ma:

    ...
    They show how Hunter Biden and his Amer­i­can busi­ness part­ners were part of a broad effort by Buris­ma to bring in well-con­nect­ed Democ­rats dur­ing a peri­od when the com­pa­ny was fac­ing inves­ti­ga­tions backed not just by domes­tic Ukrain­ian forces but by offi­cials in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. Hunter Biden’s work for Buris­ma prompt­ed con­cerns among State Depart­ment offi­cials at the time that the con­nec­tion could com­pli­cate Vice Pres­i­dent Biden’s diplo­ma­cy in Ukraine, for­mer offi­cials said.

    “I have had no role what­so­ev­er in rela­tion to any inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma, or any of its offi­cers,” Hunter Biden said Wednes­day in a state­ment. “I explic­it­ly lim­it­ed my role to focus on cor­po­rate gov­er­nance best prac­tices to facil­i­tate Burisma’s desire to expand glob­al­ly.”

    Hunter Biden, who left Burisma’s board last month, was one of many polit­i­cal­ly promi­nent Amer­i­cans of both major par­ties who made mon­ey in Ukraine over the last decade. In sev­er­al cas­es — most notably that of Paul Man­afort, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man — that busi­ness came under crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion that exposed a seedy side of the lucra­tive West­ern con­sult­ing indus­try in Ukraine.
    ...

    But despite that, Pres­i­dent Trump has made Rudolph Giu­liani his point man on push­ing this sto­ry. But it’s just one aspect of a larg­er Trump admin­is­tra­tion strat­e­gy of pro­mot­ing the idea that the Democ­rats col­lud­ed with Ukraine in 2016. Trump is even ask­ing Bill Barr to look into the mate­ri­als gath­ered by Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tors. And, again, this is all hap­pen­ing in the con­text of Trump and Barr push­ing a defense against obstruc­tion of jus­tice charges that argue that it’s not obstruc­tion if it was obstruct­ing a case based on a false accu­sa­tion. So if this Buris­ma case ends up get­ting spun as an exam­ple of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion col­lud­ing with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in 2016 it could could end up becom­ing a big part of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s obstruc­tion of jus­tice defense:

    ...
    But the renewed scruti­ny of Hunter Biden’s expe­ri­ence in Ukraine has also been fanned by allies of Mr. Trump. They have been eager to pub­li­cize and even encour­age the inves­ti­ga­tion, as well as oth­er Ukrain­ian inquiries that serve Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal ends, under­scor­ing the Trump campaign’s con­cern about the elec­toral threat from the for­mer vice president’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    The Trump team’s efforts to draw atten­tion to the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which is already yield­ing cov­er­age in con­ser­v­a­tive media, has been led part­ly by Rudolph W. Giu­liani, who served as a lawyer for Mr. Trump in the inves­ti­ga­tion by the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Giuliani’s involve­ment rais­es ques­tions about whether Mr. Trump is endors­ing an effort to push a for­eign gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with a case that could hurt a polit­i­cal oppo­nent at home.

    Mr. Giu­liani has dis­cussed the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion, and its inter­sec­tion with the Bidens, with the oust­ed Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and the cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor. He met with the cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor mul­ti­ple times in New York this year. The cur­rent pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al lat­er told asso­ciates that, dur­ing one of the meet­ings, Mr. Giu­liani called Mr. Trump excit­ed­ly to brief him on his find­ings, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions.

    Mr. Giu­liani declined to com­ment on any such phone call with Mr. Trump, but acknowl­edged that he has dis­cussed the mat­ter with the pres­i­dent on mul­ti­ple occa­sions. Mr. Trump, in turn, recent­ly sug­gest­ed he would like Attor­ney Gen­er­al William P. Barr to look into the mate­r­i­al gath­ered by the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors — echo­ing repeat­ed calls from Mr. Giu­liani for the Jus­tice Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate the Bidens’ Ukrain­ian work and oth­er con­nec­tions between Ukraine and the Unit­ed States.

    Mr. Giu­liani said he got involved because he was seek­ing to counter the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion with evi­dence that Democ­rats con­spired with sym­pa­thet­ic Ukraini­ans to help ini­ti­ate what became the spe­cial counsel’s inquiry.

    “I can assure you this all start­ed with an alle­ga­tion about pos­si­ble Ukrain­ian involve­ment in the inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian med­dling, and not Biden,” Mr. Giu­liani said. “The Biden piece is col­lat­er­al to the big­ger sto­ry, but must still be inves­ti­gat­ed, but with­out the pre­judg­ments that infect­ed the col­lu­sion sto­ry.”
    ...

    It’s also worth not­ing how the deci­sion by Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to reopen the case in March has been wide­ly seen as an attempt by the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment to cur­ry favor with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion:

    ...
    The deci­sion to reopen the inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma was made in March by the cur­rent Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employ­er more than two years ago. The announce­ment came in the midst of Ukraine’s con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and was seen in some quar­ters as an effort by the pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Yuriy Lut­senko, to cur­ry favor from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion for his boss and ally, the incum­bent pres­i­dent, Petro O. Poroshenko.
    ...

    Also note how the new pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, has­n’t indi­cat­ed whether he’s going to keep the case open, so it’s pre­sum­ably going to remain a means for Ukraine to please Trump:

    ...
    Mr. Poroshenko lost his re-elec­tion bid in a land­slide last month. While the incom­ing pres­i­dent, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, has said he will replace Mr. Lut­senko as pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Mr. Zelen­sky has not said whether the pros­e­cu­tors he appoints will be asked to con­tin­ue the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Kos­tiantyn H. Kulyk, a deputy for Mr. Lut­senko who was han­dling the cas­es before being reas­signed last month, told The New York Times that he was scru­ti­niz­ing mil­lions of dol­lars of pay­ments from Buris­ma to the firm that paid Hunter Biden.
    ...

    Adding to the intrigue of whether or not the Trump team ends up turn­ing this case into a polit­i­cal foot­ball is the fact that Biden does have facts on his side to defend him­self. Facts like the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion show­ing an inter­est­ing in its own inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma:

    ...
    No evi­dence has sur­faced that the for­mer vice pres­i­dent inten­tion­al­ly tried to help his son by press­ing for the pros­e­cu­tor general’s dis­missal. Some of his for­mer asso­ciates, more­over, said Mr. Biden nev­er did any­thing to deter oth­er Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials who were push­ing for the Unit­ed States to sup­port crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions by Ukrain­ian and British author­i­ties — and poten­tial­ly to start its own inves­ti­ga­tion — into Buris­ma and its own­er, Myko­la Zlochevsky, for pos­si­ble mon­ey laun­der­ing and abuse of office.

    The Biden cam­paign cast the revival of the Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion as polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed and point­ed to the involve­ment of Mr. Giu­liani to ques­tion the motives behind the new scruti­ny.
    ...

    There also appears to have been a real debate in Ukraine as to whether or not the inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma was part of a shake­down scheme by Shokin to get a bribe. But despite that debate, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was appar­ent­ly ful­ly sup­port­ive of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s inves­ti­ga­tion:

    ...
    Among the com­pa­nies they did work for was Buris­ma, a nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny owned by Mr. Zlochevsky. Mr. Zlochevsky had served near­ly four years in the gov­ern­ment of the for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor F. Yanukovych, who stepped down in ear­ly 2014 and fled amid mass street protests.

    In the months after the col­lapse of Mr. Yanukovych’s gov­ern­ment, Mr. Zlochevsky also fled the coun­try as Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors opened mul­ti­ple inves­ti­ga­tions into him and his busi­ness­es. Britain’s Seri­ous Fraud Office froze Lon­don accounts linked to Mr. Zlochevsky con­tain­ing $23 mil­lion, declar­ing it was con­nect­ed to mon­ey laun­der­ing and Yanukovych-era cor­rup­tion. (The British pros­e­cu­tion lat­er col­lapsed because of what Amer­i­can offi­cials said was a lack of coop­er­a­tion from the office of the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al who pre­ced­ed Mr. Shokin.)

    When Mr. Shokin became pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al in Feb­ru­ary 2015, he inher­it­ed sev­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions into the com­pa­ny and Mr. Zlochevsky, includ­ing for sus­pi­cion of tax eva­sion and mon­ey laun­der­ing. Mr. Shokin also opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into the grant­i­ng of lucra­tive gas licens­es to com­pa­nies owned by Mr. Zlochevsky when he was the head of the Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Ecol­o­gy and Nat­ur­al Resources. Mr. Zlochevsky and Buris­ma have always vig­or­ous­ly dis­put­ed the accu­sa­tions against them.

    Views about the role of the Bidens in the mat­ter depend to some degree on ques­tions about Mr. Shokin’s motives. Among both Ukrain­ian and Amer­i­can offi­cials, there is con­sid­er­able debate about whether Mr. Shokin was intent on pur­su­ing a legit­i­mate inquiry into Buris­ma or whether he was mere­ly using the threat of pros­e­cu­tion to solic­it a bribe, as Mr. Zlochevsky’s defend­ers assert.

    Con­cerns about Mr. Shokin notwith­stand­ing, the cas­es against Buris­ma had high-lev­el sup­port from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. In April 2014, it sent top offi­cials to a forum on Ukrain­ian asset recov­ery, co-spon­sored by the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment, in Lon­don, where Mr. Zlochevsky’s case was high­light­ed.

    ...

    Amos J. Hochstein, who worked with Vice Pres­i­dent Biden on Ukraine issues as the State Department’s coor­di­na­tor for inter­na­tion­al ener­gy affairs, said the Oba­ma administration’s sup­port for pros­e­cut­ing Mr. Zlochevsky con­tra­dicts any impli­ca­tion that the elder Mr. Biden was seek­ing to oust Mr. Shokin in order to pro­tect his son or Mr. Zlochevsky.
    ...

    So just went you look at the avail­able details sur­round­ing the Buris­ma case, it’s not like this is a black and white sto­ry. It’s murky.

    What’s unam­bigu­ous­ly clear is that the push for the fir­ing of Vik­tor Shokin was­n’t some pet project of Joe Biden in 2016. It was just one part of a much larg­er push for an over­haul in Ukraine’s by Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers that had been going on for months. For exam­ple, here’s an arti­cle from Feb­ru­ary of 2016, a month before Shok­in’s fir­ing, when the Deputy Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor Vitaliy Kasko resigned, declar­ing the pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al’s office a “hotbed of cor­rup­tion”. Kasko’s res­ig­na­tion fol­lowed the res­ig­na­tion of Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Aivaras Abro­mavi­cius, who declared that the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment was inter­fer­ing with his reforms. Recall how Abro­mavi­cius was one of the offi­cials import­ed from a dif­fer­ent coun­try (Lithua­nia) under the the­o­ry that Ukraine’s cor­rup­tion could be addressed with for­eign lead­er­ship. So when Abro­mavi­cius and Kasko were resign­ing in protest, it was part of a West­ern-backed protest of Ukraine’s lack of anti-cor­rup­tion reform (and also a lack of harm­ful aus­ter­i­ty and pri­va­ti­za­tion reforms that the West demand­ed). And that’s the crit­i­cal con­text of the fir­ing of the Vik­tor Shokin the fol­low­ing month:

    Reuters

    Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor quits over cor­rup­tion as gov­ern­ment teeters

    Natalia Zinets, Pavel Poli­tyuk
    Feb­ru­ary 15, 2016 / 7:00 AM

    KIEV (Reuters) — A senior Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor resigned on Mon­day, call­ing the office he worked for a “hotbed of cor­rup­tion”, anoth­er blow to gov­ern­ment attempts to clean up the judi­cia­ry, a cru­cial step to unlock more West­ern aid.

    The res­ig­na­tion, the sec­ond exit of a West­ern-backed reformer in under a fort­night, came a day before a pos­si­ble no con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment that could top­ple Prime Min­is­ter Arse­ny Yat­se­niuk and lead to a snap elec­tion.

    Fail­ure to tack­le endem­ic cor­rup­tion has derailed a $40 bil­lion aid pro­gram that keeps the war-torn coun­try afloat. If Yat­se­niuk falls, it would fur­ther delay nego­ti­a­tions with the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund for the next tranche of mon­ey, $1.7 bil­lion, which has been on hold since Octo­ber.

    “Today, the Gen­er­al Prosecutor’s office is a brake on the reform of crim­i­nal jus­tice, a hotbed of cor­rup­tion, an instru­ment of polit­i­cal pres­sure, one of the key obsta­cles to the arrival of for­eign invest­ment in Ukraine,” Deputy Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor Vitaliy Kasko said in a tele­vised state­ment.

    Kasko’s move fol­lows the exit of Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Aivaras Abro­mavi­cius, who accused vest­ed inter­ests, includ­ing a close ally of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, of med­dling in his min­istry and try­ing to siphon off state funds.

    Kasko’s accu­sa­tion that there was mere­ly a facade of change in the pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice is dam­ag­ing to Poroshenko, who has resist­ed pres­sure to fire Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor Vik­tor Shokin. Vladislav Kut­senko, an aide to Shokin, dis­missed Kasko’s res­ig­na­tion as self-pub­lic­i­ty.

    But U.S. Ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt called Kasko “a cham­pi­on for change”.

    “His res­ig­na­tion is a blow to #Ukraine’s reform progress ... #Ukraine deserves a clean judi­cia­ry. Will require top-to-bot­tom rule of law reform to address per­va­sive cor­rup­tion + crony­ism,” he tweet­ed.

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor quits over cor­rup­tion as gov­ern­ment teeters” by Natalia Zinets, Pavel Poli­tyuk; Reuters; 02/15/2016

    “Fail­ure to tack­le endem­ic cor­rup­tion has derailed a $40 bil­lion aid pro­gram that keeps the war-torn coun­try afloat. If Yat­se­niuk falls, it would fur­ther delay nego­ti­a­tions with the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund for the next tranche of mon­ey, $1.7 bil­lion, which has been on hold since Octo­ber.”

    Threats of derail­ing Ukraine’s $40 bil­lion IMF loan pack­age if Ukraine did­n’t tack­le its cor­rup­tion. That’s the crit­i­cal con­text in Shok­in’s fir­ing. A con­text that includ­ed the res­ig­na­tions of two key West­ern-backed Ukrain­ian offi­cials: Deputy Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor Vitaliy Kasko and Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Aivaras Abro­mavi­cius:

    ...
    Kasko’s move fol­lows the exit of Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Aivaras Abro­mavi­cius, who accused vest­ed inter­ests, includ­ing a close ally of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, of med­dling in his min­istry and try­ing to siphon off state funds.

    Kasko’s accu­sa­tion that there was mere­ly a facade of change in the pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice is dam­ag­ing to Poroshenko, who has resist­ed pres­sure to fire Gen­er­al Pros­e­cu­tor Vik­tor Shokin. Vladislav Kut­senko, an aide to Shokin, dis­missed Kasko’s res­ig­na­tion as self-pub­lic­i­ty.

    But U.S. Ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt called Kasko “a cham­pi­on for change”.

    “His res­ig­na­tion is a blow to #Ukraine’s reform progress ... #Ukraine deserves a clean judi­cia­ry. Will require top-to-bot­tom rule of law reform to address per­va­sive cor­rup­tion + crony­ism,” he tweet­ed.
    ...

    Adding to that con­text is the fact that Kasko’s res­ig­na­tion hap­pened one day before a no-con­fi­dence vote in the par­lia­ment that could have top­pled Prime Min­is­ter Arse­ny Yat­se­niuk and lead to a snap elec­tion. That’s how much tur­moil there was in Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment at that point:

    ...
    The res­ig­na­tion, the sec­ond exit of a West­ern-backed reformer in under a fort­night, came a day before a pos­si­ble no con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment that could top­ple Prime Min­is­ter Arse­ny Yat­se­niuk and lead to a snap elec­tion.
    ...

    Now, it turns out Yat­se­niuk nar­row­ly sur­vived that no-con­fi­dence vote, but as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it was none oth­er than Petro Poroshenko who was also call­ing for the fir­ing of Vik­tor Shokin at that time. There was even some con­fu­sion at that point as to whether or not Shokin had already resigned (he had­n’t). So, basi­cal­ly, Poroshenko, who was under mas­sive pres­sure from the West for the lack of anti-cor­rup­tion reforms, was redi­rect­ing some of that blame to Shokin. Beyond that, Poroshenko was call­ing for a “full cab­i­net reload” in response to pres­sure which is also part of the con­text of the fire of Shokin. As Poroshenko declared fol­low­ing the no-con­fi­dence vote: “The moment for a par­tial reshuf­fle of the cab­i­net of min­is­ters has been lost...The dis­cus­sion about it has been so long that the issue itself got lost in it. The demand for a full cab­i­net reload is obvi­ous now.”:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    Ukraine PM Yat­senyuk Sur­vives No-Con­fi­dence Vote In Par­lia­ment

    By RFE/RL’s Ukrain­ian Ser­vice
    Feb­ru­ary 16, 2016 13:49 GMT

    Ukrain­ian Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk has sur­vived a no-con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment, hours after Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko called on him to resign “in order to restore trust in the gov­ern­ment.”

    A total of 194 law­mak­ers vot­ed for the res­o­lu­tion, 32 shy of the 226 votes need­ed to pass the mea­sure that was intro­duced ear­li­er in the day by Yuriy Lut­senko, leader of Poroshenko’s own par­ty in the 450-seat Verk­hov­na Rada.

    The vote came amid what opin­ion polls sug­gest is grow­ing dis­en­chant­ment among Ukraini­ans with the pro-West­ern gov­ern­ment that took pow­er fol­low­ing the ouster of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych in Feb­ru­ary 2014.

    ...

    A pres­i­den­tial state­ment ear­li­er in the day said Yat­senyuk’s gov­ern­ment had lost the sup­port of the rul­ing coali­tion, which includes the Poroshenko Bloc.

    In a tele­vised address, Poroshenko said that in order “to restore [pub­lic] trust” in Ukraine, “ther­a­py is no longer suf­fi­cient — it takes surgery.”

    “The moment for a par­tial reshuf­fle of the cab­i­net of min­is­ters has been lost,” he said. “The dis­cus­sion about it has been so long that the issue itself got lost in it. The demand for a full cab­i­net reload is obvi­ous now.”

    ...

    Shokin ‘Res­ig­na­tion’

    Poroshenko also called for the res­ig­na­tion of Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Vik­tor Shokin, who has been seen by many reform­ers, and even West­ern diplo­mats, as an imped­i­ment to clean­ing up ram­pant cor­rup­tion

    The Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da news­pa­per and the lb.ua news por­tal cit­ed uniden­ti­fied sources, includ­ing one in the Prosecutor-General’s office, as say­ing that Shokin had already resigned fol­low­ing Poroshenko’s request.

    Pro-West­ern law­mak­er Mustafa Nayyem also wrote on Twit­ter that Shokin had resigned but did not indi­cate a source for this infor­ma­tion, which could not be imme­di­ate­ly con­firmed.

    Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Yuriy Sevruk, mean­while, was quot­ed as say­ing that Shokin had not resigned but in fact had tak­en a three-day vaca­tion begin­ning Feb­ru­ary 15.

    He said he was serv­ing as act­ing pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al in Shok­in’s absence.

    “Vik­tor Niko­layevich [Shokin] appoint­ed me on Feb­ru­ary 12 when he sub­mit­ted [a notice] for a three-day vaca­tion,” the news por­tal UNN cit­ed Sevruk as say­ing on Feb­ru­ary 16.

    The col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment would dis­may Ukraine’s inter­na­tion­al back­ers, who have invest­ed much cash and polit­i­cal cap­i­tal sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment in the stand­off with Rus­sia over the fight­ing in the east as well as Moscow’s annex­a­tion of the Crimea penin­su­la.

    The push to elim­i­nate prob­lems like bribery, kick­backs, and pref­er­en­tial hir­ing for wealthy insid­ers has pro­ceed­ed at a slow pace, result­ing in grow­ing frus­tra­tion both inside Ukraine and among West­ern offi­cials and lenders.

    Shokin, a con­tro­ver­sial appoint­ment in 2014 who had served in pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tions, has faced accu­sa­tions of stalling high-pro­file cor­rup­tion cas­es against allies of Yanukovych who was top­pled by pro-Euro­pean protests in Feb­ru­ary 2014.

    He was called out by name ear­li­er this month by Lithuan­ian-born Econ­o­my Min­is­ter Aivaras Abro­mavi­cius, who announced his res­ig­na­tion and cit­ed a “sharp esca­la­tion in efforts to block sys­temic and impor­tant reforms.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Ukraine PM Yat­senyuk Sur­vives No-Con­fi­dence Vote In Par­lia­ment” by RFE/RL’s Ukrain­ian Ser­vice; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 02/16/2016

    “The moment for a par­tial reshuf­fle of the cab­i­net of min­is­ters has been lost...The dis­cus­sion about it has been so long that the issue itself got lost in it. The demand for a full cab­i­net reload is obvi­ous now.”

    A full cab­i­net reload in the wake of a near col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment. This was was Petro Poroshenko was call­ing for in the weeks before Biden’s trip to Kiev where he made the demand that Shokin be fired. Shok­in’s depar­ture was so expect­ed that there was con­fu­sion as to whether or not he had already resigned at that point:

    ...
    Poroshenko also called for the res­ig­na­tion of Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Vik­tor Shokin, who has been seen by many reform­ers, and even West­ern diplo­mats, as an imped­i­ment to clean­ing up ram­pant cor­rup­tion

    The Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da news­pa­per and the lb.ua news por­tal cit­ed uniden­ti­fied sources, includ­ing one in the Prosecutor-General’s office, as say­ing that Shokin had already resigned fol­low­ing Poroshenko’s request.

    Pro-West­ern law­mak­er Mustafa Nayyem also wrote on Twit­ter that Shokin had resigned but did not indi­cate a source for this infor­ma­tion, which could not be imme­di­ate­ly con­firmed.

    Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­er­al Yuriy Sevruk, mean­while, was quot­ed as say­ing that Shokin had not resigned but in fact had tak­en a three-day vaca­tion begin­ning Feb­ru­ary 15.

    He said he was serv­ing as act­ing pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al in Shok­in’s absence.

    “Vik­tor Niko­layevich [Shokin] appoint­ed me on Feb­ru­ary 12 when he sub­mit­ted [a notice] for a three-day vaca­tion,” the news por­tal UNN cit­ed Sevruk as say­ing on Feb­ru­ary 16.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, when Shokin was even­tu­al­ly fired the fol­low­ing month, the Euro­pean Union offi­cial­ly wel­comed the deci­sion. That’s how wide­spread the push was for his removal. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, one of the last acts of Shokin before his fir­ing was the sack­ing o his deputy, Davit Sak­vare­lidze. Sak­vare­lidze was anoth­er one of the non-Ukraini­ans import­ed into the coun­try (he’s from Geor­gia) under the the­o­ry that Ukraine need­ed for­eign­ers to clean up its gov­ern­ment. It high­lights how the fir­ing of Shokin appeared to be part of a broad­er fight between the Ukrain­ian estab­lish­ment and its West­ern back­ers. That’s the agen­da Joe Biden was push­ing when he called for Shok­in’s fir­ing:

    The Irish Times

    EU hails sack­ing of Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor Vik­tor Shokin
    Polit­i­cal cri­sis con­tin­ues as deals on a new coali­tion and pre­mier prove elu­sive

    Daniel McLaugh­lin in Kiev
    Tue, Mar 29, 2016, 18:41

    The Euro­pean Union has wel­comed the dis­missal of Ukraine’s scan­dal-rid­den pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al and called for a crack­down on cor­rup­tion, even as the country’s polit­i­cal cri­sis deep­ened over efforts to form a new rul­ing coali­tion and appoint a new prime min­is­ter.

    Ukraine’s par­lia­ment vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly to fire Vik­tor Shokin, rid­ding the belea­guered prosecutor’s office of a fig­ure who is accused of block­ing major cas­es against allies and influ­en­tial fig­ures and stymy­ing moves to root out graft.

    “This deci­sion cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a fresh start in the pros­e­cu­tor general’s office. I hope that the new pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al will ensure that [his] office . . . becomes inde­pen­dent from polit­i­cal influ­ence and pres­sure and enjoys pub­lic trust,” said Jan Tombin­s­ki, the EU’s envoy to Ukraine.

    “There is still a lack of tan­gi­ble results of inves­ti­ga­tions into seri­ous cas­es . . . as well as inves­ti­ga­tions of high-lev­el offi­cials with­in the pros­e­cu­tor general’s office,” he added.

    Mr Tombin­s­ki said the EU was also con­cerned about the res­ig­na­tion or dis­missal of sev­er­al “reform-ori­ent­ed” pros­e­cu­tors and reports that Mr Shokin’s office was inves­ti­gat­ing a “high­ly-respect­ed” anti-cor­rup­tion group – an obvi­ous ref­er­ence to Kiev’s Anti-Cor­rup­tion Action Cen­tre, which had fierce­ly crit­i­cised Mr Shokin.

    In what appeared to be his last act before dis­missal, Mr Shokin sacked his deputy, Davit Sak­vare­lidze, who had repeat­ed­ly called for his boss to be fired.

    Mr Sak­vare­lidze, a Geor­gian who was also chief pros­e­cu­tor in the Odessa region, said his dis­missal by Mr Shokin was part of “a cleans­ing of peo­ple who are pre­pared every day to fight cor­rup­tion and the old guard with­out com­pro­mise”.

    Crime and cor­rup­tion

    “In this case, the pres­i­dent, as guar­an­tor of the con­sti­tu­tion, should express his opin­ion explic­it­ly, clear­ly and sharply,” Mr Saakashvili said.

    “And not because it will ben­e­fit any one of us, but for the sake of the state­hood, integri­ty and glo­ri­ous future of Ukraine.”

    Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko is under huge pres­sure to appoint a new pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al with a strong anti-cor­rup­tion rep­u­ta­tion, and to back inves­ti­ga­tions into the shad­owy affairs of major busi­ness­men and politi­cians.

    The EU and Unit­ed States are demand­ing as much, amid a polit­i­cal cri­sis that has paral­ysed reforms in Ukraine and jeop­ar­dised vital fund­ing from inter­na­tion­al lenders.

    ...

    ———-

    “EU hails sack­ing of Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor Vik­tor Shokin” by Daniel McLaugh­lin; The Irish Times; 03/29/2016

    ““This deci­sion cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a fresh start in the pros­e­cu­tor general’s office. I hope that the new pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al will ensure that [his] office . . . becomes inde­pen­dent from polit­i­cal influ­ence and pres­sure and enjoys pub­lic trust,” said Jan Tombin­s­ki, the EU’s envoy to Ukraine.”

    So the EU had an offi­cial stance on Ukraine’s fir­ing of is pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al. An offi­cial stance of approval, which makes sense giv­en the exten­sive West­ern-backed demands to fire Shokin that had been going on for months as part of a broad­er push to over­haul the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. West­ern demands that includ­ed the implic­it threat of cut­ting off Ukraine from inter­na­tion­al finan­cial sup­port:

    ...
    Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko is under huge pres­sure to appoint a new pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al with a strong anti-cor­rup­tion rep­u­ta­tion, and to back inves­ti­ga­tions into the shad­owy affairs of major busi­ness­men and politi­cians.

    The EU and Unit­ed States are demand­ing as much, amid a polit­i­cal cri­sis that has paral­ysed reforms in Ukraine and jeop­ar­dised vital fund­ing from inter­na­tion­al lenders.
    ...

    And that whole chap­ter of Ukraine’s recent his­to­ry is all cen­tral to the sto­ry of Joe Biden’s trip to Kiev that got Shokin fired. It’s obvi­ous that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion isn’t going to be inter­est­ed in hav­ing that broad­er con­text under­stood by the Amer­i­can pub­lic as Giu­lian­i’s attempts to pump the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion plays out.

    So, to sum­ma­rize, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion appears to be cor­rupt­ly push­ing for Ukraine to reopen an inves­ti­ga­tion that could embar­rass Joe Biden in order to build up the false nar­ra­tive that Biden was cor­rupt­ing try­ing to close that inves­ti­ga­tion. And this anti­dote to all of this is a thor­ough reex­am­i­na­tion of the actu­al recent his­to­ry of Ukraine. A recent his­to­ry that has large­ly been cor­rupt­ed by spin on all sides for years.

    At the same time, it’s not like there isn’t going to be plen­ty of con­tent for the Trump team to work with when search­ing for evi­dence of Ukraine work­ing to hurt Trump in 2016. For instance, there’s the sto­ry of Andrea Chalu­pa get­ting infor­ma­tion about Paul Man­afort. And there’s also all of the ques­tions about the verac­i­ty of the “black ledger” scan­dal that impli­cat­ed Man­afort and whether or not the release of those doc­u­ments in 2016 were an attempt by ele­ments of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to harm the Trump cam­paign. So if the Trump team is going to be focus­ing on alleged col­lu­sion between Ukraine and the US gov­ern­ment in 2016 as part of his defense against obstruc­tion of jus­tice it’s not like there isn’t going to be con­tent for them to work with when they build that nar­ra­tive. This sto­ry of Joe Biden, Buris­ma, and the fir­ing of Vik­tor Shokin, how­ev­er, does­n’t appear to play into that nar­ra­tive very well and risks back­fir­ing giv­en that Giu­liani appears to be solic­it­ing that inves­ti­ga­tion by Ukraine which presents obvi­ous mas­sive con­flicts of inter­est.

    It was always clear that the 2020 race would include a debate over whether or not the Trump had col­lud­ed with a for­eign gov­ern­ment to get dirt on his polit­i­cal oppo­nents. It’s just a lit­tle sur­pris­ing that Rudy Giu­liani open­ly solic­it­ing this infor­ma­tion from the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is part of that for­eign col­lu­sion sto­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 4, 2019, 4:07 pm
  18. Well that was fast: After the the impeach­ment of Pres­i­dent Trump is back on the table, with the impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tion offi­cial­ly begun in the House. And there’s no short­age of his­toric irony that it could be Trump’s sleazy deal­ings with the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine, not Rus­sia, that could lead to his impeach­ment.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, it appears that Trump with­held mil­i­tary aid from Ukraine in order to pres­sure the new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky to inves­ti­gate the whipped up alle­ga­tions against Joe Biden. These are the alle­ga­tions from the Repub­li­cans that Biden threat­ened to with­out US aid for Ukraine in 2016 unless the gov­ern­ment fired the pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Vik­tor Shokin, in order to pro­tect his son Hunter from an inves­ti­ga­tion into the nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny Buris­ma. Now, as we’ve seen, the time­line and details for that alle­ga­tion does­n’t add up. The inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma was already shut down by the time Biden made that threat and there were calls for the fir­ing of Shokin by Petro Poroshenko him­self and Shokin was wide­ly seen in the West as an obsta­cle to anti-cor­rup­tion efforts and when he was even­tu­al­ly fired this was hailed by the EU. In oth­er words, the threat to with­hold the US aid by Biden unless Shokin was fired was­n’t some stunt Biden was doing on his own. This was US gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy and part of a broad­er US-EU pres­sure cam­paign on Ukraine. But that’s the nar­ra­tive that the Repub­li­cans and right-wing media are aggres­sive­ly run­ning with.

