As has been clear for a whle, Manafort was not working for Russian interests. In fact, he was working for billionaire Pinchuk, of the Pinchuk Foundation, which is tight with the Atlanticist types and the Clinton Foundation.
Pinchuk was the main financial backer of Yatsenyuk, the former central banker and committed neoliberal who ran the first government after the Maidan coup and oversaw the start of the Ukrainian civil war. He is an ally to Poroshenko.
It's always pleasing to see a top level anti-democratic lobbyist get nailed for money laundering, but it's also true that Manafort is just like a whole bunch of others in the same criminal class of U.S. global-money lobbyists who continue to act with impunity, and who roam freely as the power-brokers on both sides of the American kayfabe line. After 30 years of shady dealings, his luck ran out after his role with the Trump campaign and targeting by the special counsel.
Manafort had been lobbying, advising, I guess managing Yanukovych for 10 years, even ran his 2010 campaign for him. (So damn bizarre, this colonized mindset of the comprador bourgeoisie, who call in American consultants to run their campaigns, and it doesn't produce a backlash among their people.)
It worked, Yanukovych won in 2010 and the next year he even imprisoned Yuliya Tymoshenko -- against Manafort's advice, it seems. Manafort's whole thing with Yanukovych in 2011-14 was to get him to sign the EU deal, not the Russian offer. Which again, has been known all along. Pinchuk and a few other Ukrainian oligarchs (i.e., not pro-Russian) were paying him big bucks to pitch a plan called "Engage Ukraine" for integrating the country into the EU sphere, and he was bringing EU politicians to Kiev to meet Yanukovych.
It was only at the last minute, in Nov. 2013, when the EU demanded harsher conditions in the deal (higher debt load, more austerity) -- that part is usually forgotten or left out -- that Yanukovych backed out and took the Russian offer. The pro-EU protests started. A couple of months later there were all the killings attributed to the police (not clear), and Yanukovych was soon out, replaced by the interim government of Yatsenyuk in coalition with McCain's Nazi friends.
The free-spending Manafort was soon out his main clients, but he did play roles for Pinchuk and the eventual billionaire president and chocolate king Poroshenko for the next couple of months. (See the Vice article). Which really torpedoes the whole idea that Manafort was a puppet of the "Russian puppet" Yanukovych. Yanukovych tumbled and Manafort kept working for the guys who tumbled him.
But once that was done...
Understand, it was Pinchuk paying the bills to have Manafort work Yanukovych, Yanukovych was not his boss but sort of the other way around at times. So after when Pinchuk and Co. dump him is when it seems he had a liquidity crunch and went wild with all the Cypriot shell deals to evade U.S. taxes, which is what he got convicted for. Gates was the intermediary who sang against Manafort. (Manafort also got nailed for never announcing himself as a lobbyist for Ukraine in the U.S.)
After that, Manafort got his stint as campaign manager for Trump. It was in this post-Pinchuk period that any "collusion" with Russians might have happened, separately from the Ukrainian business. I'm saying that only because it's possible if you really, really want to believe in so-far invisible entities, but there's none of that in the Mueller case.
So, this is a conviction of a lobbyist for the "pro-US" current Ukrainian establishment, not an agent of the "pro-Russia" Yanukovych, and he always worked a U.S. and pro-EU agenda. This hasn't stopped the MSNBC gang from continuing to spend hours claiming the exact opposite.
Now comes a kind of kill shot for Russiagate, but only in the real world. Empires make the facts they like and Russiagaters will continue to worship at their golden calf:
An actual participant in the Fusion GPS "Steele Dossier," Graham Stack, has come forward to reject his own research and say he was mistaken about Manafort's loyalties -- also to praise him for having tried to sway Yanukovych towards the EU and U.S. to the end.
Stack was published yesterday in the Ukrainian, anti-Russian press, the Kyiv Post!
Stack does wonder if Manafort pushed Yanukovych into ordering a police attack on the Euromaidan protests as a way to inspire an international backlash against him, and thus to make Yanukovych reverse and take the EU deal. This seems awfully complicated and risky, but much more may have been involved in that. His own daughters who broke with him seem to think he was was the one sending out the protesters to get slaughtered! (That's in Stack and the Vice story.)
Not only is this stuff solid, backed by the Mueller case itself, but it's devastating for coming from these outlets.
Whatever else you think of Mueller of the anthrax probe, the Iraq war support, and all the rest -- wait, I think the same things -- he doesn't seem to be an idiot. Sensibly he's not bothering with constructing the Russiagaters' fantasy of Putin controlling Trump, or of a master plan to elect him that actually worked (through those FB ads). He's just nailing whoever who can nab for actual financial crimes. It's not like he could ever lose the love of the Russiagaters, who continue to construct out of him a hero who's going topple not just Trump for them but also Putin.
