Via What Surveillance Intercepts Is the Government Chasing Manafort’s Ghost-Writing?

In this post on The Bail Fight that Manafort and Gates Can’t Win, I suggested,

I feel like Mueller’s prosecutors are playing with these two men as cats play with balls, just patiently batting them around, waiting for the inevitable admission that they can’t make bail because they don’t have assets they can put up because everything they own has been laundered. At which point, after getting the judge rule over and over that they’re flight risks, I suppose the government will move to throw them in the pokey, which will finally get them to consider flipping.

Mueller’s team is still engaging in this play.

The day after Manafort finally submitted his bid for bail on November 30, the government said it couldn’t respond right away because “information … has come to the government’s attention … which the government is still examining.”

The government seeks the Court’s leave to have until Monday, December 4, 2017, to file its submission, in light of information that has come to the government’s attention only after defendant’s Motion was filed, which the government is still examining. Undersigned counsel has been unable to obtain defendant Manafort’s position on this motion by the time of this filing, despite efforts to do so. 1

1 Counsel for the government has been in contact with counsel for defendant Manafort about the newly-acquired information described above.

That information, as was widely reported yesterday, is that Manafort was drafting an op-ed with someone deemed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

As late as November 30, 2017, Manafort and a colleague were ghostwriting an editorial in English regarding his political work for Ukraine. Manafort worked on the draft with a long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s, who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.

The government argued that the effort to ghost write a defensive op-ed violated the Court’s prohibition on trying the case in the press. It also made it clear that the op-ed was not “entirely accurate, fair, and balanced.” Having thus violated one of the Court’s rules, the government argued, Manafort would need to put up more as bail.

Because Manafort has now taken actions that reflect an intention to violate or circumvent the Court’s existing Orders, at a time one would expect particularly scrupulous adherence, the government submits that the proposed bail package is insufficient reasonably to assure his appearance as required.

The government was already going to ask that the Court “make the bond forfeitable upon a breach of any condition of the defendant’s release, not just his failure to appear (a provision that is on the Court’s standard form but is not checked off in the submission made by the defense),” something that, it seemed, Manafort was already trying to pull a fast one to avoid.

In other words, there’s a good chance that the next time Manafort violates the Courts conditions, he’ll lose a house.

But that’s not the part I’m most amused about here. It’s the way in which the government revealed it knew about the op-ed, with first the call to his counsel, the notice it was rethinking the adequacy of his bail proposal, the with this description in the court filing (which predictably instantly lit up cable news).

As a surveillance wonk, this is the question I most want answered: how did the government find out about this op-ed, and what thought process went into revealing that it had found out? After all, if it was to be ghost-written, Manafort intended to hide that he had written it. But he has to know he’s wired up with surveillance like a Christmas tree. So via what means was Manafort collaborating with his Russian intelligence friend?

Effectively, on top of tattling to the judge that Manafort was breaking her rules, demanding Manafort risk a home or two next time he pulls this kind of stunt, and asking him to find more liquid assets if he wants off of house arrest, the government is also telling Manafort that whatever communication method he believed to be hidden from government view actually is not.

Which means he now knows that any other communications he’s been having with this Russian intelligence person also aren’t hidden from view.

Update: Yanukovych’s flack Oleg Voloshyn has IDed himself as the named author of the op-ed, but he says Manafort only provided a bit of input. Voloshyn said he passed the op-ed to Manafort through Konstantin Kilimnik, the same guy Manafort was reporting back to during the campaign.

Voloshyn said that he sent his unpublished editorial last week to Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime associate of Manafort in Ukraine, who then forwarded it on to Manafort.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

31 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    This was exactly my first thought when news of the move to revoke bail came out. John LeCarre (in the voice of George Smiley) called this kind of thing “shaking the tree” where you do something (revealing a portion of your knowledge) to push your target into doing something before they are ready, which may lead you to something else or force them into stepping into a trap.

    Mueller is sending a message, not just to Manafort but to everyone that he has been talking to since he was indicted. “We *know* what you’re doing, and who you are doing it with.”

    Some folks may decide now’s the time to make a deal, while others may start doing (additional) stupid things to try to cover their tracks — which will only lead to more revelations for Mueller’s team to pick up on.