    Of course, giv­en the pro­found role Ukrain­ian fig­ures have played in the sto­ry of the 2016 Cam­paign it’s not real­ly all that iron­ic that this is what has start­ed an impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tion. There was the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ scheme pushed by Felix Sater and Andrei Arte­menko, the Ukrain­ian politi­cian rou­tine­ly described as ‘pro-Krem­lin’ despite help­ing to found the vir­u­lent­ly anti-Russ­ian Right Sec­tor par­ty. There were Michael Cohen’s numer­ous close fam­i­ly ties to Ukrain­ian fig­ures like Alex Oronov and Fima Shus­ter­man. And then the up-is-down real­i­ty of Paul Man­afort’s work in Ukraine as a pro-West change-agent who was act­ing as Vik­tor Yanukovy­ch’s gov­ern­ment for the pur­pose of pulling Ukraine out of Rus­si­a’s orbit and into Europe’s orbit with an EU Trade Asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment. That’s what the ‘Haps­burg Group’ scheme was all about.

    And when Yanukovych decid­ed in Novem­ber of 2013 to take Putin’s offer of ‘Eurasian union’ instead of the EU’s trade asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment — in large part because the EU’s terms were incred­i­bly stingy and pro-aus­ter­i­ty — there is evi­dence point­ing in the direc­tion of Man­afort and Yanukovy­ch’s vice pres­i­dent Sergei Lyovochkin being behind at least some of the vio­lence that took place dur­ing the ini­tial Novem­ber 2013 protests against the deci­sion to pull out of the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion talks that sparked the Maid­an move­ment and the sniper attacks that defined the Feb­ru­ary 2014 Maid­an protests and led to Yanukovy­ch’s down­fall. And that just a sam­pling of the numer­ous Ukrain­ian con­nec­tions to the Trump team alone. Giv­en all that, our response to this recent turn of events with Ukraine play­ing a cen­ter role in a new Trump scan­dal should prob­a­bly be, “well, it’s about time.”

    The actu­al irony of this is that it’s so sim­ple. Trump was try­ing to use US for­eign pol­i­cy as a cud­gel to get a for­eign gov­ern­ment go after his oppo­nent, a move that makes him a mas­sive black­mail tar­get by Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment and any­one else who learns about this move. That alone is arguably worth­while of impeach­ment. There are far worse things Trump has done and many pres­i­dents do, but this is the kind of pres­i­den­tial crime that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy for the pub­lic to under­stand.

    That said, we should­n’t assume the rel­a­tive sim­plic­i­ty of the crime means the back­sto­ry behind the crime will be sim­ple too. After all, the Trump team is clear­ly try­ing to force an exam­i­na­tion of the rela­tion­ship between the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in 2016. For exam­ple, as we saw before, when Rudy Giu­liani was found to look­ing into alle­ga­tions relat­ed to Ukraine back in May, he open­ly admit­ted he was try­ing to dig up evi­dence that Democ­rats con­spired with sym­pa­thet­ic Ukraini­ans to trig­ger the ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump cam­paign in the first place in 2016. And there’s a lot under that rock for the Trump team to work with. But it’s not the kind of clean nar­ra­tive they desire. As the fol­low­ing TPM piece from June of this year describes, Giu­liani met with a Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal con­sul­tant ear­li­er this year to solic­it infor­ma­tion regard­ing the Democ­rats’ coor­di­na­tion with Ukraini­ans in 2016. That con­sul­tant, Andrii Telizhenko, was a for­mer Ukrain­ian diplo­mat who worked at the Ukrain­ian Embassy in DC in 2016. Telizhenko was report­ed­ly quite eager to pro­vide Giu­liani with the kind of counter-nar­ra­tives. Telizhenko described him­self as some­one who met Biden when he was in Kyiv and who nego­ti­at­ed with Biden’s tem. As Telizhenko puts it, “So I know the polit­i­cal side of that sto­ry and what was going on...The busi­ness stuff — I heard things, but I was not deeply relat­ed.”

    Telizhenko first came up in the US media in Jan­u­ary of 2017, when he showed up in a Politi­co arti­cle describ­ing his expe­ri­ences work­ing in the Ukrain­ian Embassy in DC and meet­ing with Alexan­dra Chalu­pa, the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee con­sul­tant who open­ly bragged in the arti­cle about the role she played in con­vinc­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty that Paul Man­afort was a Krem­lin oper­a­tive and that Rus­sia was behind the hack­ing of the Democ­rats. So Telizhenko sounds like exact­ly the kind of per­son Giu­liani was look­ing to find.

    But there are some oth­er aspects of his back­ground that might com­pli­cate the nar­ra­tives Giu­liani is try­ing to build. For starts, it turns out Telizhenko spent the first six months of 2017 work­ing with Andrii Arte­menko. Yep, Giu­lian­i’s source for what the Democ­rats were doing with Ukraini­ans in 2016 hap­pened to spend the first part of 2017 work­ing with the same far right Ukrain­ian fig­ure who was work­ing with Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, and Michael Fly­nn on the ‘peace plan’. And keep in mind that Arte­menko’s work on that ‘peace plan’ scheme was indeed tak­ing place in ear­ly 2017, so we have every rea­son to sus­pect Telizhenko was involved in work­ing on that plan too. That’s got to be rather awkard for the Trump team.

    But there’s more. It also turns out that Ukrain­ian oli­garch Pavel Fuks (Fuchs) hired Telizhenko as a con­sul­tant in 2018. Recall how Fuks was a one-time poten­tial part­ner with Trump in a ‘Trump Tow­er Moscow’ gam­bit. That’s some­what awk­ward for Giu­liani and the Trump team. But far more awk­ward is the fact that, as we’ve seen before, Fuks also hired Giu­liani to be a con­sul­tant in 2017. Specif­i­cal­ly, Giu­lian­i’s girm Giu­liani Secu­ri­ty and Safe­ty LLC, was con­tract­ed with the city of Kharkiv in May of 2017 to pro­vide cyber­se­cu­ri­ty ser­vices. The may­or of Kharkiv, Gen­nady Kernes, is report­ed­ly quite close to Fuks. Based on pho­tographs we know that Giu­liani met with Fuks dur­ing his 2017 trip to Ukraine.

    So both Telizhenko and Giu­lian­i’s cyber­se­cu­ri­ty busi­ness appears to have ben­e­fit­ted from some sort of asso­ci­a­tion with Fuks. And Telizhenko worked for Andrii Arte­menko in the first half of 2017, a peri­od of time when the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ scheme was get­ting ham­mered out. It’s has to be rather awk­ward for the Trump team giv­en the impor­tance of Telizhenko’s tes­ti­mo­ny in craft­ing these counter-nar­ra­tives:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Muck­rak­er

    Inside Rudy Giuliani’s Attempt To Get Dirt On Joe Biden

    By Josh Koven­sky
    June 19, 2019 5:17 pm

    Trump lawyer and for­mer New York City may­or Rudy Giu­liani had a stranger May than most.

    He planned a dirt-dig­ging trip to Ukraine, before abrupt­ly can­celling it. He claimed to be pres­sur­ing Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr to inves­ti­gate the activ­i­ties of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent and cur­rent Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Joe Biden in Ukraine, while he was the Oba­ma Administration’s point man for the coun­try.

    It’s not clear how far Giu­liani got. But what is known is that Giu­liani met with a Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal con­sul­tant named Andrii Telizhenko, a for­mer diplo­mat at the Ukrain­ian Embassy in D.C. who eager­ly offered counter-nar­ra­tives to the Trump-Rus­sia probe to the con­ser­v­a­tive media.

    The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed that Giu­liani and Telizhenko met last month, with lit­tle detail about what was dis­cussed.

    In a Tues­day phone call, Telizhenko, who is 28, gave TPM more detail about his con­ver­sa­tion with Giu­liani. Giu­liani did not imme­di­ate­ly return TPM’s requests for com­ment.

    “I met Biden when he was in Kyiv,” Telizhenko told TPM. “I arranged the meet­ings for my boss to meet Biden; we nego­ti­at­ed with Biden’s team.”

    “We talked with [Biden advis­er] Michael Car­pen­ter,” he recalled. (Car­pen­ter declined TPM’s request for com­ment.)

    “So I know the polit­i­cal side of that sto­ry and what was going on,” he said. “The busi­ness stuff — I heard things, but I was not deeply relat­ed.”

    Con­ser­v­a­tives have sought to deflect from Trump ties to Rus­sia and the sketchy for­eign lob­by­ing of impris­oned Trump cam­paign chair Paul Man­afort with tales of cor­rupt involve­ment by Democ­rats in the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The main nar­ra­tive involves the for­mer Vice President’s son, Hunter Biden, tak­ing a posi­tion on the board of a Ukrain­ian gas com­pa­ny while Biden was still in office. Repub­li­cans have argued that this was some sort of quid-pro-quo involv­ing Biden, and sug­gest­ed that Biden used his influ­ence to pro­tect his son from Ukrain­ian crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions into the gas firm.

    When pressed about what he told Giu­liani about Biden’s busi­ness deal­ings, Telizhenko danced around the sub­ject. He con­firmed that Giu­liani “asked me about it,” but declined to go fur­ther.

    For the rest of the con­ver­sa­tion, the for­mer diplo­mat recalled, he pitched Giu­liani on get­ting U.S. back­ing for Ukrain­ian reforms.

    Those includ­ed a pro­pos­al to bring more for­eign advis­ers into Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment bod­ies, and an ini­tia­tive Telizhenko is push­ing that would “tax cor­rup­tion” by legal­iz­ing lob­by­ing in the East­ern Euro­pean nation.

    He described the pitch he made to Giu­liani as “how to get lob­by­ism in Ukraine and tax cor­rup­tion — you can’t fight cor­rup­tion in Ukraine,” adding that efforts to do so have so far failed.

    “Why not tax our politi­cians, have lob­by­ing firms pay politi­cians, be the mid­dle per­son on those fees,” he recalled. “I dis­cussed those ideas with him, whether the U.S. would want to sup­port and imple­ment them. To improve our rela­tion­ship with the Unit­ed States.”

    “I got pos­i­tive feed­back for those ideas,” he added.

    Telizhenko first sur­faced in the pub­lic sphere in Jan­u­ary 2017. The for­mer diplo­mat told Politi­co that Ukrain­ian offi­cials tried to work with Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee staffers to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about poten­tial ties between the Trump cam­paign, Paul Man­afort, and Rus­sia.

    Telizhenko’s claims have been denied by for­mer mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, as the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed.

    With­in a year of the Politi­co sto­ry, he set up a polit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm called Gold­en Lion Strate­gies, Inc., attempt­ing to par­lay sup­posed con­nec­tions with West­ern and Ukrain­ian offi­cials.

    He appears to have had some luck in that role.

    Ukrain­ian oli­garch Pavel Fuks — a one­time poten­tial Trump Tow­er Moscow part­ner who once brought Giu­liani to Ukrainehired Telizhenko as a con­sul­tant last year.

    Telizhenko also spent the first six months of 2017 work­ing with for­mer Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an Andrii Arte­menko, who found him­self stripped of his cit­i­zen­ship after deliv­er­ing a sup­pos­ed­ly Russ­ian-backed “peace plan” to the desk of then-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn by way of Michael Cohen.

    Telizhenko’s social media pro­files are full of pic­tures with West­ern politi­cians, like the pho­to below post­ed to Face­book dur­ing Sen. John McCain (R‑AZ)’s vis­it to Ukraine dur­ing the country’s 2014 rev­o­lu­tion.

    [see pho­to of Telizhenko stand­ing with John McCain in 2014 ]

    Telizhenko appeared at McCain’s funer­al in Sep­tem­ber 2018.

    Rest in Peace John McCain. Thank you pic.twitter.com/MTXpmRm2Xk— Andrii Telizhenko (@AndriyUkraineTe) Sep­tem­ber 1, 2018

    He also reg­u­lar­ly tweets at var­i­ous con­ser­v­a­tive fig­ures, demand­ing they “inves­ti­gate” Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty activ­i­ty in Ukraine dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

    Join­ing Gen­er­als Matthis and Kel­ly and John Dowd and Jay Seku­low. His inci­dent about me entire­ly false. 20 to 30 wit­ness­es saw it and can say he or his source are liars. Most impor­tant for libel pur­pos­es, he nev­er called me. Didn’t want to know truth.— Rudy Giu­liani (@RudyGiuliani) Sep­tem­ber 5, 2018

    Ukraine embassy DNC col­lu­sion inves­ti­gate.— Andrii Telizhenko (@AndriyUkraineTe) March 25, 2019

    DNC Ukraine Embassy Col­lu­sion also. Inves­ti­gate and Steele Dossier— Andrii Telizhenko (@AndriyUkraineTe) March 24, 2019

    Please inves­ti­gate #DNCUkraine col­lu­sion, you men­tioned about this arti­cle last year dur­ing a com­mit­tee hear­ing on appoint­ing the new FBI Direc­tor https://t.co/jMcOISlcR2— Andrii Telizhenko (@AndriyUkraineTe) Sep­tem­ber 6, 2018

    Please inves­ti­gate #DNCUkraine col­lu­sion and end the #Witch­Hunt pic.twitter.com/8nOqqcZKlP— Andrii Telizhenko (@AndriyUkraineTe) Sep­tem­ber 6, 2018

    ...

    ———-

    “Inside Rudy Giuliani’s Attempt To Get Dirt On Joe Biden” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 06/19/2019

    “Con­ser­v­a­tives have sought to deflect from Trump ties to Rus­sia and the sketchy for­eign lob­by­ing of impris­oned Trump cam­paign chair Paul Man­afort with tales of cor­rupt involve­ment by Democ­rats in the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The main nar­ra­tive involves the for­mer Vice President’s son, Hunter Biden, tak­ing a posi­tion on the board of a Ukrain­ian gas com­pa­ny while Biden was still in office. Repub­li­cans have argued that this was some sort of quid-pro-quo involv­ing Biden, and sug­gest­ed that Biden used his influ­ence to pro­tect his son from Ukrain­ian crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions into the gas firm.

    So Telizhenko appears to be some­one Giu­liani had deter­mined could be use­ful in push­ing the nar­ra­tive about Biden and the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion. And it’s not sur­pris­ing Telizhenko was some­one the Repub­li­cans seek­ing this kind of infor­ma­tion would go to: He was telling reporters back in Jan­u­ary of 2017 that Ukrain­ian offi­cials were work­ing with Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee staff in 2016 to pro­vide infor­ma­tion on Trump/Manafort/Russia ties. In addi­tion, it sounds like Telizhenko was already well known to US politi­cians. He even attend­ed John McCain’s funer­al:

    ...
    When pressed about what he told Giu­liani about Biden’s busi­ness deal­ings, Telizhenko danced around the sub­ject. He con­firmed that Giu­liani “asked me about it,” but declined to go fur­ther.

    ...

    Telizhenko first sur­faced in the pub­lic sphere in Jan­u­ary 2017. The for­mer diplo­mat told Politi­co that Ukrain­ian offi­cials tried to work with Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee staffers to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about poten­tial ties between the Trump cam­paign, Paul Man­afort, and Rus­sia.

    Telizhenko’s claims have been denied by for­mer mem­bers of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, as the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed.

    ...

    Telizhenko’s social media pro­files are full of pic­tures with West­ern politi­cians, like the pho­to below post­ed to Face­book dur­ing Sen. John McCain (R‑AZ)’s vis­it to Ukraine dur­ing the country’s 2014 rev­o­lu­tion.

    [see pho­to of Telizhenko stand­ing with John McCain in 2014 ]

    Telizhenko appeared at McCain’s funer­al in Sep­tem­ber 2018.
    ...

    But then there’s the fact that Pavel Fuks hired Telizhenko as a con­sul­tant last year, which is rather awk­ward giv­en that Fuks also appears to have helped Giu­lian­i’s cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­ny secure a Ukrain­ian con­sult­ing con­tract in 2017:

    ...
    Ukrain­ian oli­garch Pavel Fuks — a one­time poten­tial Trump Tow­er Moscow part­ner who once brought Giu­liani to Ukrainehired Telizhenko as a con­sul­tant last year.
    ...

    But by far the most explo­sive rev­e­la­tion about Telizhenko is that he was work­ing with Andrii Arte­menko for the first half of 2017, which would have over­lapped with much of the time Arte­menko was work­ing on that Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ scheme with fig­ures like Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, and Michael Fly­nn:

    ...
    Telizhenko also spent the first six months of 2017 work­ing with for­mer Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an Andrii Arte­menko, who found him­self stripped of his cit­i­zen­ship after deliv­er­ing a sup­pos­ed­ly Russ­ian-backed “peace plan” to the desk of then-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn by way of Michael Cohen.
    ...

    Now here’s an arti­cle that gives a lit­tle more infor­ma­tion the claims Telizhenko was mak­ing about the DNC’s work with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in 2016 to dig up dirt on Paul Man­afort. As the arti­cle describes, all of Telizhenko’s claims are denied by both embassy offi­cials and the DNC:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Giu­liani meets with for­mer diplo­mat as he con­tin­ues to press Ukraine inquiries

    By Josh Dawsey and
    David L. Stern

    May 24, 2019

    Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giu­liani had a lengthy meet­ing last week with a for­mer Ukrain­ian diplo­mat as part of aggres­sive efforts aimed at gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion to under­mine Democ­rats in the Unit­ed States.

    The Ukrain­ian, Andrii Telizhenko, has made unproven claims that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee worked with the Kiev gov­ern­ment in 2016 to dig up incrim­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion about for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, who was sen­tenced in March to more than sev­en years in prison on con­spir­a­cy and fraud charges. The DNC has denied Telizhenko’s claims.

    “He was in Wash­ing­ton and he came up to New York, and we spent most of the after­noon togeth­er,” Giu­liani said in an inter­view, refer­ring to his meet­ing with Telizhenko.

    ...

    Ear­li­er this month, Giu­liani can­celed a trip to Ukraine after objec­tions from State Depart­ment offi­cials. He said he can­celed the trip when he real­ized that peo­ple inside the coun­try were work­ing against him.

    White House offi­cials also were con­cerned about the planned trip, and even Trump believed the idea was too “hot,” accord­ing to a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    But Giu­liani said he remained inter­est­ed in inves­ti­gat­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic ties with Ukraine.

    Telizhenko, 28, is a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant edu­cat­ed in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da who has pre­vi­ous­ly worked in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and pros­e­cu­tor general’s office. One of his clients was Andrii Arte­menko, the man behind the so-called “Ukrain­ian peace deal,” a pro­pos­al for a nego­ti­at­ed end to hos­til­i­ties on terms favor­able to Rus­sia that Arte­menko backchan­neled to Trump’s for­mer per­son­al attor­ney, Michael Cohen, short­ly before Trump was inau­gu­rat­ed in 2017.

    From Decem­ber 2015 to June 2016, Telizhenko served as third sec­re­tary in the polit­i­cal sec­tion in the Ukrain­ian Embassy in Wash­ing­ton. Dur­ing that time, he claims, he wit­nessed exam­ples of Ukrain­ian offi­cials open­ly favor­ing Hillary Clinton’s can­di­da­cy.

    His accu­sa­tions, first report­ed by Politi­co, hinge on two alle­ga­tions. First, that Ukraine’s ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States, Valeriy Chaly, instruct­ed embassy staffers not to engage with Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, because “Hillary was going to win.”

    The sec­ond was that a Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can work­ing as a DNC con­trac­tor coor­di­nat­ed with the Ukrain­ian Embassy to find com­pro­mis­ing mate­r­i­al on Trump and Man­afort.

    Telizhenko has gone on to accuse for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko of being direct­ly involved in the effort to under­mine Trump’s can­di­da­cy and has said that the “black ledgers” — inter­nal book­keep­ing from deposed president’s Vik­tor Yanukovych’s polit­i­cal par­ty, which alleged $12.7 mil­lion in pay­ments to Man­afort — were forg­eries.

    Embassy staffers, the for­mer DNC con­trac­tor and for­mer mem­bers of Poroshenko’s admin­is­tra­tion have strong­ly denied Telizhenko’s claims.

    ———-

    “Giu­liani meets with for­mer diplo­mat as he con­tin­ues to press Ukraine inquiries” by Josh Dawsey and David L. Stern; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 05/24/2019

    “Telizhenko, 28, is a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant edu­cat­ed in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da who has pre­vi­ous­ly worked in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and pros­e­cu­tor general’s office. One of his clients was Andrii Arte­menko, the man behind the so-called “Ukrain­ian peace deal,” a pro­pos­al for a nego­ti­at­ed end to hos­til­i­ties on terms favor­able to Rus­sia that Arte­menko backchan­neled to Trump’s for­mer per­son­al attor­ney, Michael Cohen, short­ly before Trump was inau­gu­rat­ed in 2017.”

    So it sounds like Telizhenko’s work for Andrii Arte­menko was in the role of a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant. Which is the kind of vague ser­vice that could mean a lot of dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties, includ­ing the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the ‘peace plan’ scheme. Also note that it appears that Telizhenko was work­ing in the Ukrain­ian DC embassy from Decem­ber 2015 to June 2016, which is an impor­tant time­frame because the DNC hack did­n’t actu­al­ly go pub­lic until mid-June of 2016. But Paul Man­afort was hired by Trump to be his cam­paign man­ag­er in March of 2016. So Telizhenko would have been in the Ukrain­ian embassy for at least sev­er­al months of Man­afort’s time as cam­paign man­ag­er but he would­n’t have wit­nessed much after the hacks went pub­lic.

    And note how one of Telizhenko’s claims that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will be quite inter­est­ed in is his claim that the “black ledgers” pur­port­ing to lay out the Yanukovych gov­ern­men­t’s polit­i­cal kick­back oper­a­tion was a forgery:

    ...
    Telizhenko has gone on to accuse for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko of being direct­ly involved in the effort to under­mine Trump’s can­di­da­cy and has said that the “black ledgers” — inter­nal book­keep­ing from deposed president’s Vik­tor Yanukovych’s polit­i­cal par­ty, which alleged $12.7 mil­lion in pay­ments to Man­afort — were forg­eries.
    ...

    Recall that, while some of the entries in the “black ledgers” relat­ed specif­i­cal­ly to Paul Man­afort’s firm do appear to have been con­firmed as real. But the larg­er ques­tion of whether or not the rest of the ledger is real remains unknown, in part because the inves­ti­ga­tion into the ledger ground to a halt, pre­sum­ably over fears that it would impli­cate large num­ber of peo­ple across Ukraine’s polit­i­cal spec­trum. So when Telizhenko asserts that the ledgers were forg­eries, that might be true but the infor­ma­tion in those ledgers relat­ed to Man­afort also appear to be real. So if the rest of the infor­ma­tion in those ledgers real­ly were forg­eries but the infor­ma­tion about Man­afort was true, that rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not they real­ly were forg­eries intend­ed to impli­cate Man­afort. In oth­er words, we can’t rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty they could be fakes with real infor­ma­tion about Man­afort.

    Also note how every­one Telizhenko is impli­cat­ing in his claims are deny­ing them:

    ...
    The Ukrain­ian, Andrii Telizhenko, has made unproven claims that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee worked with the Kiev gov­ern­ment in 2016 to dig up incrim­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion about for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, who was sen­tenced in March to more than sev­en years in prison on con­spir­a­cy and fraud charges. The DNC has denied Telizhenko’s claims.

    ...

    Embassy staffers, the for­mer DNC con­trac­tor and for­mer mem­bers of Poroshenko’s admin­is­tra­tion have strong­ly denied Telizhenko’s claims.
    ...

    Note that the “for­mer DNC con­trac­tor” deny­ing these claims was almost cer­tain­ly Alexan­dra Chalu­pa. And that makes those prob­lem­at­ic denials. Why? Because Chalu­pa was pret­ty open about her work with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in that Jan­u­ary 2017 Politi­co arti­cle that first brought Telizhenko’s name to light. It’s a big rea­son we’re prob­a­bly going to see a lot more focus on what Alexan­dra Chalu­pa was doing in 2016. Because while Telizhenko appears to be a prob­lem­at­ic wit­ness for a lot of this stuff giv­en his asso­ci­a­tions and the fact that he was work­ing with a fig­ure like Andrii Arte­menko, there’s no deny­ing some of his claims because Chalu­pa was already open­ly brag­ging about them:

    Politi­co

    Ukrain­ian efforts to sab­o­tage Trump back­fire

    Kiev offi­cials are scram­bling to make amends with the pres­i­dent-elect after qui­et­ly work­ing to boost Clin­ton.

    By KENNETH P. VOGEL and DAVID STERN

    01/11/2017 05:05 AM EST

    Don­ald Trump wasn’t the only pres­i­den­tial can­di­date whose cam­paign was boost­ed by offi­cials of a for­mer Sovi­et bloc coun­try.

    Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials tried to help Hillary Clin­ton and under­mine Trump by pub­licly ques­tion­ing his fit­ness for office. They also dis­sem­i­nat­ed doc­u­ments impli­cat­ing a top Trump aide in cor­rup­tion and sug­gest­ed they were inves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter, only to back away after the elec­tion. And they helped Clinton’s allies research dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion on Trump and his advis­ers, a Politi­co inves­ti­ga­tion found.

    A Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can oper­a­tive who was con­sult­ing for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee met with top offi­cials in the Ukrain­ian Embassy in Wash­ing­ton in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top cam­paign aide Paul Man­afort and Rus­sia, accord­ing to peo­ple with direct knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

    The Ukrain­ian efforts had an impact in the race, help­ing to force Manafort’s res­ig­na­tion and advanc­ing the nar­ra­tive that Trump’s cam­paign was deeply con­nect­ed to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Rus­sia. But they were far less con­cert­ed or cen­tral­ly direct­ed than Russia’s alleged hack­ing and dis­sem­i­na­tion of Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails.

    Russia’s effort was per­son­al­ly direct­ed by Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, involved the country’s mil­i­tary and for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vices, accord­ing to U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials. They report­ed­ly briefed Trump last week on the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Russ­ian oper­a­tives might have com­pro­mis­ing infor­ma­tion on the pres­i­dent-elect. And at a Sen­ate hear­ing last week on the hack­ing, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence James Clap­per said “I don’t think we’ve ever encoun­tered a more aggres­sive or direct cam­paign to inter­fere in our elec­tion process than we’ve seen in this case.”

    There’s lit­tle evi­dence of such a top-down effort by Ukraine. Long­time observers sug­gest that the ram­pant cor­rup­tion, fac­tion­al­ism and eco­nom­ic strug­gles plagu­ing the coun­try — not to men­tion its ongo­ing strife with Rus­sia — would ren­der it unable to pull off an ambi­tious covert inter­fer­ence cam­paign in anoth­er country’s elec­tion. And Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s admin­is­tra­tion, along with the Ukrain­ian Embassy in Wash­ing­ton, insists that Ukraine stayed neu­tral in the race.

    Yet Politico’s inves­ti­ga­tion found evi­dence of Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment involve­ment in the race that appears to strain diplo­mat­ic pro­to­col dic­tat­ing that gov­ern­ments refrain from engag­ing in one another’s elec­tions.

    ...

    •••

    The Ukrain­ian antipa­thy for Trump’s team — and align­ment with Clinton’s — can be traced back to late 2013. That’s when the country’s pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovych, whom Man­afort had been advis­ing, abrupt­ly backed out of a Euro­pean Union pact linked to anti-cor­rup­tion reforms. Instead, Yanukovych entered into a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar bailout agree­ment with Rus­sia, spark­ing protests across Ukraine and prompt­ing Yanukovych to flee the coun­try to Rus­sia under Putin’s pro­tec­tion.

    In the ensu­ing cri­sis, Russ­ian troops moved into the Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry of Crimea, and Man­afort dropped off the radar.

    Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the atten­tion of a vet­er­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tive named Alexan­dra Chalu­pa, who had worked in the White House Office of Pub­lic Liai­son dur­ing the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion. Chalu­pa went on to work as a staffer, then as a con­sul­tant, for Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, accord­ing to Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion records, though she also was paid by oth­er clients dur­ing that time, includ­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paigns and the DNC’s arm for engag­ing expa­tri­ate Democ­rats around the world.

    A daugh­ter of Ukrain­ian immi­grants who main­tains strong ties to the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can dias­po­ra and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Chalu­pa, a lawyer by train­ing, in 2014 was doing pro bono work for anoth­er client inter­est­ed in the Ukrain­ian cri­sis and began research­ing Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russ­ian oli­garchs who fund­ed Yanukovych’s polit­i­cal par­ty.

    In an inter­view this month, Chalu­pa told Politi­co she had devel­oped a net­work of sources in Kiev and Wash­ing­ton, includ­ing inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists, gov­ern­ment offi­cials and pri­vate intel­li­gence oper­a­tives. While her con­sult­ing work at the DNC this past elec­tion cycle cen­tered on mobi­liz­ing eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties — includ­ing Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­cans — she said that, when Trump’s unlike­ly pres­i­den­tial cam­paign began surg­ing in late 2015, she began focus­ing more on the research, and expand­ed it to include Trump’s ties to Rus­sia, as well.

    She occa­sion­al­ly shared her find­ings with offi­cials from the DNC and Clinton’s cam­paign, Chalu­pa said. In Jan­u­ary 2016 — months before Man­afort had tak­en any role in Trump’s cam­paign — Chalu­pa told a senior DNC offi­cial that, when it came to Trump’s cam­paign, “I felt there was a Rus­sia con­nec­tion,” Chalu­pa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Man­afort to be involved in this elec­tion,” said Chalu­pa, who at the time also was warn­ing lead­ers in the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty that Man­afort was “Putin’s polit­i­cal brain for manip­u­lat­ing U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and elec­tions.”

    She said she shared her con­cern with Ukraine’s ambas­sador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, and one of his top aides, Oksana Shul­yar, dur­ing a March 2016 meet­ing at the Ukrain­ian Embassy. Accord­ing to some­one briefed on the meet­ing, Chaly said that Man­afort was very much on his radar, but that he wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned about the operative’s ties to Trump since he didn’t believe Trump stood much of a chance of win­ning the GOP nom­i­na­tion, let alone the pres­i­den­cy.

    That was not an uncom­mon view at the time, and, per­haps as a result, Trump’s ties to Rus­sia — let alone Manafort’s — were not the sub­ject of much atten­tion. That all start­ed to change just four days after Chalupa’s meet­ing at the embassy, when it was report­ed that Trump had in fact hired Man­afort, sug­gest­ing that Chalu­pa may have been on to some­thing. She quick­ly found her­self in high demand. The day after Manafort’s hir­ing was revealed, she briefed the DNC’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff on Man­afort, Trump and their ties to Rus­sia, accord­ing to an oper­a­tive famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

    A for­mer DNC staffer described the exchange as an “infor­mal con­ver­sa­tion,” say­ing “‘brief­ing’ makes it sound way too for­mal,” and adding, “We were not direct­ing or dri­ving her work on this.” Yet, the for­mer DNC staffer and the oper­a­tive famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion agreed that with the DNC’s encour­age­ment, Chalu­pa asked embassy staff to try to arrange an inter­view in which Poroshenko might dis­cuss Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych.

    While the embassy declined that request, offi­cials there became “help­ful” in Chalupa’s efforts, she said, explain­ing that she trad­ed infor­ma­tion and leads with them. “If I asked a ques­tion, they would pro­vide guid­ance, or if there was some­one I need­ed to fol­low up with.” But she stressed, “There were no doc­u­ments giv­en, noth­ing like that.”

    Chalu­pa said the embassy also worked direct­ly with reporters research­ing Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia to point them in the right direc­tions. She added, though, “they were being very pro­tec­tive and not speak­ing to the press as much as they should have. I think they were being care­ful because their sit­u­a­tion was that they had to be very, very care­ful because they could not pick sides. It’s a polit­i­cal issue, and they didn’t want to get involved polit­i­cal­ly because they couldn’t.”

