The Criminal Investigation into Paul Manafort Was (and May Still be) Ongoing–and Likely Pertains to Trump’s Ukraine Extortion

Robert Mueller was never able to determine whether Paul Manafort entered into a quid pro quo on August 2, 2016, trading — either on his own or with the approval of Trump — promises to help carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking in exchange for help winning the election.

Mueller never made that determination, in part, because Manafort lied during the period he was purportedly cooperating with the investigation.

Here’s what Mueller did determine was reliable:

First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.924 Manafort initially said that, if he had not cut off the discussion, Kilimnik would have asked Manafort in the August 2 meeting to convince Trump to come out in favor of the peace plan, and Yanukovych would have expected Manafort to use his connections in Europe and Ukraine to support the plan.925 Manafort also initially told the Office that he had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy, that the discussion ended, and that he did not recall Kilimnik asking Manafort to reconsider the plan after their August 2 meeting.926 Manafort said [redacted] that he reacted negatively to Yanukovych sending-years later-an “urgent” request when Yanukovych needed him.927 When confronted with an email written by Kilimnik on or about December 8, 2016, however, Manafort acknowledged Kilimnik raised the peace plan again in that email.928 Manafort ultimately acknowledged Kilimnik also raised the peace plan in January 2017 meetings with Manafort [redacted — pertains to him admitting continuation of the plan into 2018] 929

Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.931 Manafort did not refer explicitly to “battleground” states in his telling of the August 2 discussion, [redacted]

Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Mana fort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.933

922 The Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which are located in the Donbas region of Ukraine, declared themselves independent in response to the popular unrest in 2014 that removed President Yanukovych from power. Pro-Russian Ukrainian militia forces, with backing from the Russian military, have occupied the region since 2014. Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own

Although Mueller included this significant summary of the issue in his Report (and a description of how Rick Gates kept sending polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, to be shared with Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska’s GRU-linked aide, Viktor Boyarkin), the government nevertheless refused to release the details regarding this dispute that were laid out in court filings and exhibits regarding his breach of his plea deal when WaPo tried to liberate them starting in March. The government explained that, “a number of matters [related to his lies that were referred] to other offices in the Department of Justice … remain ongoing,” and asked for any further matters in WaPo’s challenge be deferred until six months later, which happens to be Tuesday. Judge Amy Berman Jackson never ruled differently, so that’s where things have stood, at least on the public docket, since April, shortly after the Mueller Report was released.

That’s interesting because the government accused Manafort of lying about five different topics. Some are definitely related to each other, and some (as well as his underlying guilty verdicts) are also definitely related to recent events relating to Ukraine and Russia. Which is why it’s worth looking back to learn what Manafort worked hardest to obscure in September and October 2018. Doing so suggests that Trump’s Ukraine call — including the demand for election help and Volodymyr Zelensky implementation of the Steinmeier Formula since — may simply be one step in paying off his campaign debts from 2016. As such, Rudy Giuliani’s involvement with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman may just be the continuation of what Manafort was pursuing — also being paid by a cut-out system — even after he got sent to jail.

In this post, I’ll look specifically at how the lies Manafort told do and may relate to current events. In a follow-up, I hope to show how the issues for which he was prosecuted also relate to current events, well beyond Trump’s efforts to undermine Manafort’s prosecution to make a pardon easier. Taken together, such analysis will show that the Ukraine scandal is completely inseparable from the Russia one.

Manafort told five lies

Altogether, the government tried to hold Manafort accountable for five lies. Those were:

  1. How he got paid using a kick-back system involving a SuperPAC, Rebuilding America Now, which (on top of violating prohibitions on coordination with the campaign) may have accepted funds from foreigners. Mueller’s team never seemed to figure out how that scheme worked, in part because Manafort never settled on an explanation for the kickbacks. ABJ ruled that Manafort lied about this.
  2. Whether he tried to dissociate Konstantin Kilimnik from his own witness tampering to hide the true role of the Hapsburg Group, some former European leaders Manafort used to lobby for Viktor Yanukovych’s party. Effectively, the government accused Manafort of trying to suggest that Kilimnik wasn’t willfully part of what he was doing during a period that spanned from February (when the actual witness tampering happened) through April 2018 (when Manafort tried to tamper again). ABJ agreed in principle that Manafort had lied about this, but ruled the government did not present a preponderance of the evidence, so didn’t count this against him in sentencing.
  3. Whether he lied to adapt his story to a more exonerating one being told by a Trump flunkie — it’s not clear who — involved in doing something — it’s not clear what — to save Trump’s campaign in the last days during which Manafort managed the campaign. ABJ agreed he had.
  4. What the fuck he was doing on August 2, 2016, and (though this is always unstated) whether his lies to hide repeated discussions to support a Ukrainian “peace” plan between then and April 2018 were an attempt to hide an effort to pay off a quid pro quo tied to assistance winning the election.
  5. Whether Manafort spoke to the Administration after inauguration, either directly or indirectly. ABJ ruled that the government had not provided evidence that Manafort lied about his ongoing communications with the Administration.

Of these lies, the lies about another investigation (lie 3 above) seem to be unrelated to the rest. That’s because they involved, well before the Mueller investigation finished, another part of DOJ, and so almost certainly have nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign may have been willing to cheat multiple ways to win the 2016 electionm.

The kickback system (lie 1 above) may or many not relate to the Russian and Ukraine questions. Mueller was never able to sort it out, so it’s not clear what to make of it. For my purposes, however, it’s relevant that Manafort’s claims of working for “free” may turn out to be false. Instead, Paul Manafort — who pled guilty a year ago to laundering money and refusing to register to hide how his influence campaigns in the US were being paid for by Ukrainian oligarchs — may have been paid to run Trump’s campaign by foreigners laundering those payments via various means. That’s significant because, last week, DOJ accused Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman of laundering money (from sources Russian, Ukrainian, and unknown) through various front companies, including one called Global Energy Production apparently created for the function, to engage in influence campaigns relating to Ukraine, effectively the same kind of scheme that Manafort engaged in for years. Particularly given that Rudy claims to be both working for and employing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, it raises questions about whether his claims to be working for “free” are also bogus, just a lie to hide how the cut through works.