And I doubt he's going to actually nail Trump, although there is always plenty there on emoluments now and money laundering in the past. The actual Trump criminal dealings just won't have enough Russia and way too much U.S. in them. The indisputable election fixing was the same kind we've seen for about 20 years, since the selection of Bush, and it's the GOP and the American oligarchs doing it, with astonishing consistency and success and no peep from the media.
Their adoption and construction of Russiagate has served a variety of agendas (empire, anti-Russian, pro-CIA, getting the Democrats off the hook for the impossible feat of losing to Trump) but without a doubt it has served Trump. The real collusion, the voter suppression, and the corporate media assistance to Trump, remains something that can be mentioned as news item No. 6 (or not at all, in the latter case), but is unspeakable as the headliner.
Trump loooks likely to end widely hated and discredited in any case, but with the whole awesomely destructive and morally criminal political agenda fully normalized. These guys want to write a history wherein he wasn't the guy who threatened a nuclear war in front of the UN and escalated coal mining and forced the DAPL at Standing Rock and deregulated everything environmental and put plunder-and-burn billionaires in charge of the cabinet posts that they want to destroy. Or who got to flip the courts for the next who knows how long. Or who apologized for Nazis, ginned up the racism and xenophobia and escalated the violence of the immigration control, and laughed about it all in public as a further message to his adoring base. No, his great crimes for them were that he flipped (for now) on nuking Korea and that he doesn't want a nuclear war with Russia just yet. He may yet please them by invading Venezuela.
Just read all of Aaron Maté's twitter feed for a dozen screens, it's very entertaining.
https://twitter.com/aaronjmate/status/9 ... 5043497984
Stack in Kyiv Post.
https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinio ... reloaded=1
Graham Stack: Everything you know about Paul Manafort is wrong
By Graham Stack. Published Sept. 17. Updated Sept. 17 at 12:16 pm
It is a huge irony of U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into alleged collusion between U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 election campaign and the Kremlin, that the biggest fish caught to date is charged with the doing the opposite of colluding with Russia: Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has pled guilty to charges of (undeclared) lobbying for Ukraine in 2012-2013 to sign a political and trade association agreement with the European Union that would rescue it once and for all from the Kremlin’s grasp.
Not that you would be aware of this from the media coverage around the trials of Manafort (he has already stood trial and been found guilty of tax fraud in Virginia in August). Among the huge amount of noise about Manafort, the basic facts about his activity in Ukraine 2010-2015 have been obscured.
There have been scores of media articles about Manafort – and 90 percent regurgitate the simplistic narrative of Manafort as a Kremlin trojan horse. This narrative was developed by Washington commercial intelligence firm Fusion GPS in 2016, as part of their now famous dossier on Trump, distributed widely among major media outlets.
As a contributor to the Fusion GPS research on Manafort, I share the blame. Because we got Manafort almost completely wrong.
What we got wrong about Manafort – and what Mueller has got partly right in his indictment – is that Manafort was nothing like a pro-Kremlin influence on the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, as the dossier alleged. Instead, Manafort was one of the driving forces pushing Yanukovych towards signing the agreement with the EU. The Kremlin has every reason to hate him.
An army of armchair experts pronounces on Manafort’s ‘pro-Russian’ role in Ukraine – with a copy of the Fusion GPS report close to hand. None of them ask why the supposedly “pro-Russian: Yanukovych had taken Ukraine to the verge of signing a far-reaching agreement with the EU in November 2013 – an association agreement that would see Ukraine removed from the fateful Russian orbit for good?
The road to Vilnius
Largely thanks to Manafort, in November 2013, Ukraine was one step away from signing the historic Association Agreement at the summit of the EU’s Eastern Partnership held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
Manafort’s ally in the pro-EU push was the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff Serhiy Lovochkin. According to Yanukovych confidante Nestor Shufrich, former deputy head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, the pro-EU course had been “Lovochkin’s and Manafort’s game, it was them who foisted the idea on Yanukovych that it was achievable.” Former Poland President Aleksandr Kwasnwiewski has also confirmed that Lovochkin and Manafort together comprised the pro-EU heart of the Yanukovych administration.
Manafort was amazingly successful in bringing Ukraine into the Western fold. After the jailing by Yanukovych of opposition leader and ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011, it seemed any attempt by Ukraine to pursue closer ties with the West were dead in the water. But only two years later, Kyiv was a step away from signing the association agreement with Brussels that would create a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between EU and Ukraine.