    Shul­yar vehe­ment­ly denied work­ing with reporters or with Chalu­pa on any­thing relat­ed to Trump or Man­afort, explain­ing “we were stormed by many reporters to com­ment on this sub­ject, but our clear and adamant posi­tion was not to give any com­ment [and] not to inter­fere into the cam­paign affairs.”

    Both Shul­yar and Chalu­pa said the pur­pose of their ini­tial meet­ing was to orga­nize a June recep­tion at the embassy to pro­mote Ukraine. Accord­ing to the embassy’s web­site, the event high­light­ed female Ukrain­ian lead­ers, fea­tur­ing speech­es by Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an Han­na Hop­ko, who dis­cussed “Ukraine’s fight against the Russ­ian aggres­sion in Don­bas,” and long­time Hillary Clin­ton con­fi­dante Melanne Verveer, who worked for Clin­ton in the State Depart­ment and was a vocal sur­ro­gate dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    Shul­yar said her work with Chalu­pa “didn’t involve the cam­paign,” and she specif­i­cal­ly stressed that “We have nev­er worked to research and dis­sem­i­nate dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about Don­ald Trump and Paul Man­afort.”

    But Andrii Telizhenko, who worked as a polit­i­cal offi­cer in the Ukrain­ian Embassy under Shul­yar, said she instruct­ed him to help Chalu­pa research con­nec­tions between Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia. “Oksana said that if I had any infor­ma­tion, or knew oth­er peo­ple who did, then I should con­tact Chalu­pa,” recalled Telizhenko, who is now a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Kiev. “They were coor­di­nat­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion with the Hillary team on Paul Man­afort with Alexan­dra Chalu­pa,” he said, adding “Oksana was keep­ing it all qui­et,” but “the embassy worked very close­ly with” Chalu­pa.

    In fact, sources famil­iar with the effort say that Shul­yar specif­i­cal­ly called Telizhenko into a meet­ing with Chalu­pa to pro­vide an update on an Amer­i­can media outlet’s ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Man­afort.

    Telizhenko recalled that Chalu­pa told him and Shul­yar that, “If we can get enough infor­ma­tion on Paul [Man­afort] or Trump’s involve­ment with Rus­sia, she can get a hear­ing in Con­gress by Sep­tem­ber.”

    Chalu­pa con­firmed that, a week after Manafort’s hir­ing was announced, she dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion with a for­eign pol­i­cy leg­isla­tive assis­tant in the office of Rep. Mar­cy Kap­tur (D‑Ohio), who co-chairs the Con­gres­sion­al Ukrain­ian Cau­cus. But, Chalu­pa said, “It didn’t go any­where.”

    Asked about the effort, the Kap­tur leg­isla­tive assis­tant called it a “touchy sub­ject” in an inter­nal email to col­leagues that was acci­den­tal­ly for­ward­ed to Politi­co.

    Kaptur’s office lat­er emailed an offi­cial state­ment explain­ing that the law­mak­er is back­ing a bill to cre­ate an inde­pen­dent com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate “pos­si­ble out­side inter­fer­ence in our elec­tions.” The office added “at this time, the evi­dence relat­ed to this mat­ter points to Rus­sia, but Con­gress­woman Kap­tur is con­cerned with any evi­dence of for­eign enti­ties inter­fer­ing in our elec­tions.”

    •••

    Almost as quick­ly as Chalupa’s efforts attract­ed the atten­tion of the Ukrain­ian Embassy and Democ­rats, she also found her­self the sub­ject of some unwant­ed atten­tion from over­seas.

    With­in a few weeks of her ini­tial meet­ing at the embassy with Shul­yar and Chaly, Chalu­pa on April 20 received the first of what became a series of mes­sages from the admin­is­tra­tors of her pri­vate Yahoo email account, warn­ing her that “state-spon­sored actors” were try­ing to hack into her emails.

    She kept up her cru­sade, appear­ing on a pan­el a week after the ini­tial hack­ing mes­sage to dis­cuss her research on Man­afort with a group of Ukrain­ian inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists gath­ered at the Library of Con­gress for a pro­gram spon­sored by a U.S. con­gres­sion­al agency called the Open World Lead­er­ship Cen­ter.

    Cen­ter spokes­woman Mau­ra Shelden stressed that her group is non­par­ti­san and ensures “that our del­e­ga­tions hear from both sides of the aisle, receiv­ing bipar­ti­san infor­ma­tion.” She said the Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ists in sub­se­quent days met with Repub­li­can offi­cials in North Car­oli­na and else­where. And she said that, before the Library of Con­gress event, “Open World’s pro­gram man­ag­er for Ukraine did con­tact Chalu­pa to advise her that Open World is a non­par­ti­san agency of the Con­gress.”

    Chalu­pa, though, indi­cat­ed in an email that was lat­er hacked and released by Wik­iLeaks that the Open World Lead­er­ship Cen­ter “put me on the pro­gram to speak specif­i­cal­ly about Paul Man­afort.”

    In the email, which was sent in ear­ly May to then-DNC com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor Luis Miran­da, Chalu­pa not­ed that she had extend­ed an invi­ta­tion to the Library of Con­gress forum to vet­er­an Wash­ing­ton inves­tiga­tive reporter Michael Isikoff. Two days before the event, he had pub­lished a sto­ry for Yahoo News reveal­ing the unrav­el­ing of a $26 mil­lion deal between Man­afort and a Russ­ian oli­garch relat­ed to a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ven­ture in Ukraine. And Chalu­pa wrote in the email she’d been “work­ing with for the past few weeks” with Isikoff “and con­nect­ed him to the Ukraini­ans” at the event.

    ...

    A DNC offi­cial stressed that Chalu­pa was a con­sul­tant paid to do out­reach for the party’s polit­i­cal depart­ment, not a researcher. She under­took her inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia on her own, and the par­ty did not incor­po­rate her find­ings in its dossiers on the sub­jects, the offi­cial said, stress­ing that the DNC had been build­ing robust research books on Trump and his ties to Rus­sia long before Chalu­pa began sound­ing alarms.

    Nonethe­less, Chalupa’s hacked email report­ed­ly esca­lat­ed con­cerns among top par­ty offi­cials, hard­en­ing their con­clu­sion that Rus­sia like­ly was behind the cyber intru­sions with which the par­ty was only then begin­ning to grap­ple.

    Chalu­pa left the DNC after the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­ven­tion in late July to focus full­time on her research into Man­afort, Trump and Rus­sia. She said she pro­vid­ed off-the-record infor­ma­tion and guid­ance to “a lot of jour­nal­ists” work­ing on sto­ries relat­ed to Man­afort and Trump’s Rus­sia con­nec­tions, despite what she described as esca­lat­ing harass­ment.

    ...

    •••

    Beyond any efforts to sab­o­tage Trump, Ukrain­ian offi­cials didn’t exact­ly extend a hand of friend­ship to the GOP nom­i­nee dur­ing the cam­paign.

    The ambas­sador, Chaly, penned an op-ed for The Hill, in which he chas­tised Trump for a con­fus­ing series of state­ments in which the GOP can­di­date at one point expressed a will­ing­ness to con­sid­er rec­og­niz­ing Russia’s annex­a­tion of the Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry of Crimea as legit­i­mate. The op-ed made some in the embassy uneasy, sources said.

    ...

    The Trump-Ukraine rela­tion­ship grew even more fraught in Sep­tem­ber with reports that the GOP nom­i­nee had snubbed Poroshenko on the side­lines of the Unit­ed Nations Gen­er­al Assem­bly in New York, where the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent tried to meet both major par­ty can­di­dates, but scored only a meet­ing with Clin­ton.

    Telizhenko, the for­mer embassy staffer, said that, dur­ing the pri­maries, Chaly, the country’s ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, had actu­al­ly instruct­ed the embassy not to reach out to Trump’s cam­paign, even as it was engag­ing with those of Clin­ton and Trump’s lead­ing GOP rival, Ted Cruz.

    “We had an order not to talk to the Trump team, because he was crit­i­cal of Ukraine and the gov­ern­ment and his crit­i­cal posi­tion on Crimea and the con­flict,” said Telizhenko. “I was yelled at when I pro­posed to talk to Trump,” he said, adding, “The ambas­sador said not to get involved — Hillary is going to win.”

    This account was con­firmed by Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer diplo­mat and secu­ri­ty chief now affil­i­at­ed with a Poroshenko oppo­nent, who said, “The Ukrain­ian author­i­ties closed all doors and win­dows — this is from the Ukrain­ian side.” He called the strat­e­gy “bad and short-sight­ed.”

    Andriy Arte­menko, a Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an asso­ci­at­ed with a con­ser­v­a­tive oppo­si­tion par­ty, did meet with Trump’s team dur­ing the cam­paign and said he per­son­al­ly offered to set up sim­i­lar meet­ings for Chaly but was rebuffed.

    “It was clear that they were sup­port­ing Hillary Clinton’s can­di­da­cy,” Arte­menko said. “They did every­thing from orga­niz­ing meet­ings with the Clin­ton team, to pub­licly sup­port­ing her, to crit­i­ciz­ing Trump. … I think that they sim­ply didn’t meet because they thought that Hillary would win.”

    ...

    •••

    Many Ukrain­ian offi­cials and oper­a­tives and their Amer­i­can allies see Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion this month as an exis­ten­tial threat to the coun­try, made worse, they admit, by the dis­sem­i­na­tion of the secret ledger, the antag­o­nis­tic social media posts and the per­cep­tion that the embassy med­dled against — or at least shut out — Trump.

    “It’s real­ly bad. The [Poroshenko] admin­is­tra­tion right now is try­ing to re-coor­di­nate com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” said Telizhenko, adding, “The Trump orga­ni­za­tion doesn’t want to talk to our admin­is­tra­tion at all.”

    Dur­ing Nalyvaichenko’s trip to Wash­ing­ton last month, he detect­ed lin­ger­ing ill will toward Ukraine from some, and lack of inter­est from oth­ers, he recalled. “Ukraine is not on the top of the list, not even the mid­dle,” he said.

    Poroshenko’s allies are scram­bling to fig­ure out how to build a rela­tion­ship with Trump, who is known for har­bor­ing and pros­e­cut­ing grudges for years.
    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian efforts to sab­o­tage Trump back­fire” by KENNETH P. VOGEL and DAVID STERN; Politi­co; 01/11/2017

    Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the atten­tion of a vet­er­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tive named Alexan­dra Chalu­pa, who had worked in the White House Office of Pub­lic Liai­son dur­ing the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion. Chalu­pa went on to work as a staffer, then as a con­sul­tant, for Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, accord­ing to Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion records, though she also was paid by oth­er clients dur­ing that time, includ­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paigns and the DNC’s arm for engag­ing expa­tri­ate Democ­rats around the world.”

    As we can see, con­trary to Alexan­dra Chalu­pa’s recent denials that she was coor­di­nat­ing with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in research­ing Paul Man­afort in 2016, back in Jan­u­ary of 2017, Chalu­pa was quite can­did about a lot of this:

    ...
    A daugh­ter of Ukrain­ian immi­grants who main­tains strong ties to the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can dias­po­ra and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Chalu­pa, a lawyer by train­ing, in 2014 was doing pro bono work for anoth­er client inter­est­ed in the Ukrain­ian cri­sis and began research­ing Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russ­ian oli­garchs who fund­ed Yanukovych’s polit­i­cal par­ty.

    In an inter­view this month, Chalu­pa told Politi­co she had devel­oped a net­work of sources in Kiev and Wash­ing­ton, includ­ing inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists, gov­ern­ment offi­cials and pri­vate intel­li­gence oper­a­tives. While her con­sult­ing work at the DNC this past elec­tion cycle cen­tered on mobi­liz­ing eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties — includ­ing Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­cans — she said that, when Trump’s unlike­ly pres­i­den­tial cam­paign began surg­ing in late 2015, she began focus­ing more on the research, and expand­ed it to include Trump’s ties to Rus­sia, as well.

    She occa­sion­al­ly shared her find­ings with offi­cials from the DNC and Clinton’s cam­paign, Chalu­pa said. In Jan­u­ary 2016 — months before Man­afort had tak­en any role in Trump’s cam­paign — Chalu­pa told a senior DNC offi­cial that, when it came to Trump’s cam­paign, “I felt there was a Rus­sia con­nec­tion,” Chalu­pa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Man­afort to be involved in this elec­tion,” said Chalu­pa, who at the time also was warn­ing lead­ers in the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty that Man­afort was “Putin’s polit­i­cal brain for manip­u­lat­ing U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and elec­tions.”

    She said she shared her con­cern with Ukraine’s ambas­sador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, and one of his top aides, Oksana Shul­yar, dur­ing a March 2016 meet­ing at the Ukrain­ian Embassy. Accord­ing to some­one briefed on the meet­ing, Chaly said that Man­afort was very much on his radar, but that he wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned about the operative’s ties to Trump since he didn’t believe Trump stood much of a chance of win­ning the GOP nom­i­na­tion, let alone the pres­i­den­cy.

    That was not an uncom­mon view at the time, and, per­haps as a result, Trump’s ties to Rus­sia — let alone Manafort’s — were not the sub­ject of much atten­tion. That all start­ed to change just four days after Chalupa’s meet­ing at the embassy, when it was report­ed that Trump had in fact hired Man­afort, sug­gest­ing that Chalu­pa may have been on to some­thing. She quick­ly found her­self in high demand. The day after Manafort’s hir­ing was revealed, she briefed the DNC’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff on Man­afort, Trump and their ties to Rus­sia, accord­ing to an oper­a­tive famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

    A for­mer DNC staffer described the exchange as an “infor­mal con­ver­sa­tion,” say­ing “‘brief­ing’ makes it sound way too for­mal,” and adding, “We were not direct­ing or dri­ving her work on this.” Yet, the for­mer DNC staffer and the oper­a­tive famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion agreed that with the DNC’s encour­age­ment, Chalu­pa asked embassy staff to try to arrange an inter­view in which Poroshenko might dis­cuss Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych.

    While the embassy declined that request, offi­cials there became “help­ful” in Chalupa’s efforts, she said, explain­ing that she trad­ed infor­ma­tion and leads with them. “If I asked a ques­tion, they would pro­vide guid­ance, or if there was some­one I need­ed to fol­low up with.” But she stressed, “There were no doc­u­ments giv­en, noth­ing like that.”

    Chalu­pa said the embassy also worked direct­ly with reporters research­ing Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia to point them in the right direc­tions. She added, though, “they were being very pro­tec­tive and not speak­ing to the press as much as they should have. I think they were being care­ful because their sit­u­a­tion was that they had to be very, very care­ful because they could not pick sides. It’s a polit­i­cal issue, and they didn’t want to get involved polit­i­cal­ly because they couldn’t.”

    Shul­yar vehe­ment­ly denied work­ing with reporters or with Chalu­pa on any­thing relat­ed to Trump or Man­afort, explain­ing “we were stormed by many reporters to com­ment on this sub­ject, but our clear and adamant posi­tion was not to give any com­ment [and] not to inter­fere into the cam­paign affairs.”

    Both Shul­yar and Chalu­pa said the pur­pose of their ini­tial meet­ing was to orga­nize a June recep­tion at the embassy to pro­mote Ukraine. Accord­ing to the embassy’s web­site, the event high­light­ed female Ukrain­ian lead­ers, fea­tur­ing speech­es by Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an Han­na Hop­ko, who dis­cussed “Ukraine’s fight against the Russ­ian aggres­sion in Don­bas,” and long­time Hillary Clin­ton con­fi­dante Melanne Verveer, who worked for Clin­ton in the State Depart­ment and was a vocal sur­ro­gate dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.
    ...

    And it was at this point, in Jan­u­ary of 2017, that Andrii Telizhenko start­ed talk­ing to reporters about his expe­ri­ences too dur­ing his time in the Ukrain­ian embassy. Accord­ing to Telizhenko, he was instruct­ed by Oksana Shul­yar, one of the top aides of Ukraine’s ambas­sador to the U.S., Valeriy Chaly, to help Chalu­pa research these con­nec­tions. And Telizhenko isn’t the only source for these claims. There are oth­er “sources famil­iar with the effort” who recount this kind of close work­ing rela­tion­ship with Chalu­pa:

    ...

    Shul­yar said her work with Chalu­pa “didn’t involve the cam­paign,” and she specif­i­cal­ly stressed that “We have nev­er worked to research and dis­sem­i­nate dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about Don­ald Trump and Paul Man­afort.”

    But Andrii Telizhenko, who worked as a polit­i­cal offi­cer in the Ukrain­ian Embassy under Shul­yar, said she instruct­ed him to help Chalu­pa research con­nec­tions between Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia. “Oksana said that if I had any infor­ma­tion, or knew oth­er peo­ple who did, then I should con­tact Chalu­pa,” recalled Telizhenko, who is now a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Kiev. “They were coor­di­nat­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion with the Hillary team on Paul Man­afort with Alexan­dra Chalu­pa,” he said, adding “Oksana was keep­ing it all qui­et,” but “the embassy worked very close­ly with” Chalu­pa.

    In fact, sources famil­iar with the effort say that Shul­yar specif­i­cal­ly called Telizhenko into a meet­ing with Chalu­pa to pro­vide an update on an Amer­i­can media outlet’s ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Man­afort.

    Telizhenko recalled that Chalu­pa told him and Shul­yar that, “If we can get enough infor­ma­tion on Paul [Man­afort] or Trump’s involve­ment with Rus­sia, she can get a hear­ing in Con­gress by Sep­tem­ber.”

    Chalu­pa con­firmed that, a week after Manafort’s hir­ing was announced, she dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion with a for­eign pol­i­cy leg­isla­tive assis­tant in the office of Rep. Mar­cy Kap­tur (D‑Ohio), who co-chairs the Con­gres­sion­al Ukrain­ian Cau­cus. But, Chalu­pa said, “It didn’t go any­where.”

    Asked about the effort, the Kap­tur leg­isla­tive assis­tant called it a “touchy sub­ject” in an inter­nal email to col­leagues that was acci­den­tal­ly for­ward­ed to Politi­co.

    Kaptur’s office lat­er emailed an offi­cial state­ment explain­ing that the law­mak­er is back­ing a bill to cre­ate an inde­pen­dent com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate “pos­si­ble out­side inter­fer­ence in our elec­tions.” The office added “at this time, the evi­dence relat­ed to this mat­ter points to Rus­sia, but Con­gress­woman Kap­tur is con­cerned with any evi­dence of for­eign enti­ties inter­fer­ing in our elec­tions.”

    ...

    Telizhenko, the for­mer embassy staffer, said that, dur­ing the pri­maries, Chaly, the country’s ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, had actu­al­ly instruct­ed the embassy not to reach out to Trump’s cam­paign, even as it was engag­ing with those of Clin­ton and Trump’s lead­ing GOP rival, Ted Cruz.

    “We had an order not to talk to the Trump team, because he was crit­i­cal of Ukraine and the gov­ern­ment and his crit­i­cal posi­tion on Crimea and the con­flict,” said Telizhenko. “I was yelled at when I pro­posed to talk to Trump,” he said, adding, “The ambas­sador said not to get involved — Hillary is going to win.”
    ...

    At the same time, note how the DNC is stress­ing that Chalpua was doing this work not as a DNC con­sul­tant but instead on her own. Keep in mind that Chalu­pa’s per­son­al inter­est in mat­ters involv­ing Ukraine are strong enough that it’s con­ceiv­able she would do at least some of this work on her own:

    ...
    A DNC offi­cial stressed that Chalu­pa was a con­sul­tant paid to do out­reach for the party’s polit­i­cal depart­ment, not a researcher. She under­took her inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump, Man­afort and Rus­sia on her own, and the par­ty did not incor­po­rate her find­ings in its dossiers on the sub­jects, the offi­cial said, stress­ing that the DNC had been build­ing robust research books on Trump and his ties to Rus­sia long before Chalu­pa began sound­ing alarms.

    Nonethe­less, Chalupa’s hacked email report­ed­ly esca­lat­ed con­cerns among top par­ty offi­cials, hard­en­ing their con­clu­sion that Rus­sia like­ly was behind the cyber intru­sions with which the par­ty was only then begin­ning to grap­ple.

    Chalu­pa left the DNC after the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­ven­tion in late July to focus full­time on her research into Man­afort, Trump and Rus­sia. She said she pro­vid­ed off-the-record infor­ma­tion and guid­ance to “a lot of jour­nal­ists” work­ing on sto­ries relat­ed to Man­afort and Trump’s Rus­sia con­nec­tions, despite what she described as esca­lat­ing harass­ment.

    ...

    And note how Andrii Arte­menko also shows up in this arti­cle, men­tion­ing how he per­son­al­ly met with the Trump team dur­ing the cam­paign despite the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s qui­et offi­cial pol­i­cy of keep a dis­tance from the Trump cam­paign. This was before Arte­menko’s role in the ‘peace plan’ was pub­licly revealed:

    ...
    This account was con­firmed by Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer diplo­mat and secu­ri­ty chief now affil­i­at­ed with a Poroshenko oppo­nent, who said, “The Ukrain­ian author­i­ties closed all doors and win­dows — this is from the Ukrain­ian side.” He called the strat­e­gy “bad and short-sight­ed.”

    Andriy Arte­menko, a Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an asso­ci­at­ed with a con­ser­v­a­tive oppo­si­tion par­ty, did meet with Trump’s team dur­ing the cam­paign and said he per­son­al­ly offered to set up sim­i­lar meet­ings for Chaly but was rebuffed.

    “It was clear that they were sup­port­ing Hillary Clinton’s can­di­da­cy,” Arte­menko said. “They did every­thing from orga­niz­ing meet­ings with the Clin­ton team, to pub­licly sup­port­ing her, to crit­i­ciz­ing Trump. … I think that they sim­ply didn’t meet because they thought that Hillary would win.”
    ...

    So that’s all part of the can of worms that the Rudy Giu­liani and Trump appear to be try­ing to reopen. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing move because, as we saw, it’s not like there isn’t any­thing to the accu­sa­tion that a Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tive, Chalu­pa, was work­ing with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in 2016. But these accu­sa­tion turn out to have remark­ably close ties to the Trump team’s own exten­sive clan­des­tine ties to Urkaini­ans in 2016. Andrii Telizhenko, the Ukrain­ian diplo­mat­ic offi­cial who was appar­ent­ly tasked with assist­ing Alexan­dra Chalu­pa in her research efforts against Man­afort, also hap­pened to work with Andrii Arte­menko in the first half of 2017, which hap­pens to over­lap when Arte­menko would have been secret­ly work­ing with Trump’s team on the details of the ‘peace plan’ pro­pos­al. It’s kind of amaz­ing.

    Also recall how Arte­menko was­n’t an insignif­i­cant pro-Krem­lin back-bencher in Ukraine’s par­lia­ment. Art­menko was the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus. So Arte­menko was exact­ly the kind of fig­ure one might expect to be involved with some sort of diplo­mat­ic ini­tia­tive on behalf of Ukraine. And that fun fact, com­bined with the Telizhenko’s past work­ing rela­tion­ship with both Arte­menko and Chalu­pa, raise a rather fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion about the role Ukraine played in the 2016 elec­tion: was the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment out to secret­ly work with both US cam­paigns? A more overt out­reach effort with Hillary Clin­ton’s cam­paign run out of the embassy (seem­ing­ly designed to max­i­mum anti-Russ­ian sen­ti­ments in the US) cou­pled with a covert cam­paign by Arte­menko to court the Trump team?

    Also keep in mind that Arte­menko appar­ent­ly want­ed to replace Petro Poroshenko as pres­i­dent of Ukraine. That was also part of the ‘peace plan’ scheme. The idea was to oust Poroshenko in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal with ‘kom­pro­mat’ and have Arte­menko replace him. So based on that detail of Arte­menko’s scheme it would appear that Arte­menko prob­a­bly was­n’t work­ing on behalf of the Poroshenko admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing his secret nego­ti­a­tions with the Trump team. But we still have no idea how much of what we’re told about the ‘peace plan’ was real and how much was dis­in­for­ma­tion thrown in to obscure the real nature of those talks. And giv­en the nature of these talks (that includ­ed a pro­pos­al to lease Crimea to Rus­sia) it would be the kind of oper­a­tion that would need to be high­ly deni­able if acci­den­tal­ly exposed, so it’s pos­si­ble the talk of Arte­menko plan­ning on oust­ing Poroshenko was added as a means of ensur­ing there’s a fog of con­fu­sion around the sto­ry if it ever goes pub­lic.

    At the same kind, Arte­menko’s far right ties to a par­ty like Right Sec­tor and his­to­ry with Yulia Tymoshenko’s par­ty also rais­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he was nego­ti­at­ing on behalf of fac­tion involv­ing the far right and/or Tymoshenko, in which case it would­n’t be at all sur­pris­ing if they want­ed to see Poroshenko oust­ed.

    But now that we know Telizhenko was work­ing with both Alexan­dra Chalu­pa and Andrii Arte­menko, the ques­tion of the nature of Arte­menko’s rela­tion­ship with the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment dur­ing his secret 2016/2017 nego­ti­a­tions with the Trump team have sud­den­ly become much more inter­est­ing. Espe­cial­ly now that the Repub­li­cans are clear­ly plan­ning on mak­ing the claims made by Telizhenko a key polit­i­cal attack head­ing into 2020. And that’s all part of why this seem­ing­ly sim­ple impeach­able offense com­mit­ted by Trump has such a com­pli­cat­ed back­sto­ry.

    It’s also prob­a­bly all part of why the GOP and right-wing media appears to be focus­ing on large­ly just mak­ing stuff about Biden and the Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor. The actu­al sto­ry about the Demo­c­ra­t­ics work­ing with Ukraine in 2016 gets way too close to the sto­ry of Repub­li­cans work­ing with Ukraine in 2016.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 25, 2019, 3:11 pm
  19. Here’s a set of new twists in the unfold­ing Trump/Biden/Burisma sto­ry that rapid­ly mor­phed into an impeach­ment inquiry: First starters, it turns out Vik­tor Shoken — the for­mer Ukrain­ian chief pros­e­cu­tor who was fired in 2016 fol­low­ing threats by Joe Biden that the US would with­hold mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine unless Shokin was replaced — is try­ing to get his old job back. By suing for it. Shokin is argu­ing that he was improp­er­ly fired and his case is going to be before Ukraine’s supreme court in a few days.

    This isn’t the first time Shokin filed an appeal of his fir­ing. Ukraine’s courts reject an ear­li­er appeal in 2017. But Shokin refiled an appeal on Sep­tem­ber 2 of this year, cit­ing unspec­i­fied “new cir­cum­stances.” Keep in mind that Giu­liani has already been work­ing on dig­ging up this Biden/Burisma sto­ry in Ukraine for months before that Sep­tem­ber 2 appeal so the “new cir­cum­stances” are pre­sum­ably relat­ed to this whole Trump/Giuliani ini­tia­tive to make Shok­in’s fir­ing cen­tral to this polit­i­cal cam­paign against Biden.

    Now, that’s quite a notable devel­op­ment in this sto­ry in an of itself in terms of get­ting a sense of the goals of at least some of the play­ers on the Ukrain­ian side of this sto­ry. Because if Shokin wants his old job back, he and his back­ers are going to have a big incen­tive to make his fir­ing sound as improp­er as pos­si­ble. Which means Shokin and his Ukrain­ian allies are going to have a a big new incen­tive to fur­ther the nar­ra­tive being put forth by Rudy Giu­liani and the Trump team that Shok­in’s fir­ing was large­ly an attempt to pro­tect his son Hunter Biden from the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion.

    But that’s not the only court case Shokin is involved with at the moment involv­ing the Biden/Burisma sto­ry. Shokin was also asked by Ukrain­ian oli­garch Dmit­ry Fir­tash — who is cur­rent­ly in Aus­tria fight­ing a US extra­di­tion request — to tes­ti­fy in Fir­tash’s defense. What did Fir­tash ask Shokin to tes­ti­fy about? Well, Shokin argued that he did­n’t find an evi­dence that Fir­tash had com­mit­ted any crimes in Ukraine and viewed the case against him as polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. Accord­ing to Aus­tri­an law, extra­di­tion isn’t allowed if the case is con­sid­ered polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed.

    But Shokin also went on pro­vide a sworn tes­ti­mo­ny to the Aus­tri­an court that his own fir­ing was relat­ed to the Biden/Burisma inves­ti­ga­tion. In Shok­in’s affi­davit, he blunt­ly states, “I was forced out because I was lead­ing a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion probe into Buris­ma Hold­ing.” He also asserts that Biden had inter­vened in Decemm­ber of 2015, when Shokin was still in office, and pre­vent­ed Dmit­ry Fir­tash from return­ing to Ukraine. That’s pre­sum­ably the basis for why Biden’s actions in Ukraine were part of this extra­di­tion hear­ing. So Fir­tash’s extra­di­tion defense now hinges on the argu­ment that Biden was engaged in pri­mar­i­ly polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed inter­ven­tions in Ukraine and the key sup­port­ing evi­dence of that argu­ment is the asser­tion that the fir­ing of Shokin was pri­mar­i­ly due to pres­sure from Biden over the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Shok­in’s sworn affi­davit in Fir­tash’s case has already shown up a recent piece in The Hill by John Solomon. Keep in mind Solomon has a track record of com­ing up with real inves­tiga­tive lead while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly being a ‘go-to’ guy for Repub­li­cans who want to inject dis­in­for­ma­tion into the media. So his pieces are almost always an inter­est­ing mix of truth and fic­tion. In this lat­est piece, Solomon sets out to butress the under­ly­ing claim that Shok­in’s fir­ing real­ly was done pri­mar­i­ly to pro­tect Buris­ma. The thrust of the argu­ment cen­ters around doc­u­ments show­ing Buris­ma’s lawyers moved to meet with Ukrain­ian offi­cials imme­di­ate­ly after Shok­in’s fir­ing. But the piece also includes the new­ly sworn affi­davit from Shokin in the Aus­tri­an court case where Shokin asserts that then-Pres­i­dent Poroshenko asked him to look into the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion and con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty wind­ing it down but Shokin refused. Solomon’s piece quotes the fol­low­ing Shokin tes­ti­mo­ny:

    ...
    “The truth is that I was forced out because I was lead­ing a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion probe into Buris­ma Hold­ings, a nat­ur­al gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors,” Shokin tes­ti­fied.

    “On sev­er­al occa­sions Pres­i­dent Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Buris­ma and con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty of wind­ing down the inves­tiga­tive actions in respect of this com­pa­ny but I refused to close this inves­ti­ga­tion,” Shokin added.
    ...

    So Vik­tor Shokin is out to prove he was fired over Buris­ma in Ukraine’s courts in both a case before the Ukrain­ian Supreme court but also in this Aus­tri­an court case to help Dmit­ry Fir­tash.

    Note that Paul Man­fort and Fir­tash have a busi­ness his­to­ry with each oth­er. They both explored a ven­ture to rede­vel­op the Drake Hotel in New York about a decade ago.