    And then there are the Russians themselves. Assuming that they are doing things to help Manafort et al. withstand Mueller’s inquiries (like this op-ed), at what point might they decide “Trump is going down” and pull whatever support they may be providing at the moment? At what point might they decide that in trying to help Manafort et al., they are revealing more than they want to, and call it quits?

    Wheels within wheels here (so to speak).

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Disabling chaos seems to work as well for Putin as an outright win – look at Brexit.

      Anybody with a brain in Washington must be working on Plan B.  Democrats should be, at least, since the GOP seem to be lost in cigarette smoke as they bask in the afterglow of their tax and social reforms on behalf of the wealthy. “Was it good for you?” they must be asking everyone in their circle.

      If the Dems revert to standard establishment neoliberalism – in order to calm us down and return to “normal” – they will deserve to go the way of the Liberal Party.

      We don’t need fake hopey changey conflict avoidance.  We don’t need fake populism and a zipper with a drawl.  We need the priorities of an FDR with the legislative skills of LBJ – with a popular party behind her – to bring us back from the precipice over which the GOP and establishment Dems hope we will happily go.

  2. tryggth says:

    It’s almost like people don’t understand there is an active counter-intelligence investigation in progress.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Involving Russia, a target against which we probably have the most experience….Nobody ever said team Trump was smart.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mueller is also teasing other suspects, against whom there might be probable cause to obtain a warrant and thus full surveillance data usable in court.  That could be quite a list.

    In addition to Depends, perhaps the WH should also be buying up all the Pepto Bismol in town.  There might be a run on it.  There’s also Donald’s standard meal of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish and a chocolate malt to contend with, which he might bump up to three of each, what with all the stress.

    • greengiant says:

      One of the most used gambits in warfare is to divulge good information over a leaky channel or to the victim and then send the fakenews.  If they run with the fakenews single sourced that can lead to libel charges in the UK or Canada or immediate shut down of a blog site by a judge or …

      As commented above for the oligarchs and Putin confusion,  havoc, distraction are all upside.

        • greengiant says:

          Remains to be seen what is going on here.  One possibility is an attack on Mueller by Russian influenced Ukrainian actors in an attempt to get the SCO to react to the emails.  One way would be to exaggerate and fuzzy the supposed changes Manafort has made. If Manafort was able to show that he did not actually make any changes but just sent back some ideas then does that violate his bail order or does this make Mueller looked over the top in the court of public opinion? Manafort was adviser to  oligarchs and Putin’s boy Yanukovych in the last election in which the Eastern Ukraine came in with a 98 percent pro Russian vote. Kind of associated with election fraud or at least them who practice it.

          Another oligarch trick is to have bought operatives operate blogs “attacking” them, creating identity as the experts and then controlling the narrative. Or have their media troll put out the worst facts and then put out a findable lie to discredit investigations and claims of wrong doing.

          The Koch brother’s tax deductible charity financed Veritas,  headed by James Okeefe,  sent a false flag into the Washington Post.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/womans-effort-to-infiltrate-the-washington-post-dates-back-months/2017/11/29/ce95e01a-d51e-11e7-b62d-d9345ced896d_story.html

           

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Paranoia, always the best friend of contractors for authoritarian regimes.  Fresh from providing services to dictators in Africa and the Middle East, Erik Prince, assisted by “a former CIA official,” and Iran-Contra celebrity Ollie North, have pitched the White House and the CIA’s Mike Pompeo on setting up a “private spy network”, independent of the existing, multifarious US spy agencies.

    The rationale for spending billions for more spying is to counter elements of the American “Deep State” that stymies the initiatives of the House of Trump.  Not the real deep state of persistent elites, mind, but the collection of people that fail to prostrate themselves before Donald.

    Not an original effort, Dick Cheney and of Poppa Bush’s Team B attempted elements of this.  It is original in scope – its ambitions are Trumpian – and profit potential.

    Presumably, this would duplicate existing intel gathering, analysis and ops.  In addition to paying twice for similar services, we would pay thrice, because the private sector needs its profits or it won’t lif  t a finger. (See, Puerto Rico disaster relief.)  Presumably, also, this revised Team B would not be bound by the legal and political restraints that so tightly bind America’s existing agencies and keep them from rendering and torturing and interfering in other states’ elections.