Kilimnik and Manafort’s efforts to push a Ukraine “peace” plan overlap with their witness tampering

Lies 2 and 4 are obviously related, because Konstantin Kilimnik — as Manafort’s tie to several Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska — is at the center of both of them. Manafort’s efforts to deny that Kiliminik was his co-conspirator may have been motivated by nothing more than a need to permit Kevin Downing to claim, falsely, that Manafort’s guilty plea affirmed no “collusion” between the President’s campaign manager and any Russians had occurred. Not only did ABJ affirmatively state that, whatever Kilimnik’s ties to GRU, his role did amount to a link to Russia.

So Manafort was both trying to lie that he had pled guilty to entering a conspiracy with a Russian suspected of ties to GRU, but he was lying to hide precisely what the nature of any conspiracy that may have tied assistance with the 2016 election to help implementing a Ukraine “peace” plan favored by Russia and Russian-aligned Ukrainian oligarchs.

Still, even within that context, there are details of the two Kilimnik lies that deserve more attention. Consider how the timeline of the two sets of lies intersect in 2018, months after Manafort was first charged, in the weeks and months after Trump had reportedly told allies that he was sure he would survive the Mueller investigation because Manafort would not flip on him.

In the weeks after that claim was published, from February 5 through 10, 2018, Manafort was still trying to deliver on his “New initiative for Peace” (PDF 82).

Later in February, after Mueller unveiled Rick Gates’ cooperation and made it clear he was pursuing another of the vehicles Manafort used to hide his influence operations, the Hapsburg Group, he and Kilimnik reached out to key players in that influence operation (who, unbeknownst to Manafort, had already been cooperating for some time) in an attempt to get them to lie about the influence operation. Those contacts, over Telegram and WhatsApp, took place between February 24 and 28.

But knowing that another part of his past influence operation was under scrutiny still didn’t dissuade Manafort from pursuing that “peace” plan Kilimnik first pitched him on August 2, 2016, amid a discussion of how to get Trump elected. On March 9, he was sending some unnamed person related documents from Kilimnik. (PDF 92ff) The breach hearing and other documents make it clear this was an effort to test the viability of a Ukrainian candidate, including his willingness to implement the “peace” plan.

He was doing it again on March 26. (PDF 97)

Manafort would try to dissociate this polling from the people who were really implementing, including, apparently, trying to pretend that Kilimnik didn’t know about it.

Then — included in the contacts that (the government says) were part of Manafort’s conspiracy to obstruct with Kilimnik, though it’s not clear how — there were more contacts with the Hapsburg Group flacks on April 4.

In fact, Manafort’s efforts to pursue this “peace” plan continued even further, with him hoping that some unnamed person would find documents valuable on May 4. (PDF 95)

There’s a lot more sealed evidence about how relentlessly Manafort pursued a Ukrainian “peace” plan between August 2, 2016 and at least the time he was jailed for bail violations in June 2018 (though remember, the government alleges he continued to communicate in incriminating ways even from jail, via laptops carried by his attorneys). Altogether, there are 38 exhibits documenting Manafort’s false denials of his actions on that front. Because the government says it has (or had) an ongoing investigation into such matters, we don’t get to see what the exhibits are. But Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing (who filled in at Parnas and Fruman’s bail hearing the other day) has seen them. And Downing, reportedly, was sharing details of Manafort’s cooperation with other lawyers in Manafort’s Joint Defense Agreement with the President, including Rudy Giuliani.

Trump “hired” his “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani on April 19, 2018, after current Parnas and Fruman attorney John Dowd quit. And once Manafort could no longer pursue  his Ukraine “peace” plan, Rudy got involved in efforts to press for certain concessions in Ukraine.

Manafort’s attempts to communicate with the Administration (excepting via counsel)

Finally, there’s the last alleged lie, the one ABJ said prosecutors did not prove.

It’s not really clear what prosecutors believed Manafort was communicating about, beyond hires (like Steve Calk) in the Administration, because the topic of interest (which in some redactions appears to be too short to refer to Ukraine or Russia) is redacted in the documents released. They only submitted six exhibits to substantiate their claim. But the two unredacted exhibits presented in support of their case are notable.

On May 15, Manafort drew up a document that (the government’s declaration makes clear) included a section titled “Targets,” along with notes indicating Manafort would reach out to people about those targets. (PDF 152)

It might be a coincidence, but Manafort draws up this document right at the beginning of Parnas and Fruman’s efforts to donate big money to key Republicans through their shell company.

And on May 25, someone asked Manafort via WhatsApp whether it was cool to invoke his name if he or she met with Trump the following week, one-on-one. (PDF 156)

In the breach hearing, ABJ summarizes this:

You say that what he said was false because he did in fact agree to have messages sent to the administration on his behalf. And you point to evidence in which he offered to have other people contact the [redacted] on behalf of Mr. [redacted], for example, or to press buttons. But that outreach appears to have been two people outside the administration who themselves would have contacts within. There is some evidence that Mr. Gates said that Mr. Manafort said he still had connections, and that another individual asked Mr. Manafort if he, that individual, could tell [redacted (the President)] he was still close to Manafort.

And you have his involvement in lobbing with respect to [redacted], and Exhibit 404 is this memo summarizing the group’s plan that say, somewhat ambiguously, [redacted] will find out if [redacted] did her bit and get her to call [redacted] And it’s not even crystal clear that he was supposed do that by calling her.

In explaining the lie, Greg Andres makes it clear that Manafort was also representing in March that he had the ability to send messages to someone (probably Trump) in the Administration.

Significantly, Manafort lawyer Richard Westling dismisses that anyone would value Manafort’s advice or support at a time when he was already under indictment.

he was already under indictment at this point and, you know, the idea that he was going to pass a message and it would have some value, frankly, no offense to Mr. Manafort, but I can’t see that.