    But there’s anoth­er more sig­nif­i­cant fun-fact relat­ed to Dmit­ry Fir­tash and Paul Man­afort: Fir­tash is a long-time busi­ness part­ner with Sergei Lovochkin(Lyovochkin)! Recall how Lovochkin was not only the lead financier of Paul Man­afort’s ‘Hab­s­burg Group’ lob­by­ing effort to pull Ukraine out of Rus­si­a’s orbit and into an EU trade asso­ci­a­tion, but cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence points towards Lovochkin and Man­afort play­ing some sort of role in orches­trat­ing the vio­lence that fueled the Maid­an protests fol­low­ing Vik­tor Yanukovy­ch’s pull out of the trade asso­ci­a­tion nego­ti­a­tions.

    Recall how GOP polit­i­cal con­sul­tant Sam Pat­ten — who had pre­vi­ous­ly worked for Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and formed a con­sult­ing firm with Kon­stan­tin Kil­imnik — end­ed up plead­ing guilty to act­ing as a straw-pur­chas­er of Trump Inau­gu­ra­tion tick­ets for $50,000 on behalf of Lovochkin.

    Also recall how one of the goals of the scheme by Giu­liani and Trump to push for a reex­am­i­na­tion of Ukraine’s role in the 2016 elec­tion is to find evi­dence that Paul Man­afort was false­ly smeared in 2016 (with the release of the “black ledgers”) in a joint Ukraine/DNC oper­a­tion run by Alexan­dra Chalu­pa. So we prob­a­bly should­nt’ be too sur­prised to learn that one of Lovochk­in’s clos­est allies, Dmit­ry Fir­tash, was using his court extra­di­tion hear to pro­mote Vik­tor Shok­in’s nar­ra­tive about his fir­ing.

    But there’s anoth­er big new twist relat­ed to this that relates to Shok­in’s assis­tance of Fir­tash’s legal defense against extra­di­tion to the US: it turns out Rudy Giu­liani has­n’t been the only ‘inde­pen­dent’ actor work­ing for Trump on pro­mot­ing the Biden/Burisma sto­ry. We’re now learn­ing that the hus­band and wife team of Joe diGen­o­va and Vic­to­ria Toens­ing — fre­quent guests of Fox News — have been work­ing with Giu­liani on his Ukrain­ian adven­tures too. And both diGen­o­va and Toens­ing have also recent­ly sign up for Dmit­ry Fir­tash’s legal defense in his extra­di­tion case.

    So Giu­lian­i’s team work­ing on dig­ging up/creating dirt on Biden in Ukraine is lit­er­al­ly part of Dmit­ry Fir­tash’s legal defense team in his extra­di­tion case. It was in that extra­di­tion case that Fir­tash had Shokin tes­ti­fy that, yes, he was fired over the Buris­ma case, an argu­ment he’s mak­ing in his own legal case in front of the Ukrain­ian Supreme Court to get his job back. And the clos­est ally of Fir­tash just hap­pens to be Sergei Lovochkin who also hap­pened to one of Paul Man­afort’s clos­est allies in Ukraine. Lots of twists.

    Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle about Vik­tor Shokin suing to get his old job back by argu­ing that he was improp­er­ly fired over the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion:

    Irish Times

    Ukrain­ian ex-pros­e­cu­tor in Trump scan­dal tries to regain top job
    Trump claims Shokin was fired at behest of Biden to shield his son

    Daniel McLaugh­lin
    Thu, Sep 26, 2019, 19:23

    The for­mer Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al at the heart of a scan­dal that has prompt­ed a bid to impeach US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is going to court to try to win back his old job.

    Vik­tor Shokin was sacked as Ukraine’s top pros­e­cu­tor in 2016, due to what Mr Trump claims was pres­sure applied to Kiev by then US vice-pres­i­dent Joe Biden, who hopes to be the Democ­rats’ chal­lenger in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    Mr Trump sug­gests that Mr Biden want­ed to stop Mr Shokin inves­ti­gat­ing Ukrain­ian gas firm Buris­ma, where his son Hunter Biden was a direc­tor.

    Anti-cor­rup­tion experts in Kiev reject that alle­ga­tion as non­sense, but a July phone call in which Mr Trump repeat­ed­ly pressed Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy to inves­ti­gate Mr Biden and his son has led Democ­rats to launch an impeach­ment inquiry.

    White House memo

    A White House memo of their con­ver­sa­tion showed that Mr Trump told Mr Zelen­skiy, in appar­ent ref­er­ence to Mr Shokin: “I heard you had a pros­e­cu­tor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s real­ly unfair.”

    Doc­u­ments on the web­site of the Ukrain­ian supreme court show that Mr Shokin’s appeal against dis­missal is sched­uled for Octo­ber 3rd.

    He argues that then Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko and the country’s par­lia­ment act­ed incor­rect­ly in fir­ing him. A court reject­ed his first appeal in 2017, and the court doc­u­ments say his lat­est appeal is a response to unspec­i­fied “new cir­cum­stances” that have come to light.

    Ukrain­ian media say the appeal was filed on Sep­tem­ber 2nd, before the cur­rent scan­dal around Mr Trump erupt­ed fol­low­ing a com­plaint by a whistle­blow­er in the US intel­li­gence ser­vices.

    How­ev­er, for sev­er­al months Mr Trump’s per­son­al lawyer Rudy Giu­liani has urged Ukrain­ian offi­cials and Mr Zelenskiy’s aides to look into whether Mr Biden tar­get­ed Mr Shokin to shield Buris­ma and his son from scruti­ny.

    ...

    West­ern cap­i­tals wel­comed his removal in March 2016, with the Euro­pean Union’s envoy to Kiev at the time, Jan Tombinksi, call­ing it “an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a fresh start in the pros­e­cu­tor general’s office” amid “a lack of tan­gi­ble results of inves­ti­ga­tions into seri­ous cas­es”.

    ———

    “Ukrain­ian ex-pros­e­cu­tor in Trump scan­dal tries to regain top job” by Daniel McLaugh­lin; Irish Times; 09/26/2019

    He argues that then Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko and the country’s par­lia­ment act­ed incor­rect­ly in fir­ing him. A court reject­ed his first appeal in 2017, and the court doc­u­ments say his lat­est appeal is a response to unspec­i­fied “new cir­cum­stances” that have come to light.”

    Unspec­i­fied “new cir­cum­stances” have come to light. That was the basis for Shok­in’s Sep­tem­ber 2 new legal appeal to get his old job back. It’s hard to imag­ine those “new cir­cum­stances” did­n’t involve the Giu­liani ini­tia­tive.

    But as the fol­low­ing piece by Josh Mar­shall points out, it’s not just a Giu­liani ini­tia­tive. Now we’re learn­ing that tv celebri­ty right-wing hack lawyers Joe diGen­o­va and Vic­to­ria Toens­ing have also been work­ing with Giu­liani on this Ukrain­ian scheme...at the same time the two are were recent­ly hired for Dmit­ry Fir­tash’s legal defense team in his extra­di­tion case. The same extra­di­tion case where Shokin recent­ly tes­ti­fied that he felt his fir­ing was due to pres­sure from Biden over the Buris­ma inves­ti­ga­tion. And Shok­in’s sworn affi­davit in Fir­tash’s Aus­tri­an case mak­ing these claims has already shown up in John Solomon’s reports in The Hill. It’s some remark­able coor­di­na­tion between the Trump team, Fir­tash, and Shokin:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Full Pic­ture Com­ing Into View

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Sep­tem­ber 29, 2019 1:38 pm

    Chris Wal­lace report­ed this morn­ing on Fox News that two oth­er names you’ll know have been work­ing with Rudy Giu­liani on his mis­sion to strong-arm Ukraine into inter­ven­ing in the 2020 elec­tion and help exon­er­ate Paul Man­afort: the hus­band and wife team of Joe diGen­o­va and Vic­to­ria Toens­ing. The two are fre­quent Han­ni­ty guests and at var­i­ous points have been report­ed to be either join­ing or work­ing with the President’s legal team. In this sense, work­ing with Giu­liani — the President’s so-called “pri­vate lawyer” — makes a fair amount of sense.

    ...

    As I not­ed yes­ter­day, mate­r­i­al that has been sur­fac­ing from The Hill’s “opin­ion” reporter John Solomon and then echoed by Giu­liani seems to orig­i­nate with one of Ukraine’s rich­est and most pow­er­ful oli­garchs who is a for­mer busi­ness part­ner of Paul Man­afort and had to flee Ukraine after the over­throw of pro-Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych in 2014. He is in Aus­tria, fight­ing extra­di­tion to the Unit­ed States to face bribery charges.

    His name is Dimtry Fir­tash.

    Vik­tor Shokin is the “fired pros­e­cu­tor” at the cen­ter of all these sto­ries. As part of Firtash’s effort to avoid extra­di­tion from Aus­tria to the Unit­ed States, he asked Shokin to swear out the affi­davit in which Shokin accus­es Biden of get­ting him fired to pro­tect his son Hunter. (There is no evi­dence any of this hap­pened. There was no inves­ti­ga­tion of Hunter Biden or the com­pa­ny on whose board he sat at the time Shokin was fired.)

    So to review, for­mer Man­afort busi­ness part­ner Fir­tash asks Shokin to swear out an affi­davit in which he accus­es Biden. The affi­davit quick­ly gets into the hands of Giu­liani and Solomon. And who just recent­ly went to work for Firtash’s legal team? None oth­er than diGen­o­va and Toens­ing, as report­ed just this week by the Kyiv Post and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions.

    ...

    ———-


    Full Pic­ture Com­ing Into View” by Josh Mar­shall; Talk­ing Points Memo; 09/29/2019

    “So to review, for­mer Man­afort busi­ness part­ner Fir­tash asks Shokin to swear out an affi­davit in which he accus­es Biden. The affi­davit quick­ly gets into the hands of Giu­liani and Solomon. And who just recent­ly went to work for Firtash’s legal team? None oth­er than diGen­o­va and Toens­ing, as report­ed just this week by the Kyiv Post and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions.”

    Again, the coor­di­na­tion of all this is pret­ty remark­able.

    Now, here’s the Kyiv Post arti­cle about Shokin tes­ti­fy­ing in Fir­tash’s defense. Shokin explic­it­ly said in his affi­davit, “I was forced out because I was lead­ing a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion probe into Buris­ma Hold­ings,” and claims that Biden also inter­vened to pre­vent Fir­tash’s return to Ukraine in Decem­ber of 2015. The arti­cle also notes that Aus­tri­an law does­n’t allow extra­di­tion in cas­es that are con­sid­ered polit­i­cal­ly biased. So estab­lish­ing that Biden was engaged in polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed inter­ven­tions in Ukraine are cen­tral to Fir­tash’s legal defense against extra­di­tion to the US. And as the arti­cle also reminds us, Fir­tash also hap­pens to be be the busi­ness par­ty of for­mer vice pres­i­dent Sergei Lovochkin, a key fig­ure in under­stand­ing the nature of Paul Man­afort’s work in Ukraine

    Kyiv Post

    Ex-Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Shokin defends oli­garch Fir­tash

    By Bermet Talant.
    Pub­lished Sept. 27 at 8:16 pm

    Vik­tor Shokin, the fired Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al at the cen­ter of the whistle­blow­er scan­dal that launched an impeach­ment inquiry into U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, has giv­en tes­ti­mo­ny in sup­port of Ukrain­ian gas tycoon Dmytro Fir­tash, who is fight­ing extra­di­tion to the U.S. on bribery charges.

    In a sworn affi­davit, Shokin comes for­ward with more alle­ga­tions against for­mer U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. He claims that Biden pres­sured the admin­is­tra­tion of for­mer Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko not only to fire him to pro­tect Biden’s son, but also to ille­gal­ly block the return of oli­garch Fir­tash to Ukraine.

    ...

    A high­ly unpop­u­lar pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al, Shokin was fired in April 2016 after months of demands from the country’s pro-reform and anti-graft com­mu­ni­ty for his fail­ure to inves­ti­gate the cor­rup­tion of fugi­tive Pres­i­dent Vic­tor Yanukovych’s regime. Yanukovych was oust­ed in the Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion in 2014 and fled to Rus­sia.

    But Trump and his per­son­al attor­ney, for­mer New York City May­or Rudy Giu­liani, have been push­ing a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive: “tough cor­rup­tion fight­er” Shokin was fired at the request of Biden in order to pro­tect his son Hunter Biden’s employ­er, oil and gas extrac­tion com­pa­ny Buris­ma Hold­ings, from pros­e­cu­tion.

    The accu­sa­tions against the Bidens are not sup­port­ed by any avail­able evi­dence.

    “I was forced out because I was lead­ing a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion probe into Buris­ma Hold­ings,” Shokin said in the affi­davit.

    In Shokin’s words, then-Pres­i­dent Poroshenko asked him sev­er­al times to wind down the inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma, but he refused. Then Poroshenko asked him to resign because Biden threat­ened to with­hold $1 bil­lion in sub­si­dies for Ukraine until he was removed from office.

    Shokin clamed this was not the only time Biden exert­ed his influ­ence over Poroshenko and Ukrain­ian offi­cials.

    He claims that Biden pres­sured the Ukrain­ian admin­is­tra­tion to block the return of Fir­tash to Ukraine in Decem­ber 2015, when Shokin was still in office.

    Oli­garch Fir­tash was accused by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice of con­spir­ing to bribe offi­cials in India with $18.5 mil­lion for a per­mit to devel­op tita­ni­um mines in the east­ern coastal Indi­an state of Andhra Pradesh. The pro­duced tita­ni­um was sup­posed to be sold to Boe­ing, an air­plane man­u­fac­tur­er with head­quar­ters in Chica­go.

    Arrest­ed in Vien­na in 2014, Fir­tash has been fight­ing extra­di­tion to the U.S. with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess. Most recent­ly, an Aus­tri­an court and the country’s jus­tice min­is­ter allowed his extra­di­tion to stand tri­al in Chica­go. His lawyers have appealed.

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, in April 2015, an Aus­tri­an judge reject­ed his extra­di­tion. After that, Fir­tash planned to come to Kyiv to address the Fed­er­a­tion of Employ­ers, an orga­ni­za­tion he chaired, on Decem­ber 2, 2015.

    How­ev­er, accord­ing to Shokin’s tes­ti­mo­ny, Ukrain­ian offi­cials did every­thing to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing “under intense pres­sure of Biden.”

    Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov announced that Fir­tash would be arrest­ed imme­di­ate­ly upon return to Ukraine. In addi­tion, he mobi­lized the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a far-right nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion which is wide­ly believed to be sub­or­di­nate to Avakov, to patrol the Kyiv air­ports as an intim­i­da­tion tech­nique. The gov­ern­ment also closed Ukrain­ian air­space to pri­vate jets.

    But Shokin claimed there was no evi­dence that Fir­tash had com­mit­ted any crime.

    “I would have nev­er allowed the gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor office (sic) to be used for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es of unfound­ed crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of a per­son in the absence of suf­fi­cient evi­dence that such crimes had been com­mit­ted,” Shokin said in the affi­davit.

    Fir­tash was a close ally to Yanukovych and is still a busi­ness part­ner of the ex-president’s chief of staff, Ser­hiy Lovochkin. In his ear­ly days, he alleged­ly worked with orga­nized crime boss Semy­on Mogile­vich and prof­it­ed from a murky scheme to resell Turk­men gas.

    As he grew his influ­ence and for­tune through close alliances with politi­cians, Fir­tash pri­va­tized gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works and monop­o­lized the fer­til­iz­er mar­ket. Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ists, he de-fac­to con­trols a state-owned chem­i­cal plant in Sumy.

    Daria Kale­niuk, head of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Action Cen­ter, wrote on face­book that Shokin’s affi­davit may be used by Firtash’s lawyers as evi­dence of polit­i­cal sub­text in his pros­e­cu­tion.

    Accord­ing to Aus­tri­an law, extra­di­tion is impos­si­ble if the pros­e­cu­tion is polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed.

    Recent­ly, the oligarch’s defense team hired two attor­neys con­nect­ed to Trump, Joe DiGen­o­va and Vic­to­ria Toens­ing. Both have advanced the idea that Ukraine inter­fered in the U.S. elec­tion and oth­er relat­ed claims in the media.

    ———-

    “Ex-Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Shokin defends oli­garch Fir­tash” by Bermet Talant; Kyiv Post; 09/27/2019

    “In a sworn affi­davit, Shokin comes for­ward with more alle­ga­tions against for­mer U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. He claims that Biden pres­sured the admin­is­tra­tion of for­mer Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko not only to fire him to pro­tect Biden’s son, but also to ille­gal­ly block the return of oli­garch Fir­tash to Ukraine.”

    As we can see, in addi­tion to argu­ing that he did­n’t think Fir­tash com­mit­ted any crimes and the charges against him were polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed under pres­sure from Biden, Shok­in’s own griev­ances against Biden are being used to argue that the case against Fir­tash was also polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed:

    ...
    “I was forced out because I was lead­ing a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion probe into Buris­ma Hold­ings,” Shokin said in the affi­davit.

    In Shokin’s words, then-Pres­i­dent Poroshenko asked him sev­er­al times to wind down the inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma, but he refused. Then Poroshenko asked him to resign because Biden threat­ened to with­hold $1 bil­lion in sub­si­dies for Ukraine until he was removed from office.

    Shokin clamed this was not the only time Biden exert­ed his influ­ence over Poroshenko and Ukrain­ian offi­cials.

    He claims that Biden pres­sured the Ukrain­ian admin­is­tra­tion to block the return of Fir­tash to Ukraine in Decem­ber 2015, when Shokin was still in office.

    ...

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, in April 2015, an Aus­tri­an judge reject­ed his extra­di­tion. After that, Fir­tash planned to come to Kyiv to address the Fed­er­a­tion of Employ­ers, an orga­ni­za­tion he chaired, on Decem­ber 2, 2015.

    How­ev­er, accord­ing to Shokin’s tes­ti­mo­ny, Ukrain­ian offi­cials did every­thing to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing “under intense pres­sure of Biden.”

    Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov announced that Fir­tash would be arrest­ed imme­di­ate­ly upon return to Ukraine. In addi­tion, he mobi­lized the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a far-right nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion which is wide­ly believed to be sub­or­di­nate to Avakov, to patrol the Kyiv air­ports as an intim­i­da­tion tech­nique. The gov­ern­ment also closed Ukrain­ian air­space to pri­vate jets.

    But Shokin claimed there was no evi­dence that Fir­tash had com­mit­ted any crime.

    “I would have nev­er allowed the gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor office (sic) to be used for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es of unfound­ed crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of a per­son in the absence of suf­fi­cient evi­dence that such crimes had been com­mit­ted,” Shokin said in the affi­davit.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Aus­tri­an law, extra­di­tion is impos­si­ble if the pros­e­cu­tion is polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed.
    ...

    Keep in mind that when Shokin asserts that the block­ing of Fir­tash’s return to Ukraine in Decem­ber 2015 was done under pres­sure from Biden, that actu­al­ly sup­ports the argu­ment that Biden was pri­mar­i­ly act­ing on behalf of US pol­i­cy dur­ing this peri­od unless there’s some rea­son to assume Fir­tash’s case involves Buris­ma.

    And as the arti­cle note, Fir­tash remains a busi­ness part­ner of for­mer vice pres­i­dent Sergei Lovochkin, one of the cen­tral fig­ures in Paul Man­afort’s his­to­ry in Ukraine:

    ...

    Fir­tash was a close ally to Yanukovych and is still a busi­ness part­ner of the ex-president’s chief of staff, Ser­hiy Lovochkin. In his ear­ly days, he alleged­ly worked with orga­nized crime boss Semy­on Mogile­vich and prof­it­ed from a murky scheme to resell Turk­men gas.

    ...

    Recent­ly, the oligarch’s defense team hired two attor­neys con­nect­ed to Trump, Joe DiGen­o­va and Vic­to­ria Toens­ing. Both have advanced the idea that Ukraine inter­fered in the U.S. elec­tion and oth­er relat­ed claims in the media.
    ...

    Might Lovochkin, one of Man­afort’s clos­est part­ners in Ukraine, also be work­ing on this Trump/Giuliani/deGenova/Toensing/Firtash/Shokin oper­a­tion to cre­ate and exploit a nar­ra­tive around the Biden/Burisma case? Giv­en his prox­im­i­ty to so many of these char­ac­ters, at this point it would be sur­pris­ing if he was­n’t involved.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 30, 2019, 12:11 pm
  20. There was a new piece in the Finan­cial Times recent­ly giv­ing more details about the his­to­ry of Buris­ma and the oth­er West­ern fig­ures added to Buris­ma’s board in recent years in addi­tion to Hunter Biden. The arti­cle describes how Buris­ma was start­ed in 2002 by Myko­la Zlochevsky. Zlochevsky head­ed Ukraine’s Min­istry of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion dur­ing 2010–2012 under the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment. Buris­ma won sev­er­al of its gas pro­duc­tion licens­es dur­ing this peri­od. When the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment col­lapsed fol­low­ing the 2014 Maid­an protests peo­ple start­ed look­ing into Buris­ma and alle­ga­tions of self-deal­ing by Zlochevsky. While he was work­ing in the gov­ern­ment, Zlochevsky claimed he had sold his ener­gy assets. But Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ists dis­cov­ered he con­tin­ued to con­trol Buris­ma through Cyprus-based hold­ing com­pa­nies. The UK Seri­ous Fraud Office soon opened an inves­ti­ga­tion, freez­ing $23 mil­lion in Zlochevsky’s assets. It was at this point point that Zlochevsky start­ed putting West­ern fig­ures on Buris­ma’s board, includ­ing Hunter Biden. It was basi­cal­ly Zlochevsky way of mak­ing nice with Ukraine’s new pri­ma­ry allies in West.

    So Hunter Biden was pret­ty unam­bigu­ous­ly giv­en this cushy job as a basi­cal­ly a way to pla­cate West­ern con­cerns over the com­pa­ny now that ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ was sud­den­ly a high-pro­file issue in Ukraine. He was appar­ent­ly brought on board with the hopes of improv­ing Buris­ma’s “trans­paren­cy, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Biden was just one of sev­er­al West­ern fig­ures added to Buris­ma’s board in recent years. And around the same time Biden was added, anoth­er inter­est­ing fig­ure was added to the board: the for­mer pres­i­dent of Poland Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki. Yep, the same fig­ure who played a role in the ‘Haps­burg Group’ lob­by­ing effort secret­ly being run by Paul Man­afort and Sergei Lovochkin (Lyovochkin) from 2012–2013 to con­vince Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and the US that Ukraine should be allowed into a trade asso­ci­a­tion with the Euro­pean Union. Recall how Kwas­niews­ki was not just secret­ly work­ing on the Haps­burg Group effort. He was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly act­ing as the lead­ing fig­ure in the EU’s mon­i­tor­ing mis­sion for Ukraine. Over­all, Kwas­niews­ki appears to be work­ing large­ly as a con­duit between the forces in the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment try­ing to move Ukraine into the EU’s orbit (led by Man­afort and Lovochkin) and the forces in the EU try­ing to make this hap­pen.

    So the guy secret­ly work­ing to make the EU-Ukraine trade ends up on Buris­ma’s board in 2014. Although note that the sec­ond arti­cle below points out that Buris­ma’s own web­site states that the com­pa­ny’s board engaged with both Hunter Biden and Kwas­niews­ki in 2013 and in the third arti­cle below it states that doc­u­ments show Kwas­niews­ki becom­ing a board mem­ber on Jan­u­ary 2, 2014. So the tim­ing of these appoint­ments of West­ern­ers is ambigu­ous at this point but it sounds like Kwas­niews­ki actu­al­ly joined Buris­ma before the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment and Hunter Biden may have also start­ed some sort of work with Buris­ma in 2013 too. That would put their ini­tial inter­ac­tions with Buris­ma in a some­what dif­fer­ent light and make it sounds more like some­thing done in con­cert with the ‘Haps­burg Group’ ini­tia­tive under the assump­tion that Ukraine was going to be join­ing the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment.

    There’s anoth­er very inter­est­ing fig­ure who joined Buris­ma’s board in 2017: Cofer Black. Recall how Black has a long-time CIA offi­cer who went on to become the vice-chair­man of Erik Prince’s Black­wa­ter. Soright after Trump takes office, Buris­ma hires a Black­wa­ter fig­ure. Isn’t that inter­est­ing tim­ing.

    Oh, and it turns out the Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ukraine turned down Buris­ma’s appli­ca­tion, claim­ing the com­pa­ny did­n’t pass due dili­gence. But it also turns out Buris­ma formed a part­ner­ship with the Atlantic Coun­cil in 2017 and donat­ed between $100,000 and $250,000 in 2018. Kari­na Zlochevs­ka, Zlochevsky’s daugh­ter, attend­ed an Atlantic Coun­cil round­table on pro­mot­ing best busi­ness prac­tices as recent­ly as last week. Yep, the Atlantic Coun­cil appar­ent­ly felt that the ques­tions about Buris­ma’s cor­rup­tion weren’t bad enough to turn down Buris­ma’s mon­ey. It’s less of a state­ment about Buris­ma and more a state­ment about the Atlanic Coun­cil.

    That’s all part of the con­text of Buris­ma’s deci­sion to hire Hunter Biden. It’s pret­ty clear it was an attempt to basi­cal­ly send sig­nals to West­ern gov­ern­ments that Buris­ma was going to play ball with Ukraine’s new West­ern allies dur­ing a peri­od when ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ was going to be a major part of the brand­ing of the ‘new Ukraine’. With Kwas­niews­ki, it appears this process start­ed before the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment. And with Cofer Black­’s addi­tion in 2017, it’s pret­ty clear this exact same pat­tern con­tin­ued dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. In oth­er words, while there are plen­ty of jus­ti­fi­able ques­tions about the nature of Hunter Biden’s work for Buris­ma, those kinds of ques­tions should real­ly be applied to cor­po­rate boards across the world because this is how inter­na­tion­al busi­ness is done. The real scan­dal is how typ­i­cal and non-scan­dalous this all is:

    Finan­cial Times

    Ukraine gas com­pa­ny feels heat of US impeach­ment probe
    How Joe Biden’s son came to be on board of ener­gy tycoon’s firm

    Roman Olearchyk in Kiev and Max Sed­don in Moscow
    Sep­tem­ber 29 2019

    When Ukraine’s klep­to­crat­ic elite fled to Rus­sia after a pro-west­ern rev­o­lu­tion in 2014, for­mer min­is­ter Myko­la Zlochevsky sud­den­ly found him­self the tar­get of an inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion into the sources of his wealth.

    The UK’s Seri­ous Fraud Office froze $23m in Mr Zlochevsky’s bank accounts in April that year as part of an FBI-led attempt to recov­er a stag­ger­ing $100bn in assets alleged­ly stolen by Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovich and his entourage, known as the “Fam­i­ly”.

    Mr Zlochevsky, the own­er of Buris­ma, Ukraine’s largest pri­vate gas com­pa­ny which acquired sev­er­al of its extrac­tion licences while he was in gov­ern­ment, had lost a polit­i­cal patron when Mr Yanukovich was evict­ed from office. Weeks lat­er the ener­gy tycoon sought help else­where.

    Buris­ma made a sur­prise appoint­ment to its board: Hunter Biden, younger son of then-US vice-pres­i­dent Joe Biden. It was a move that would ulti­mate­ly lead to the impeach­ment pro­ceed­ings trig­gered last week against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

    Mr Biden’s five-year tenure on Burisma’s board — which end­ed this year as his father announced his run for pres­i­dent — was part of a shrewd cam­paign by Mr Zlochevsky to repair his image in the west.

    The ex-min­is­ter over­came con­cerns about his wealth to wrig­gle out of cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions in Ukraine and Britain and become one of the country’s rich­est men. Burisma’s gas pro­duc­tion rose to 1.3bn cubic metres last year, a size­able share of Ukraine’s total 20bcm annu­al out­put. Its rev­enues report­ed­ly approach $400m a year.

    Mr Zlochevsky has now been dragged into a polit­i­cal scan­dal of far greater mag­ni­tude as Con­gress pre­pares to inves­ti­gate Mr Trump for press­ing Volodymyr Zelen­sky, his Ukrain­ian coun­ter­part, to dig up dirt on the Bidens in con­nec­tion with Hunter’s work for Buris­ma.

    ...

    Vik­tor Shokin, pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al until 2016, then claimed Mr Biden pres­sured Ukraine to sack him by threat­en­ing to with­hold $1bn in vital secu­ri­ty assis­tance because of a probe into Buris­ma.

    Mr Biden vehe­ment­ly denies so much as dis­cussing his son’s activ­i­ties in Ukraine with him. The for­mer vice-pres­i­dent has said the US — backed strong­ly by Ukraine’s west­ern allies — want­ed Mr Shokin fired because of his reluc­tance to pur­sue any major cor­rup­tion cas­es.

    In a speech last year, Mr Biden recalled: “I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not get­ting the bil­lion dollars...I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leav­ing in six hours. If the pros­e­cu­tor is not fired, you’re not get­ting the mon­ey.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place some­one who was sol­id at the time.”

    The push left Mr Biden in the bizarre posi­tion of push­ing Ukraine to inves­ti­gate a com­pa­ny where his son worked at the time. In 2015, then-US ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt pub­licly accused Mr Shokin of delib­er­ate­ly trip­ping up the UK pro­ceed­ings by telling Mr Zlochevsky’s lawyers that there was no evi­dence of his wrong­do­ing.

    “Shokin was help­ing Zlochevsky to evade the asset seizure in the UK,” said Daria Kale­niuk, direc­tor of anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog Antac. “Every­one who want­ed to help Ukraine with asset recov­ery attempts knew how dam­ag­ing Shokin was.”

    Mr Zlochevsky — a burly, shaven-head­ed man — set up Buris­ma in 2002. The com­pa­ny won sev­er­al of its gas pro­duc­tion licences while he was Ukraine’s nat­ur­al resources min­is­ter from 2010 to 2012, records show.

    While in gov­ern­ment, Mr Zlochevsky claimed he had sold his ener­gy assets, but Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ists soon found he con­tin­ued to con­trol Buris­ma through Cyprus-based hold­ing com­pa­nies.

    When pros­e­cu­tors began inves­ti­gat­ing Burisma’s licens­es over self-deal­ing alle­ga­tions, Mr Zlochevsky stacked its board with West­ern lumi­nar­ies.

    As well as the younger Mr Biden — who said he hoped to improve Burisma’s “trans­paren­cy, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and respon­si­bil­i­ty” — they includ­ed for­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki, who had vis­it­ed Ukraine dozens of times as an EU envoy, and Devon Archer, Mr Biden’s long­time busi­ness part­ner.

    Buris­ma paid Mr Biden $50,000 a month, accord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal. Mr Kwas­niews­ki remains a board mem­ber, accord­ing to Burisma’s web­site, along­side for­mer invest­ment banker Alan Apter and ex-Black­wa­ter direc­tor Cofer Black.

    In Mona­co, where he report­ed­ly lives, Mr Zlochevsky joint­ly organ­is­es an annu­al ener­gy con­fer­ence with Mr Kwasniewski’s foun­da­tion. Buris­ma did not respond to sev­er­al requests for com­ment.

    “He invit­ed them pure­ly for white­wash­ing pur­pos­es, to put them on the façade and make this com­pa­ny look nice,” Ms Kale­niuk said.

    Despite US pres­sure to inves­ti­gate him, Mr Zlochevsky strength­ened his posi­tion under new gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor Yuriy Lut­senko. Buris­ma retained its pro­duc­tion licences and set­tled a tax avoid­ance case after Mr Lutsenko’s office down­grad­ed the charges.

