Thursday, August 18, 2016

Taking Bribes From The Russians Cuts Both Ways


Don't ask me why Trump doesn't ever find anyone who isn't part of Team Putin to run his campaign

Trumpist Sean Duffy (R-WI) and anti-Trumpist Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) have both said they are uncomfortable with the way the Trump campaign now appears to be, on some levels at least, an arm of Russia's foreign policy agenda and, worse yet, the political agenda of Vladimir Putin, this man. "Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people. The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag... Those who have tried to investigate have been killed off, one by one."

Monday, discussing the charges that Manafort is a Putin agent, Kinzinger told CNN's audience that he thinks "Trump ought to really investigate this and where his chief adviser, what his association with the Russians are. I have concerns for the chief adviser of Donald Trump, you know, having done work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, and, then, all of a sudden, there is this real affection for Russia in the campaign."

AP broke the Manafort-Putin story wide open with a story yesterday by Jeff Horwitz, Manafort tied to undisclosed foreign lobbying. He's helping make a complicated and nuanced crucially important story understandable to the average voter, if not the average Trump fan.

"Trump's campaign chairman [since removed from that position] helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012," wrote Horwitz, "and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy." Manafort's decision to not declare that he is an agent of a foreign power in a felony offense that carries a 5 year prison term and a quarter million dollar fine. He was taking a big risk... but for big returns.
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump's campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

People with direct knowledge of Gates' work said that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president's political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.

The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych's party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych's government.

That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival.

The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government's crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia.

Among those who described Manafort's and Gates's relationship with the nonprofit are current and former employees of the Podesta Group. Some of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details about the work and because they remain subject to non-disclosure agreements.

Gates told the AP that he and Manafort introduced the lobbying firms to the European Centre nonprofit and occasionally consulted with the firms on Ukrainian politics. He called the actions lawful, and said there was no attempt to circumvent the reporting requirements of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The heads of both lobbying firms told AP they concluded there was no obligation to disclose their activities to the Justice Department. Manafort did not directly respond to AP's requests to discuss the work, but he was copied on the AP's questions and Gates said he spoke to Manafort before providing answers to them.

Political consultants are generally leery of registering under the foreign agents law, because their reputations can suffer once they are on record as accepting money to advocate the interests of foreign governments-- especially if those interests conflict with America's.

One of the lobbying firms Manafort and Gates worked with has strong Democratic ties.

The founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, is the brother of longtime Democratic strategist John Podesta, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The head of Mercury, Vin Weber, is an influential Republican, former congressman and former special policy adviser to Mitt Romney. Weber announced earlier this month that he will not support Trump.

After being introduced to the lobbying firms, the European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.

The nonprofit also paid $1.07 million over roughly the same period to Mercury to lobby Congress. Among other issues, Mercury opposed congressional efforts to pressure Ukraine to release one of Yanukovych's political rivals from prison.

One former Podesta employee, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement, said Gates described the nonprofit's role in an April, 2012 meeting as supplying a source of money that could not be traced to the Ukrainian politicians who were paying him and Manafort.

In separate interviews, three current and former Podesta employees said disagreements broke out within the firm over the arrangement, which at least one former employee considered obviously illegal. Podesta, who said the project was vetted by his firm's counsel, said he was unaware of any such disagreements.

A legal opinion drafted for the project for Mercury in May 2012, and obtained by AP, concluded that the European Centre qualified as a "foreign principal" under the Foreign Agents Registration Act but said disclosure to the Justice Department was not required. That determination was based on the nonprofit's assurances that none of its activities was directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized by Ukraine's government or any of the country's political parties.

...Podesta told the AP his firm worked closely with the nonprofit and with Gates simultaneously. But Podesta said Gates was not working for Yanukovych's political party and said Manafort was not involved.

"I was never given any reason to believe Rick was a Party of Regions consultant," said John Ward Anderson, a current Podesta employee who attended the meeting, in a statement provided by his firm. "My assumption was that he was working for the Centre, as we were."

Gates, in contrast, told AP he was working with Manafort and that both he and Manafort were working for Yanukovych's party.

Pointing to Manafort's involvement, Weber told AP that Manafort discussed the project before it began in a conference call with Podesta and himself.