It’s notable that Downing did not make that claim because — as recent reports make clear — Rudy continued to consult Manafort on these Ukraine issues even after he went to prison, through Downing.

Especially since, in all its representations about these ongoing communications, the government makes clear,

for the purposes of proving the falsity of Manafort’s assertions in this section, the government is not relying on communications that may have taken place, with Manafort’s consent, through his legal counsel. We previously so advised the defense.

It’s clear the government knew Manafort continued to communicate with Trump via Downing and Rudy; they just weren’t going to reveal that they had pierced privilege or what they had learned.

The Ukrainian grifters timeline

Now consider how the timelines of Manafort’s relentless pursuit of a “peace” deal, his witness tampering with Kilimnik, and his efforts to communicate with Trump overlap with the known timeline of the Ukrainian grifters (I’ll continue to update this). It suggests that Parnas and Fruman kicked in their influence operations just as Manafort’s legal problems made him unable to do so.

February 5-10, 2018: Manafort working on “a new Peace initiative”

February 19, 2018: Manafort email pertaining to “peace” plan

February 21, 2018: Manfort emails document pertaining to “peace” plan to undisclosed recipients

February 23, 2018: Mueller reveals Rick Gates’ plea deal

February 24-28, 2018: Kilimnik and Manafort attempt to script testimony of Hapsburg Group flacks

March 2, 2018: Pentagon issues final approval to send Javelin missiles to Ukraine

March 3, 2018: Fruman participates in high donor meeting at Mar-a-Lago

March 9, 2018: Manafort working on polling regarding Ukraine “peace” plan for potential client

March 26, 2018: Manafort working on Ukraine “peace” plan

April 4, 2018: Kilimnik again attempts to witness tamper with Hapsburg Group flacks

Early April, 2018: Reported halt to Ukraine’s cooperation with Mueller

April 11, 2018: Parnas and Fruman form Global Energy Producers

April 19, 2018: Trump “hires” “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani

April 29, 2018: Someone first solicits help creating a website for GEP

May 2, 2018: NYT reports that Ukraine has stopped cooperating with Mueller probe

May 4, 2018: Manafort sends unnamed person information on Ukraine plan

May 8, 2018: Parnas and Fruman meet with Trump and seven other people “about preparations for victory in the midterm elections;” Fruman raises “America’s support for Israel and Ukraine,” topics about which “Trump … was absolutely positive”

May 15, 2018: Real estate lawyer Russell Jacobs deposits $1.26 million pass through funds into Aaron Investments LLC

May 15, 2018: Manafort document lists “Targets” and reflects commitment on his part to reach out about them.

May 17, 2018: Parnas LLC Aaron Investments donates $325,000 to Trump PAC, America First Action in the name of GEP

May 21, 2018: Parnas has breakfast with Don Jr and Tommy Hicks Jr, head of America First

May 24, 2018: Someone again solicits help creating a website for GEP

June 8, 2018: Manafort charged with witness tampering; prosecutors move to revoke bail

June 21, 2018: GEP donates $50K to Ron DeSantis

September 14, 2018: Manafort enters into what would be a failed plea agreement, admitting he laundered money and influence on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs, but entering into a five week process of learning what prosecutors know

Mid-to-late 2018: Rudy referred to Parnas and Fruman for work with “Fraud Guarantee”

Around November 2018: Rudy starts working for Parnas and Fruman

Late 2018: While Parnas and Rudy were eating together, “someone” approached Rudy and gave him information about Ukraine

January 8, 2019: Manafort lawyer’s redaction fail reveals that Manafort was asked about the Ukraine “peace” plan and that Manafort was lying about whether it got raised while working on the campaign and also that he was being asked about ongoing contacts with the Administration

Background

I have laid out the structure of Manafort’s lies in these posts:

The primary sources for them are these documents:

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89 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I was just reminded of that line used towards social media and other tech companies: “if you’re getting something for free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.”

  2. P J Evans says:

    And it was around May 2018 (give or take a month) when they started trying to force Yovanovich out of her office as ambassador.

    • Rayne says:

      Earlier than that. May have begun with Giuliani’s January meeting with Lutsenko followed by Lutsenko’s March meeting with Giuliani and then an appearance on Hill.TV with fucking propagandist John Solomon.

      (One thing I wish someone would do with that Hill.TV appearance is retranslate what Lutsenko says and what he’s told. I don’t know how much of the propaganda was based in manipulated translations since Lutsenko claimed later when he retracted an accusation against Yovanovitch that ‘wasn’t what he said’.)

  3. Matthew Harris says:

    This post was informative, but like so much involving Trump, I had to reread it several times to even start to get everything straight.

    This cleared up one thing, which is that Fruman and Parnas were working for or around the Trump campaign and organization before Rudy Giuliani hopped on board. Although it doesn’t really clear up the question of who was working for who—news reports seem to say they were either clients of Giuliani, or investigators working for him. This would probably make things a lot clearer. I imagine that before the trial, these things will have to come out in discovery, especially if they want to invoke any type of Attorney-Client privilege, they will have to prove that they were clients of Rudy, or they were investigators working for him for a third client.

    But as far as I can tell from this, the basic timeline suggests that there was a Ukraine-influence pipeline for the Trump campaign and administration, and that its point person was Paul Manafort. After Manafort was taken out of the picture, first by being indicted, having his bail revoked, and then “cooperating”, the pipeline was taken over by other people, and the conclusion seems to be that Fruman and Parnas were among them.

    The odd thing is, as someone who has followed this story, Fruman and Parnas are named that haven’t popped up much before. Their resumes, which seem to be pretty small-time wheeler dealers, doesn’t really suggest they were making or implementing large policies. They seem to be “plumbers”. I haven’t read much about why Fruman and Parnas were acting in the capacity they were—they speak the language, have some business skill, and probably have some “ties”, either government or organized crime, but the type of people who own beach clubs called “Mafia Rave” don’t seem to have quite the skills needed to be working this level of geopolitics.

