The Decline and Recent Fall of Manafort’s Hapsburg Empire

It turns out the government was telling the truth (not that I doubted it) when they told Judge Amy Berman Jackson they’ve only just put together the evidence that Paul Manafort violated bail by trying to suborn perjury from Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager, the two flacks who set up the Hapsburg Group for Manafort back in 2012. That’s made clear by comparing the materials submitted back on May 25 asking for leave to object to Manafort’s then just finalized bail proposal and the materials — particularly the declaration from FBI Agent Brock Domin — released in conjunction with Mueller’s motion to revoke or revise bail.

For example, whereas the later Domin declaration notes that Friedman and Sager (identified as Person D1 and D2) “provided the content of the text messages described below in May 2018,” Domin’s earlier declaration provides the specific dates.

Person D1 provided the text messages described below on May 12, 2018, and Person D2 provided the content of the text messages described below on May 21, 2018.

And while the earlier declaration relies on statements from Friedman,

Documents produced by Persons D1 and D2, statements made by Person D1 to the government, and documents recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search of Manafort’s iCloud account evidence that Manafort,

The later declaration refers to statements from Sager, too.

Documents produced by Persons D1 and D2, statements made by Persons D1 and D2 to the government, telephone records obtained by the government, and documents recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search of Manafort’s iCloud account evidence that Manafort,

So Sager must have been interviewed between May 25 and June 4.

A filing submitted last night, providing even more detail describing why Manafort should have his bail revoked includes this great quote from Sager, though it’s unclear when he gave it.

Manafort’s references to the Hapsburg member’s “role” and the “EP” refer to that Hapsburg member’s position as a representative of the European Parliament and the parallel actions of the European Parliament and the United States Senate regarding Tymoshenko’s imprisonment in 2012. That characterization is consistent with Person D2’s description, during a meeting with the government, of that Hapsburg member’s role as Manafort’s “spy and mouthpiece.”

And, as reflected both in the passage cited above and by comparing the two communication logs, the government did not reference toll records from Manafort in the May 25 filing but did in the June 4 one, suggesting that along with a Sager interview, they obtained the toll records after May 25.

Which raises two interesting questions for me: first, had the government interviewed Friedman and Sager before Manafort tried to suborn their perjury? If Mueller’s team hadn’t, it makes his effort all the more interesting, as if he somehow knew that. And also, did the government obtain proof of these communications (likely, via monitoring Manafort’s iCloud account) before reaching out to Friedman and Sager, whether anew or for the first time?

Interestingly, the earlier Domin declaration makes it clear Friedman took screen caps of the WhatsApp comms he had with Manafort contemporaneously, so even if he weren’t backing up his super secret obstruction of justice to Apple’s cloud, he’d have been fucked.

Person D1 has provided the government screen shots that Person D1 took contemporaneously of these messages.

That suggests it’s possible that Friedman contacted (possibly recontacted) the government to let them know this. But that doesn’t explain the two and a half month delay between the time Manafort tried to suborn perjury and the time the government actually chased this detail down.

10 replies
  1. Bob Conyers says:

    One of the things to keep in mind regarding secure messaging apps is that a person wanting a confidential conversation can’t just send a message. You need to know that the other person uses the same app, and if you are smart you make sure nobody else has access to the app. My wife and I frequently share tablets, for example; likewise, plenty of execs give their secretaries access to accounts. If some criminal wanted to contact me, he’d be an idiot if he didn’t check first whether I even used the app and if it was safe to use with me.

    Which is all a long-winded way for me to say I wouldn’t be surprised if Manafort telegraphed in some way that he wanted to convey suspicious information first, and the people he reached were ready to capture his communications for their own protection once the messages arrived.

    • jayedcoins says:

      Good point.

      Paulie has proven his opsec is bad, so this is far from a stretch to imagine having happened here.

  2. SteveB says:

    As ever, really interesting insights into the evidence gathering processes.

    Your attention to detail helps us all appreciate the Mueller team’s attention to detail and the rigour they apply to their tasks.


  3. SpaceLifeForm says:

     May 25 to June 4 

    Possible FISA renewal?

    Leak related?

    I would bet a parlay on this.


    • Avattoir says:

      You’d be on firmer ground if you were to label everything “RICO”, secure a red mop to your head, don clown shoes & a funny nose, & commence whirling like a dervish.

  4. pseudonymous in nc says:

    So the Manafort docket got messy today, and it’s going to stay messy till Friday: the May 25th response was filed under seal, then followed by a motion to unseal on June 6th just before the superseding indictment came down, and today ABJ allowed it to be unsealed with redacted exhibits, but the clerk of court inadvertently posted unredacted exhibits. ABJ also granted Manafort the right to learn the identities of “others, including former senior foreign politicians”  in the FARA charges and the special counsel’s office informed the court that it had done so.

    • emptywheel says:

      That messiness may be related. The stuff that was released unredacted is the stuff that SCO had to share w/Manafort.

      One other messy bit: in the EDVA docket, Mueller’s team are trying to get Ellis to approve the standard discovery order for the district that would require some transparency from Manafort abt what he plans for trial (including expert witnesses). It is withholding some discovery until that happens. I can’t decide whether Manafort just doesn’t expect to go to trial (in 6 weeks) or whether he’s got some secrets up his sleeve. One thing I suspect Mueller is withholding is the 404b notice, which there was an early fight about in DC as well.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    Well, the palace really stepped in it.  It seems (just like the Soviet Russian Ambassador’s  visit when Kaiser Quisling [h/t Paul Krugman] spilled the beans on Comey) that the DPRK sent a film crew and KCNA aired 40+ minutes of previously unreleased footage, including KQ saluting a general of the NKPA.  “Hanoi Jane” has competition, but at least KQ didn’t curtsy like he did for the King of Saudi Arabia.

    I wonder how Hannity will spin this today.

    Note also that the family charity is back in the news on NYS charges (meaning no palace pardon will help them here).

    The palace’s response was predictable.

    Just in case anyone is unaware of the true patriotism of Faux News hosts (“Three Dolts on a Divan” – h/t CHarlie Pierce), it remains situational.

    And… another Quid Pro Quo allowed by SCOTUS (after McDonnell’s case):

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