The Manafort Link Sets the Fruman-Parnas Timeline Back — But the Manafort Timeline Is Earlier Too

The Daily Beast reports that Lev Parnas has linked Igor Fruman and Paul Manafort going back years.

Rudy Giuliani ally Igor Fruman and ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort have been friendly for years, two sources familiar with their relationship tell The Daily Beast.

And that relationship — stretching from New York to London to Kyiv — long predated Rudy Giuliani’s wide-ranging attempts to discredit the evidence that played a key role in kicking off Manafort’s political downfall and eventual incarceration.

Joseph Bondy, the lawyer for Fruman associate Lev Parnas, said Manafort and Fruman were friendly for years before their respective indictments.

A friend of Manafort’s, who spoke anonymously to discuss non-public matters, confirmed that Fruman and Manafort have known each other for years. He said Fruman invited Manafort to the opening party for Buddha-Bar in Kyiv many years ago, and that the two men have discussed business. Buddha-Bar opened in the summer of 2008. Bondy said the pair also spent time together in London and New York.

It suggests, but does not say outright, that the Ukrainian grifters’ initial work served to put together the counter-report that Rudy Giuliani planned to release to combat the Mueller Report.

In late 2018, as the Mueller investigation was drawing to a close, Giuliani and his allies worked to draft a counter-report that would rebut Mueller’s work. (Manafort was one of the first targets of Mueller’s probe, and was convicted of multiple charges related to work he did in Ukraine for a Russia-friendly political party.) Giuliani never released that report. But he also didn’t toss it; he told The Daily Beast in October that materials he gave the State Department came from his effort to find information in Ukraine that could exonerate Trump.

[snip]

In other words, Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the Mueller probe—and stand up for Manafort—led directly to his Biden dirt-digging endeavors. Parnas has said he and Fruman were right there to help.

This report explains a great deal about the story we’ve got. It explains why Lev Parnas was badmouthing Marie Yovanovitch long before (he claims) Trump flunkies’ attacks on her led him to adopt that line. It explains why Kevin Downing was on the Joint Defense team for the Ukrainian grifters. It basically extends the narrative about the grifters back to 2018, when SDNY started it.

Except the story TDB tells still starts the narrative too late in time.

It suggests that the reason Rudy started chasing propaganda in Ukraine is because Paul Manafort’s life started falling apart after news of his inclusion in the Black Ledger got published on August 14, 2016.

Relations with Ukraine have shadowed Trump and his allies even before he was elected president. On August 14, 2016, The New York Times reported that Manafort may have received millions of dollars in “illegal, off-the-books” cash from the pro-Russia political party he worked for. The story was a body blow to Manafort, who left Trump’s campaign five days after it was published. Serhiy Leshchenko, then a Ukrainian parliamentarian, played an instrumental role in the black ledger.

In the years after the publication of the story, Manafort’s life fell apart. Nine months after Trump’s inauguration, he was arrested and charged with a host of crimes. By March 2019, he had been sentenced to a seven-year prison term. He and his allies blamed the black ledger for starting the calamity. And given that Leshchenko was a government official when he shared the documents, Trump’s allies have said their release was an example of election meddling by Kyiv. Parnas told The Daily Beast that Giuliani tried to push Leshchenko away from Zelensky; Giuliani himself has called him an enemy of the United States.

Giuliani has said his scrutiny of the black ledger fed directly into his focus on the Bidens.

That’s certainly the story that Manafort would like to tell — and one that likely is palatable for Parnas. In that story, his grift is exclusively about finding propaganda that is useful to the President, and he can point back to the President as the agent behind his actions.

Except Manafort’s life was going to shit before that, and the grifters were active before they could have been writing a counter-report.

Manafort’s life started going to shit when Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from Ukraine. He lost his main clients and had both the debt from his own lavish lifestyle but also the $20 million that Oleg Deripaska said Manafort had bilked him out of. By January 2016, DOJ was already investigating him for money laundering. By March, according to Rick Gates, he was effectively broke.

That’s when he signed up to work for Donald Trump for “free.”