    So, I guess my question is: what exactly was the Org Chart like for the Ukraine Plumbers? Since there doesn’t seem to be that many times when Parnas and Fruman were meeting with Trump, who was the person between Trump and Parnas/Fruman? Was it Giuliani, or someone else?

  4. jonb says:

    all this seems to be screaming for a connection to the NRA, Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin..or am I crazy..

  5. Matthew Harris says:

    Second post, because this addresses a more high-level question. But:

    “Taken together, such analysis will show that the Ukraine scandal is completely inseparable from the Russia one.”

    I don’t know if this is the case. My own take on it is that they are related, but are not completely the same thing.

    The question in general is how much of the wild crazy weird happenings of the past few years are connected. For example, Michael Flynn’s work with Turkey seems to be a bigger problem for him than his work with Russia, and it doesn’t seem to be totally unrelated, but it might have just been Flynn free-lancing. The same with Kushner’s attempt to shake down Qatar for protection money to get a loan for his building.

    In my mind, there is Russia/Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and there are players shared between each, but they are not all directly related. As well as smaller things, like Eliot Broidy and Jho Low. And of course, Michael Cohen’s payoffs.

    All these things are related, but I think in general they are more a sign of the type of people Trump attracts around him, rather than there being some type of unified conspiracy where all these stories are connected. The Russia story and the Ukraine story are closer to each other, for obvious reasons, but I still think of them as separate stories.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump, oligarchs and their money, their shared courtiers, and their ultimate joint patron, Vladimir Putin. How does that scan?

      • rip says:

        And the corresponding ultimate joint mark.

        Now that could be the US but dump is the vehicle. [dump truck]

          • Rayne says:

            LOL too funny. Just a coincidence Putin was stationed at the western end of the Ukraine gas pipeline entering Europe while in the military KGB before he became a political figure. Just a coincidence Russia has regularly shaken down Ukraine, threatening the EU, by shutting down the gas pipeline at the eastern end just before/during winter from time to time. And Mogilevich could care much less whether NATO’s EU member states are destabilized by asymmetric attacks on energy supplies than Putin.

    • Jonathan mathews says:

      Firtash is the connection that links Manafort and Parnas….

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This appears to be a third user name. If a fourth one is used the comment will not clear moderation. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      I tend to think that the Trump election was like an unplanned pregnancy – of Rosemary’s Baby. The cast of characters who seem attracted to and surround Trump are actually there to hail the birth. After all, he has his father’s eyes.

    • Eureka says:

      Try simplifying your comment to how you started:

      Second post, because this addresses a more high-level question. But:

      “Taken together, such analysis will show that the Ukraine scandal is completely inseparable from the Russia one.”

      I don’t know if this is the case. My own take on it is that they are related, but are not completely the same thing.

      and you can probably answer your own challenge or question by reversing it (rather than expanding it into other topics):

      What about the Ukraine scandal is NOT related to the Russian one?

    • Xboxershorts says:

      I think Putin got involved as early as Feb 2014 as his puppet in Ukraine was ousted in favor of an anti-corruption grass roots movement. I’d not be surprised at all to learn that Kremlin cutouts began talking Donald into making a run at that time. Remember that shortly after the Ukraine uprising, there were overtures of Ukraine joining NATO, I’m sure that bugged the living shit out of the Kremlin and put Putin’s paranoia on steroids. Annexing Crimea, I think, was the Kremlin putting up a firewall to ensure they wouldn’t/couldn’t be locked out of the Mediterranean.

      I honestly think that Putin and Russia committed to this course of action in direct response to Ukraine’s anti-corruption movement and overtures from NATO.

      Don’t ever forget, RNC servers were hacked also and data stolen but never published. To me, that seems like an insurance policy to guarantee Republican leadership’s acquiescence and silence.

      • Rayne says:

        Come on. Do your homework. Earlier, much, much earlier than February 2014. How do you think “his puppet” was seated to begin with? Just start there and keep working backward.

        • Xboxershorts says:

          Putin and Trump been buddies a long time…so to speak.Absolutely, he had Trump is his back pocket for a long long time.

          But I’m going to be honest here…I don’t think Putin felt he needed to pull the trigger until the Ukraine uprising in 2014.

          This carried major risks for Russia, overt interference into a major election cycle.
          Ukraine in NATO, to me, strikes me as the last straw for Putin. The one result he wouldn’t tolerate.

          • Rayne says:

            You’re forgetting things like the Illegals Program of 2010, and the New York spies case 2012-2015. The first was here both to collect intelligence and prepare for something bigger; the second worked on recruiting Carter Page who was invested in the energy industry.

            You could say these have nothing to do with Ukraine but the overarching meta narrative isn’t just Ukraine. It’s about power and control as well as fossil fuels. Ukraine just happens to be a key part of that narrative, and getting his tool Yanukovych elected in 2010.

            Think about that: getting Yanukovych elected takes the timeline back to at least as early as 2004.

            • Xboxershorts says:

              I’m referring to Active measures kicking off, Yanukovich being thrown out of office is what I think kicked off the Active measures, with useful idiot Donald J Trump eager to do his bidding

              So, we might be looking at 2 different things….

              I know Russia is not our friend, my military career (1 and done US Navy) was spent playing cat and mouse with Russian subs and spy ships

              • Rayne says:

                LOL there is only one continuous decade-plus long set of active measures. A subset of active measures is what led to Yovanovitch being attacked in right-wing media in March 2018, giving cover for her recall in May.

