Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Saturday, September 15, 2018

In 2012, Paul Manafort had a problem. He was seeking a way to bolster the interests of his pro-Russian Ukrainian clients in Washington, but he did not want to set off tough federal disclosure rules for foreign lobbying. His solution, federal prosecutors say, was to help the Ukrainians create a nonprofit group in Brussels. He then recruited a pair of top lobbying firms to represent the group, an arrangement intended to obscure the fingerprints of the ultimate beneficiary of the lobbying -- the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, Viktor F. Yanukovych, and his oligarch-backed political party.

But even some people at the lobbying firms he recruited saw the nonprofit group, the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, as a sham, according to new evidence laid out by prosecutors when they unveiled a plea agreement with Mr. Manafort in federal court in Washington on Friday.

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A co-founder of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, told his team to operate on the understanding that Mr. Yanukovych "is the client," while an employee at the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, called the claim that the nonprofit was independent from Mr. Yanukovych "nonsense," comparing it to "Alice in Wonderland."

Nonetheless, the Podesta Group and Mercury went along with Mr. Manafort's ruse, despite the reservations now coming to light. Relying on the written attestation from the European Center, which paid them more than $1 million each.

Now, that work, and the decision not to disclose it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, has turned Podesta and Mercury into subjects of interest in a series of linked investigations that have roiled Washington's lobbying industry.

This year, Mr. Mueller's team referred cases involving possible illegal Ukrainian lobbying by Podesta, Mercury and the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom -- all of which Mr. Manafort had recruited to do work related to Ukraine -- to federal prosecutors in New York.

And the evidence that Mr. Mueller's prosecutors publicly unveiled on Friday could help their New York colleagues build the cases against the firms, including the correspondence that questioned the independence of the European Center. The firms were not named in the court filings, but they do not dispute that prosecutors are referring to them.

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I'm thinking this whole ~unregistered foreign agent~ thing is going to grow and pull in a lot of K-Street people. Indeed, so far it has entangled three people in the Trump circle.

#1 | Posted by LampLighter at 2018-09-15 03:13 PM | Reply

In any plea deal that involves cooperation, the Prosecutors must lay out for the Judge, in general terms, what the cooperation entails. In Manafort's hearing, the evidence presented was all about information Manafort had about about Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians, and the Western firms that have helped them, including ones that he recruited, such as Podesta, Mercury and Skadden, who failed to register under FARA. Notably absent from the showing made to the court was anything involving the campaign. This does not mean that Manafort has nothing on the campaign, but if what he had on the campaign was stronger than the lobbying information it would be strange not to include it in the plea deal.

#2 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 03:21 PM | Reply

#1

From what I hear, FARA filings have skyrocketed in the past 18 months, especially among law firms inside the beltway, and if Podesta, Weber/Mercury and Craig/Skadden go down, other K-Street people will probably be implicated.

#3 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 03:24 PM | Reply

You mean some dems are getting tangled in that mess? It will stop soon.

#4 | Posted by Sniper at 2018-09-15 04:08 PM | Reply | Funny: 1 | Newsworthy 1

--Implicates Podesta, Craig

Lock them up!

#5 | Posted by nullifidian at 2018-09-15 05:00 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Those are some pretty serious allegations.
Think two weeks is appropriate, like it was for Papadopoulos?

#6 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-09-15 05:01 PM | Reply


@#2 ... but if what he had on the campaign was stronger than the lobbying information it would be strange not to include it in the plea deal. ...

The evidence that was presented was obviously known by Mr Mueller, and it was enough to get the plea deal to occur.

Mr Mueller may know more, if he does, why should be show his hand if he does not need to? Why should he let others involved in the campaign curiosities know what he (Mr Mueller) knows?

When Mr Mueller, or any investigator for that matter, questions people, the investigator does not lay out all the information already known. It would be foolish to do so.

#7 | Posted by lamplighter at 2018-09-15 05:21 PM | Reply

#7

The point is that the Prosecutor has to justify the plea bargain by previewing the expected testimony. You usually present your strongest evidence to the court to get the judge to accept the plea in exchange for cooperation.

The testimony that Mueller has from Manafort vis a vis the campaign may be stronger than the testimony re: Podesta/Weber/Craig, but it seems risky to withhold that in lieu of what was presented when you are trying to get the court to accept the plea.

#8 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 06:12 PM | Reply


@#8 ... it seems risky ...

Mr Mueller does not appear to be a large risk taker to me, so I suspect he had the odds pretty-well figured out. Given the outcome, he was correct.

Now Mr Mueller gets to have discussions with Mr Manafort regarding the Trump Tower meeting, and what the Russians wanted in return for the dirt on fmr Sec of State Clinton.