During the entire time he worked for Trump, Deripaska was using Christopher Steele to encourage the criminal investigation into Manafort, even while enticing Manafort with the hope of “making him whole” by performing some unspecified services — effectively making Manafort (and by association, Trump) more vulnerable for the moment he’d move in for the kill. Two months before the Black Ledger was publicly released, Manafort knew he was on it. And before the Black Ledger story broke, Manafort took a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, who had promised a scheme to return Yanukovych to a position where he could turn on Manafort’s gravy train again. It’s still unclear what happened at the meeting, but it’s clear winning the Rust Belt, carving up Ukraine, and getting paid all came up. Eight days later, Manafort booked $2.4 million — deliverable in November — suggesting he believed that that meeting did lead to him getting paid. And until the time Manafort landed in prison, he took actions in accordance with the plan to carve up Ukraine in that August 2, 2016 meeting.

That’s the background to the Black Ledger release. And that’s the reason Manafort needs some story, however bogus, to justify a pardon.

Moreover, the grifters’ timing dates to April 2018, about the time Ukraine purchased some Javelins and stopped cooperating with Mueller, which probably explains why a guy working for Raytheon’s lobbyist, Kurt Voker, was perceived to be working on Manafort’s defense.

Manafort doesn’t (just) need a story that can justify a Trump pardon. He needs a way to prevent the rest of this story from coming out.

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25 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    “follow the money” has come to seem so trite and so cynical…

    by pushing the time line back actually to spring 2016, this historical summary just blows a hole in the entire trump political cover story, not just manafort’s. it raises the stakes in the matter of whether trump was de facto a russian government agent, or was made into one by his sloppy campaign management style (dating from two weeks after he was anointed republican candidate for president). my understanding of his professional and personal history is that trump uses people like manafort and stone knowing their background and capabilities but keeping a legally protective remove from them. in short, i personally have never been able to believe trump did not have a good sense of what his main campaign operatives might be up to. the kindest that can be said is he never seems to ask hard questions where he ends up benefiting.

    • PeeJ says:

      It was always about returning Ukraine under Russia’s control and returning their exiled oligarchs back to power. They said so when they changed the platform during the Republican convention. Trump is just a bit player. He’s the Manchurian candidate.

  2. orionATL says:

    i don’t know. give javelins to ukraine, but insist that these anti-tank missles, with their 1.5 mi. range, be stored 100’s of mi. from where they could be used against a russian tank and troops assault.

    here’s what foreign policy put out:

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/03/far-from-the-front-lines-javelin-missiles-go-unused-in-ukraine/

    and the cato institute:

    https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-quietly-increases-lethal-weapons-ukraine

    was the administration serious?

    or give with the one hand, take with the other?

    • Rugger9 says:

      That is how the GOP operates as evidenced many times (tax cut, etc.). That is why the focus must be on what they do and not what they say.

      • orionATL says:

        yeh. it’s like they teach the cops – don’t lock eyes; watch the hands. the eyes can’t kill you; the hands can,

  3. Caryl Brt says:

    For years America has been moving inexorably toward a dictatorship of the 1% and with the possibility of acquittal, I fear we are doomed.
    The corrupt right wing has successfully instigated a bloodless coup.

    We can’t quit fighting now. Who knows how many crimes trump will commit in the next ten months?

    He has his sights set on medicare, Obamacare and social security!

    I’m in favor of continuing to have investigations until trump and his minions are impeached and in prison.

    • PeeJ says:

      The pieces are in place after this “trial”. The pResident can do what he wants to win an election. The DOJ is in the pResident’s pocket. Lower court judges are installed to rule against any charges of election interference/voter suppression. Voting districts are gerrymandered to the Republican party’s favor. We’re effed!!!

      • missing george carlin says:

        I would tend to agree but am trying so hard to remain cautiously optimistic that these scumbags won’t prevail.

  4. LStack says:

    (my first-ever comment)
    Thank you, Marcie (and team). I’ve been a lurker here for a couple of years. The insights and analyses on this site are invaluable.

  5. PeeJ says:

    Wow… that was fast. I just wondered the other day in an article on here if Lev/Igor had any ties to Manafort before all this came out. We need to learn a lot more about Igor. It’s hard to see it from his mug shot, but he may be the brains of the outfit even though Igor looks more like the enforcer.