    The American public, its society and democracy would pay dearly for this, even as it learns less about such programs, owing to the confidentiality clauses protecting this initiative’s proprietary data, sources and methods.  Dick Cheney meets Nixon as the Hulk, with a little Joe Stalin thrown in.

  5. Ed Walker says:

    So how does this get funded in secret? Wouldn’t the Dems on some committee have to be informed? Wouldn’t they leak it?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Manafort had Russian ties, it would make him best buds with Donald, and a perfect cut-out for a guy who’s relied on dark money to finance his post-five-bankruptcies property deals.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The White House’s denies that Deutsche Bank has been sent a subpoena in connection with the president’s finances. End of story, full stop, nothing to see here, move along, let’s look forward, not past.

    One needn’t have followed Watergate or Clinton’s impeachment or Barack Obama’s rhetoric to characterize that as a “non-denial denial”.  As CNN mentioned, that denial could be limited to Trump’s time as president, when most of the acts being investigated predate that.  That denial would certainly exclude the 500 or so businesses that Trump controls, each of which would be a separate legal entity from Donald Trump individually.  Then there’s the financing for projects that Trump doesn’t control, such as the condo complexes in Panama.  All in, the statement is artful and deceptive, one of which is unusual for this White House.

    Real estate deals are usually very highly leveraged.  Could it be that Trump’s vulnerability to Russian control is driven by something as simple as Russian state control of his financing?  Could his financing be Russian-based and merely funneled through Deutsche Bank?  (After six bankruptcies, no other bank would touch him.)

    The equation would be no Russian backing, no DB financing, and no Trump business.  No billion plus dollars, and possibly a seventh bankruptcy.  If so, who thinks the “financing” made available through Russian backing was all legit, that it did not deal with, say, laundering the dirty money from a few oligarchs?  That would generate leverage that would drive most billionaires to cooperate fully and faithfully with whomever controlled their financing.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The reporting emphasizing whether Deutsche Bank sold or transferred any of Trump’s loans to Russian entities seems overly formalistic.  DB would probably have kept the loans on its books.  The question is whether Russians formally or informally underwrote it.

      DB has a long history of alleged money laundering, a good chunk of which allegedly involved Russians (for which they have paid hundreds of millions in fines).  Informal arrangements would typically control formal paperwork regarding these transactions, even if the formal paperwork were done with Swiss precision.  So, too, would arrangements for repayment, rollover and refinancing.  Everybody knows you don’t fail to repay principal and vig on time to that grizzled guy with the tats from Brighton Beach.

    • Condor says:

      Well put Earl —

      Let me just add (as I blogged, elsewhere) tonight:

      The mouthpiece for Mr. Trump — and one of his personal lawyers, a Mr. Jay Sekulow, was quoted by Reuters (later in the day) as saying that there had been no such turnover, and the bank itself had advised him of that. Well — Jay, the stupid — it burns. You see, 18 USC § 1510(b) makes a bank’s disclosure of such a subpoena, to someone like you. . . a felony (if intended to obstruct) — and a one year misdemeanor, without regard to intent

      . . . .(b)(1) Whoever, being an officer of a financial institution, with the intent to obstruct a judicial proceeding, directly or indirectly notifies any other person about the existence or contents of a subpoena for records of that financial institution, or information that has been furnished in response to that subpoena, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

      (2) Whoever, being an officer of a financial institution, directly or indirectly notifies —

      (A) a customer of that financial institution whose records are sought by a subpoena for records; or

      (B) any other person named in that subpoena;

      about the existence or contents of that subpoena or information that has been furnished in response to that subpoena, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. . . .

      Thus, it is highly unlikely that Deutsche Bank is unaware of this long-standing provision of federal criminal law. It is even more unlikely that the bank would risk felony prosecution — by talking to Mr. Sekulow — about Mr. Mueller’s subpoenas of Mr. Trump’s financial records, given that 45 himself now very-likely a target of an obstruction investigation. Now you know. Jay is a “pants on fire” liar, in my opinion. 
      G’night all, and Namaste….

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Yep. Especially since DB has US presence.
        Sekulow should know that the subpoena would have been served in the US.

        Maybe he called to Germany headquarters? /s

  7. Dc says:

    Maybe it’s Kushner’s 245 bill loan they are interested in, which arrive the day before the election. Seems they are focused on his role in the thick of the Russian relationship.

Comments are closed.