Now Mr Mueller can have a discussion with Mr Manafort regarding the sudden change in the Republican Platform shortly after Mr Manafort arrived. A change that significantly altered the platform to favor Russia and Ukraine. Of interest may be the question why Mr Manafort, who was having money difficulties, took the campaign director job for no salary.

One question hangs over Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chair
qz.com

...The onetime advisor to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush was just out of rehab, his family torn apart by his affair with a much younger woman. Powerful Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska -- whom US authorities say has close ties to president Vladimir Putin and to the Russian mafia -- had long been chasing him for $19 million. Manafort's years of dealing with Ukraine's wildly corrupt ex-president Viktor Yanukovych were under the FBI's microscope. And he was so strapped for cash that he reportedly stopped his daughter ordering a supply of ice during her wedding weekend.

Then he did something bold. The move would reinvent his image and make Manafort a nationally recognized figure -- if not quite in the way he expected.

He pitched himself for an unpaid job on Donald Trump's insurgent presidential campaign. With the help of old friends Roger Stone and Tom Barrack, a close billionaire pal of Trump's, he got it. Soon after, Manafort was promoted to campaign chair. It seemed quite a renaissance for the man who helped revolutionize political PR in the 1980s....

Why did Manafort work for Trump for free?...

Manafort also may have seen his role on Trump's campaign as way to settle his debts. Years earlier, Russian aluminum titan Oleg Deripaska ploughed $18.9 million into a telecoms venture in Ukraine run by Manafort and his number two, Rick Gates. When the 2008 financial crisis poleaxed Deripaska's net worth, he asked Manafort and Gates to sell the firm and give him his cash back. But the two Americans never complied (and it's not clear that they had even invested the cash in the company, either, Foer reports.)

After joining Trump's team, Manafort reportedly instructed Konstantin Kilimnik, his number two in Kyiv who was deeply entwined in Kremlin politics, to send his positive press to Deripaska. "How do we use to get whole. Has OVD operation seen," he asked Kilimnik, using Deripaska's initials. He reportedly suggested offering the billionaire "private briefings" (paywall) about the Trump campaign....


Yeah, there could be a long string of very interesting discussions that Mr Mueller's team has with Mr Manafort. I don't think Mr Mueller will be able to wind up the investigation by Sept 1, as fmr Mayor Giuliani has asserted.

#9 | Posted by LampLighter at 2018-09-15 07:50 PM | Reply

My guess is Manafort has already told Mueller all he knows about the Trump Tower meeting, and to me, since Mueller is not a risk taker, he isn't going to get much from Manafort on that, or Mueller would have disclosed that as an area of exchanged testimony to the court.

Your excerpt from the July Quartz is interesting but still really only deals with Ukraine and investments from OVD.

Time will tell, but since the MSM has gone suspiciously radio silent after yesterday's revelations on the areas of testimony from Manafort, it seems that Manafort's value to Mueller revolves around the Podesta/Weber/Craig prosecution.

#10 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 08:10 PM | Reply


@#10 ... My guess is Manafort has already told Mueller all he knows about the Trump Tower meeting ...

Nah, they haven't been talking long enough. But, time will tell.

As I've said before, I am willing to wait to see Mr Mueller's report.

#11 | Posted by LampLighter at 2018-09-15 08:16 PM | Reply

As am I, but based on my experience as a prosecutor, Manafort has already given significant information on what he can and can't testify to as the basis for his plea.

#12 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 08:25 PM | Reply

One thing I do know for a fact is that Skadden is freaking out about possible criminal indictment of Craig and the firm: if that happens they will lose clients from their Government department in droves. Several partners at Skadden here in LA that I know are quietly looking to move firms, if that starts happening it may become a free for all.

#13 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 08:29 PM | Reply

"Manafort Plea Deal Implicates Podesta, Craig"

And Weber, yes?

#14 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 08:38 PM | Reply


@#12 ... Manafort has already given significant information on what he can and can't testify to as the basis for his plea. ...

Agreed. Topics have been discussed, not a lot of deep details.

I do think there are many deep details that need to be discussed and documented.

Mr Mueller has shown himself to be quite meticulous, and Mr Mannafort is one who knows a lot of details about some times and events that are very important to the investigation.

It's going to take a while.

I'd say weeks.

#15 | Posted by LampLighter at 2018-09-15 08:45 PM | Reply

"Notably absent from the showing made to the court was anything involving the campaign. This does not mean that Manafort has nothing on the campaign, but if what he had on the campaign was stronger than the lobbying information it would be strange not to include it in the plea deal."

Maybe there are other potential charges Mueller can bring against Manafort, and if so, he is withholding Manafort's campaign-related testimony until then.