    This is about a lot more than a phone call. This is about natural gas, supporting exiled Ukranian/Russian oligarchs, and even eventually returning Ukraine back to Russia. Oh, and maybe a Trump Tower Kiev and Trump Tower Moscow while they are at it. Trump may actually only be a small player in this whole “drug deal”.

  6. Hika says:

    Thank you, Ms. Wheeler! You give detailed context that helps make (some) sense of all the madness. I just had to look up the date for Roger Stone’s sentencing hearing: 20 February. I wonder if current events will color the thinking of Judge ABJ.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      ABJ has been nothing but a consummate professional and will continue to be so. From lawyers who comment on these cases, expect sentencing based on guidelines rather than national politics.

  7. Eureka says:

    One thing re Aug 2 still driving me minor-nuts: who was the “longtime ally” of Manafort who slipped a story (first tweeted ~ 830p, ? while they were at the cigar bar, for all I know/ recall right now) to CNBC’s John Harwood that Manafort was “mailing it in” and “staff suicidal”? The one where Roger Stone later subtweets how Manafort is “doing everything humanly possible to help [Trump] win”.

    Prior, I’d placed a lot of weight on “longtime [and] ally” being accurate and meaning someone like a Gates (or a Stone, or a Malloch), and back then I suspected-ish Gates. Perhaps I over-weighted those descriptors and it’s someone more like Bannon. Or perhaps the ‘longtime +/- ally’ is accurate and it’s Kilimnik or Deripaska.

    Bannon makes sense if the ‘longtme ally’ bit is stretched, esp. given the particulars of how they (Mercer crew) were pissed that Manafort wasn’t wrangling Trump properly. Kilimnik (Deripaska) makes sense in a bad mob movie where they are raising the stakes at the table (and especially given the gap of days before Manafort booked that payment: i.e. what you’re offering is not quite good enough, try harder — or, let us look into it first).


    Tweets and article links in this thread (848p and 1023p for Hardwood and Stone links, respectively): https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/02/09/paul-manafort-sold-out-donald-trump-and-his-anonymous-leakers-are-lying-about-it-publicly/#comment-774072

    • Eureka says:

      * reminded by all of the recent references to Barrack, meant to include him on the original list of “suspects” (types of people who might count as “longtime all[ies]”), but haven’t rethought given subsequent info.

      However, Barrack’s 302 makes it like Lewandowski could be the culprit — goes towards “longtime” _and_ “ally” being stretches as descriptors. But I recall another CBNC interview with Lewandoski (one I linked somewhere here maybe last summer), so that might be a CL-friendly outlet (author of that one escapes me for now).

  8. Eureka says:

    Lev is singing live to Ari Melber right now, on the phone, speaking rapidly/ seems more ~~extemporaneous (pissed), *may* be letting slip good info (but I just caught it, haven’t been able to assess content). Commercial break now.

    • Eureka says:

      Bondy is in studio while Lev is on phone. Chuck Rosenberg had some good basic Qs for Bondy that might be worth review. It went a little fast for me to try to accurately transcribe, but esp. re: (1) why SDNY seems uninterested in Lev’s cooperation (one of the three reasons Rosenberg offers: not disclosing all relevant info; Bondy replies, “Lev is no Michael Cohen”); and (2) Lev’s “seldom-used defense.”

    • Eureka says:

      Brief excerpt, Lev says Lindsey Graham’s name again, too (states that Graham knew at least back as far as Dec 2018, per story about Rudy involving one of his investigators Bart Schwartz, having “his” (Schwartz’s) operatives write letters to Graham for Rudy to deliver, and Rudy having Lev meet with and “vet” the operative, AIUI; cites January 2019 Graham knowledge as to Shokin interview, saying how Rudy trusted Graham but not FBI et al.):

      “WATCH: Lev Parnas, citing conversations he had had with Rudy Giuliani, says White House Counsel Pat Cipollone “was in several meetings.”[embedded clip]” https://twitter.com/MSNBC/status/1223447245250416640

      Today’s Lev Letter, FWIW (part of the impetus for the Melber-in-for-Maddow interview, per separate Bondy tweet):

      Joseph A. Bondy on Twitter: “Below is the letter Stephanie Schuman @LeafLegal and I sent to Senator McConnell earlier today, (202) 224-2541, summarizing the testimony Lev Parnas would be able to provide, were he called as a witness. #LetLevSpeak #AmericansDemandWitnesses #CallTheWitnesses #LetBoltonTestify [screenshot, 3 pp.]”
      https://twitter.com/josephabondy/status/1223331368618418176

      • Eureka says:

        I do not recall Bart Schwartz’s name being mentioned before in this ^ context, apols if this is old news.