    • Vicks says:

      Manafort was also using Trump’s platform to help pave the way for the (Tom Barrack) Saudi/UAE Nuclear deal.
      https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-adviser-tom-barrack-saudi-nuclear-deal
      It’s not clear if Manafort requires another timeline for the Saudi disgrace
      https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2019-07/news-briefs/saudi-nuclear-permissions-granted-after-murder
      When you look at the whole field instead of using the tunnel vision required to comprehend the details of each scandal you can start to understand how it is easier for Trump supporters to believe there is a secret society out to get their guy, than to process this same information as evidence that the leader of our country could possibly be this damn dirty.
      How are they supposed to get their minds around the fact that even the vilest of lies they knew were telling about Obama and Hillary didn’t hold a candle to the reality of what Trump has been up to?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      We appear to be looking at a conflation of mobster rules with government. Need to control resources? Buy politicians. Including in Kentucky, as Deripaska’s recent ‘investments’ in Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, by means of an aluminum milling operation.

      Note also: the Russians have been ‘investing’ in the GOP for some time now. Which also ties Manafort, Russia, Ukraine, GOP, NRA together.
      Prolly not coinkydink.

      https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a27259438/oleg-deripaska-kentucky-aluminum-mitch-mcconnell-rand-paul/

  6. MattyG says:

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Good stuff!

    But as we will eventually see (…and the crick don’t rise) it all tracks back to Kremlin machinations and the effectiveness of their DT influence campaign (election and continued policy). Ukrain is only one area Putin directs DT efforts – Syria/Iran, the Baltic states, continued disruption of all US involvement in the Western Alliances, and mucking up China. The IC is sitting, squimishly it now appears, on this and getting at it will be a chore as long as the GOP Senate looks the other way. But perhaps Ukraine *is* the port of entry for publically available hard evidence of DT’s policy and favor arrangement.

  7. Savage Librarian says:

    Since EW mentions this in the timeline, “June 21, 2018: GEP donates $50K to Ron DeSantis,” I thought I would share these excerpts and the citation:

    “DeSantis to return money from Giuliani associates arrested on campaign finance charges “ – News – The St. Augustine Record – St. Augustine, FL, By Samantha J. Gross and David Smiley The Miami Herald,
    October 12, 2019

    “Gov. Ron DeSantis said that his political committee will return a $50,000 donation received last year from two South Florida businessmen who were arrested Wednesday and accused of funneling illicit contributions into state and federal campaigns.”
    …..
    “U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s victory fund — a political committee assisting his run last year for U.S. Senate — also received a $15,000 donation last year from Fruman. A spokesman for Scott did not respond to requests for comment.”
    …..
    “Parnas hosted two fundraisers for DeSantis in the summer and fall of 2018, the Miami Herald reported. One of the events was an exclusive affair held at a South Florida residence with fewer than 30 people attending, including the governor. The other gathering was headlined by Donald Trump Jr.”

    https://www-staugustine-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.staugustine.com/news/20191012/desantis-to-return-money-from-giuliani-associates-arrested-on-campaign-finance-charges?

  8. greengiant says:

    Wonder how much of the pee water Rudy drinks has been salted by the GRU. The quo in quid pro quo is for rubes to think that is all what the deal is about. Why would anyone think the operatives stopped at social media fake news to affect the elections.

      • Oxcart says:

        I knew Matt in school and followed his exploits in Russia. The predatory misogyny was nothing new but I was struck by how quickly he took to advancing the Putin line, particularly with regards to Chechnya. His contempt for Yeltsin didn’t fully explain it.

        I’ve been lurking since the Scooter days. Thanks for all the great work.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        With apologies to Douglas Adams, Matt seems to be a towel, in constant search for a locker room in which he can snap himself. He’s slipped a few rungs since he lambasted vampire squids on Wall Street.

  9. Mark Randal says:

    Trump was in Houston on 5/31/2018 and did a round table with supporters. Michael Bleyzer, Ukrainian-American private equity ceo was on Perry’s list for Naftogaz is in Houston. What are the odds???!!!

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Manafort lawyer Richard Westling dismisses that anyone would value Manafort’s advice or support at a time when he was already under indictment.

    With the possible exception of his co-conspirators, past clients, and their patrons – which include the president – and their lawyers, no, no one would value that advice.

  11. Johnathan Mathews says:

    Assume for a second Manafort and Trump traded Eastern Ukraine to Russia in exchange for help winning the 2016 election. Manafort was emailing someone. What if that is Parnas? Or someone else linked to Firtash?

    Doesn’t Manafort owe Firtash money still?

    What if this LNG deal with Naftogaz is a way for Manafort and/or Trump to pay back a debt to Firtash or ultimately to Putin. That would explain why it was so important to Trump to have Perry tell the Ukrainians that the whole board has to go, after Naftogaz rejected Perry’s deal.

    What if Trump and Manafort still owe Putin because their Ukraine scheme failed and they have been trying to pay back that debt?

    Firtash owes his success to Putin. Retreating from Syria could be a quick payment to Putin, to show good faith after their schemes blew up.

    One thing I am wondering is why Barr let the arrests happen when they tried to flee. Maybe he wasn’t willing to become complicit because he knows how deep this goes.

    • Vicks says:

      Do we know they were actually fleeing?
      I know the timing, AND the one way tix, but didn’t Giuliani tell a reporter before they were picked up he was going to meet them (in Vienna) a day later?
      Considering the cast of characters, I think it is important to know for certain if they were tipped off

  12. Vince says:

    Oh crap. Dr. Fiona Hill testified past 8pm(est) this evening.

    AND.

    White House lawyers gave her lawyers a list of areas they claimed she could not testify about, because of Executive Privilege. Her lawyers shot back that in investigations involving criminal activity, there is no Executive Privilege.

    OH, BAM.

  13. Alan K says:

    The scope of Trump’s entanglement as revealed here takes one’s breath away and the contents of one’s stomach clear across the room. Never underestimate how low the grifters will go. I guess Putin’s life in the swamp taught him that.

    Slightly OT but I’ve been wondering about Barr. Would he necessarily know all this – what EW’s digging has produced? Or is the administration compartmentalized (is that a word?) in some way that he wouldn’t see it? And if he does and he approved the surveillance of Guilliani’s employers or employees or partners or whatever, does it mean that Barr and Co decided that the whistleblower report made Trump radioactive – and it was time to move to the cleanup phase: quick trial, Pence ascendancy, and a plethora of pardons to hide the scope of the sleaze from the big donors?