#16 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 08:46 PM | Reply

The Manafort Guilty Plea, the Mueller Investigation, and the President

As media outlets breathlessly reported, Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. What that means in practice is not clear, and readers should be wary of anyone who claims with any confidence to know what Manafort's cooperation will bring.

www.lawfareblog.com

#17 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 08:57 PM | Reply

...be wary of anyone who claims with any confidence to know what Manafort's cooperation will bring.

Well that takes all the fun out of it.

#18 | Posted by REDIAL at 2018-09-15 09:14 PM | Reply

There are probably hundreds of "unregistered foreign lobbyists" hiding cash in Cypress that will never face prosecution and we'll never hear of.

I'd like to see Mueller open the whole can of worms. And boy-oh-boy, did you notice how quickly that Panama Papers case disappeared in the media?

It's almost like they don't really want to know.

#19 | Posted by SheepleSchism at 2018-09-15 09:23 PM | Reply

"And Weber, yes?"

BTW, this question wasn't meant to be snarky. I've noticed that most of the articles tend to emphasize Podesta and Craig's potential legal liability more than the do Weber's. Is that because they are wanting to point out that Democrats are caught up in Manafort's criminality or because, based on info now in the public domain, Weber's culpability is seen as being less than the other two?

#20 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 09:27 PM | Reply

"He [Manafort] acknowledged to the judge that he understood that he was agreeing to cooperate with Mueller's office, and to delay sentencing while he works with prosecutors."

Here's another question. Is it significant that Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller's office when the Craig, Podesta and Weber cases have been handed off to SDNY? As it stand now, technically, he wouldn't be cooperating with Mueller in those specific cases.

#21 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 09:35 PM | Reply

#19 The Mueller effect: FARA filings soar in shadow of Manafort, Flynn probes

www.nbcnews.com

#22 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 09:38 PM | Reply

"I'd like to see Mueller open the whole can of worms"

QAnon!

#23 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-09-15 10:10 PM | Reply

#21

The agreement is broader than just Mueller's office, see section 8, page 6. assets.documentcloud.org

#24 | Posted by et_al at 2018-09-15 10:54 PM | Reply

Yes, I read/know that.

#25 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-15 11:16 PM | Reply

And Weber, yes?

Yes, Weber as well, Mercury Public Affairs is neck deep in the allegations that were referred to the USA for the SDNY.

As it stand now, technically, he wouldn't be cooperating with Mueller in those specific cases.

He agreed to testify in other cases, and the evidence proffered by the Prosecutors almost exclusively related to the Podesta/Weber/Craig case in NYC.

Looking at the plea agreement it looks pretty standard, the forfeiture provisions are extremely extensive which shows how much the Feds knew already about Manafort's dealings and assets.

#26 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-09-15 11:19 PM | Reply

"Looking at the plea agreement it looks pretty standard, the forfeiture provisions are extremely extensive which shows how much the Feds knew already about Manafort's dealings and assets."

No doubt from their previous investigation of him:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been under FBI surveillance since before the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported. The surveillance, which included wiretapping, searches, and other types of observation, reportedly began in 2014, when Manafort was the subject of an investigation into work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for the former ruling party of Ukraine.

The intelligence collected by the FBI led to officials' concerns that Manafort encouraged Russian interference in the election. A second warrant obtained in 2016 required the FBI to provide evidence for the suspicion that Manfort was acting as an agent of a foreign power. That warrant was directly related to the FBI's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and people suspected of operating on behalf of the Russian government.

Manafort was not under surveillance during the period in which he, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer, possibly to discuss information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. However, wiretapping had taken place during periods when Manafort was known to be in touch with President Donald Trump. Contact between the two continued beyond Manafort's tenure as campaign chairman and after it was publicly known that Manafort was under FBI investigation. It is unclear whether the President was recorded as part of the investigation.

fortune.com

#27 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-16 12:07 AM | Reply

Also:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was interviewed by the FBI twice while he was working as a political consultant for a Ukrainian political party -- several years before he was named a top adviser to Donald Trump, newly filed court documents revealed.

The documents filed late Monday by prosecutors in the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, show that the FBI had interviewed Manafort in March 2013 and again in July 2014. Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, who also held a top role with Trump's campaign, was interviewed by the FBI in July 2014, the documents show.


www.washingtonpost.com

#28 | Posted by Gal_Tuesday at 2018-09-16 12:10 AM | Reply

"how much the Feds knew already about Manafort's dealings and assets"

speaking of dealings

Manafort was an adviser to the U.S. presidential campaigns of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole. In 1980, he co-founded the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Black, Manafort & Stone, along with principals Charles R. Black Jr., and Roger J. Stone
he also serviced as political director of the RNC for two years

know you know why the dinosaur Chuck Grassley is crapping bricks

Manafort has 30+ years of republican operative dirt on these career criminals in the senate

#29 | Posted by ChiefTutMoses at 2018-09-17 01:42 PM | Reply

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