        Schwartz was a “Rudy [SDNY] guy”, as the NY Post described him back on April 18, 2018, when Michael Cohen suggested Schwartz’s name to be Special Master (a job ultimately given to Barbara Jones).

        In Feb. 2019, HUD hired Schwartz to be the monitor for the NYCHA (NYC housing authority).

        Before that, he chaired Guidepost Solutions, an investigatey, security-ish firm?

        Best I can tell, it seems like tonight Lev let out a couple of complementary details to what he (others) have publicly released.

        Here’s DB on Weds 1-29-20 am on the Graham subject (which Parnas also discussed with Anderson Cooper, airing on CNN that night):

        Parnas Lawyer: Giuliani Delivered Graham Letter Calling for Sanctions on Ukrainian Officials
        https://www.thedailybeast.com/parnas-lawyer-giuliani-delivered-graham-letter-calling-for-sanctions-on-ukrainian-officials

        • Eureka says:

          Links, cont:

          Former prosecutor Bart Schwartz tapped as NYCHA monitor
          https://thecity.nyc/2019/02/former-prosecutor-bart-schwartz-tapped-as-nycha-monitor.html

          Feb 21, 2019 Bart Schwartz, head of the private investigations firm Guidepost Solutions and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York’s Southern District, has been selected as the NYCHA monitor by the federal government, two sources familiar with the selection told THE CITY.

          NYCHA Monitor Bart Schwartz Clashed with the SEC
          https://thecity.nyc/2019/02/new-nycha-monitor-bart-schwartz-clashed-with-the-sec.html

          Feb 25, 2019 Schwartz, a former prosecutor under Rudy Giuliani, has been appointed as overseer of many cases, including as a monitor in federal cases against General Motors and Deutsche Bank. He got the Platinum receivership appointment the same year Governor Andrew Cuomo picked him to examine all state grants awarded under a controversial program known as Buffalo Billion .

        • Eureka says:

          Meant to include:

          Searching the name, there’s also ZERO results to do with this matter and Bart Schwartz on twitter (including under the “latest”/”live” tab, etc.). However, there are plenty of news stories etc. on other topics noted in link snippets above, and as relates to his tenure as federal monitor for NYCHA (lots about people in NYC housing not getting new boilers until 2023; mold issues; etc.).

  9. gl says:

    tying the pieces and evidence together to show the habits, extent, and interconnections of corruption is important. This is an important step.

    imo, the Ukraine focus was good in that it was easy to understand and document, but as we saw w/ spineless Republicans– easy to dismiss in isolation, too.

    Partial Trump Corruption List (all easy to document– using this def’n: “1.
    having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain.”)
    1. Trump “university”
    2. Stealing from own charitable foundation
    3. Tax fraud (NYT)
    4. Insurance fraud (Cohen)
    5. Emoluments (esp. own properties)
    6. Sex abuse and/or rape 20+ accusers/witnesses
    7. Campaign finance violations (illegal)
    8. Cheating on wives and paying off women
    9. Lying multiple times, each day
    10. Furthering conspiracy theories for personal gain (e.g., Birtherism, Central Park 5, Hillary, Ukraine, etc.)
    11. Exploiting racial/ethnic divisions w/ racist comments and policies (e.g., immigration, Kaepernick, etc.)
    12. Suborning perjury
    13. Obstruction of justice
    14. Relatedly, refusing to testify and/or provide honest responses re: Mueller inquiry
    15. Extortion scheme in Ukraine
    16. Coordinating with Russian propaganda and hacking
    17. Many instances of “demanding loyalty” in supporting false narratives and outright crimes
    18. Firing and/or publicly bullying/embarrassing people who don’t follow through or challenge his corruption

    *of course, there are many other undesirable traits and habits that he’s displayed, this is simply some of the corruption, off the top of my head.

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