    OT but the final rant: maybe the revulsion of the treatment of the Kurds and the pics of our soldiers being airlifted will give the GOP cover. Best were done quickly before the full story comes out.

    Keep up the brilliant work.

    • Tom says:

      If Barr didn’t know (which I doubt), it’s because he didn’t want to know and took pains to prevent himself from knowing. The same goes for Pence. But how could anyone work in Trump’s administration and not know what was going on, or if you suspected wrongdoing how could you not ask questions to follow up on what was being reported in the media? It strains credulity to think that Barr and Pence are not fully complicit in the corruption.

  14. obsessed says:

    Every day that goes by, I get angrier at Mueller. Everything we’re seeing has been happening unabated, all along. Mueller couldn’t possible not have seen in great detail precisely what was going on nor have failed to realize how much irrevocable damage was continuing to be done on his watch, but all he did was run out the clock for 2 years while incalculable further damage was done, only to end his probe in a way that let everyone off the hook. As far as I can see, Mueller’s reputation is based on:

    1. not leaking – which in the end protected the guilty
    2. having the balls to risk his life to kill innocent Vietnamese who were fighting for their homeland against an entirely evil and corrupt foreign invader.

    At the end of the day, Fitzgerald, Walsh, Fishman and Mueller have proven to be fixers and enablers who have let down the country as much as the criminals they failed to stop.

    • Marinela says:

      Don’t understand what happened with Mueller in the end. He had the opportunity to speak the truth in the house testimony but he didn’t.

      • Tom says:

        The only mistakes Robert Mueller made were in not foreseeing how Bill Barr would put a false spin on his report and in expecting members of Congress, at the time his report was released, to show the same gumption that Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill have shown in the past week.

    • Rayne says:

      Were you paying attention at all to what the Special Counsel’s report said about obstruction of justice? Do you understand that’s what hid much of Trump’s crimes from view, and the DOJ’s regulations said the president couldn’t be indicted? Seriously, re-read the first couple of pages of the second volume of the report.

      And did you take the time to look at the timeline published here?

      The REDACTED report was released April 18, 2019;
      Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled May 7;
      Mueller testified before Congress July 24;
      Trump made his quid pro quo to Zelensky on July 25;
      ICIG received the whistleblower complaint about the July 25 phone call.

      Meanwhile, a counterintelligence investigation continues to the best of my knowledge; it may include matters related to the REDACTED portions of the report, which may also interleave with the ongoing Trump-Ukraine investigation in the House.

      Kind of hard to report on a crime that didn’t happen until a premature end was forced by Barr, and hard to report on a classified investigation underway, AND other ongoing subject matters (hello, ratfucker’s trial) or continued cooperation before sentencing.

      Was the Special Counsel’s investigation flawless? No — but it was flawed from the get-go both by the narrow scope, and the DOJ’s reg on indicting a seated president which forced the investigation to be too closed mouth to ensure a fair trial in the future.

      Why are you commenting at this site if you’re not going to read the posts?

      • obsessed says:

        The end result of all 4 of those investigations was a complete miscarriage of justice. Mueller had all of the information and hundreds of ways to use it to bring about justice. He wilfully failed. Yes, I’ve read all of the defenses of him all along the way, but you don’t have to read anything to see that Trump, Kushner, Junior and about two dozen others continue to get away with bloody murder and Mueller could have stopped it. IANAL – I’m a musican and as far from “AL” as anyone could be and I certainly don’t understand the details of why he failed to charge ConFraudUS (even after reading all about them) and the myriad weedy justifications for Mueller & his predecessors doing everything he did the way they did it, but I’m not an idiot and *the end results speaks for themselves*. Period. Cheney, North, Christie, Rove, Trump, Trump, Trump, Kushner, Flynn, Prince … all of them are still walking free doing daily damage to the US and the world. There’s no argument against this. Take Kushner and 666 and one of 1000 examples (maybe far the best one to choose) – there’s no way he doesn’t get indicted in a fair system with a smart ethical prosecutor. It’s broken and Mueller is holding the broken parts together while failing to use what’s left to do the right thing.

        • P J Evans says:

          Where the fuck are you getting “willfully failed” from? Have you even read the report? Mueller said that they couldn’t reach some conclusions because evidence was hidden from the investigation or destroyed. That’s not “willfully failing”. That’s OBSTRUCTION by the people being investigated.

        • Rayne says:

          All I’m hearing from you is the same crap I can get from the right-wing about Mueller being a bad prosecutor instead of some rational explanation about how a prosecutor would do what you demand of Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation. You’re not a lawyer, prosecutor, or a seasoned politician but you think you can just wave a magic wand and *poof!* the political realities and regulatory, legislative, and Constitutional limits would just disappear.

          You want to see a unethical prosecution? Go back and revisit Starr’s work over a goddamn blowjob.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Rayne, who is now overseeing the counterintelligence investigations ? Is there any possibility that they are untouched by tiny Trumpy hands ?

        • Rayne says:

          I have no idea where it’s at. No idea if Barr was able to head it off along with John Durham. Last I recall Mueller made a statement about it in July before Congress (the day before Trump QPQ’d Ukraine’s Zelensky).

    • coriolis says:

      I was under the impression he had about twenty years worth of effort against international organized crime (money laundering etc) behind him. There are many reasons for Russia to dislike and attempt to discredit him, he’s cost them a lot of money.

  15. milestogo says:

    I just read that Fiona Hill told the President’s lawyers to pound sand regarding the demand she not testify on issues allegedly covered by executive privilege. Her lawyers wrote back that they disagreed with white house lawyers and that executive privilege doesn’t cover wrong doing. It’s interesting that the most defiant and reportedly most impressive testimony of late is coming from woman.

  16. klynn says:

    OT but related to the bigger picture on Ukraine:
    Mick Mulvaney’s wiki has an interesting notation about his OMB director status…inferring he never officially resigned when he became “acting” COS and that Vought is Acting OMB Director for the duration of his time as Acting COS.

    Seems there is an effort to use “acting” as the work around and argue he’s technically still with OMB?

  17. Bay State Librul says:

    South Bend deserves a bowl bid for their defiance…

    Protesters turn out at Notre Dame, with whistles and signs, during William Barr appearance….. 10/11/19

  18. Eureka says:

    I think Rudy’s 2017 (esp.) “cybersecurity” adventures are going to prove crucial to the timeline of events. He couldn’t be Secretary of State, so they gave him some “informal” cyber security advisor (read: evangelist of the ‘programme’) role.

    I’m not sure why that storyline hasn’t emerged from the chatter, though suspect both that it may have outlived its usefulness and that the GOPers in position to discuss it may keep omerta.

    Plus besides Dowd’s quitting preceding Rudy’s “hiring”, Cohen was raided April 9th. Were all of the folks Cohen appeared with for that Park Ave. paparazzi photo-shoot several days later ever identified? Perhaps distraction was part of the show.

    I mention this because the Trump coterie always have seemed to have a lot of irons in the fire, if bumbly, even with Manafort as a main man.

    • Eureka says:

      Finishing my though about using Cohen for distraction/disinfo/public face, there may be another timeline item here.

      [My framing was ~ e.g. Cohen/ Prague disinfo in Steele dossier: but what was Rudy doing?…]

      May 23, 2018 was that retracted BBC story* about Cohen getting paid by Poroshenko for a visit with Trump.

      What was Rudy (et al.) doing? [Rhetorical question: see Marcy’s timeline]

      *this is the first archived version:

      Trump lawyer ‘paid by Ukraine’ to arrange White House talks – BBC News
      https://web.archive.org/web/20180523161139/https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656

      Adding: from March 28, 2019:

      BBC pays damages to Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko over report
      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47719166

      • Eureka says:

        From Marcy this past March, another context:

        Which Came First: The Indemnity Fail or Cohen’s Cooperation Curiosity?
        https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/03/07/which-came-first-the-indemnity-fail-or-cohens-cooperation-curious/

        And that’s about when Trump stopped paying for Cohen’s silence. Notably, Cohen’s filing states that “On June 2018, Mr. Cohen began telling friends and family that he was willing to cooperate with the Special Counsel,” as if there once was a date there. He doesn’t give us that date.

        But we can see from the timeline that it happened at a key point in the Special Master review, which is the same time Trump stopped paying for Cohen’s silence.

        [… Jumping down to the timeline…]

        May 6, 2018: George Stephanopoulos asks Rudy Giuliani, “Are you concerned at all that Michael Cohen’s going to cooperate with prosecutors?” Mr. Giuliani responds, “No. I expect that he is going to cooperate with them. I don’t think they’ll be happy with it because he doesn’t have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.”

        June 4, 2018: Jones issues first report (covering a number of Cohen’s recordings), disagreeing with three claims of privilege. 

        June 6, 2018: Trump lawyer Joanna Herndon requests that any challenge to Special Master decision be sealed. 

        June 7, 2018: SDNY demands that any legal discussions of challenges be public. 

        June 8, 2018: Judge Wood agrees with SDNY, leading Trump to withdraw certain privilege claims. 

        June XX 2018: Cohen begins telling friends and family that he was willing to cooperate with the Special Counsel and federal prosecutors in connection with the SDNY Investigation.

        June 2018: Trump Organization ceases to pay McDermott’s invoices, without notice or justification.
        (internal links removed)

  19. Eureka says:

    Oh, I forgot to add— how ABJ says “her” repeatedly. Who’d the she be?!? From the last part of your breach hearing quote of her summary:

    And you have his involvement in lobbing with respect to [redacted], and Exhibit 404 is this memo summarizing the group’s plan that say, somewhat ambiguously, [redacted] will find out if [redacted] did her bit and get her to call [redacted] And it’s not even crystal clear that he was supposed do that by calling her.

    Thanks for the Easter Egg. And if this has already been hashed out elsewhere, I blame fire-hose-of-news-amentia.

    • harpie says:

      LOL!:
      And if this has already been hashed out elsewhere, I blame fire-hose-of-news-amentia
      I can empathize! It’s impossible to keep my head above the water.

  20. harpie says:

    Something new [?] for a timeline?:
    Wendy Siegelman Retweeted
    https://twitter.com/kenvogel/status/1184146566346661889
    9:38 AM – 15 Oct 2019

    NEW: GEORGE KENT, a career @StateDept official who is now testifying on the Hill, warned colleagues as far back as March about RUDY GIULIANI’s role in what he called a “disinformation” campaign using a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear BIDEN, YOVANOVITCH, etc.

    In emails obtained by the @NYTimes, GEORGE KENT assailed a “fake news smear” being pushed by TRUMP-allied media against YOVANOVITCH, calling the claims about her “complete poppycock.”

    GEORGE KENT also alleged corruption by the oligarch owner of the gas co. [Mykola Zlochevsky] that paid HUNTER BIDEN. In 2015, Kent accused Ukrainian prosecutors of taking $ to drop investigations into the oligarch, demanding in one mtg “Who took the bribe & how much was it?” [NYT]

  21. harpie says:

    added: This is in reference to a comment that’s in moderation. That comment is about this tweet:
    https://twitter.com/kenvogel/status/1184146566346661889
    9:38 AM – 15 Oct 2019:
    ***
    I think this is the latest for the timeline Rayne is working on:

    05-MAR-2019 — U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch criticized Ukraine’s record on corruption; she noted the country’s high court’s decision weakens Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

    20-MAR-2019 — The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko; Lutsenko claimed Amb. Yovanovitch gave him a do-not-prosecute list during their first meeting. State Department denied this claim in an email to Radio Free Europe.

    ~28-MAR-2019 — In ‘early 2019’, Giuliani met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in New York (exact date TBD).

    31-MAR-2019 — Ukraine’s first run-off presidential election narrowed down the field to the incumbent Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, harpie, will wait for Kent’s statement so I can add earlier date re: complaint about Zlochevsky circa 2015. I think whatever Kent said in Yovanovitch’s defense after the Hill.TV smear was drowned out by the right-wing monkey horde’s force amplification (including Donnie Jr. tweeting an attack on Yovanovitch).

  22. Eureka says:

    Welp looks like we’ll need an abbreviation #WTFWRD? (What was Rudy doing?). Better, what was Rudy NOT doing (hola, General Flynn):

    This was in 2017, the same year (tho unclear timeframe) Rudy was wheedling Tillerson to help shut down the prosecution of Rudy’s client, Zarrab, which Erdogan was also lobbying for.

    Giuliani pressed Trump to eject Muslim cleric from U.S., a top priority of Turkish president, former officials say
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/giuliani-pressed-trump-to-eject-muslim-cleric-from-us-a-top-priority-of-turkish-president-former-officials-say/2019/10/15/bf43d1ec-ef68-11e9-b648-76bcf86eb67e_story.html

    The former New York mayor brought up Gulen so frequently with Trump during visits to the White House that one former official described the subject as Giuliani’s “hobby horse.” He was so focused on the issue — “it was all Gulen,” recalled a second former official — that White House aides worried that Giuliani was making the case on behalf of the Turkish government, former officials said.

    “We’re not going to arrest [Gulen] to do a solid for Erdogan,” the second official said, describing the internal thinking.

    However, Trump appeared receptive to the idea, pressing his advisers about Gulen’s status, the people said.

    One former senior administration official recalled that Trump asked frequently about why Gulen couldn’t be turned over to Turkey, referring to Erdogan as “my friend.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Rudy must have some real skin in the game. I’ll bet it makes that $500,000 fee look like pocket change. What wonder what it is.

    • harpie says:

      https://twitter.com/cjcmichel/status/1184192639844921350
      12:41 PM – 15 Oct 2019

      NEW: Rudy Giuliani has been pushing foreign interests nonstop for the past few years—so why the hell hasn’t he registered with FARA? Here’s our dive: [Politico link] […]

      One other add: Giuliani’s FARA-related issues in Ukraine are by no means limited to Fruman and Parnas (and potentially Firtash). The guy who was bankrolling Giuliani’s work in Kharkiv was *pretty* explicit that Giuliani had been hired as a(n unregistered) lobbyist. [PAVEL FUKS/FUCHS] [screenshot]

      There’s one long-shot FARA exemption Giuliani could try for: the national security exemption, which would require the consent of Trump, Pompeo, and Barr. We haven’t seen it used in decades…. but that may not mean much with this crowd. [New Republic link, screenshot]

    • harpie says:

      See conversation between Laura Rozen and Patrick Meyers, here:

      https://twitter.com/m1ghtymouse7/status/1184325326563958785
      9:28 PM – 15 Oct 2019

      Replying to @lrozen Here’s a FARA question I don’t know the answer to: would he have had to register for his work for Zarrab (if he advocated to any admin officials to drop the case)? Or would that be seen as part of his work on his criminal defense? […]

      [Laura Rozen:] [LR:] out of control. and truly, the subversion of US national interests, with hiding behind being trump’s lawyer to both lobby him+
      say he can’t disclose because attorney client privilege. insidious and dangerous
      toensing & digenova should also get called on not registering for firtash while running political oppo campaign for trump

      • harpie says:

        And here’s Julia Carro responding:
        https://twitter.com/dipiteee/status/1184330621423882241
        9:49 PM – 15 Oct 2019

        Replying to @m1ghtymouse7 @lrozen
        Julia Carro Retweeted Taxsec
        And people have been asking questions for a while, too. Letter from lawmakers, just over a year ago link screenshot]]

        9/5/18 Udall, Warren, Duckworth, Blumenthal, Whitehouse, Merkely, Durbin to John Demers, AAG of NSD, DoJ
        From the screenshot:

        […] we write regarding public reports that suggest the President’s personal attorney [RG], has conducted a number of political and public relations activities on behalf of foreign entities that implicate registration requirements of [FARA] […]

      • harpie says:

        And speaking of Toensing/DeGenova

        Laura Rozen Retweeted https://twitter.com/djlavoie/status/1184458556327759875
        6:18 AM – 16 Oct 2019

        Speaking of nepotism…. Brady Toensing — the son of Victoria Toensing & stepson of Joe DiGenova, two of the key figures in this Ukraine scandal — is a senior counsel at DOJ,

        having resigned from his parents’ firm to take the job in June.

        JUNE!

  23. harpie says:

    THE MAN IS A MONSTER
    The Trump Administration is MONSTROUS

    https://twitter.com/brianstelter/status/1184462242730991617
    6:32 AM – 16 Oct 2019

    “Trump, it seems, thought he could convince the Dunns to meet the woman who killed their son, and would do so by opening a side door through which she would walk. The whole scene would be captured by a pool of photographers who had been summoned…” [Daily Beast]

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Nuffink can be allowed to come between Trumpeter and a photo op. Especially not these parents, with their pain, grief, and unrequited quest for justice from an idiot president.

      They don’t want a meet ‘n greet with the person who apparently killed their son while driving negligently. They want her apology, and they want her to give her story under oath to an English prosecutor.

    • harpie says:

      AND A PIMP FOR THE US MILITARY

      From the press conference with Italian president:
      https://twitter.com/jackiekcalmes/status/1184523533042495488
      10:36 AM – 16 Oct 2019

      “We’re bringing our soldiers back home,” Trump says. But he also concedes sending 2000 US troops to Saudi Arabia, because the Saudis are paying for them. So they’re mercenaries, then, fighting for pay rather than US national interests.

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