The director of the European Centre, Ina Kirsch, told the AP her group never worked with Manafort or Gates and said the group hired the Washington lobbyists on its own. She said she had met with Manafort twice but said neither Manafort nor Gates played a role in its lobbying activities.

The center has declined for years to reveal specific sources of its funding.
A 2013 Reuters story mentioned that the slimy Podesta worked directly for a pro-Yanukovich group, and received $900,000 in lobbying fees. "Rival political factions facing each other on the streets of Ukraine have also enlisted heavyweight lobbyists in Washington, some with connections at the highest levels of U.S. government, to promote their causes to American policymakers, media and members of Congress. Among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's government are prominent Democratic lobbyist Anthony Podesta and former Republican congressional leaders Vin Weber and Billy Tauzin... The sums of money involved are substantial. Over the last two years, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels-based organization sympathetic to Yanukovich and his political party, has paid $560,000 to Weber's firm, Mercury, and another $900,000 to Podesta Group Inc."

BuzzFeed ran a similar story in March of 2013, about how foreign nations spend millions on criminal lobbyists-- whether Clintonistas like the Podestas or Trumpanzees like Manafort and Bannon, pictured above next to Putin. This can only happen because corrupt party bosses from both establishments winter to happen. They want that corrupting flow of money. It should be stopped and politicians who countenance it should never be supported (even if someone calls you a Naderite or whatever the Republican equivalent is). Three years ago Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed reported that "the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, an obscure nonprofit based in Belgium, was founded by a former top official in Ukraine’s governing party and appears to be a proxy for the country’s pro-Russian government. In 2012, the group hired a pair of high-powered American lobbying firms to advocate on its behalf."
But what those lobbyists, who include Obama-era Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta, are actually doing is a mystery. Unlike the Washington firms hired directly by foreign governments, Ukraine’s leadership has slipped its American agenda through an increasingly popular loophole in the federal law intended to regulate foreign activity in the United States, allowing it to follow the minimal disclosure practices required of domestic corporate lobbies, not the extensive ones demanded of registered foreign agents. It’s a loophole now used by a range of post-communist governments, in particular, with money to burn and no particular love of transparency. And it offers a path to the end of a disclosure regime put in place in 1938, amid American concern over the effects of Nazi propaganda.
Of all the criminal lobbying firms in DC, Podesta's outfit spends the 4th most of directly bribing members of Congress, $853,530 in the last year alone-- $5,495,595 since it started up in 2012. The dozen biggest recipients of their bribes-- this cycle only-- are all politicians well-known for being on the take. Hillary took the most and Jeb Bush the second most. Rounding out the dirty dozen were 7 Republican bribe vacuums-- Mark Kirk (IL), Roy Blunt (MO), Kevin McCarthy (CA), Kelly Ayotte (NH), John Thune (SD), Jason Chaffetz (UT) and Chris Smith (NJ). In that dirty dozen there were also 3 corrupted Democrats: Chuck Schumer, of course (whenever bribes are being handed out, the pig-like Schumer is at the front of the line), Patty Murray (WA) and Kamala Harris (CA). I know, I know... Trump is worse. Trump is worse. Maybe we need to look at who takes the biggest bribes from the Saudis next. After all, they even managed to help elect and sustain a corrupt little traitor, Patrick Murphy, and get him onto the Intelligence Committee. And now Schumer is pushing him into the U.S. Senate.

UPDATE: And, Of Course... The Russian Mafia

This morning NBC News reported that Manafort has been investigated by the FBI for his connections to the Russian Mafia. "Donald Trump's campaign chairman," wrote Tom Winter, "was a key player in multi-million-dollar business propositions with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs-- one of them a close Putin ally with alleged ties to organized crime-- which foreign policy experts say raises questions about the pro-Russian bent of the Trump candidacy."
In 2008, according to court records, senior Trump aide Paul Manafort's firm was involved with a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmytro Firtash in a plan to redevelop a famous New York hotel, the Drake. The total value of the project was $850 million. Firtash's company planned to invest over $100 million, the records say.

That same year, Firtash acknowledged to the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine that he got his start in business with the permission of a notorious Russian crime lord, according to a classified State Department cable. Other cables say Firtash made part of his fortune through sweetheart natural gas deals between Russia and the Ukraine.

Around the same time, companies controlled by another Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, paid $7.35 million toward management fees for Manafort and his partners in connection with an investment fund, according to a court filing in the Cayman Islands. Deripaska once was denied entry to the United States because of alleged mafia ties, current and former officials told NBC News. Deripaska is considered by U.S. officials to be among Putin's inner circle.

The Drake deal didn't go through, and the Deripaska investment arrangement ended in a dispute. But Manafort's dealings with Firtash and Deripaska, documented in court records obtained by NBC News, are among several the political operative has maintained with wealthy Russian and Ukrainian businessmen going back over eight years. Firtash is a wanted man, indicted by the Justice Department in 2014 over bribery allegations in India. He is living in exile in Austria.

...On the political front, Manafort was paid handsome sums for years to advise a pro-Putin Ukrainian political figure, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014 after he was ousted as president in a political revolution. U.S. officials say Yanukovych was deeply corrupt and did Putin's bidding in Ukraine. Manafort met regularly with the U.S. Ambassador in Kiev, William Taylor, according to a source familiar with the meetings.

Deripaska was a Yanukovych backer who is considered by U.S. officials to be among Putin's inner circle of billionaire businessmen... Deripaska had been repeatedly denied a visa to enter the United States over his alleged ties to organized crime, current and former officials tell NBC News. However, several officials tell NBC News he now has been given diplomatic status by the Russian government, allowing him to enter the U.S. with immunity.

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At 9:12 AM, Anonymous AntiSpin said...

Well, now you've done it -- you've gone completely off the rails in your insane jihad against Vladimir Putin.

You have now lost all credibility, and deserve to be abandoned by all who have more than two IQ points to rub together.

The Empire of Chaos, however, will welcome you with open arms.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Those poor people in Russia Putin is a joke & must be replaced.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) "The founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, Tony Podesta, is the brother of longtime Democratic strategist John Podesta, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton." And we are to believe either that HRC has no interest in, or thinks she could not extract information from the 2xPodesta's on Russia/Putin, not to mention on Ukraine - "perhaps" to set up the fascist coup that she would hand off to the execrable Nuland?. That is, why, exactly, is HRC allowed to have her own personal spy agency?

2) What's Mr Satter's considered opinion on the cause of 911? Does he have anything to say on "possible" flows of money from the state of Israel involving surrogates of HRC?

3) " ... post-communist governments, in particular, with money to burn and no particular love of transparency." Well, THEY are certainly "qualified" to have been accepted into the capitalist fold.

4)another definition of "exceptionalism": OUR business criminals don't stink!

5) yeah, I forgot, HRC is ANTI-Russia ... so clothespin, lesser evil, bend over/grasp knees ...

John Puma

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number One: Obama and Hillary both would suck Putin's dick if it would pass TPP. Number Two: 9-11 Bush/ need say no more. We are supposed to be shocked over Putin's people bombing their own country but not when America does it? Even Obama is complicit in that. Any president that doesn't investigate the event and seek justice is a shill. The notion Trump works for Putin is nothing but the rambling of Hillary's dementia addled brain.

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And there's this gem: "U.S. officials say Yanukovych was deeply corrupt and did Putin's bidding in Ukraine."

Four words and a question: Dick Cheney, Judith Miller

When will "we" ever learn?

John Puma

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 12:23:

I don't think Russia is a party to TPP but one can assume that TPP is intended, in part, as a way to further attack Russia's economy ... in line with Obama criminally bragging in his 2015 SOTUS that his sanctions on Russia had devastated (or was that destroyed?) its economy.

John Puma

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about making rational, reasonable comments everyone?

Yes, we are filled with hypocrisy for sure. We dish it out all over the world but are morally offended when it comes our way. We can overthrow governments and have done so many times, but we are horrified when others do so. Howie knows this, of course. It still behooves us to uncover what is going on behind the scenes, here and elsewhere. Our wrongs do not make others' wrongs okay. An excellent article!

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2:35 - appreciate your request for rational, reasonable comments. Please don't turn DWT into a right wing conspiracy site. And to Ruben Chandler I say "adios" to you and good riddance.


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