But any mention that Manafort was a driving force behind Ukraine’s move to sign up with the EU instead of with Russia – a key part of the Mueller indictment – was missing from the Fusion GPS dossier, and as a result, has been missing from most mainstream media coverage.
This does not mean Manafort was a good guy: He had lots of reasons to be pro-EU, and all of them had a dollar sign. He received $42mn payments received for his pro-EU lobbying from Lyovochkin, according to his former employee Rick Gates’s testimony at the first trial in August. This was twice as much as Manafort received from all other Ukrainian sources taken together. Lyovochin denies the payments.
Manafort’s relationship to Lovochkin explains why he never pushed Yanukovych to do the most obvious thing to clinch the deal with the EU – to release opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from jail: Lovochkin was not just a government official, but also the junior partner in business of notorious gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Firtash and Tymoshenko were sworn enemies. Yanukovych had jailed Tymoshenko in 2011 for having destroyed Firtash’s gas trading business during her time as prime minister.
Manafort’s pitch to the EU was that EU should sign the agreement with Ukraine despite Tymoshenko’s jailing. According to Mueller’s indictment, Manafort retained a raft of EU eminence grises arguing the same, while also paying a U.S. law firm to argue that the Tymoshenko conviction was legitimate.
Largely due to Manafort’s lobbying effort by November 2013, the EU had caved in, giving Ukraine the all-clear to sign the agreement in November. It was only Yanukovych’s cravenness in the face of Kremlin fury that prevented Ukraine signing in 2013.
Manafort for all seasons
Manafort’s pro-EU role 2012-2013 accounts for his Ukrainian career continuing uninterrupted into the post-Yanukovych years – and even his helping set up a new pro-EU government in Kyiv in 2014.
These activities were also omitted by the Fusion GPS dossier.
Manafort’s role in the post-Maidan settlement in 2014 was a key revelation of the Gates testimony in August. The prosecution produced documents showing Manafort to have consulted both boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko and chocolate king Petro Poroshenko in May 2014 as they campaigned for the respective posts of mayor of Kyiv and president of Ukraine. Both men won. (They now deny having hired Manafort for their campaigns).
Manafort may have been more than mere consultant to the new powers in Kyiv. Flight records show that Manafort was in Vienna on March 25, 2014. This was the date of a crucial “kingmaker” meeting in Vienna between Lyovochkin, Firtash, Poroshenko and Klichko, where it was decided that Klichko would not run for president against Poroshenko, effectively crowning Poroshenko.
Indeed far from being persona non-grata following Yanukovych’s ouster, during the post-revolution election campaigns in April and May 2014, Manafort spent a total of 27 days in Kyiv.
And his last engagement in Ukraine were the regional elections of late October 2015, this time working for Lyovochkin’s new puppet opposition party. He stayed in Ukraine four weeks in the run-up to the vote – only months before signing on for Trump.
The biggest unanswered question regarding Manafort is not – was he a Kremlin agent, but: just how far did Manafort and Lyovochkin go in trying to push Yanukovych back towards the EU, after he backed out of the EU agreement in late November 2013 under Kremlin pressure? What was their relationship to the pro-EU protests that broke out and the police violence in response?
According to a cryptic messaging exchange between Manafort’s daughters, which was hacked in 2016, it was none other than the arch spin doctor who hatched a plan to “to send those people [protestors] out and get them slaughtered.” “Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that Revolts and what not […] As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.” Manafort’s millions for Ukraine lobbying were called “blood money”.
According to the daughters, for secrecy Manafort and his co-conspirators wrote the messages in the drafts of a shared email account – and Mueller has not found it.
Those messages seen by Manafort’s family may confirm other high-level allegations that Lyovochkin and his team were behind the wantonly violent – and highly televised – dispersal by riot police of a small picket of pro-EU students protests on the night of November 29. The aim: to “outrage the world” and thus generate political pressure on Yanukovych to stay with the West.
“Lyovochkin was the author of the dispersal of the [students’] Maidan and should be in prison, not in parliament,” Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov said on its third anniversary in 2016. But Ukrainian prosecutors have ignored the allegations, and Lyovochkin himself fiercely denies any involvement.
This sudden outbreak of police violence triggered Ukraine – and spiraled into the mass demos of the Euromaidan two days later, and ultimately the shooting of scores of demonstrators on February 22, 2014, and the flight of Yanukovych
Was Manafort’s real crime not pushing Yanukovych into the Kremlin’s embrace, but staging violence against demonstrators to achieve the opposite – a ruse that then spiraled out of control? Was this what the Manafort daughters were referring to in their texts? This is one of the secrets that Mueller has not asked about – and nor did the misguided Fusion GPS dossier.