    In 2017, Buris­ma announced that it faced no active pros­e­cu­tion cas­es, then formed a part­ner­ship with the Atlantic Coun­cil, a US think-tank active in pro­mot­ing anti-cor­rup­tion efforts in Ukraine.

    Buris­ma donat­ed between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Atlantic Coun­cil last year, accord­ing to its annu­al report, and sent exec­u­tives to speak along­side the think tank’s experts at sev­er­al con­fer­ences. Kari­na Zlochevs­ka, Mr Zlochevsky’s daugh­ter, attend­ed an Atlantic Coun­cil round­table on pro­mot­ing best busi­ness prac­tices as recent­ly as last week.

    The cam­paign did lit­tle to improve Mr Zlochevsky’s busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion. The Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ukraine turned town Burisma’s appli­ca­tion to join. One top west­ern finan­cial insti­tu­tion told the FT: “We’ve nev­er worked with them for integri­ty rea­sons. Nev­er passed our due dili­gence.”

    “The com­pa­ny just does not pass the smell test,” a senior for­eign busi­ness­man in Ukraine said. “Their rep­u­ta­tion is far from squeaky clean because of their bag­gage, the back­ground and attempts to white­wash by bring­ing in recog­nis­able west­ern names on to the board,” he added.

    On Fri­day, Ukraine’s anti-cor­rup­tion bureau said it was inves­ti­gat­ing Mr Zlochevsky’s award­ing of gas pro­duc­tion licences while he was a min­is­ter. Hunter Biden does not fig­ure in these probes, which cov­er the peri­od before he joined Buris­ma.

    ———–

    “Ukraine gas com­pa­ny feels heat of US impeach­ment probe” by Roman Olearchyk and Max Sed­don; Finan­cial Times; 09/29/2019

    “Mr Zlochevsky, the own­er of Buris­ma, Ukraine’s largest pri­vate gas com­pa­ny which acquired sev­er­al of its extrac­tion licences while he was in gov­ern­ment, had lost a polit­i­cal patron when Mr Yanukovich was evict­ed from office. Weeks lat­er the ener­gy tycoon sought help else­where.”

    Zlochevsky was basi­cal­ly buy­ing polit­i­cal cov­er after Ukraine found itself reliant on the West. It’s not a big mys­tery. This is how this stuff is done and that’s why Hunter Biden was hired. But he was­n’t the only one. For­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki also came on board around that time. And after Trump came into office, for­mer Black­wa­ter VP Cofer Black joined the board too:

    ...
    As well as the younger Mr Biden — who said he hoped to improve Burisma’s “trans­paren­cy, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and respon­si­bil­i­ty” — they includ­ed for­mer Pol­ish pres­i­dent Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki, who had vis­it­ed Ukraine dozens of times as an EU envoy, and Devon Archer, Mr Biden’s long­time busi­ness part­ner.

    Buris­ma paid Mr Biden $50,000 a month, accord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal. Mr Kwas­niews­ki remains a board mem­ber, accord­ing to Burisma’s web­site, along­side for­mer invest­ment banker Alan Apter and ex-Black­wa­ter direc­tor Cofer Black.

    In Mona­co, where he report­ed­ly lives, Mr Zlochevsky joint­ly organ­is­es an annu­al ener­gy con­fer­ence with Mr Kwasniewski’s foun­da­tion. Buris­ma did not respond to sev­er­al requests for com­ment.

    “He invit­ed them pure­ly for white­wash­ing pur­pos­es, to put them on the façade and make this com­pa­ny look nice,” Ms Kale­niuk said.
    ...

    Notably, while this rep­u­ta­tion­al white­wash­ing was large­ly suc­cess­ful, the one area where it appeared to have failed is in pla­cat­ing the US gov­ern­ment. Because when Joe Biden and then-US ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt were pub­licly call­ing for the fir­ing of Vik­tor Shokin, the fact that Shokin was alleged­ly delib­er­ate­ly thwart­ing the UK’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Zlochevsky was part of their com­plaint:

    ...
    Vik­tor Shokin, pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al until 2016, then claimed Mr Biden pres­sured Ukraine to sack him by threat­en­ing to with­hold $1bn in vital secu­ri­ty assis­tance because of a probe into Buris­ma.

    Mr Biden vehe­ment­ly denies so much as dis­cussing his son’s activ­i­ties in Ukraine with him. The for­mer vice-pres­i­dent has said the US — backed strong­ly by Ukraine’s west­ern allies — want­ed Mr Shokin fired because of his reluc­tance to pur­sue any major cor­rup­tion cas­es.

    In a speech last year, Mr Biden recalled: “I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not get­ting the bil­lion dollars...I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leav­ing in six hours. If the pros­e­cu­tor is not fired, you’re not get­ting the mon­ey.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place some­one who was sol­id at the time.”

    The push left Mr Biden in the bizarre posi­tion of push­ing Ukraine to inves­ti­gate a com­pa­ny where his son worked at the time. In 2015, then-US ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt pub­licly accused Mr Shokin of delib­er­ate­ly trip­ping up the UK pro­ceed­ings by telling Mr Zlochevsky’s lawyers that there was no evi­dence of his wrong­do­ing.

    “Shokin was help­ing Zlochevsky to evade the asset seizure in the UK,” said Daria Kale­niuk, direc­tor of anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog Antac. “Every­one who want­ed to help Ukraine with asset recov­ery attempts knew how dam­ag­ing Shokin was.”
    ...

    But this rep­u­ta­tion­al white­wash­ing was in the end so suc­cess­ful that Buris­ma is now a spon­sor of the Atlantic Coun­cil, which fan­cies itself as being active in pro­mot­ing anti-cor­rup­tion efforts in Ukraine. The Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ukraine still appar­ent­ly had mis­giv­ings about Buris­ma, but not the Atlantic Coun­cil:

    ...

    In 2017, Buris­ma announced that it faced no active pros­e­cu­tion cas­es, then formed a part­ner­ship with the Atlantic Coun­cil, a US think-tank active in pro­mot­ing anti-cor­rup­tion efforts in Ukraine.

    Buris­ma donat­ed between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Atlantic Coun­cil last year, accord­ing to its annu­al report, and sent exec­u­tives to speak along­side the think tank’s experts at sev­er­al con­fer­ences. Kari­na Zlochevs­ka, Mr Zlochevsky’s daugh­ter, attend­ed an Atlantic Coun­cil round­table on pro­mot­ing best busi­ness prac­tices as recent­ly as last week.

    The cam­paign did lit­tle to improve Mr Zlochevsky’s busi­ness rep­u­ta­tion. The Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ukraine turned town Burisma’s appli­ca­tion to join. One top west­ern finan­cial insti­tu­tion told the FT: “We’ve nev­er worked with them for integri­ty rea­sons. Nev­er passed our due dili­gence.”

    “The com­pa­ny just does not pass the smell test,” a senior for­eign busi­ness­man in Ukraine said. “Their rep­u­ta­tion is far from squeaky clean because of their bag­gage, the back­ground and attempts to white­wash by bring­ing in recog­nis­able west­ern names on to the board,” he added.
    ...

    Ok, now here’s an arti­cle that points out that Buris­ma’s web­site states that Buris­ma’s board engaged Hunter Biden togeth­er with for­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Kwas­niews­ki in 2013. Again, keep in mind that Kwas­niews­ki was one of the Euro­pean fig­ures secret­ly enlist­ed in the ‘Haps­burg Group’ lob­by­ing effort in 2012–2013. Also recall how the ‘Haps­burg Group’ effort has the appear­ance of being more a joint effort con­duct­ed by both the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment and a fac­tion in EU that was already on board with the idea of get­ting Ukraine into that trade asso­ci­a­tion. A joint Ukraine-EU secret lob­by­ing cam­paign tar­get­ing the skep­tics in the EU and US gov­ern­ments. So if Biden and Kwas­niews­ki were already inter­act­ing with Buris­ma in 2013, it does­n’t sound like bring­ing them on board in 2014 was sim­ply a response to the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment:

    Reuters

    Fact­box: Buris­ma, the obscure Ukrain­ian gas com­pa­ny at the heart of U.S. polit­i­cal row

    Sep­tem­ber 24, 2019 / 9:00 AM

    KIEV (Reuters) — Some U.S. Democ­rats are call­ing for the impeach­ment of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump over reports that he asked his Ukrain­ian coun­ter­part to launch an inves­ti­ga­tion that could dam­age his Demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal rival Joe Biden.

    Trump is alleged to have want­ed Kiev to inves­ti­gate Hunter Biden, a son of the for­mer U.S. vice pres­i­dent and specif­i­cal­ly his pre­vi­ous role as a board mem­ber of Buris­ma, a pri­vate Ukrain­ian gas firm.

    WHAT IS BURISMA?

    Buris­ma, found­ed by Myko­la Zlochevsky in 2002, start­ed gas pro­duc­tion in 2006 and holds 35 licens­es for hydro­car­bon pro­duc­tion in Ukraine’s main oil and gas basins. Ukraine has lots of coal, but is not blessed with oil and gas reserves.

    Buris­ma, accord­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion on its web site, pro­duced just 1.3 bil­lion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in 2018, up from 0.1 bcm in 2010. It sells all the gas it pro­duces in Ukraine.

    To put that in per­spec­tive, the whole of Ukraine pro­duces around 20 bcm of gas per year and con­sumes almost 31 bcm annu­al­ly. The Unit­ed States, the world’s top gas pro­duc­er, pumps 832 bcm of gas a year, accord­ing to BP sta­tis­ti­cal data.

    Buris­ma does not dis­close it finan­cial results, but based on a min­i­mal gas price set for 2018 on the Ukrain­ian ener­gy exchange, the com­pa­ny may have gen­er­at­ed rev­enues of at least $400 mil­lion last year.

    ...

    WHAT WAS HUNTER BIDEN’S ROLE?

    Burisma’s web site says the company’s board engaged Hunter Biden in 2013 togeth­er with for­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Kwas­niews­ki.

    “Burisma’s track record of inno­va­tion and indus­try lead­er­ship in the field of nat­ur­al gas means that it can be a strong dri­ver of a strong econ­o­my in Ukraine,” Burisma’s web-site quot­ed Hunter Biden as say­ing on May 12, 2014.

    “As a new mem­ber of the board, I believe that my assis­tance in con­sult­ing the com­pa­ny on mat­ters of trans­paren­cy, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and respon­si­bil­i­ty, inter­na­tion­al expan­sion and oth­er pri­or­i­ties will con­tribute to the econ­o­my and ben­e­fit the peo­ple of Ukraine.”

    In April 2019, Hunter Biden’s term as a Buris­ma board mem­ber expired and he left the com­pa­ny.

    ...
    ———–

    “Fact­box: Buris­ma, the obscure Ukrain­ian gas com­pa­ny at the heart of U.S. polit­i­cal row” by Reuters; Reuters; 09/24/2019

    “Burisma’s web site says the company’s board engaged Hunter Biden in 2013 togeth­er with for­mer Pol­ish Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Kwas­niews­ki.”

    So both biden and Kwas­niews­ki were appar­ent­ly doing some­thing with Buris­ma in 2013, which was the fate­ful year when the push to get Ukraine into the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment was hit­ting its peak and looked most like­ly to suc­ceed.

    Now here’s a Buz­zFeed arti­cle from May of 2014 that cov­ers Biden and Kwas­niews­ki qui­et­ly join­ing Buris­ma’s board, and it notes that Cypri­ot records indi­cat­ed Kwas­niews­ki joined the board on Jan 2, 2014, almost two months before the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment:

    Buz­zFeed News

    Biden’s Son, Pol­ish Ex-Pres­i­dent Qui­et­ly Sign On To Ukrain­ian Gas Com­pa­ny

    Rev­e­la­tions that Hunter Biden and Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki serve on the board of a com­pa­ny con­trolled by a Yanukovych ally raise seri­ous con­flict of inter­est ques­tions for West­ern coun­tries’ Ukraine pol­i­cy.
    Max Sed­don Buz­zFeed News World Cor­re­spon­dent

    Post­ed on May 13, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. ET

    DONETSK, Ukraine — U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s youngest son has joined the board of a gas com­pa­ny owned by an ally of Ukraine’s fugi­tive ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych and a key Euro­pean inter­locu­tor with Kiev who was pre­vi­ous­ly pres­i­dent of Poland.

    The move rais­es ques­tions about a poten­tial con­flict of inter­est for Joe Biden, who was the White House­’s main inter­locu­tor with Yanukovych while the lat­ter was pres­i­dent and has since spear­head­ed West­ern efforts to wean Ukraine off Russ­ian gas.

    Com­pa­ny doc­u­ments in Cyprus show that Joe Biden’s son, R. Hunter Biden, became a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of Buris­ma Hold­ings, which describes itself as Ukraine’s largest pri­vate nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­er, on April 18. Buris­ma announced Hunter Biden’s appoint­ment in a press release Mon­day on its web­site which was quick­ly picked up by Russ­ian state media.

    “Buris­ma’s track record of inno­va­tions and indus­try lead­er­ship in the field of nat­ur­al gas means that it can be a strong dri­ver of a strong econ­o­my in Ukraine,” Hunter Biden said in the state­ment on Buris­ma’s web­site. “As a new mem­ber of the Board, I believe that my assis­tance in con­sult­ing the Com­pa­ny on mat­ters of trans­paren­cy, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and respon­si­bil­i­ty, inter­na­tion­al expan­sion and oth­er pri­or­i­ties will con­tribute to the econ­o­my and ben­e­fit the peo­ple of Ukraine.”

    ...

    It proved dif­fi­cult to dis­cern at first whether the Buris­ma web­site car­ry­ing the press release was even real. Its pho­tos of Hunter Biden and Rose­mont co-founder Devon Archer, who is list­ed as a mem­ber of the Buris­ma board, are lift­ed from Rose­mon­t’s web­site. The com­pa­ny site car­ries a bizarre inter­view with Archer — appar­ent­ly first pub­lished in the Ukrain­ian news­pa­per Kap­i­tal, then trans­lat­ed bad­ly into Eng­lish with Slav­ic syn­tax left intact — in which he tac­it­ly acknowl­edges his con­nec­tions to the Biden fam­i­ly and says Buris­ma “reminds [him] of Exxon in its ear­ly days.” The Buris­ma site was reg­is­tered anony­mous­ly through the domain ser­vice GoDad­dy in 2010, accord­ing to the who.is ser­vice.

    Com­pa­ny reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments for Buris­ma show, how­ev­er, that both Hunter Biden and Archer joined its board of direc­tors in April. Buris­ma is com­plete­ly owned by anoth­er Cypri­ot off­shore com­pa­ny, Broc­i­ti Invest­ments Lim­it­ed, which, records show, belongs to Myko­la Zlochevsky, who was ener­gy min­is­ter and deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty coun­cil chair under Yanukovych, deposed in Feb­ru­ary. While in gov­ern­ment, Zlochevsky claimed that he had sold his ener­gy assets, though an inves­ti­ga­tion in Ukrain­ian Forbes lat­er showed this was untrue.

    As well as the oth­er direc­tors list­ed on Buris­ma’s web­site, Cypri­ot records list a man named Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki — the name of Poland’s pres­i­dent from 1995 to 2005 — as hav­ing become a direc­tor Jan 2. Kwas­niews­ki was a key fig­ure in the Euro­pean Union’s attempts to draw Ukraine clos­er to Brus­sels dur­ing Yanukovy­ch’s pres­i­den­cy: he and for­mer Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pres­i­dent Pat Cox vis­it­ed Kiev 27 times in failed attempts to secure the release of Yanukovy­ch’s rival, for­mer prime min­is­ter and cur­rent pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison.

    ...

    ———-

    “Biden’s Son, Pol­ish Ex-Pres­i­dent Qui­et­ly Sign On To Ukrain­ian Gas Com­pa­ny” by Max Sed­don; Buz­zFeed News; 05/13/2014

    “As well as the oth­er direc­tors list­ed on Buris­ma’s web­site, Cypri­ot records list a man named Alek­sander Kwas­niews­ki — the name of Poland’s pres­i­dent from 1995 to 2005 — as hav­ing become a direc­tor Jan 2. Kwas­niews­ki was a key fig­ure in the Euro­pean Union’s attempts to draw Ukraine clos­er to Brus­sels dur­ing Yanukovy­ch’s pres­i­den­cy: he and for­mer Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pres­i­dent Pat Cox vis­it­ed Kiev 27 times in failed attempts to secure the release of Yanukovy­ch’s rival, for­mer prime min­is­ter and cur­rent pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison.”

    So Kwas­niews­ki was became a direc­tor on Jan 2, 2014, accord­ing to Cypri­ot records. This strong­ly sug­gests he was active­ly work­ing with Buris­ma in 2013, which is con­sis­tent with the infor­ma­tion in the sec­ond above arti­cle. And that, in turn, sug­gests Hunter Biden was also prob­a­bly doing some sort of con­sult­ing with Buris­ma in 2013 too as the sec­ond above arti­cle sug­gests. Con­sult­ing that would pre­sum­ably be about get­ting Buris­ma up to the anti-cor­rup­tion stan­dards that would pass muster with the US and EU in antic­i­pa­tion of Giv­en all that, the sud­den hir­ing of Hunter Biden actu­al­ly seems less sleazy than the gen­er­al­ly accept­ed time­line of Biden get­ting hired only after the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment col­lapsed. If Biden was work­ing with Buris­ma in 2013 in antic­i­pa­tion of the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion deal, that would make him an obvi­ous choice for the board of direc­tors fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment col­lapse. It would still pret­ty sleazy over­all, but less sleazy than the sce­nario where Biden’s con­tact with Buris­ma only sud­den­ly starts after Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment col­lapsed and more like­ly just the typ­i­cal cor­po­rate sleaze where direc­tors are hired based on who they are and who they know. It could almost be argued that Hunter Biden was work­ing to advance US inter­ests at the time since get­ting Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­nies to be com­pli­ant with West­ern anti-cor­rup­tion stan­dards was prob­a­bly seen as an impor­tant ele­ment of the push to move Ukraine into the West­’s orbit. Plus, fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment, there was a big push to reduce Ukraine’s and Europe’s depen­dence on Russ­ian nat­ur­al gas, mak­ing Buris­ma, the largest pri­vate nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny in Ukraine, the kind of com­pa­ny that Ukraine’s new West­ern allies were going to be inter­est­ed in mak­ing ful­ly oper­a­tional as soon as pos­si­ble. It would still be prob­lem­at­ic if Hunter Biden was hired pri­mar­i­ly because of who he was and who he knew, but it could be seen as the kind of cor­rup­tion that advanced US for­eign pol­i­cy at that point in time (putting aside all of the prob­lems with that for­eign pol­i­cy). In oth­er words, it was bad, but could arguably be worse.

    So let’s hope this focus on Hunter Biden and his ques­tion­able hir­ing at Buris­ma trans­lates into a broad­er exam­i­na­tion of the endem­ic prac­tice of hir­ing of peo­ple or doing busi­ness with peo­ple pri­mar­i­ly because of who they are and who they know. Drain the swamp.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 1, 2019, 12:45 pm
  21. With word that a sec­ond intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty fig­ure is con­sid­ered fil­ing a whistle­blow­er com­plaint regard­ing the unfold­ing Trump/Ukraine shake­down scan­dal sur­round­ing the Biden/Burisma sto­ry, it seems increas­ing­ly like­ly that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP is going to frame this as some sort of Deep State take­down of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Which might be true to some extent. Whistle­blow­ing about major scan­dals implic­it­ly has the capac­i­ty to take down a gov­ern­ment, as the impeach­ment inquiry makes clear. And many have observed that the ini­tial whistle­blow­er com­plaint looks so thor­ough and pro­fes­sion­al that it may have cre­at­ed by a com­mit­tee sug­gest­ing the ini­tial CIA whistle­blow­er was act­ing on behalf of a larg­er group with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. Which, again, might be true. But giv­en the overt cor­rup­tion involv­ing almost every­thing Trump does, the real ques­tion in this case is whether or not it’s an appro­pri­ate and nec­es­sary take down of Trump team, even if the ‘Deep State’ real­ly is behind it. That’s how cor­rupt Trump is...he makes the ‘Deep State’ cor­rup­tion look tame in com­par­i­son.

    The ques­tion of whether or not it’s appro­pri­ate and nec­es­sary for the CIA to take down Trump at this point obvi­ous­ly isn’t a triv­ial ques­tion giv­en the long his­to­ry of intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty med­dling in pol­i­tics. But there’s also no deny­ing that this is an admin­is­tra­tion that appears to be hell­bent on nor­mal­iz­ing cor­rup­tion. Endem­ic cor­rup­tion is awful. Nor­mal­ized endem­ic cor­rup­tion is far worse. It’s one of the grand ironies that Trump is try­ing to frame his actions in Ukraine as part of an anti-cor­rup­tion effort giv­en how bla­tant­ly cor­rupt it is to selec­tive­ly (and large­ly exclu­sive­ly) cham­pi­on an anti-cor­rup­tion effort against one of his main polit­i­cal oppo­nents. He’s man­aged to fur­ther cor­rupt Ukraine’s cor­rupt anti-cor­rup­tion efforts and the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty — a fre­quent facilitator/beneficiary of cor­rup­tion around the world — is blow­ing the whis­tle about it. It’s iron­ic but here we are.

    Relat­ed to this ques­tion of whether or not there’s a coor­di­nat­ed intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty attempt to bring about the impeach­ment of Trump is one of the more fas­ci­nat­ing aspects of this sto­ry: how this scan­dals has been qui­et­ly bub­bling both with­in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and out in the pub­lic for months before it sud­den­ly explod­ed with the ini­tial CIA whistle­blow­er com­plaint. A LOT of peo­ple had to know the Trump team was using US aid to Ukraine as lever­age to force the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment into pub­licly smear­ing Joe Biden. It’s part of what makes it very con­ceiv­able that we’re see­ing a coor­di­nat­ed intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty effort to blow the whis­tle on this. There’s been plen­ty of time for the many alarmed peo­ple who knew about this to coor­di­nate.

    For exam­ple, the fol­low­ing TPM piece lays out three dis­tinct instances where the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was try­ing to work out a quid pro quo arrange­ment with the new Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. The evi­dence for this was made avail­able with the new­ly release text mes­sages released by Trump-appoint­ed spe­cial envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volk­er. In terms of estab­lish­ing whether or not the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was demand­ing the new Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment pub­licly open up inves­ti­ga­tions into Joe Biden and the ques­tions around his son Hunter and Buris­ma, they’re pret­ty damn­ing.

    For starters, days before the now noto­ri­ous July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Zelen­sky — where Trump ram­bles on about the Bidens and Crowd­strike and implies that these inves­ti­ga­tions will be required for the pur­chase of more Javelin mis­siles — there was an effort by Volk­er, Rudy Giu­liani, and US ambasasador to the EU Gor­dan Sond­land about the need for Zelen­sky to com­mit to these inves­ti­ga­tions before the phone call with Trump takes place. Volk­er has break­fast with Giu­liani on July 19, and then texts Sond­land about the upcom­ing phone call, say­ing “Most impt is for Zelen­sky to say that he will help inves­ti­ga­tion.” On July 22, Giu­liani spoke to Zelen­sky aide Andriy Yer­mak and that evening Giu­liani was push­ing for Trump to have the call with Zelen­sky. On the day of the phone call, Volk­er tells Yer­mak that Zelen­sky must agree to pro­ceed with the inves­ti­ga­tions against the Bidens if Trump will agree to a White House meet­ing with Zelen­sky. That seems like a pret­ty clear quid pro quo.

    Fol­low­ing the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelen­sky, the State Depart­ment began prepar­ing for Zelen­sky’s White House vis­it. August 9th text mes­sages show Giu­liani, Volk­er, and Sond­land were once again inter­ven­ing to attempt to ensure there was going to be a pub­lic announce­ment by Zelen­sky about new inves­ti­ga­tions into the Bidens as part of the vis­it. They again got in con­tact with Yer­mak to attempt to get a draft state­ment of what Zelen­sky would say dur­ing his trip regard­ing the inves­ti­ga­tions. The next day, August 10th, Yer­mak replied that Zelen­sky is will­ing to make these pub­lic pro­nounce­ments of an inves­ti­ga­tion but want­ed to get a date for the vis­it con­firmed first. The CIA whistle­blow­er com­plaint was filed in August 12th. On August 13th, Volkder and Sond­land were again dis­cussing the need to ensure Zelen­sky makes a state­ment involv­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma. On August 16th, Yer­mak pro­vid­ed a draft state­ment, which Giu­liani appar­ent­ly did­n’t think went far enough. So that was anoth­er very clear quid pro quo that appar­ent­ly involved quite a bit of hag­gling.

    The third clear quid pro quo involved the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ini­tial­ly block­ing $250 mil­lion in aid to Ukraine that had already been appro­pri­at­ed by Con­gress. On Sep­tem­ber 1st, text mes­sages show Bill Tay­lor — a career diplo­mat and the act­ing U.S. chief of mis­sion in Ukraine — asked Sond­land, “are we now say­ing that secu­ri­ty assis­tance and WH meet­ing are con­di­tioned on inves­ti­ga­tions?” Sond­land replied, “call me.” On Sep­tem­ber 8th, Sond­land mes­saged Volk­er and Tay­lor about the need to meet so he could update them on var­i­ous con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place between Trump and Zelen­sky. They dis­cussed some­thing involv­ing an “inter­view” of Zelen­sky, although it’s unclear what exact­ly the inter­view would entail. The next day, Tay­lor tells Sond­land that he thought it was “crazy to with­hold secu­ri­ty assis­tance for help with a polit­i­cal cam­paign.” Sond­land replies, “The Pres­i­dent has been crys­tal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind” before con­clud­ing “I sug­gest we stop the back and forth by text.” As we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, this denial of any quid pro quo by Sond­land has now been refut­ed by GOP Sen­a­tor Ron John­son who tells us that Sond­land told him there was indeed a quid pro quo. Also on Sep­tem­ber 9th, the House announced its inves­ti­ga­tion into Giu­lian­i’s attempts to pres­sure Ukraine and the inspec­tor gen­er­al informed the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that it had received the whistle­blow­er com­plaint. The White House released the Ukrain­ian aid two days lat­er.

    Oh, and it turns out Ukraine just pub­licly announced yes­ter­day that it would be reopen­ing a num­ber of past inves­ti­ga­tions, includ­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into Buris­ma. In oth­er words, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion got its wish/quid/demand.

    So as Volk­er’s text mes­sages make abun­dant­ly clear, this Giuliani/Volker/Sondland team had been work­ing for months to get hard assur­ances that Zelen­sky was going to pub­licly announce an inves­ti­ga­tion into the Bidens and Buris­ma as a con­di­tion for first talk­ing with Trump on the phone, then arrang­ing a White House vis­it, and lat­er releas­ing the US aide to Ukraine. It’s not ambigu­ous. It’s right there in their own words:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Muck­rak­er

    These Are The Trump-Desired Quid Pro Quos State’s Ukraine Offi­cials Were Push­ing

    By Tier­ney Sneed and Josh Koven­sky
    Octo­ber 4, 2019 12:39 pm

    Pres­i­dent Trump has repeat­ed­ly claimed that there were no “quid pro quos” in his push for Ukraine to inves­ti­gate Joe Biden’s fam­i­ly. But now the exact quids and quos of the pres­sure cam­paign are clear, fol­low­ing the release of text mes­sages relat­ed to the scan­dal.
    z
    On Thurs­day evening, House Democ­rats released texts from Trump’s top diplo­mats in the region that revealed the scram­bling that ensued to ensure that Ukraine met Trump’s expec­ta­tions that the coun­try dig up dirt on one of his lead­ing rivals.

    The exchanges showed that there were con­crete “deliv­er­ables” — as a Trump donor-turned-ambas­sador called them — that Ukraine was being pushed to offer Trump, in exchange for phone calls and meet­ings with the Pres­i­dent, as well as the release of mil­i­tary aid.

    Those deliv­er­ables were pub­lic and pri­vate promis­es to inves­ti­gate the launch of the inves­ti­ga­tion that would become the Mueller probe — which Trump allies allege orig­i­nat­ed as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-Ukraine plot to tar­get him — and to probe a Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny where Biden’s son sat on the board.

    Here are the quid pro quos that were being dis­cussed:

    The quid: Trump gets on the phone with Zelen­sky.
    The quo: Zelen­sky con­vinces Trump he’ll open “inves­ti­ga­tions.”

    In the days before Pres­i­dent Trump had his fate­ful July 25 call with Ukraine Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, the Trump appointees in charge of man­ag­ing rela­tions with the coun­try were stress­ing the need for Zelen­sky to assure Trump on the call that he’ll open the inves­ti­ga­tions Trump was seek­ing.

    The dis­cus­sion came after Kurt Volk­er, the Trump-appoint­ed spe­cial envoy to Ukraine, had break­fast with Rudy Giu­liani that morn­ing.

    “Most impt is for Zelen­sky to say that he will help inves­ti­ga­tion,” Volk­er texted Gor­don Sond­land, Trump’s ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, a busi­ness­man who pre­vi­ous­ly donat­ed $1 mil­lion to his inau­gur­al com­mit­tee.

    [see screen­shot of 07/19/2019 text exchange]

    ...

    On July 22, Giu­liani spoke to Zelen­sky aide Andriy Yer­mak — who had been con­nect­ed to Giu­liani by Volk­er. By that evening, Giu­liani was now “advo­cat­ing” for Trump to speak to Zelen­sky on the phone, accord­ing to Volker’s texts to Sond­land.

    Volk­er point­ed out that the fact that Giu­liani was in favor of the call was a mes­sage they could bring to then-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor John Bolton and White House chief-of-staff Mick Mul­vaney.

    [see screen­shot of 07/22/2019 text exchange]

    The day before the call Volk­er still wasn’t sure whether it would hap­pen, accord­ing to his tes­ti­mo­ny.

    On the morn­ing of the Trump-Zelen­sky call, Volk­er stressed to Yer­mak the need for Zelen­sky to promise to Trump he’ll open up the inves­ti­ga­tions, in order to get the White House to com­mit to a Zelen­sky meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

    [see screen­shot of 07/25/2019 text exchange]

    The quid: White House sets up Zelen­sky vis­it.
    The quo: Zelen­sky announces Biden/2016 probes in “state­ment.”

    After the July 25 Zelen­sky call — dur­ing which Trump brought up both a Biden probe and an inves­ti­ga­tion into a “Crowd­strike” 2016 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry — the State Depart­ment offi­cials were opti­mistic that the White House would move for­ward with a vis­it from Zelen­sky.

    But, accord­ing to the texts and Volker’s con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, as part of the pub­lic announce­ment of that vis­it, Zelen­sky would need to issue a “state­ment” out­lin­ing new inves­ti­ga­tions the coun­try was launch­ing, includ­ing into Buris­ma, the nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny with Hunter Biden on its board.

    Giu­liani pro­posed the state­ment idea to Volk­er and told Volk­er he also dis­cussed it with Yer­mak, accord­ing to the Volk­er tes­ti­mo­ny.

    Volk­er sug­gest­ed to Giu­liani that that they — along with Sond­land — hop on the phone with Yer­mak to dis­cuss what the Zelen­sky state­ment should say.

    [see screen­shot of 08/09/2019 text exchange]

    Lat­er that day, Sond­land told Volk­er that Tim Mor­ri­son, a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil aide, was ready to nail down dates. Sond­land said that Trump “real­ly wants deliv­er­able” when asked what got the White House on board with lock­ing down the meet­ing.

    Min­utes lat­er, he sug­gests that to “avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings,” they get from Yer­mak a “draft state­ment” on what Zelen­sky will say dur­ing the announce­ment of his White House vis­it.

    [see screen­shot of 08/09/2019 text exchange]

    The next day, refer­ring to the phone con­ver­sa­tion Yer­mak had with the State aides the day pri­or, Yer­mak told Volk­er that Zelen­sky is will­ing to make the state­ment, but they want the con­fir­ma­tion of the meet­ing date first.

    [see screen­shot of 08/10/2019 text exchange]

    “One we have a date, will call for a press brief­ing announc­ing upcom­ing vis­it and out­lin­ing vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE rela­tion­ship, includ­ing among oth­er things Buris­ma and elec­tion med­dling in inves­ti­ga­tions,” Yer­mak said.

    On Aug. 13, Volk­er and Sond­land dis­cuss the con­tours of the draft again, and Volk­er reit­er­ates the need to invoke both Buris­ma and the 2016 elec­tion.

    [see screen­shot of 08/13/2019 text exchange]

    Yer­mak pro­vides Volk­er a draft of the state­ment on Aug. 16 and that ver­sion includes no men­tion of the 2016 elec­tions or Buris­ma accord­ing to Volker’s tes­ti­mo­ny.

    On Aug.17, the State Depart­ment aides dis­cussed how to han­dle the next steps on the state­ment.

    [see screen­shot of 08/17/2019 text exchange]

    Accord­ing to report­ing by CNN, Volk­er and Sond­land showed the Ukraine-writ­ten draft to Giu­liani who didn’t Giu­liani didn’t think it went far enough, with­out the ref­er­ences to 2016 and Buris­ma. How­ev­er, Ukraine would not agree to the addi­tion of those ref­er­ences and the idea was dropped.

    The quid: Trump unlocks secu­ri­ty assis­tance
    The quo: Zelen­sky “inter­view”

    By the begin­ning of Sep­tem­ber, oth­er parts of the U.S. gov­ern­ment had become aware of the pres­sure cam­paign on Kyiv.

    The famous-and-yet-anony­mous intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty whistle­blow­er sub­mit­ted his com­plaint on Aug. 12, and it began to wind its way through the bureau­cra­cy of the Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty Inspec­tor Gen­er­al and the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence.

    In par­al­lel, the pres­sure cam­paign was con­tin­u­ing. In August, reports had begun to fil­ter out that Trump had blocked secu­ri­ty assis­tance to Ukraine, cit­ing unspec­i­fied con­cerns around cor­rup­tion.

    But the texts show that U.S. diplo­mats in Kyiv had reg­is­tered the delay.

    On Sept. 1, Bill Tay­lor — a career diplo­mat and the act­ing U.S. chief of mis­sion in Ukraine — wrote a mes­sage to Sond­land ask­ing, “are we now say­ing that secu­ri­ty assis­tance and WH meet­ing are con­di­tioned on inves­ti­ga­tions?”

    Sond­land — the polit­i­cal­ly appoint­ed ambas­sador to the EU — replied “call me.”

    [see screen­shot of 09/01/2019 text exchange]

    All the while, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was with­hold­ing $250 mil­lion in secu­ri­ty aid that Con­gress had already appro­pri­at­ed for Ukraine. $50 mil­lion of that was lethal aid, includ­ing small arms and oth­er weapons sys­tems des­ig­nat­ed for the Ukrain­ian army.

    But, accord­ing to the texts, it may have been a mys­te­ri­ous “inter­view” that played a role in hold­ing up the deliv­ery of the secu­ri­ty assis­tance.

    On Sept. 8, the group chat roared back to life.

    Sond­land asked the “guys” — Volk­er and Tay­lor — if they could speak so he could brief them on “mul­ti­ple con­vos” involv­ing Zelen­sky and Trump.

    [see screen­shot of 09/08/2019 text exchange]

    After the con­ver­sa­tion, Tay­lor mes­saged the group that “the night­mare is they give the inter­view and don’t get the secu­ri­ty assis­tance. The Rus­sians love it. (And I quit.)

    It’s not clear from the House doc­u­ments or the con­text what “inter­view” Tay­lor was refer­ring to in the mes­sage. Sep­a­rate report­ing has sug­gest­ed that Volk­er, Sond­land, and Giu­liani had draft­ed a state­ment for Zelen­sky in August, in which he would have pledged to probe the Biden-linked and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries around the ori­gins of the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Lat­er that same day, Tay­lor reit­er­at­ed to Sond­land that he was “count­ing on” him to “be right about this inter­view.” Tayler lat­er added that he thought it was “crazy to with­hold secu­ri­ty assis­tance for help with a polit­i­cal cam­paign.”

    Sond­land rebuked the act­ing chief of mis­sion, say­ing “The Pres­i­dent has been crys­tal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind” before con­clud­ing “I sug­gest we stop the back and forth by text.”

    [see screen­shot of 09/09/2019 text exchange]

    One day after the exchange, the House announced its inves­ti­ga­tion into Giuliani’s pres­sure cam­paign. That same day, the inspec­tor gen­er­al told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that it had received the whistle­blow­er com­plaint which would lat­er spark an impeach­ment inquiry.

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion released the aid to Ukraine on Sept. 11, two days lat­er.

    ————

    “These Are The Trump-Desired Quid Pro Quos State’s Ukraine Offi­cials Were Push­ing” by Tier­ney Sneed and Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 10/04/2019

    “The exchanges showed that there were con­crete “deliv­er­ables” — as a Trump donor-turned-ambas­sador called them — that Ukraine was being pushed to offer Trump, in exchange for phone calls and meet­ings with the Pres­i­dent, as well as the release of mil­i­tary aid.”

    Con­crete “deliv­er­ables” in the form of new inves­ti­ga­tions into the Bidens and pub­lic announce­ments of these inves­ti­ga­tions, in exchange for a phone call with Trump, then a meet­ing, and lat­er the Con­gres­sion­al­ly approved aid. It’s hard to see that as any­thing oth­er than a shake­down. Hell, even Tuck­er Carl­son is now acknowl­edg­ing this looks bad. That’s how bad it looks. Even the moral­ly blind can see it.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, while those text exchanges are more than ade­quate in terms of estab­lish­ing the nature of this quid pro quo shake­down, we got fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion from an unex­pect­ed source that Trump was with­hold­ing that aid to Ukraine until he got the desired inves­ti­ga­tions: Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Ron John­son decid­ed to tell the Wall Street Jour­nal that he was told by EU ambas­sador Sond­land on August 30th, that, yes, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is requir­ing Ukraine to appoint a pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to “get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened in 2016—if Pres­i­dent Trump has that con­fi­dence, then he’ll release the mil­i­tary spend­ing”:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    GOP Sen.: US Offi­cial Told Me In August That Ukraine Aid Was Tied To Push For 2016 Probe

    By Matt Shuham
    Octo­ber 4, 2019 2:33 pm

    Sen. Ron John­son (R‑WI) said Fri­day that in August, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union told the sen­a­tor that mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine was linked To Trump’s push for Ukraine to inves­ti­gate the ori­gins of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed.

    John­son spoke to the ambas­sador, Gor­don Sond­land, on Aug. 30, John­son said.

    The sen­a­tor recalled to the Jour­nal that Sond­land told him that a deal would require Ukraine to appoint a pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to “get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened in 2016—if Pres­i­dent Trump has that con­fi­dence, then he’ll release the mil­i­tary spend­ing.”

    In a phone call the next day, John­son said that he asked Trump about Sondland’s claims and that the Pres­i­dent denied the arrange­ment.

    “He said—expletive deleted—‘No way. I would nev­er do that. Who told you that?’” the sen­a­tor recalled.

    John­son told Trump that Sond­land had told him about the sup­posed deal.

    ...

    ——–

    “GOP Sen.: US Offi­cial Told Me In August That Ukraine Aid Was Tied To Push For 2016 Probe” by Matt Shuham; Talk­ing Points Memo; 10/04/2019

    “The sen­a­tor recalled to the Jour­nal that Sond­land told him that a deal would require Ukraine to appoint a pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al to “get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened in 2016—if Pres­i­dent Trump has that con­fi­dence, then he’ll release the mil­i­tary spend­ing.””

    Who knows why John­son decid­ed to acknowl­edge this damn­ing anec­dote about the sit­u­a­tion, but he did it.

    So we now have more than enough evi­dence to estab­lish that, yes, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was using its lever­age over Ukraine — a coun­try large­ly depen­dent on the US at this point — to extract a big polit­i­cal weapon against one of his key polit­i­cal oppo­nents. And, true to form, Trump did it under the ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ ban­ner. He’s like the King Midas of cor­rup­tion. Even anti-cor­rup­tion ini­tia­tives get cor­rupt­ed. Because let’s not pre­tend that Buris­ma’s hir­ing of Hunter Biden was­n’t rather cor­rupt. It clear­ly was. It’s just quaint in com­par­i­son Trump’s faux-‘anti-corruption’ shake­down scheme, in part because at least Hunter Biden’s fool­ish deci­sion to take that job has the look of try­ing to advance the West­’s long-stand­ing pol­i­cy of mov­ing Ukraine into Europe’s orbit. Play­ing nice with Buris­ma appears to be part of that US for­eign pol­i­cy. The hir­ing of peo­ple con­nect­ed to the pow­er­ful is the kind of endem­ic cor­rup­tion that the world trag­i­cal­ly runs on, but with Trump’s scheme he’s lit­er­al­ly try­ing to push the enve­lope of cor­rup­tion by nor­mal­iz­ing the use of US for­eign pol­i­cy to extort for­eign gov­ern­ments into forced inves­ti­ga­tions into polit­i­cal oppo­nents.

    It’s also clear from this time­line that peo­ple inside the US gov­ern­ment have known about this scheme for a while. The first CIA whistle­blow­er com­plaint was filed on August 12th. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, this cam­paign to pres­sure Ukraine into mak­ing pub­lic insin­u­a­tions about cor­rup­tion by the Bidens has been out in the open since at least May of this year. And it came from an very unlike­ly source: Ihor Kolo­moisky, the Ukrain­ian oli­garch wide­ly seen as the key backer of Zelen­sky.

    Recall how Kolo­moisky is not just one of Ukraine’s wealth­i­est indi­vid­u­als but also seen as one of its most cor­rupt. Also recall how Kolo­moisky, who is Jew­ish, is iron­i­cal­ly one of the key bene­fac­tors of Ukraine’s mili­tias includ­ing the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion. His sup­port of these mili­tias was seen as crit­i­cal for Ukraine’s mil­i­tary efforts when the civ­il war broke out. So Kolo­moisky is the kind of cor­rupt oli­garch who nonethe­less opposed Moscow which made him some­one the West sort of had to tol­er­ate fol­low­ing the out­break of the civ­il war.

    But there’s been no short­age of ten­sions between Kolo­moisky and both Ukraine’s oth­er oli­garchs and the West. Kolo­moisky’s con­flicts with Petro Poroshenko result­ed in him liv­ing in self-imposed exile in recent years. In addi­tion, Kolo­moisky’s bank, Pri­vat­Bank, is Ukraine’s largest bank, but it was nation­al­ized (and bailed out) in 2016 as part of a West­ern-backed clean-up effort of Ukraine’s bank­ing sys­tem and charges (almost sure­ly true) that Pri­vat­Bank was involved with mon­ey-laun­der­ing. The move has result­ed in ongo­ing law­suits by Kolo­moisky. Kolo­moisky has now returned to Ukraine fol­low­ing Zelen­sky’s vic­to­ry in April, with the hopes of hav­ing his dis­pute of the Pri­vat­Bank nation­al­iza­tion favor­ably resolved. Zelen­sky’s gov­ern­ment has announced it’s going to try to find a “com­pro­mise” with Kolo­moisky over the Pri­vat­Bank law­suit that does­n’t anger Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers. So Kolo­moisky has a touchy rela­tion­ship with the West: he’s anti-Krem­lin and a vital fig­ure for Kiev in Ukraine’s con­flict with Rus­sia but he’s also not the West­’s pre­ferred oli­garch.

    That’s all part of what makes Kolo­moisky’s claims regard­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s shake­down cam­paign against the Zelen­sky gov­ern­ment so remark­able. Accord­ing to an inter­view Kolo­moisky gave to Ukrain­ian media in May, Kolo­moisky was approached by Giu­lian­i’s busi­ness asso­ciates, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, in Israel in April to “demand” he set up a meet­ing between Giu­liani and Zelen­sky. He went on to assert that Par­nas and Fru­man told him Giu­liani had worked out a deal with then-chief pros­e­cu­tor Yuri Lut­senko to inves­ti­gate the range of top­ics Trump men­tioned in his July 25 phone call, say­ing, “They came here and told us that they would orga­nize a meet­ing with Zelen­sky. They alleged­ly struck a deal with [Pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al Yuriy] Lut­senko about the fate of this crim­i­nal case – Buris­ma, [for­mer vice pres­i­dent] Biden, med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion and so on.” When Kolo­moisky reject­ed these demands, Giu­liani attacked him on twit­ter and called for an inves­ti­ga­tion into him. On May 18, Giu­liani tweet­ed that Kolo­moisky was under inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI and had “threat­ened two Amer­i­can cit­i­zens,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to Par­nas and Fru­man. Giu­liani went on to call Kolo­moisky an ene­my of Trump and sug­gest­ed Zelen­sky should arrest him. It was after this that Kolo­moisky gave his tv inter­view. As Kolo­moisky put it dur­ing the inter­view, “A big scan­dal may break out, and not only in Ukraine, but in the Unit­ed States. That is, it may turn out to be a clear con­spir­a­cy against Biden.” So the world was warned this scan­dal was com­ing since at least May, even if that warn­ing was wide­ly ignored:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    In May, Ukrain­ian oli­garch said Giu­liani was orches­trat­ing a ‘clear con­spir­a­cy against Biden’

    By Josh Rogin
    Colum­nist
    Octo­ber 3, 2019 at 2:39 PM EDT

    Months before an intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty whistle­blow­er accused Pres­i­dent Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giu­liani of dig­ging for dirt on for­mer vice pres­i­dent Joe Biden in Ukraine, many in that coun­try knew what he was up to and some were talk­ing about it pub­licly.

    One Ukrain­ian oli­garch in par­tic­u­lar, a fig­ure close to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, claims to have first-hand knowl­edge of Giuliani’s activ­i­ties because, he says, Giuliani’s busi­ness asso­ciates tried to rope him into the scheme. When this Ukrain­ian busi­ness tycoon, Ihor Kolo­moisky, reject­ed Giuliani’s request for help, Giu­liani attacked him on Twit­ter and called for him to be inves­ti­gat­ed. Kolo­moisky then gave an on-the-record inter­view on Ukrain­ian tele­vi­sion in which he pre­dict­ed that Giu­liani was soon going to be the cen­ter of a “big scan­dal” in the Unit­ed States.

    In May, Kolo­moisky told Ukrain­ian media, in an inter­view bare­ly noticed in Wash­ing­ton, that two of Giuliani’s busi­ness asso­ciates, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, came to vis­it him in Israel in April to “demand” he set up a meet­ing between Giu­liani and Zelen­sky. This was months before Ambas­sador Kurt Volk­er even­tu­al­ly did set up a meet­ing between Giu­liani and Zelensky’s advis­er Andriy Yer­mak.

    “They want­ed to have a meet­ing with Zelen­sky and show Giu­liani that they had orga­nized every­thing,” Kolo­moisky said. “A big scan­dal may break out, and not only in Ukraine, but in the Unit­ed States. That is, it may turn out to be a clear con­spir­a­cy against Biden.”

    Kolo­moisky owned the tele­vi­sion sta­tion that dis­trib­uted the com­e­dy show in which Zelen­sky played the role of the pres­i­dent of Ukraine. He was liv­ing in Israel after the gov­ern­ment in Kiev nation­al­ized his bank amid accu­sa­tions he embez­zled bil­lions of dol­lars. His rela­tion­ship with Zelen­sky is long and com­pli­cat­ed. But he said he reject­ed the “demand” from Par­nas and Fru­man that he con­nect Giu­liani with Zelen­sky, who was then the incom­ing new pres­i­dent.

    “Look, there is Giu­liani, and there [are] two clowns, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, who were milk­ing the bull here. They are Giuliani’s clients,” Kolo­moisky told the Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da web­site. “They came here and told us that they would orga­nize a meet­ing with Zelen­sky. They alleged­ly struck a deal with [Pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al Yuriy] Lut­senko about the fate of this crim­i­nal case – Buris­ma, [for­mer vice pres­i­dent] Biden, med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion and so on.”

    Kolo­moisky is no inno­cent. In addi­tion to being accused of exten­sive finan­cial crimes, the Ukrain­ian-Jew­ish bil­lion­aire also stands accused of using qua­si-mil­i­tary forces on behalf of his Pri­vat­Bank to cor­rupt­ly take over oth­er com­pa­nies. The gov­ern­ment forcibly nation­al­ized Pri­vat­Bank in 2016. The Ukrain­ian offi­cial who made that deci­sion was recent­ly run over by a car and endured an arson attack on her home – with Kolo­moisky the prime sus­pect.

    But what’s impor­tant is not whether Kolo­moisky is trust­wor­thy – it’s that Giuliani’s attempts to get to Zelen­sky began well before Volk­er or the whistle­blow­er got involved. And his efforts were not only well known, but pub­lic. In July, Buz­zFeed pub­lished an exten­sive inves­tiga­tive report on what Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man were up to.

    Giu­liani told my Post col­leagues this week that he has not done paid con­sult­ing work in Ukraine since 2017. He would not say if he is cur­rent­ly being paid by Par­nas and Fru­man, who were pur­su­ing a nat­ur­al gas export ven­ture involv­ing Ukraine at the same time.

    Three con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees are demand­ing doc­u­ments relat­ed to hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars Par­nas and Fru­man donat­ed to a pro-Trump Super PAC. Par­nas told the Post he got involved in pol­i­tics because he was a huge Trump sup­port­er; Fru­man declined to com­ment.

    Kolo­moisky, in his May inter­view, claimed to have lots of evi­dence about Giuliani’s efforts with Par­nas and Fru­man to dig up dirt on Biden and get var­i­ous Ukrain­ian offi­cials to help. He claims to have text mes­sages from Par­nas and Fru­man detail­ing Giuliani’s motives and receipts of mon­ey they were paid.

    “If we put aside con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and some com­e­dy staff, the sit­u­a­tion was about their will­ing­ness to make both Lut­senko and Zelen­sky inter­est­ed in con­tin­u­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion (into Biden),” he said. “There is so much inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion that every­one will be inter­est­ed [to know it]. I believe both U.S. and our law enforcers. And they will be very inter­est­ed ....”

    Lut­senko has recent­ly said he found no evi­dence the Bidens com­mit­ted any wrong­do­ing. Giu­liani turned on Lut­senko this week, after work­ing with him for months to push the Biden nar­ra­tive.

    Kolo­moisky went pub­lic with his accu­sa­tions about Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man after Giu­liani tweet­ed on May 18 that Kolo­moisky was under inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI and had “threat­ened two Amer­i­can cit­i­zens,” Par­nas and Fru­man. Giu­liani said Kolo­moisky was an ene­my of Trump and sug­gest­ed Zelen­sky should arrest him.

    Giu­liani can­celled his own trip to Kiev in May after fac­ing pub­lic crit­i­cism but told the New York Times on May 9 his trip was to advance his “med­dling in an inves­ti­ga­tion.” I report­ed in May Giu­liani was involved in a smear cam­paign against U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled ear­ly. On Wednes­day, Giu­liani admit­ted push­ing a pack­age of research that includ­ed alle­ga­tions against Yovanovitch to Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo for him to “inves­ti­gate.”

    ...

    ———-

    “In May, Ukrain­ian oli­garch said Giu­liani was orches­trat­ing a ‘clear con­spir­a­cy against Biden’” by Josh Rogin; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 10/03/2019

    ” One Ukrain­ian oli­garch in par­tic­u­lar, a fig­ure close to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, claims to have first-hand knowl­edge of Giuliani’s activ­i­ties because, he says, Giuliani’s busi­ness asso­ciates tried to rope him into the scheme. When this Ukrain­ian busi­ness tycoon, Ihor Kolo­moisky, reject­ed Giuliani’s request for help, Giu­liani attacked him on Twit­ter and called for him to be inves­ti­gat­ed. Kolo­moisky then gave an on-the-record inter­view on Ukrain­ian tele­vi­sion in which he pre­dict­ed that Giu­liani was soon going to be the cen­ter of a “big scan­dal” in the Unit­ed States.

    So after he appar­ent­ly reject­ed Giu­lian­i’s demands and then Giu­liani tweet­ed about how the FBI was inves­ti­gat­ing Kolo­moisky, Kolo­moisky gives his inter­view where he pre­dicts a big scan­dal about a con­spir­a­cy against the Bidens. You can’t say he was­n’t pre­scient. Kolo­moisky called it, back in May:

    ...
    In May, Kolo­moisky told Ukrain­ian media, in an inter­view bare­ly noticed in Wash­ing­ton, that two of Giuliani’s busi­ness asso­ciates, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, came to vis­it him in Israel in April to “demand” he set up a meet­ing between Giu­liani and Zelen­sky. This was months before Ambas­sador Kurt Volk­er even­tu­al­ly did set up a meet­ing between Giu­liani and Zelensky’s advis­er Andriy Yer­mak.

    “They want­ed to have a meet­ing with Zelen­sky and show Giu­liani that they had orga­nized every­thing,” Kolo­moisky said. “A big scan­dal may break out, and not only in Ukraine, but in the Unit­ed States. That is, it may turn out to be a clear con­spir­a­cy against Biden.”

    Kolo­moisky owned the tele­vi­sion sta­tion that dis­trib­uted the com­e­dy show in which Zelen­sky played the role of the pres­i­dent of Ukraine. He was liv­ing in Israel after the gov­ern­ment in Kiev nation­al­ized his bank amid accu­sa­tions he embez­zled bil­lions of dol­lars. His rela­tion­ship with Zelen­sky is long and com­pli­cat­ed. But he said he reject­ed the “demand” from Par­nas and Fru­man that he con­nect Giu­liani with Zelen­sky, who was then the incom­ing new pres­i­dent.

    “Look, there is Giu­liani, and there [are] two clowns, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, who were milk­ing the bull here. They are Giuliani’s clients,” Kolo­moisky told the Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da web­site. “They came here and told us that they would orga­nize a meet­ing with Zelen­sky. They alleged­ly struck a deal with [Pros­e­cu­tor-gen­er­al Yuriy] Lut­senko about the fate of this crim­i­nal case – Buris­ma, [for­mer vice pres­i­dent] Biden, med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion and so on.”

    ...

    Kolo­moisky, in his May inter­view, claimed to have lots of evi­dence about Giuliani’s efforts with Par­nas and Fru­man to dig up dirt on Biden and get var­i­ous Ukrain­ian offi­cials to help. He claims to have text mes­sages from Par­nas and Fru­man detail­ing Giuliani’s motives and receipts of mon­ey they were paid.

    “If we put aside con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and some com­e­dy staff, the sit­u­a­tion was about their will­ing­ness to make both Lut­senko and Zelen­sky inter­est­ed in con­tin­u­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion (into Biden),” he said. “There is so much inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion that every­one will be inter­est­ed [to know it]. I believe both U.S. and our law enforcers. And they will be very inter­est­ed ....”

    ...

    Kolo­moisky went pub­lic with his accu­sa­tions about Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man after Giu­liani tweet­ed on May 18 that Kolo­moisky was under inves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI and had “threat­ened two Amer­i­can cit­i­zens,” Par­nas and Fru­man. Giu­liani said Kolo­moisky was an ene­my of Trump and sug­gest­ed Zelen­sky should arrest him.
    ...

    And while this inter­view on Ukrain­ian tv was large­ly ignored in DC, there’s no way it was entire­ly ignored. Some­one had to have noticed this, includ­ing the asser­tions about Buris­ma and inves­ti­gat­ing 2016 med­dling.

    It’s also impor­tant to note that Kolo­moisky might have a con­nec­tion to Buris­ma. Accord­ing to a piece in Naked Cap­i­tal­ism pub­lished back in 2014, evi­dence sug­gest Kolo­moisky’s Pri­vat­Group might be a secret own­er of a hold­ing com­pa­ny that held the shared of Buris­ma. But that’s not been con­firmed. So it’s pos­si­ble the Buris­ma affair has a more direct con­nec­tion to Kolo­moisky which would make the West­’s light treat­ment of the cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions against Buris­ma even less sur­pris­ing. Again, Kolo­moisy was a vital sup­port­er of the mil­i­tary units fight­ing for the new inter­im Kiev gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Yanukov­cyh gov­ern­ment. Yes, he was wild­ly cor­rupt, but so were the rest of the West­ern-backed oli­garchs who were giv­en the bless­ings of the West fol­low­ing the Maid­an protests. And yes, the West­’s for­eign pol­i­cy dur­ing this peri­od was extreme­ly per­ilous and cyn­i­cal in how it pro­pelled the most extreme far right fac­tions of Ukrain­ian soci­ety into promi­nence. But with­in the con­text of car­ry­ing out the US’s for­eign pol­i­cy at the time, if Kolo­moisky secret­ly owned Buris­ma that would make it even less sur­pris­ing that Buris­ma was allowed to get a pro-West makeover with the hir­ing of fig­ures like Hunter Biden or Alek­san­dr Kwas­niews­ki.

    It’s also the kind of con­text that makes it clear that Trump’s plan to absolve him­self of alleged Russ­ian col­lu­sion by pres­sur­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to take respon­si­bil­i­ty itself for the 2016 elec­tion med­dling was basi­cal­ly a plan to com­plete­ly reex­am­ine what actu­al­ly hap­pened in Ukraine dur­ing the 2013–2014 peri­od, when West­ern intel­li­gence would have been deeply involved in Urkaine. That’s part of what would make the appar­ent­ly trig­gered by the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty very unsur­pris­ing. There’s a lot under that rock (that Paul Man­afort would prob­a­bly pre­fer left under the rock). But Trump has some­how man­aged to infuse his attempts to force this reex­am­i­na­tion of what hap­pened in Ukraine with such overt cor­rup­tion and abuse of pow­er that all of the focus is now on his own cor­rupt actions. As the GOP likes to say when dis­miss­ing away con­cerns about his actions, it’s just Trump being Trump.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 5, 2019, 4:20 pm
  22. One of the more bewil­der­ing aspects of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s strat­e­gy for deal­ing with the rev­e­la­tions that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was extort­ing the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine into car­ry­ing out polit­i­cal­ly charged inves­ti­ga­tions into Joe Biden and his son Hunter has been the fact that the Trump White House­’s key rhetor­i­cal defense has been to say, “look at the transcripts...they show no quid pro quo!” That would be the redact­ed tran­scripts of a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodym­ry Zelen­sky that clear­ly showed a ‘quid pro quo’ arrange­ment Trump was try­ing to force Ukraine into accept­ing. Those words alone were damn­ing evi­dence — putting aside the avalanche of evi­dence that has sub­se­quent­ly emerged — and yet the Repub­li­cans and the larg­er right-wing media com­plex have ral­lied around those damn­ing words as evi­dence of Trump’s inno­cence. The GOP often relies on non­sense defens­es focused on mis­di­rec­tion and obfus­ca­tion but this was a doozy even by the GOP’s stan­dards. The damn­ing evi­dence is lit­er­al­ly what they used as the cen­ter­piece for their mis­di­rec­tion and obfus­ca­tion. It just seemed like a pan­icked strat­e­gy that would have to shift at some point. The ‘no quid pro quo’ defense was just too stu­pid­ly unten­able. Plus, by push­ing that nar­ra­tive, a huge chunk of the right-wing media echo cham­ber jumped on board with the nar­ra­tive and declared, “if there was a quid pro quo, that would obvi­ous­ly be prob­lem­at­ic, but there was­n’t so there’s no prob­lem.”

    And it looks like we’ve final­ly hit the point where the Trump White House is drop­ping the ‘no quid pro quo’ argu­ment as the core of its defense and shift­ing to an asser­tion that quid pro quos of this nature are actu­al­ly quite fine. But based on the tim­ing of this new defense it does­n’t look the Trump White House actu­al­ly want­ed to adopt it: In a stun­ning admis­sion, Trump’s act­ing Chief of Staff, Mick Mul­vaney, just came out and declared that, yeah, there was a quid pro quo. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion real­ly was with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine until the inves­ti­ga­tions into the Bidens was start­ed and this is all fine and nor­mal and no one should com­plain. And Mul­vaney came out and said this at the same time Trump’s EU ambas­sador, Gor­dan Sond­land, was tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress about how this was a clear quid pro quo.

    So it appears the Trump White House has been forced into a “quid pro quo like this are fine and nor­mal” defen­sive pos­ture in response to its wall of lies col­laps­ing in real time. We’ll see if the “yes, it was as quid pro quo and it was total­ly fine” defense works bet­ter than the “there was no quid pro quo, don’t believe your lying eyes” defense. Pre­sum­ably Repub­li­can vot­ers will be fine with what­ev­er the Trump White House says, but with polls already show­ing a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans sup­port­ing impeach­ment even before today’s bomb­shell admis­sion from Mul­vaney, it’s hard to imag­ine shift­ing from “there was no quid pro quo” to “quid pro quos are total­ly fine” is going to make impeach­ment less pop­u­lar. And that sug­gests the nation­al debate over this impeach­ment inquiry is going to revolve around whether or not solic­it­ing and extort­ing for­eign coun­tries into med­dling in US elec­tions is offi­cial­ly just fine or not:

    Politi­co

    Gor­don Sond­land breaks with Trump in impeach­ment tes­ti­mo­ny

    Trump’s EU ambas­sador told House inves­ti­ga­tors he opposed the president’s request to run Ukraine pol­i­cy through Rudy Giu­liani.

    By KYLE CHENEY and ANDREW DESIDERIO

    10/17/2019 09:30 AM EDT
    Updat­ed: 10/17/2019 02:51 PM EDT

    Gor­don Sond­land, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, broke sharply from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day, telling House impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors that he opposed the president’s request to run Ukraine pol­i­cy through his per­son­al lawyer Rudy Giu­liani.

    “We were also dis­ap­point­ed by the president’s direc­tion that we involve Mr. Giu­liani,” Sond­land told con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors, accord­ing to his open­ing state­ment, which was obtained by POLITICO.

    Sond­land tes­ti­fied that he con­tact­ed Giu­liani any­way at Trump’s direc­tion after a May 23 meet­ing at the White House, and that Giu­liani drew a direct link between sched­ul­ing a White House vis­it for Ukraine’s new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent and demands that Ukraine pri­or­i­tize inves­ti­ga­tions tar­get­ing Trump’s polit­i­cal rivals, includ­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

    “Mr. Giu­liani empha­sized that the pres­i­dent want­ed a pub­lic state­ment from Pres­i­dent [Volodymyr] Zelen­sky com­mit­ting Ukraine to look into anti-cor­rup­tion issues,” Sond­land said.

    “Mr. Giu­liani specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned the 2016 elec­tion (includ­ing the DNC serv­er) and Buris­ma as two anti-cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­to­ry top­ics of impor­tance for the pres­i­dent,” he added.

    Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of Buris­ma, a Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­ny that had faced inter­na­tion­al scruti­ny, but there is no evi­dence that either Biden or his son act­ed improp­er­ly. The “serv­er” Sond­land men­tioned is a ref­er­ence to the debunked con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, ampli­fied by Trump and Giu­liani, that Ukraine, not Rus­sia, inter­fered in the 2016 elec­tion.

    While Sond­land was tes­ti­fy­ing behind closed doors, act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney acknowl­edged for the first time that Trump decid­ed to freeze crit­i­cal mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine unless the coun­try inves­ti­gat­ed the “serv­er” the­o­ry. It was a stun­ning pub­lic admis­sion — one that Trump and his allies have denied for weeks, and one that Democ­rats have been try­ing to sub­stan­ti­ate through a series of closed-door inter­views.

    “I think Mr Mulvaney’s acknowl­edg­ment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse,” House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff (D‑Calif.) said.

    Rep. Eric Swal­well (D‑Calif.), a mem­ber of the Intel­li­gence and Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tees, said Mul­vaney “co-signed the president’s con­fes­sion,” adding, “The pres­i­dent has plead­ed guilty to the crime. It’s just a mat­ter of, what should the sen­tence be.”

    Still, Democ­rats plan to press on with their sched­uled depo­si­tions, seek­ing more details about the alleged scheme from cur­rent and for­mer admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and diplo­mats.

    Sond­land told con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors he did not real­ize “until much lat­er” that Giu­liani was seek­ing a Ukrain­ian-led inves­ti­ga­tion into Biden and his son — even though Trump him­self and Giu­liani had been call­ing pub­licly for such probes for weeks. He said any effort to solic­it for­eign assis­tance in an Amer­i­can elec­tion — an alle­ga­tion cen­tral to the House’s impeach­ment inquiry — “would be wrong,” adding that he was “dis­ap­point­ed by” the May 23 meet­ing with Trump because he believed a Trump-Zelen­sky meet­ing “should be sched­uled prompt­ly and with­out any pre-con­di­tions.”

    He also said mil­i­tary assis­tance to Ukraine “should not have been delayed for any rea­son” — a rebuke of the president’s deci­sion to put a hold on those funds ear­li­er this year — but added that Trump repeat­ed­ly told him there was “no quid pro quo” involv­ing the aid or an inves­ti­ga­tion of Trump’s polit­i­cal rivals.

    Sondland’s tes­ti­mo­ny has the poten­tial to be the most dev­as­tat­ing yet for Trump and his defend­ers, who say he did not apply inap­pro­pri­ate pres­sure on Zelen­sky to inves­ti­gate a 2020 rival. It was Sondland’s text mes­sages deny­ing the exis­tence of a quid pro quo, obtained by Con­gress ear­li­er this month, that Trump point­ed to as proof he did noth­ing unto­ward.

    Sond­land now says he only claimed there was no quid pro quo because Trump repeat­ed­ly assured him of it in a direct phone call — regard­less of whether it was true.

    “And I recall the pres­i­dent was in a bad mood,” Sond­land said in his open­ing state­ment.

    Sondland’s tes­ti­mo­ny also under­scores the out­sized influ­ence Giu­liani has had on Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy, even though the for­mer New York City may­or is not a gov­ern­ment offi­cial.

    “It was appar­ent to all of us that the key to chang­ing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giu­liani,” Sond­land said.

    Sond­land ulti­mate­ly defend­ed his deci­sion to speak with Giu­liani, say­ing it was the “bet­ter alter­na­tive.”

    “[B]ased on the president’s direc­tion, we were faced with a choice: We could aban­don the goal of a White House meet­ing for Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky, which we all believed was cru­cial to strength­en­ing U.S.-Ukrainian ties and fur­ther­ing long-held U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy goals in the region; or we could do as Pres­i­dent Trump direct­ed and talk to Mr. Giu­liani to address the president’s con­cerns,” Sond­land said.

    The House’s impeach­ment inquiry has cen­tered on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelen­sky, dur­ing which Trump asked his coun­ter­part for a “favor” involv­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion of Biden. Democ­rats have point­ed to the request as evi­dence that Trump abused the pow­er of his office.

    The inquiry also focus­es on the deci­sion to freeze assis­tance to Ukraine. House impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into whether Trump sought to use the with­held aid as lever­age over Zelen­sky as the pres­i­dent sought probes into his polit­i­cal ene­mies.

    Rep. Jack­ie Speier (D‑Calif.) told reporters that she was not sure whether law­mak­ers can trust Sondland’s tes­ti­mo­ny, say­ing his open­ing state­ment was “a lot of CYA.”

    In a let­ter to House inves­ti­ga­tors, Sondland’s attor­neys said their client has ample doc­u­men­ta­tion to back up his tes­ti­mo­ny, but that the White House and State Depart­ment are block­ing him from shar­ing it, claim­ing it could impli­cate exec­u­tive priv­i­lege and oth­er con­fi­den­tial­i­ty restric­tions.

    “[Sond­land] strong­ly believes that dis­clo­sure will lead to a more ful­some and accu­rate inquiry into the mat­ters at issue and will cor­rob­o­rate the tes­ti­mo­ny that he will give in key respects,” Sondland’s attor­neys wrote in a Thurs­day let­ter. “How­ev­er, the choice is not his to make, and so we must regret­ful­ly decline to pro­duce the doc­u­ments that the com­mit­tees have request­ed from Ambas­sador Sond­land.”

    Sond­land also offered a strong defense of the for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was oust­ed by Trump after a cam­paign by the president’s allies to recall her to Wash­ing­ton. In his open­ing state­ment, Sond­land called her “an excel­lent diplo­mat with a deep com­mand of Ukrain­ian inter­nal dynam­ics, the U.S.-Ukraine rela­tion­ship, and asso­ci­at­ed region­al issues.”

    Trump him­self blast­ed Yovanovitch dur­ing his July 25 call Zelen­sky, and Yovanovitch tes­ti­fied to law­mak­ers last week that her removal was based on “unfound­ed and false claims by peo­ple with clear­ly ques­tion­able motives.”

    Sondland’s tes­ti­mo­ny also under­scores divi­sions with­in the upper ranks of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion over Ukraine. He said he was tak­en aback at tes­ti­mo­ny by Fiona Hill, Trump’s for­mer top Rus­sia aide, reveal­ing that she and then-nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er John Bolton had crit­i­cized his involve­ment. Hill told con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors that she met with a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil lawyer twice over her con­cerns about Giu­liani and Sond­land.

    Sond­land defend­ed his involve­ment, say­ing that Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo had giv­en a full-throat­ed endorse­ment of his efforts.

    “I under­stand that all my actions involv­ing Ukraine had the bless­ing of Sec­re­tary Pom­peo as my work was con­sis­tent with long-stand­ing U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy objec­tives,” he said, “Indeed, very recent­ly, Sec­re­tary Pom­peo sent me a con­grat­u­la­to­ry note that I was doing great work, and he encour­aged me to keep bang­ing away.”

    Sond­land, who says he’s a “life­long Repub­li­can,” not­ed he was con­firmed on a voice vote in the Sen­ate in 2018 and said he tried to oper­ate in a non­par­ti­san man­ner in his diplo­mat­ic role.

    He said he had pre­vi­ous­ly worked with Biden on the for­mer vice president’s anti-can­cer ini­tia­tive. Sond­land was a major donor to Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and he con­tributed $1 mil­lion to Trump’s inau­gur­al com­mit­tee.

    That Sond­land was involved at all in Ukraine pol­i­cy puz­zled many in the admin­is­tra­tion, as the coun­try is not a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union.

    Sond­land sought to counter his crit­ics by argu­ing that Ukraine played an impor­tant role in his broad­er work as EU ambas­sador since he took his post.

    ...

    Pom­peo ini­tial­ly blocked Sond­land from tes­ti­fy­ing before the three House com­mit­tees spear­head­ing the impeach­ment inquiry. But after the House issued a sub­poe­na for his tes­ti­mo­ny, Sond­land decid­ed to tes­ti­fy over the State Department’s objec­tions.

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has blocked or lim­it­ed the tes­ti­mo­ny of oth­er wit­ness­es, too, as part of a larg­er effort to stonewall an impeach­ment inquiry the White House views as ille­git­i­mate.

    ———-

    “Gor­don Sond­land breaks with Trump in impeach­ment tes­ti­mo­ny” by KYLE CHENEY and ANDREW DESIDERIO; Politi­co; 10/17/2019

    “Sond­land told con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors he did not real­ize “until much lat­er” that Giu­liani was seek­ing a Ukrain­ian-led inves­ti­ga­tion into Biden and his son — even though Trump him­self and Giu­liani had been call­ing pub­licly for such probes for weeks. He said any effort to solic­it for­eign assis­tance in an Amer­i­can elec­tion — an alle­ga­tion cen­tral to the House’s impeach­ment inquiry — “would be wrong,” adding that he was “dis­ap­point­ed by” the May 23 meet­ing with Trump because he believed a Trump-Zelen­sky meet­ing “should be sched­uled prompt­ly and with­out any pre-con­di­tions.”

    Sond­land made clear: the mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine was indeed con­tin­gent on Ukraine engag­ing in the inves­ti­ga­tions Giu­liani want­ed to see hap­pen. Inves­ti­ga­tions into the Bidens and Buris­ma but also the con­fused alle­ga­tion that Ukraine has the hacked DNC serv­er. Now, it was pret­ty clear this was the case based on the released tran­scripts of that July 25 phone call, but it’s pret­ty unde­ni­able at this point. One of the key schemers, Sond­land, is open­ly acknowl­edg­ing the mil­i­tary aid was con­tin­gent on those inves­ti­ga­tions:

    ...
    Sond­land tes­ti­fied that he con­tact­ed Giu­liani any­way at Trump’s direc­tion after a May 23 meet­ing at the White House, and that Giu­liani drew a direct link between sched­ul­ing a White House vis­it for Ukraine’s new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent and demands that Ukraine pri­or­i­tize inves­ti­ga­tions tar­get­ing Trump’s polit­i­cal rivals, includ­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

    “Mr. Giu­liani empha­sized that the pres­i­dent want­ed a pub­lic state­ment from Pres­i­dent [Volodymyr] Zelen­sky com­mit­ting Ukraine to look into anti-cor­rup­tion issues,” Sond­land said.

    “Mr. Giu­liani specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned the 2016 elec­tion (includ­ing the DNC serv­er) and Buris­ma as two anti-cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­to­ry top­ics of impor­tance for the pres­i­dent,” he added.

    ...

    He also said mil­i­tary assis­tance to Ukraine “should not have been delayed for any rea­son” — a rebuke of the president’s deci­sion to put a hold on those funds ear­li­er this year — but added that Trump repeat­ed­ly told him there was “no quid pro quo” involv­ing the aid or an inves­ti­ga­tion of Trump’s polit­i­cal rivals.

    Sondland’s tes­ti­mo­ny has the poten­tial to be the most dev­as­tat­ing yet for Trump and his defend­ers, who say he did not apply inap­pro­pri­ate pres­sure on Zelen­sky to inves­ti­gate a 2020 rival. It was Sondland’s text mes­sages deny­ing the exis­tence of a quid pro quo, obtained by Con­gress ear­li­er this month, that Trump point­ed to as proof he did noth­ing unto­ward.

    Sond­land now says he only claimed there was no quid pro quo because Trump repeat­ed­ly assured him of it in a direct phone call — regard­less of whether it was true.

    “And I recall the pres­i­dent was in a bad mood,” Sond­land said in his open­ing state­ment.

    ...

    Sond­land ulti­mate­ly defend­ed his deci­sion to speak with Giu­liani, say­ing it was the “bet­ter alter­na­tive.”

    “[B]ased on the president’s direc­tion, we were faced with a choice: We could aban­don the goal of a White House meet­ing for Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky, which we all believed was cru­cial to strength­en­ing U.S.-Ukrainian ties and fur­ther­ing long-held U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy goals in the region; or we could do as Pres­i­dent Trump direct­ed and talk to Mr. Giu­liani to address the president’s con­cerns,” Sond­land said.
    ...

    Yet there appears to be even more evi­dence Sond­land has. Evi­dence that the White House is try­ing to block him from releas­ing:

    ...
    In a let­ter to House inves­ti­ga­tors, Sondland’s attor­neys said their client has ample doc­u­men­ta­tion to back up his tes­ti­mo­ny, but that the White House and State Depart­ment are block­ing him from shar­ing it, claim­ing it could impli­cate exec­u­tive priv­i­lege and oth­er con­fi­den­tial­i­ty restric­tions.

    ...

    Pom­peo ini­tial­ly blocked Sond­land from tes­ti­fy­ing before the three House com­mit­tees spear­head­ing the impeach­ment inquiry. But after the House issued a sub­poe­na for his tes­ti­mo­ny, Sond­land decid­ed to tes­ti­fy over the State Department’s objec­tions.

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has blocked or lim­it­ed the tes­ti­mo­ny of oth­er wit­ness­es, too, as part of a larg­er effort to stonewall an impeach­ment inquiry the White House views as ille­git­i­mate.
    ...

    But Sond­land’s tes­ti­mo­ny was­n’t the most damn­ing tes­ti­mo­ny tak­ing place today. At the very same time Sond­land was tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress, Mick Mul­vaney comes out and basi­cal­ly declares, yeah, there was a quid pro quo and it’s fine:

    ...
    While Sond­land was tes­ti­fy­ing behind closed doors, act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney acknowl­edged for the first time that Trump decid­ed to freeze crit­i­cal mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine unless the coun­try inves­ti­gat­ed the “serv­er” the­o­ry. It was a stun­ning pub­lic admis­sion — one that Trump and his allies have denied for weeks, and one that Democ­rats have been try­ing to sub­stan­ti­ate through a series of closed-door inter­views.

    “I think Mr Mulvaney’s acknowl­edg­ment means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse,” House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff (D‑Calif.) said.

    Rep. Eric Swal­well (D‑Calif.), a mem­ber of the Intel­li­gence and Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tees, said Mul­vaney “co-signed the president’s con­fes­sion,” adding, “The pres­i­dent has plead­ed guilty to the crime. It’s just a mat­ter of, what should the sen­tence be.”

    Still, Democ­rats plan to press on with their sched­uled depo­si­tions, seek­ing more details about the alleged scheme from cur­rent and for­mer admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and diplo­mats.

    ...

    Now let’s take a clos­er look at what Mul­vaney said. Because he was­n’t sim­ply admit­ting there was a quid pro quo. He told every­one: “I have news for every­body: Get over it. There’s going to be polit­i­cal influ­ence in for­eign pol­i­cy. That is going to hap­pen. Elec­tions have con­se­quences, and for­eign pol­i­cy is going to change from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.” So the Trump defense is now that polit­i­cal­ly charged quid pro quos that include things like demands for inves­ti­gat­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents are a nor­mal part of for­eign pol­i­cy and some­thing that hap­pens all the time:

    Politi­co

    Mul­vaney appears to con­firm Ukraine aid was tied to polit­i­cal probe

    By QUINT FORGEY

    10/17/2019 01:27 PM EDT
    Updat­ed: 10/17/2019 01:51 PM EDT

    Act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney acknowl­edged Thurs­day that U.S. mil­i­tary funds to Ukraine were pre­vi­ous­ly with­held at least in part because of a desire to have the East­ern Euro­pean nation inves­ti­gate unfound­ed alle­ga­tions that for­eign coun­tries may have aid­ed Democ­rats in the 2016 elec­tion.

    “Did he also men­tion to me in [the] past the cor­rup­tion relat­ed to the DNC serv­er? Absolute­ly,” Mul­vaney said of a con­ver­sa­tion he had with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. “No ques­tion about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the mon­ey.

    Mul­vaney added: “The look-back to what hap­pened in 2016 cer­tain­ly was part of the thing that he was wor­ried about in cor­rup­tion with that nation.”

    Pressed on whether he was describ­ing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, Mul­vaney respond­ed that “we do that all the time with for­eign pol­i­cy,” and cit­ed the hold­ing back of aid to North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries in an attempt to affect their immi­gra­tion poli­cies.

    “I have news for every­body: Get over it. There’s going to be polit­i­cal influ­ence in for­eign pol­i­cy,” he said. “That is going to hap­pen. Elec­tions have con­se­quences, and for­eign pol­i­cy is going to change from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Mul­vaney appears to con­firm Ukraine aid was tied to polit­i­cal probe” by QUINT FORGEY; Politi­co; 10/17/2019

    “Pressed on whether he was describ­ing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, Mul­vaney respond­ed that “we do that all the time with for­eign pol­i­cy,” and cit­ed the hold­ing back of aid to North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries in an attempt to affect their immi­gra­tion poli­cies.”

    “We do that all the time with for­eign pol­i­cy.” That’s part of Mul­vaney’s new defense. It’s a rather amaz­ing defense giv­en that the ques­tion of impeach­ment is now a ques­tion over whether or not these kinds of secret quid pro quos should be a nor­mal part of US for­eign pol­i­cy. The GOP’s line of defense at this point is, yes, this should be nor­mal and accept­able.

    But Mul­vaney’s com­ments also raise the ques­tion of how many oth­er quid pro quos are they doing right now? And not nec­es­sar­i­ly quid pro quos involv­ing gin­ning up inves­ti­ga­tions into polit­i­cal oppo­nents. Don’t for­get that this is the pres­i­dent who declared the emol­u­ments clause does­n’t apply to him. There’s plen­ty of quid pro quo poten­tial there. And then there’s the whole Saudi/UAE/PsyGroup quid pro quo arrange­ment that the Trump cam­paign appeared to have accept­ed dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign. Were oth­er for­eign pow­ers mak­ing sim­i­lar offers to the Trump cam­paign?

    It also rais­es the ques­tion of what oth­er quid pro quos involv­ing get­ting a for­eign pow­er to help attack domes­tic polit­i­cal rivals have past admin­is­tra­tions engaged? Mul­vaney appeared to be sug­gest­ing this has long been the norm. Hmm...there’s prob­a­bly a lot under that rock.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 17, 2019, 12:50 pm
  23. There was a sig­nif­i­cant update to the tes­ti­mo­ny of Gor­dan Sond­land, the US ambas­sador to the EU who is in the mid­dle of the ongo­ing #UkraineGate inves­ti­ga­tion. It’s the kind of update that’s prob­a­bly going to make Trump and the GOP even more inclined to do what­ev­er it takes to beat the charges but Sond­land’s update impli­cates a fig­ure the GOP prob­a­bly would pre­fer as untouched as pos­si­ble: Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence.

    Recall how Sond­land was dubbed one of the “three ami­gos”, along with for­mer Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry and Kurt Volk­er, the US envoy to Ukraine. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion report­ed­ly replaced its core Ukraine pol­i­cy team with Sond­land, Volk­er, and Per­ry in the spring of 2019 because the lat­ter three were con­sid­ered more reli­able for car­ry­ing out this pressure/extortion scheme. Also recall how Sond­land’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the act­ing chief US diplo­mat for Ukraine, Bill Tay­lor, raised eye­brows when it was revealed that Tay­lor sent Sond­land a text on Sep­tem­ber 1, ask­ing, “are we now say­ing that secu­ri­ty assis­tance and WH meet­ing are con­di­tioned on inves­ti­ga­tions?” Sond­land replied, “call me.” The next day, Tay­lor mes­sages Sond­land say­ing he thought it was “crazy to with­hold secu­ri­ty assis­tance for help with a polit­i­cal cam­paign.” Sond­land replied, “The Pres­i­dent has been crys­tal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind” before con­clud­ing “I sug­gest we stop the back and forth by text.” It was a series of com­mu­ni­ca­tions that con­tained both evi­dence of guilt and evi­dence of a cov­er up.

    Lat­er, Sond­land tes­ti­fied before Con­gress that he opposed Pres­i­dent Trump’s request that the admin­is­tra­tion’s Ukraine pol­i­cy be run through Rudy Giu­liani — who appears to be the ‘mas­ter­mind’ of this scheme — but Sond­land fol­lowed those orders and met with Giu­liani on May 23. It was dur­ing that meet­ing that Giu­liani drew a direct link between sched­ul­ing a White House vis­it for Ukraine’s new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent and demands that Ukraine pri­or­i­tize the inves­ti­ga­tion into the Bidens. Giu­liani empha­sized at that meet­ing that Trump want­ed a pub­lic state­ment from Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky about Ukraine’s com­mit­ment to look into the Burisma/Biden issue. And it was at that hear­ing that Sond­land clar­i­fied that he pre­vi­ous­ly claimed there was no quid pro quo only because Trump repeat­ed­ly assured him of this in a phone call.

    So now, after mul­ti­ple oth­er wit­ness­es have informed con­gress about the nature of this ‘quid pro quo’ extor­tion scheme, Sond­land appears to have ‘refreshed his mem­o­ry’ about events. And those new mem­o­ries include mem­o­ries of Mike Pence’s direct involve­ment in this scheme. Specif­i­cal­ly, Sond­land now sud­den­ly remem­bers that he had dis­cussed with Andriy Yer­mak, a top Zelen­sky advis­er, the link­age between the release of the US mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine and the pub­lic announce­ment by Ukraine of these inves­ti­ga­tions. This con­ver­sa­tion took place on the side­lines of a Sep­tem­ber 1 meet­ing between Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Mr. Zelen­sky in War­saw. Sond­land added that Zelen­sky had dis­cussed the sus­pen­sion of aid with Mr. Pence. That sure sounds like Pence was direct­ly involved with Zelen­sky in enforc­ing Trump’s ‘quid pro quo’ extor­tion demands, which makes both Trump and Pence poten­tial impeach­ment tar­gets.

    Now, at this point there’s still now indi­ca­tion that Trump will be con­vict­ed by the Sen­ate even if he’s impeached, so the fact that Mike Pence is impli­cat­ed too does­n’t posed some imme­di­ate risk that House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi will become pres­i­dent as a result of a Trump/Pence dou­ble impeach­ment con­vic­tion. But let’s not for­get that this scan­dal has been grow­ing by the day. We don’t real­ly know where this is going to lead and whether or not at least some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors might end up vot­ing to con­vict an impeach­ment. So while it’s still not like­ly that Trump will be removed from office of this, if this scan­dal does blow up to the point where he is removed from office it’s look­ing like Mike Pence could be removed too:

    The New York Times

    Sond­land Updates Impeach­ment Tes­ti­mo­ny, Describ­ing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo

    In a sub­stan­tial update to his ini­tial account, Gor­don D. Sond­land recount­ed how he told Ukrain­ian offi­cials mil­i­tary aid was tied to their com­mit­ment to inves­ti­ga­tions Pres­i­dent Trump want­ed.

    By Michael S. Schmidt
    Nov. 5, 2019
    Updat­ed 1:46 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — A crit­i­cal wit­ness in the impeach­ment inquiry offered Con­gress sub­stan­tial new tes­ti­mo­ny this week, reveal­ing that he told a top Ukrain­ian offi­cial that the coun­try like­ly would not receive Amer­i­can mil­i­tary aid unless it pub­licly com­mit­ted to inves­ti­ga­tions Pres­i­dent Trump want­ed.

    The dis­clo­sure from Gor­don D. Sond­land, the Unit­ed States ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, in four new pages of sworn tes­ti­mo­ny released on Tues­day, con­firmed his involve­ment in essen­tial­ly lay­ing out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that he had pre­vi­ous­ly not acknowl­edged.

    The tes­ti­mo­ny offered sev­er­al major new details beyond the account he gave the inquiry in a 10-hour inter­view last month. Mr. Sond­land pro­vid­ed a more robust descrip­tion of his own role in alert­ing the Ukraini­ans that they need­ed to go along with inves­tiga­tive requests being demand­ed by the president’s per­son­al lawyer Rudolph W. Giu­liani. By ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, Mr. Sond­land said, he had become con­vinced that mil­i­tary aid and a White House meet­ing were con­di­tioned on Ukraine com­mit­ting to those inves­ti­ga­tions.

    Mr. Sond­land had said in a text mes­sage exchange in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber with William B. Tay­lor Jr., the top Amer­i­can diplo­mat in Ukraine, that the pres­i­dent had been clear there was no quid pro quo between the aid and inves­ti­ga­tions of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and oth­er Democ­rats. But Mr. Sond­land tes­ti­fied last month that he was only repeat­ing what Mr. Trump had told him, leav­ing open the ques­tion of whether he believed the pres­i­dent. The new account sug­gest­ed that Mr. Sond­land may have not been com­plete­ly forth­com­ing with Mr. Tay­lor, and that he was, in fact, aware that the aid was con­tin­gent upon the inves­ti­ga­tions.

    In his updat­ed tes­ti­mo­ny, Mr. Sond­land recount­ed how he had dis­cussed the link­age with Andriy Yer­mak, a top advis­er to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky of Ukraine, on the side­lines of a Sept. 1 meet­ing between Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Mr. Zelen­sky in War­saw. Mr. Zelen­sky had dis­cussed the sus­pen­sion of aid with Mr. Pence, Mr. Sond­land said.

    “I said that resump­tion of the U.S. aid would like­ly not occur until Ukraine pro­vid­ed the pub­lic anti­cor­rup­tion state­ment that we had been dis­cussing for many weeks,” Mr. Sond­land said in the doc­u­ment, which was released by the House com­mit­tees lead­ing the inquiry, along with the tran­script of his orig­i­nal tes­ti­mo­ny from last month.

    The new infor­ma­tion sur­faced as the House com­mit­tees also released a tran­script of their inter­view last month with Kurt D. Volk­er, the for­mer spe­cial envoy to Ukraine. Rush­ing to com­plete their final round of requests for key wit­ness­es before they com­mence pub­lic impeach­ment hear­ings, the pan­els also sched­uled tes­ti­mo­ny on Fri­day by Mick Mul­vaney, the act­ing White House chief of staff. And two more admin­is­tra­tion wit­ness­es who had been sched­uled to tes­ti­fy on Tues­day — Michael Duf­fey, a top offi­cial on the White House bud­get office, and Wells Grif­fith, a senior aide to Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry — failed to appear.

    In his new tes­ti­mo­ny, Mr. Sond­land said he believed that with­hold­ing the aid — a pack­age of $391 mil­lion in secu­ri­ty assis­tance that had been approved by Con­gress — was “ill-advised,” although he did not know “when, why or by whom the aid was sus­pend­ed.” But he said he came to believe that the aid was tied to the inves­ti­ga­tions.

    “I pre­sumed that the aid sus­pen­sion had become linked to the pro­posed anti­cor­rup­tion state­ment,” Mr. Sond­land said.

    In his closed-door inter­view last month, Mr. Sond­land por­trayed him­self as a well-mean­ing and at times unwit­ting play­er who was try­ing to con­duct Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy with Ukraine with the full back­ing of the State Depart­ment while Mr. Giu­liani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, repeat­ed­ly insert­ed him­self at the behest of the pres­i­dent.

    But some Democ­rats paint­ed him as a lack­ey of Mr. Trump’s who had been an agent of the shad­ow for­eign pol­i­cy on Ukraine, eager to go along with what the pres­i­dent want­ed. Democ­rats con­tend­ed Mr. Sond­land, a wealthy hote­lier from Ore­gon, had evad­ed cru­cial ques­tions dur­ing his tes­ti­mo­ny, repeat­ed­ly claim­ing not to recall the events under scruti­ny.

    And oth­er wit­ness­es have point­ed to him as a cen­tral play­er in the irreg­u­lar chan­nel of Ukraine pol­i­cy­mak­ing being run by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giu­liani, and the insti­ga­tor of the quid pro quo strat­e­gy.

    In the adden­dum, Mr. Sond­land said he had “refreshed my rec­ol­lec­tion” after read­ing the tes­ti­mo­ny giv­en by Mr. Tay­lor and Tim­o­thy Mor­ri­son, the senior direc­tor for Europe and Rus­sia at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

    Mr. Trump has denied there was a quid pro quo involv­ing the aid and Ukraine’s will­ing­ness to launch inves­ti­ga­tions he was seek­ing into the Bidens and oth­er Democ­rats. Mr. Sondland’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion is sig­nif­i­cant because his ear­li­er tes­ti­mo­ny left it unclear how he viewed the issue, even as three oth­er offi­cials told impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors under oath that the aid and the inves­ti­ga­tions were linked. Unlike the oth­ers, Mr. Sond­land was a donor to Mr. Trump’s cam­paign and was seen as a per­son­al ally of the pres­i­dent.

    Mr. Mor­ri­son, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil offi­cial, tes­ti­fied last week that it was Mr. Sond­land who first indi­cat­ed in a con­ver­sa­tion with him and Mr. Tay­lor on Sept. 1 that the release of the mil­i­tary aid for Ukraine might be con­tin­gent on the announce­ment of the inves­ti­ga­tions, and that he hoped “that Ambas­sador Sondland’s strat­e­gy was exclu­sive­ly his own.”

    The new tes­ti­mo­ny appeared in part to be an attempt by Mr. Sond­land to argue that the quid pro quo was not his idea, and explain why he believed the aid and the inves­ti­ga­tions were linked. He said it “would have been nat­ur­al for me to have voiced what I pre­sumed” about what was stand­ing in the way of releas­ing the mil­i­tary assis­tance.

    ...

    ———–

    “Sond­land Updates Impeach­ment Tes­ti­mo­ny, Describ­ing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo” by Michael S. Schmidt; The New York Times; 11/05/2019

    “In the adden­dum, Mr. Sond­land said he had “refreshed my rec­ol­lec­tion” after read­ing the tes­ti­mo­ny giv­en by Mr. Tay­lor and Tim­o­thy Mor­ri­son, the senior direc­tor for Europe and Rus­sia at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.”

    There’s noth­ing that ‘refresh­es’ one’s rec­ol­lec­tion quite like tes­ti­monies that con­tra­dict your pre­vi­ous lies. And this refreshed rec­ol­lec­tion now includes Sond­land mak­ing it unam­bigu­ous­ly clear to one of Zelen­sky’s top advis­ers that the mil­i­tary aid was con­tin­gent on Ukraine pub­licly declar­ing it was open­ing these inves­ti­ga­tions. And this unam­bigu­ous mes­sage to Ukraine was deliv­ered by Sond­land at the side­lines of a Sep­tem­ber 1 meet­ing between Mike Pence and Zelen­sky where Pence and Zelen­sky dis­cussed the sus­pen­sion of aid. That’s pret­ty clear: Pence was also part of this shake­down cam­paign:

    ...
    Mr. Sond­land had said in a text mes­sage exchange in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber with William B. Tay­lor Jr., the top Amer­i­can diplo­mat in Ukraine, that the pres­i­dent had been clear there was no quid pro quo between the aid and inves­ti­ga­tions of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and oth­er Democ­rats. But Mr. Sond­land tes­ti­fied last month that he was only repeat­ing what Mr. Trump had told him, leav­ing open the ques­tion of whether he believed the pres­i­dent. The new account sug­gest­ed that Mr. Sond­land may have not been com­plete­ly forth­com­ing with Mr. Tay­lor, and that he was, in fact, aware that the aid was con­tin­gent upon the inves­ti­ga­tions.

    In his updat­ed tes­ti­mo­ny, Mr. Sond­land recount­ed how he had dis­cussed the link­age with Andriy Yer­mak, a top advis­er to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky of Ukraine, on the side­lines of a Sept. 1 meet­ing between Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Mr. Zelen­sky in War­saw. Mr. Zelen­sky had dis­cussed the sus­pen­sion of aid with Mr. Pence, Mr. Sond­land said.

    “I said that resump­tion of the U.S. aid would like­ly not occur until Ukraine pro­vid­ed the pub­lic anti­cor­rup­tion state­ment that we had been dis­cussing for many weeks,” Mr. Sond­land said in the doc­u­ment, which was released by the House com­mit­tees lead­ing the inquiry, along with the tran­script of his orig­i­nal tes­ti­mo­ny from last month.

    ...

    Mr. Trump has denied there was a quid pro quo involv­ing the aid and Ukraine’s will­ing­ness to launch inves­ti­ga­tions he was seek­ing into the Bidens and oth­er Democ­rats. Mr. Sondland’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion is sig­nif­i­cant because his ear­li­er tes­ti­mo­ny left it unclear how he viewed the issue, even as three oth­er offi­cials told impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors under oath that the aid and the inves­ti­ga­tions were linked. Unlike the oth­ers, Mr. Sond­land was a donor to Mr. Trump’s cam­paign and was seen as a per­son­al ally of the pres­i­dent.
    ...

    Is this the point when Mike Pence gets ful­ly swept up in this inquiry? Well, if not, maybe the tes­ti­mo­ny of Pence’s top nation­al secu­ri­ty aid, Jen­nifer Williams, will do the trick. Because Williams just agreed to com­ply with a request to tes­ti­fy before con­gress on Thurs­day and she sounds like some­one who would know what Pence knew about this shake­down scheme. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Williams accom­pa­nied Pence to that Sep­tem­ber 1 meet­ing where Pence and Zelen­sky met to dis­cuss Ukraine’s aid. In addi­tion, while Pence him­self was­n’t lis­ten­ing in to the now-noto­ri­ous July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelen­sky, Williams was lis­ten­ing in and a tran­script of the call was put into Pence’s dai­ly brief­ing binder:

    CNN

    Pence aide like­ly to tes­ti­fy in impeach­ment inquiry

    By Alex Mar­quardt, CNN

    Updat­ed 1:54 PM ET, Tue Novem­ber 5, 2019

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN) A senior advis­er to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence is like­ly to com­ply with a request to tes­ti­fy on Thurs­day in front of the com­mit­tees lead­ing the impeach­ment inquiry, mul­ti­ple sources say.

    Jen­nifer Williams would be the first per­son on Pence’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team to appear and has knowl­edge of how much the vice pres­i­dent knew about the efforts by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and those around him to push Ukraine to launch inves­ti­ga­tions into Joe Biden and his son, as well as 2016 elec­tion inter­fer­ence, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with her think­ing.

    Williams, along with oth­er senior admin­is­tra­tion and nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials, was lis­ten­ing to the phone call on July 25 in which Trump asked for a “favor” of his new­ly-elect­ed Ukrain­ian coun­ter­part, Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, a White House source says. Trump asked Zelen­sky to work with his attor­ney gen­er­al, William Barr, and per­son­al lawyer, Rudy Giu­liani, on inves­ti­ga­tions after Zelen­sky said he was ready to pro­ceed with the trans­fer of US mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine.

    Williams, a long­time State Depart­ment staffer, is detailed to Pence’s office as spe­cial advis­er on Euro­pean and Russ­ian affairs and was one of two Pence aides on the call. The oth­er was Gen. Kei­th Kel­logg, the vice pres­i­den­t’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, who has not yet been called to tes­ti­fy.

    Pence did not lis­ten in, but a tran­script of the call was put into Pence’s dai­ly brief­ing binder, an admin­is­tra­tion source says.

    Law­mak­ers will look to Williams to explain what Pence knew and when, some­thing the source famil­iar with Williams’ think­ing says she is able to do.

    Over a month after the call, Williams trav­eled with Pence to War­saw when he stood in for Trump and met with Zelen­sky on Sep­tem­ber 1. After that meet­ing, Pence said they dis­cussed cor­rup­tion in Ukraine and evad­ed a ques­tion about whether the hold up of almost $400 mil­lion in secu­ri­ty aid for Ukraine was tied to Giu­lian­i’s efforts to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. There is no evi­dence of wrong­do­ing by either Biden in Ukraine.

    Since then, Pence has insist­ed that Trump did noth­ing wrong but has not clar­i­fied how much he knew about efforts to pres­sure Ukraine and the par­al­lel Ukraine pol­i­cy Giu­liani and oth­ers were lead­ing out­side the nor­mal diplo­mat­ic and offi­cial chan­nels.

    The three com­mit­tees lead­ing the Democ­ra­t’s inquiry say Williams is “expect­ed” to tes­ti­fy behind closed doors and sources close to Williams say she is like­ly to appear. She has hired a lawyer, who did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to requests for com­ment.

    Cur­rent and for­mer col­leagues have heaped praise on Williams, with one White House offi­cial say­ing: “She is the most pro­fes­sion­al per­son in this build­ing.”

    The offi­cial not­ed that Williams had recent­ly worked with Pence on nego­ti­at­ing the cease­fire between Turkey and Syr­i­an Kur­dish forces. Until Williams joined Pence’s staff, she was a spokesper­son for sev­er­al years at the US embassy in Lon­don, accord­ing to her LinkedIn pro­file. She also held posts at the embassies in Beirut, Lebanon and Kingston, Jamaica.

    ...

    ———–

    “Pence aide like­ly to tes­ti­fy in impeach­ment inquiry” by Alex Mar­quardt; CNN; 11/05/2019

    Jen­nifer Williams would be the first per­son on Pence’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team to appear and has knowl­edge of how much the vice pres­i­dent knew about the efforts by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and those around him to push Ukraine to launch inves­ti­ga­tions into Joe Biden and his son, as well as 2016 elec­tion inter­fer­ence, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with her think­ing.”

    So Williams will be the first per­son to tes­ti­fy who is knowl­edge­able of what Pence knew and when he knew it. And it sure sounds like Pence knew all about it. Might we be look­ing at a ‘Pres­i­dent Pelosi’ sce­nario at the end of this sto­ry? Again, it still seems extreme­ly unlike­ly that enough Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors would vote to con­vict an impeach­ment. But that like­li­hood is still high­ly depen­dent on pub­lic polls and even Fox News has a new poll show­ing 49 per­cent of respon­dents not only sup­port­ing the impeach­ment of Trump but also his removal for office. A Fox News poll shows that.

    But keep in mind that with the Trump team so far stick­ing with a “there was no quid pro quo and if there was it was fine” defense, that means we haven’t reached the “throw each oth­er under the bus” phase. So while the ques­tion of whether or not Pence is going be impeached and con­vict­ed is an increas­ing­ly tan­ta­liz­ing ques­tion, a more imme­di­ate ques­tion at this point is whether or not Pence can be thrown under the bus in the defense of Trump. Is there a way the Trump team can some­how arrange for Pence to take the fall instead of Trumps? Per­haps both Trump and Pence get impeached but only Pence is removed? As polls move increas­ing­ly in sup­port of impeach­ment and removal, the GOP is going to be increas­ing­ly inter­est­ed some sort of sce­nario that pla­cates that sen­ti­ment with­out the full removal of Trump and blam­ing it all on Pence is an obvi­ous option. It’s hard to imag­ine that Trump him­self can avoid cul­pa­bil­i­ty at this point giv­en every­thing we’ve learned but who knows how they might be able to shape the sto­ry if they decide to make Mike the fall guy.

    Of course, it’s pos­si­ble most Repub­li­cans in con­gress would pre­fer to dump Trump and keep Pence, which seems like a much more fea­si­ble out­come giv­en the facts of the case. Pence was clear­ly involved, but Trump was clear­ly in charge. So while there’s prob­a­bly some cal­cu­la­tions about the via­bil­i­ty of throw­ing Pence under the bus to pro­tect Trump tak­ing place in the White House right now, there’s prob­a­bly also some cal­cu­la­tions about the oppo­site sce­nario. And yet the facts of the case are increas­ing­ly damn­ing for both Trump and Pence. They’re both deeply impli­cat­ed in terms of the avail­able facts of case. It’s part of what makes the unfold­ing dra­ma so fas­ci­nat­ing. They’re all high­ly incen­tivized to throw each oth­er under the bus and yet they’re all attached at the hip with this shared crime. So it’s actu­al­ly like con­joined twin crime boss­es try­ing to toss each oth­er under the bus. That’s a com­pli­cat­ed toss.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 5, 2019, 3:52 pm
  24. The Wash­ing­ton Post had a piece yes­ter­day that describes what appears to the be strat­e­gy the House Repub­li­cans are slow­ly arriv­ing at for pro­tect­ing Pres­i­dent Trump from impeach­ment over the #UkraineGate extor­tion scan­dal. The plan seems to revolve around throw­ing some­one under the bus and por­tray­ing the whole sit­u­a­tion as some­thing done inde­pen­dent­ly from Trump, but they are sure who to throw at this point. There are three fig­ures they’re look­ing at to take the fall: Rudy Giu­liani, Gor­don Sond­land, and Mick Mul­vaney. All three have made wild­ly incrim­i­nat­ing state­ments that direct­ly impli­cate Trump, so the plan is to sow doubts about whether or not they were actu­al­ly car­ry­ing out Trump’s wish­es vs pur­su­ing their own inde­pen­dent agen­das. It sounds like part of the rea­son the House GOP haven’t arrived at a spe­cif­ic fall guy yet is because it’s kind of absurd to por­tray any of these fig­ures as oper­at­ing inde­pen­dent­ly of Trump based on every­thing we know at this point. So this is less of a devel­op­ing GOP strat­e­gy, and more like a wish list:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    House GOP looks to pro­tect Trump by rais­ing doubts about motives of his deputies

    By Karoun Demir­jian and Rachael Bade
    Novem­ber 7, 2019 at 7:06 p.m. CST

    House Repub­li­cans’ lat­est plan to shield Pres­i­dent Trump from impeach­ment is to focus on at least three deputies — U.S. Ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union Gor­don Sond­land, Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giu­liani, and pos­si­bly act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaneywho they say could have act­ed on their own to influ­ence Ukraine pol­i­cy.

    All three occu­py a spe­cial place in the Ukraine nar­ra­tive as the peo­ple in most direct con­tact with Trump. As Repub­li­cans argue that most of the tes­ti­mo­ny against Trump is based on faulty sec­ond­hand infor­ma­tion, they are sow­ing doubts about whether Sond­land, Giu­liani and Mul­vaney were actu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ing the pres­i­dent or free­lanc­ing to pur­sue their own agen­das. The GOP is effec­tive­ly offer­ing up the three to be fall guys.

    ...

    Their evolv­ing strat­e­gy comes as House Democ­rats set­tle on their argu­ment that Trump tried to force Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky to under­take two polit­i­cal­ly advan­ta­geous inves­ti­ga­tions as a pre­con­di­tion for U.S. mil­i­tary aid and a White House meet­ing between the two heads of state.

    By rais­ing ques­tions about the moti­va­tion of Trump’s top lieu­tenants on Ukraine pol­i­cy, the GOP hopes to under­mine the reli­a­bil­i­ty of oth­er­wise incrim­i­nat­ing tes­ti­mo­ny from sev­er­al cur­rent Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials.

    William B. Tay­lor, cur­rent­ly the top diplo­mat in Ukraine, and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil expert Tim Mor­ri­son told law­mak­ers they learned through Sond­land that U.S. mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine was being lever­aged to secure the probes.

    Sond­land “made a pre­sump­tion,” House Over­sight Com­mit­tee mem­ber Jim Jor­dan (R‑Ohio) told reporters, stress­ing that “what Sond­land was told by the pres­i­dent ... [is] there was no quid pro quo.”

    Repub­li­cans, how­ev­er, face sev­er­al poten­tial prob­lems if they try to pin a quid pro quo on Sond­land alone.

    Sond­land tes­ti­fied that he was “assum­ing” Giu­liani was speak­ing for Trump when he said the pres­i­dent want­ed Zelen­sky to inves­ti­gate the Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­ny Buris­ma — which gave Joe Biden’s son Hunter a job on its board when the elder Biden was U.S. vice pres­i­dent — and also to pur­sue a debunked con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry about Ukraine’s inter­fer­ing in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion.

    “All the com­mu­ni­ca­tion flowed through Rudy Giu­liani, and I can only spec­u­late that the pres­i­dent was instruct­ing his per­son­al lawyer accord­ing­ly,” Sond­land said, accord­ing to a tran­script of his depo­si­tion.

    But while Giu­liani is Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, GOP law­mak­ers appear to think they can argue he was not coor­di­nat­ing his actions with the pres­i­dent.

    “There is no direct link­age to the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States,” Rep. Mark Mead­ows (R‑N.C.) told reporters this week, con­tend­ing that while lawyers nor­mal­ly coor­di­nate with their clients, Giu­liani is a spe­cial case. “There are a whole lot of things that he does that he doesn’t apprise any­body of.”

    ...

    The sug­ges­tion that Sond­land, Giu­liani and pos­si­bly Mul­vaney made demands of Ukraini­ans with­out Trump’s explic­it bless­ing has emerged among sev­er­al the­o­ries that Repub­li­cans have offered in Trump’s defense, as wit­ness­es tes­ti­fy that they believed Ukraine was being squeezed.

    In a sign of how the GOP is scram­bling, how­ev­er, many of those the­o­ries run counter to each oth­er.

    In the past few days, Sen. Ted Cruz (R‑Tex.) has said it doesn’t mat­ter whether Trump made a quid pro quo demand because he didn’t have “crim­i­nal intent.” Sens. John Neely Kennedy (R‑La.) and Ron John­son (R‑Wis.) have argued, as Mul­vaney did from a White House lectern last month, that such exchanges hap­pen “all the time” in for­eign pol­i­cy and are not a seri­ous offense, let alone impeach­able.

    And Trump ally Sen. Lind­sey O. Gra­ham (R‑S.C.) has float­ed yet anoth­er defense, sug­gest­ing Trump’s Ukraine pol­i­cy was too “inco­her­ent” for offi­cials to suc­cess­ful­ly exe­cute any­thing as cal­cu­lat­ed as a quid pro quo arrange­ment.

    “What I can tell you about the Trump pol­i­cy toward Ukraine: It was inco­her­ent, it depends on who you talk to, they seem to be inca­pable of form­ing a quid pro quo,” he said.

    Much of the GOP’s frus­tra­tion in recent days has focused on Sond­land, who amend­ed his orig­i­nal tes­ti­mo­ny after Tay­lor and Mor­ri­son spoke to House impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors. Sond­land said he did in fact recall telling Ukrain­ian offi­cials that the release of mil­i­tary aid would be con­tin­gent on Kyiv’s open­ing inves­ti­ga­tions Trump want­ed.

    Both Tay­lor and Mor­ri­son tes­ti­fied that Sond­land told them that Trump had asked Sond­land to lever­age a head-of-state meet­ing that Zelen­sky great­ly desired, using it to get the two inves­ti­ga­tions acti­vat­ed, and that the mil­i­tary aid also would be con­tin­gent on the inves­ti­ga­tions tak­ing place. But Sond­land, who told inves­ti­ga­tors that he was in touch with Trump far more than he was in touch with Giu­liani, tes­ti­fied that he nev­er heard direct­ly from Trump on those issues, a con­tra­dic­tion that wit­ness­es have yet to clear up.

    “Dur­ing that phone call, Ambas­sador Sond­land told me that Pres­i­dent Trump had told him that he wants Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky to state pub­licly that Ukraine will inves­ti­gate Buris­ma and alleged Ukraine inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion,” Tay­lor tes­ti­fied. “He said that Pres­i­dent Trump want­ed Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky in a box by mak­ing a pub­lic state­ment about order­ing such inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    Tay­lor said that dur­ing anoth­er con­ver­sa­tion a few days lat­er, Sond­land said “he had talked to Pres­i­dent Trump,” who was “adamant that Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky him­self had to clear things up and do it in pub­lic.”

    Mor­ri­son, who defend­ed Trump’s actions to inves­ti­ga­tors, said that he won­dered at the time whether Sond­land was free­lanc­ing when he informed him about the appar­ent quid pro quo on Sept. 1, 2019.

    “Even then I hoped that Ambas­sador Sondland’s strat­e­gy was exclu­sive­ly his own and would not be con­sid­ered by lead­ers in the admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress, who under­stood the strate­gic impor­tance of Ukraine to our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” he said.

    Sond­land told law­mak­ers that his under­stand­ing was based on con­ver­sa­tions with Giu­liani, whom Trump had already told him he should lis­ten to on Ukraine mat­ters.

    “It must have been Giu­liani, because I wasn’t talk­ing to the pres­i­dent about it,” Sond­land said, accord­ing to a tran­script of his tes­ti­mo­ny, lat­er adding: “I heard that from Rudy Giu­liani. I nev­er heard it from the pres­i­dent. I am assum­ing Rudy Giu­liani heard it from the pres­i­dent, but I don’t know that.”

    ...

    Giuliani’s free­wheel­ing approach to rep­re­sent­ing Trump has fre­quent­ly per­plexed Repub­li­cans, who are frus­trat­ed by the for­mer New York mayor’s loose-lipped media appear­ances, in which he has pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Ukraine and even admit­ted that he direct­ly asked Ukrain­ian offi­cials to inves­ti­gate the Bidens. Repub­li­cans also point to Giuliani’s busi­ness inter­ests in Ukraine as rea­sons to think he may have been moti­vat­ed by per­son­al gain, and not his oft-claimed loy­al­ty to Trump, as he ran what amount­ed to a shad­ow pol­i­cy on Kyiv.

    Giu­liani and Sond­land are not the only peo­ple that Repub­li­cans argue can take the heat off Trump. Some con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans have sug­gest­ed that Mul­vaney was sim­ply exer­cis­ing his own well-doc­u­ment­ed pen­chant for cut­ting for­eign aid when he effec­tive­ly admit­ted in an Oct. 17 news con­fer­ence that the admin­is­tra­tion had with­held U.S. aid to Ukraine to secure inves­ti­ga­tions that could help the pres­i­dent polit­i­cal­ly.

    House Democ­rats con­sid­er Mulvaney’s com­ments dur­ing that news con­fer­ence — remarks that Mul­vaney lat­er tried to walk back — to be a cen­tral piece of evi­dence in their impeach­ment case against Trump.

    Sev­er­al wit­ness­es have cit­ed Mulvaney’s qui­et but cen­tral role con­ven­ing meet­ings in which piv­otal deci­sions about Ukraine pol­i­cy were made. Mul­ti­ple U.S. offi­cials have observed that Sond­land appeared to have a close rela­tion­ship with Mul­vaney, and Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State George Kent tes­ti­fied that Sond­land exploit­ed his ties to Mul­vaney to secure audi­ences with Trump about Ukraine pol­i­cy.

    But Sond­land denied to inves­ti­ga­tors that he and the act­ing White House chief of staff ever sub­stan­tive­ly dis­cussed the alleged quid pro quo.

    “I don’t recall ever hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Mr. Mul­vaney” about with­hold­ing a meet­ing with Zelen­sky until Ukraine com­mit­ted to the inves­ti­ga­tions, Sond­land tes­ti­fied. “I’ve had very, very few con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Mul­vaney. I want­ed to have more, but he was nev­er avail­able.”

    ———-

    “House GOP looks to pro­tect Trump by rais­ing doubts about motives of his deputies” by Karoun Demir­jian and Rachael Bade; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 11/07/2019

    “All three occu­py a spe­cial place in the Ukraine nar­ra­tive as the peo­ple in most direct con­tact with Trump. As Repub­li­cans argue that most of the tes­ti­mo­ny against Trump is based on faulty sec­ond­hand infor­ma­tion, they are sow­ing doubts about whether Sond­land, Giu­liani and Mul­vaney were actu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ing the pres­i­dent or free­lanc­ing to pur­sue their own agen­das. The GOP is effec­tive­ly offer­ing up the three to be fall guys.

    That’s right, the three peo­ple in the Ukraine nar­ra­tive who had the most direct con­tact with Trump regard­ing Ukraine are the three fall guys the GOP is con­sid­er­ing for mak­ing the case that they weren’t actu­al­ly coor­di­nat­ing with Trump at all and were pur­su­ing their own agen­da. It’s an ambi­tious strat­e­gy.

    Gor­don Sond­land has tes­ti­fied that his under­stand­ing that Trump was demand­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into the Bidens and Buris­ma came from his con­ver­sa­tions with Giu­liani and Sond­land was only “assum­ing” Giu­liani was speak­ing for Trump. But Sond­land also told inves­ti­ga­tors that he was in touch with Trump far more than he was with Giu­liani but tes­ti­fied that he nev­er heard direct­ly from Trump on these issues. So in that sense it won’t be hard for the GOP to por­tray Sond­land as some­one who might lie. His own con­tra­dic­tions make it clear he’s been lying at some point. But both Bill Tay­lor and Tim Mor­ri­son also tes­ti­fied that Sond­land told them that Trump asked Sond­land to use the prospect of a direct meet­ing between Trump and Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Zelinksy and mil­i­tary aid as lever­age for get­ting the desired inves­ti­ga­tions, so if Sond­land has been lying the evi­dence points towards him lying about not talk­ing direct­ly to Trump:

    ...
    William B. Tay­lor, cur­rent­ly the top diplo­mat in Ukraine, and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil expert Tim Mor­ri­son told law­mak­ers they learned through Sond­land that U.S. mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine was being lever­aged to secure the probes.

    Sond­land “made a pre­sump­tion,” House Over­sight Com­mit­tee mem­ber Jim Jor­dan (R‑Ohio) told reporters, stress­ing that “what Sond­land was told by the pres­i­dent ... [is] there was no quid pro quo.”

    Repub­li­cans, how­ev­er, face sev­er­al poten­tial prob­lems if they try to pin a quid pro quo on Sond­land alone.

    Sond­land tes­ti­fied that he was “assum­ing” Giu­liani was speak­ing for Trump when he said the pres­i­dent want­ed Zelen­sky to inves­ti­gate the Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­ny Buris­ma — which gave Joe Biden’s son Hunter a job on its board when the elder Biden was U.S. vice pres­i­dent — and also to pur­sue a debunked con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry about Ukraine’s inter­fer­ing in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion.

    “All the com­mu­ni­ca­tion flowed through Rudy Giu­liani, and I can only spec­u­late that the pres­i­dent was instruct­ing his per­son­al lawyer accord­ing­ly,” Sond­land said, accord­ing to a tran­script of his depo­si­tion.

    ...

    Much of the GOP’s frus­tra­tion in recent days has focused on Sond­land, who amend­ed his orig­i­nal tes­ti­mo­ny after Tay­lor and Mor­ri­son spoke to House impeach­ment inves­ti­ga­tors. Sond­land said he did in fact recall telling Ukrain­ian offi­cials that the release of mil­i­tary aid would be con­tin­gent on Kyiv’s open­ing inves­ti­ga­tions Trump want­ed.

    Both Tay­lor and Mor­ri­son tes­ti­fied that Sond­land told them that Trump had asked Sond­land to lever­age a head-of-state meet­ing that Zelen­sky great­ly desired, using it to get the two inves­ti­ga­tions acti­vat­ed, and that the mil­i­tary aid also would be con­tin­gent on the inves­ti­ga­tions tak­ing place. But Sond­land, who told inves­ti­ga­tors that he was in touch with Trump far more than he was in touch with Giu­liani, tes­ti­fied that he nev­er heard direct­ly from Trump on those issues, a con­tra­dic­tion that wit­ness­es have yet to clear up.

    “Dur­ing that phone call, Ambas­sador Sond­land told me that Pres­i­dent Trump had told him that he wants Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky to state pub­licly that Ukraine will inves­ti­gate Buris­ma and alleged Ukraine inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion,” Tay­lor tes­ti­fied. “He said that Pres­i­dent Trump want­ed Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky in a box by mak­ing a pub­lic state­ment about order­ing such inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    Tay­lor said that dur­ing anoth­er con­ver­sa­tion a few days lat­er, Sond­land said “he had talked to Pres­i­dent Trump,” who was “adamant that Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky him­self had to clear things up and do it in pub­lic.”

    ...

    Sond­land told law­mak­ers that his under­stand­ing was based on con­ver­sa­tions with Giu­liani, whom Trump had already told him he should lis­ten to on Ukraine mat­ters.

    “It must have been Giu­liani, because I wasn’t talk­ing to the pres­i­dent about it,” Sond­land said, accord­ing to a tran­script of his tes­ti­mo­ny, lat­er adding: “I heard that from Rudy Giu­liani. I nev­er heard it from the pres­i­dent. I am assum­ing Rudy Giu­liani heard it from the pres­i­dent, but I don’t know that.”
    ...

    At the same time, Mor­ri­son also tes­ti­fied that he won­dered if Sond­land might be ‘free­lanc­ing’ when Sond­land told him about the ‘quid pro quo’ shake­down scheme. Might that be enough for the GOP to run with and con­coct a whole nar­ra­tive about a free­lanc­ing Sond­land? Tak­ing indi­vid­ual facts/statements and cre­at­ing elab­o­rate nar­ra­tives around them is kind of a GOP/right-wing media spe­cial­ty so maybe that will be enough for them to work with?

    ...
    Mor­ri­son, who defend­ed Trump’s actions to inves­ti­ga­tors, said that he won­dered at the time whether Sond­land was free­lanc­ing when he informed him about the appar­ent quid pro quo on Sept. 1, 2019.

    “Even then I hoped that Ambas­sador Sondland’s strat­e­gy was exclu­sive­ly his own and would not be con­sid­ered by lead­ers in the admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress, who under­stood the strate­gic impor­tance of Ukraine to our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” he said.
    ...

    Still, the asser­tion that Sond­land was ‘free­lanc­ing’ rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion of ‘why’? Sond­land does­n’t have any obvi­ous inter­ests in Ukraine and did­n’t appear to be per­son­al­ly ben­e­fit­ing from this whole scheme at all. Giu­liani, on the oth­er hand, does have his own per­son­al inter­ests in Ukraine, like the bizarre cyber­se­cu­ri­ty con­tract he got with the city of Kharkiv. But it’s even more absurd to assert that he was free­lanc­ing with­out Trump’s involve­ment. After all, why would all of these oth­er fig­ures like Sond­land be inter­fac­ing with Giu­liani if they weren’t told to do so? He Trump’s per­son­al lawyer. And yet Rep. Mark Mead­ows, head of the far right House ‘free­dom cau­cus’, has been mak­ing the case that Giu­liani was­n’t actu­al­ly coor­di­nat­ing any of this with Trump at all:

    ...
    But while Giu­liani is Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, GOP law­mak­ers appear to think they can argue he was not coor­di­nat­ing his actions with the pres­i­dent.

    “There is no direct link­age to the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States,” Rep. Mark Mead­ows (R‑N.C.) told reporters this week, con­tend­ing that while lawyers nor­mal­ly coor­di­nate with their clients, Giu­liani is a spe­cial case. “There are a whole lot of things that he does that he doesn’t apprise any­body of.”

    ...

    Giuliani’s free­wheel­ing approach to rep­re­sent­ing Trump has fre­quent­ly per­plexed Repub­li­cans, who are frus­trat­ed by the for­mer New York mayor’s loose-lipped media appear­ances, in which he has pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Ukraine and even admit­ted that he direct­ly asked Ukrain­ian offi­cials to inves­ti­gate the Bidens. Repub­li­cans also point to Giuliani’s busi­ness inter­ests in Ukraine as rea­sons to think he may have been moti­vat­ed by per­son­al gain, and not his oft-claimed loy­al­ty to Trump, as he ran what amount­ed to a shad­ow pol­i­cy on Kyiv.
    ...

    Note that Giu­liani just tweet­ed the fol­low­ing admis­sion out two days ago:

    The inves­ti­ga­tion I con­duct­ed con­cern­ing 2016 Ukrain­ian col­lu­sion and cor­rup­tion, was done sole­ly as a defense attor­ney to defend my client against false charges, that kept chang­ing as one after anoth­er were dis­proven.— Rudy Giu­liani (@RudyGiuliani) Novem­ber 6, 2019

    As many of point­ed out, this was an excep­tion­al­ly incrim­i­nat­ing tweet because it under­mines the argu­ment that the ‘quid pro quo’ shake­down was done sim­ply as a nor­mal course of US gov­ern­ment anti-cor­rup­tion efforts. But that’s what Rudy tweet­ed.

    And then there’s Mick Mul­vaney, who cre­at­ed an uproar when he came out and flat­ly said there was a ‘quid pro quo’ and every­one should “get over it”. Accord­ing to some House Repub­li­cans, maybe this entire fias­co was Mick Mul­vaney sim­ply try­ing to cut for­eign aid as he is ide­o­log­i­cal­ly inclined to do? It’s the kind of nar­ra­tive that would rely on ignor­ing almost every­thing else we’ve learned about this case. Yes, ignor­ing almost every­thing when con­ve­nient is a GOP spe­cial­ty so we can’t rule this strat­e­gy out, but lay­ing this all on Mul­vaney seems like a stretch even for the GOP. There’s just too much else that would have to be ignored. Like Giu­liani:

    ...
    Giu­liani and Sond­land are not the only peo­ple that Repub­li­cans argue can take the heat off Trump. Some con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans have sug­gest­ed that Mul­vaney was sim­ply exer­cis­ing his own well-doc­u­ment­ed pen­chant for cut­ting for­eign aid when he effec­tive­ly admit­ted in an Oct. 17 news con­fer­ence that the admin­is­tra­tion had with­held U.S. aid to Ukraine to secure inves­ti­ga­tions that could help the pres­i­dent polit­i­cal­ly.

    House Democ­rats con­sid­er Mulvaney’s com­ments dur­ing that news con­fer­ence — remarks that Mul­vaney lat­er tried to walk back — to be a cen­tral piece of evi­dence in their impeach­ment case against Trump.

    Sev­er­al wit­ness­es have cit­ed Mulvaney’s qui­et but cen­tral role con­ven­ing meet­ings in which piv­otal deci­sions about Ukraine pol­i­cy were made. Mul­ti­ple U.S. offi­cials have observed that Sond­land appeared to have a close rela­tion­ship with Mul­vaney, and Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State George Kent tes­ti­fied that Sond­land exploit­ed his ties to Mul­vaney to secure audi­ences with Trump about Ukraine pol­i­cy.

    But Sond­land denied to inves­ti­ga­tors that he and the act­ing White House chief of staff ever sub­stan­tive­ly dis­cussed the alleged quid pro quo.

    “I don’t recall ever hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Mr. Mul­vaney” about with­hold­ing a meet­ing with Zelen­sky until Ukraine com­mit­ted to the inves­ti­ga­tions, Sond­land tes­ti­fied. “I’ve had very, very few con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Mul­vaney. I want­ed to have more, but he was nev­er avail­able.”
    ...

    So giv­en the absur­di­ty if these nar­ra­tives, it looks like the GOP has arrived as a strat­e­gy that’s less about defend­ing Trump and more about high­light­ing all the con­tra­dict­ing state­ments made by the fig­ures at the cen­ter of this scan­dal.

    It also hap­pens to be a strat­e­gy that por­trays Trump as a kind of absent pres­i­dent who allows his min­ions to car­ry out US for­eign pol­i­cy for their own ends. In oth­er words, the ‘Rea­gan defense’. Which, if you think about it, might be the only valid Trump defense at this point. Giu­liani might also want to look into that defense.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 8, 2019, 2:16 pm

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