Vice on Gates on Manafort, already from August 7. Do I need to highlight all the Pinchuks?
https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/zmk ... t-millions
Rick Gates spills the beans on the super-rich Ukrainians who paid Paul Manafort millions – VICE News
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Rick Gates, once Paul Manafort’s right-hand man, now seems intent on showing how his former boss could afford that infamous $15,000 ostrich jacket.
Gates hopped back on the witness stand Tuesday to continue a second day of testimony that could send Manafort, President Trump’s ex-campaign chief, to prison for the rest of his life.
Gates switched from detailing the crimes the pair committed together to talking about wealthy Ukrainians. Specifically, those who paid Manafort for his campaign-consulting and policy work. After Manafort led the successful campaign of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010, Manafort signed a $4 million annual advisory agreement to help the administration translate campaign pledges into reality, Gates said.
Gates said that:
Their shell companies in Cyprus had transferred money between themselves in payments disguised as loans
Manafort crafted a policy for Yanukovych aimed at bringing Ukraine into the European Union called “Engage Ukraine”
Manafort recruited top former European politicians to help out with that effort
Manafort’s income fell precipitously after Yanukovych stepped down in 2014
Manafort then had trouble paying his bills
Manafort then worked briefly advising Ukraine’s current president, Petro Poroshenko
A day after describing a web of 15 secret shell companies that Gates said he and Manafort used to receive payments from Ukraine — and conceal the income from U.S. authorities — he rattled off about a dozen more offshore entities he said were used by wealthy, powerful Ukrainians to pay the American consultants millions.
Read: Rick Gates says he did crimes with Paul Manafort and stole his money
Gates said those companies were controlled by men including Borys Kolesnikov, a Ukrainian politician and former Ukrainian Minister of Transportation; and Serhiy Lyovochkin, who at one point served as Yanukovych’s chief of staff.
Gates said that one of those companies was controlled by a Ukrainian businessman who later reportedly paid President Trump $150,000 to give a speech ahead of the 2016 election. That Ukrainian tycoon is named Victor Pinchuk, and the company he used to pay Manafort was called Plymouth Consultants Ltd, Gates said.
The payments from Pinchuk to Manafort were specifically related to a legal project, Gates said, without immediately giving further details.
One of the companies was dedicated to making payments that “funded a lobbying campaign in the United States and EU,” Gates said.
Gates also detailed how Manafort planned to help Ukraine enter the EU, through his project, “Engage Ukraine.”
“Engage Ukraine became the strategy for helping Ukraine enter the European Union,” he told prosecutors Tuesday..
As Gates dove into specifics, Manafort, 69, watched his former deputy with a mixture of bottled rage and contempt, occasionally turning to the screen in front of him, which displayed the contracts Gates said they had arranged with Ukrainian politicians.
Prosecutors have said Manafort earned $60 million while advising Yanukovych, but that he only declared, or paid taxes on, a fraction of it. Manafort faces a number of federal tax and bank-fraud charges in Alexandria, VA.
Money shuffled between shell companies in Cyprus were declared loans, but were really payments, Gates said.
“In Cyprus, they were classified as loans,” Gates said. “In reality, it was money moving between these accounts.” He said many of the documents involved were written out later and “back-dated.”
Gates also related some details about the time when he and Manafort were interviewed by the FBI in 2014. He said Manafort dispatched him to tell Lyovochkin that the interview was happening. But Gates said he didn’t think, at the time, that he or his boss were actually the targets of an investigation.
“The majority of the Cypriot accounts had been closed by the time of the interview,” Gates said.
Gates said that after Yanukovych stepped down and fled to Russia in 2014 amid political chaos, Manafort’s income stream dried up because his Ukrainian backers were no longer running the country.
“They were out of power, so the income streams were more difficult to come by,” Gates said. That fits with an argument by the prosecution that after Manafort’s “golden goose” in Ukraine, Yanukovych, fell from Grace, Manafort began borrowing heavily from U.S. banks using fraudulent applications .
Gates also pushed back against the notion, floated by Manafort’s defense team in their opening argument, that Manafort had been frequently hard to reach while he traveled. That view has been put forward by Manafort’s team as evidence that Gates himself was responsible for any financial misdeeds at their consultancy, as an untrustworthy deputy who took advantage when his boss’s back was turned.
Manafort’s team has signaled they plan to attempt to undermine Gates’ reputation by portraying him as a liar who has already admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his former boss.
That onslaught is expected to kick off later Tuesday during Gates’ cross-examination. But in the hands of the prosecution, Gates has left seemingly no stone unturned. By the time his testimony wraps, he’ll likely have spent at least 5 hours being questioned by prosecutors.
Cover image: Rick Gates, former campaign aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts