Ukrainian Meddling in the '16 Election Led to the Manafort Take-Down
The take-down of Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort was the culmination of a years-long foreign espionage and disinformation program by the Ukrainian government coordinated with the Democratic National Committee and elements of British Intelligence. This operation tied together a former MI-6 officer, Christopher Steele, with a Ukrainian-American DNC operative named Alexandra Chalupa and the Poroshenko regime that seized power in Kiev in the violent CIA and U.S. State Department backed 2014 coup.
The most damaging allegations against Manafort that led to his dismissal in August 2016 as Donald Trump’s campaign manager — that he had secretly accepted $12.7 million in cash kickbacks from the Ukrainian Kremlin-backed “Party of Regions” – were a fraud. Manafort’s signatures shown in a “Black Ledger” showing secret cash payments to him were never proved and the charges later recanted by the Ukrainian anti-corruption officer who originally made them. But, that occurred nearly a year later, after a series of events leading to appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the United States, and a New Cold War hysteria plunged the U.S. government and public into the most divisive political confrontation since the McCarthy era.
I. FBI lacked corroboration for Page wiretap; Manafort accusation justified FISA warrant
Perhaps most significantly at the time, these falsified charges against Manafort also found their way into the Steele Dossier, where they served as a basis for a FISA warrant application justifying FBI spying on the Trump Campaign, an inquisition that continues to intensify to this day.
At page 20, the Steele Memo states in an entry dated 22 August 2016:
1. Speaking in late August 2016, in the immediate aftermath of Paul
MANAFORT’s resignation as campaign manager for US Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, a well-placed Russian figure reported on a recent meeting between President PUTIN and ex-President YANUKOVYCH of Ukraine. This had been held in secret on 15 August near Volgograd, Russia and the western media revelations about MANAFORT
and Ukraine had featured prominently on the agenda. YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorise and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this. [emphasis added]
II. The “Black Ledger” Sparked the “Russiagate” Scandal
The reported Putin-Yanukovych meeting followed the day after publication on the front-page of the 14 August New York Times of an article, headlined, “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief,” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/us/politics/paul-manafort-ukraine-don.... That NYT article would be widely cited and provide the grounds for Manafort's dismissal from the campaign.
Paul Manafort never denied he had carried out consulting for Yanukovych’s party and other business in the Ukraine. That was widely known. In fact, as was shown at trial, he reported on his U.S. taxes millions of dollars he had received from the Ukraine over a five year period ending in 2014. The Mueller prosecution never demonstrated the $12.7 million in illicit cash payments ever existed. Nonetheless, the “black ledger” allegations created such a furor in August 2016 that Manafort was fired as Trump’s Campaign Manager within a week, which lent further credence to allegations of “collusion” and financial ties to the Russians. More than any other event, this sparked the phenomenon known as “Russiagate.”
On April 12, 2017, AP published a story in which it alleged that it had obtained records from a storage unit leased by Manafort it claimed held receipts for wire transfers totaling $1.2 million in 2007 and 2009 that matched entries in the ledger. These were reportedly paid through a bank account allegedly held by Manafort in Belize. https://www.apnews.com/20cfc75c82eb4a67b94e624e97207e23 However, these funds are not accounted for in the Indictment among the unlisted accounts used to illegally transfer funds from abroad as untaxed income, for which Manafort was actually convicted at trial. See, https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17042254/robert-mueller-paul-manafort-indi...
Eventually, on June, 27, 2017, long after the November election, and after the Black ledger “evidence” of financial ties to Russia made its way into the Steele Memo (and the October FISA warrant application), the head of the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency went on television in Kiev and disavowed the charge that Manafort had received secret cash from the allegedly Russian-backed slush fund. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-27/ukraine-says-there-s-... (first paragraph, rest behind pay wall) ; (reposted in full at http://russialist.org/ukraine-says-theres-no-evidence-of-illicit-payment... https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/458441.html )
Bloomberg was one of the few U.S. media outlets that reported this at the time:
Ukrainian prosecutors said they’d found no proof of illicit payments to U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager from his work for the party of the nation’s ousted leader.
Anti-corruption investigators in the ex-Soviet republic said last year that they’d found ledgers showing $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments between 2007 and 2012 earmarked for Paul Manafort from Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. But a probe uncovered no evidence, chief anti-graft prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyi told Ukrainian television.
“There were no Manafort signatures on any page of this ledger,” he said late Monday.
The news follows last week’s visit by Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko to Washington, where he met Trump in the White House. Manafort, who’d previously advised the Party of Regions and helped Yanukovych become president, denies any wrongdoing with regard to his activities in Ukraine.
One notable exception was the widely-respected Lawfare Blog that actually reviewed Manafort’s late-filed Foreign Agent’s registration papers the day after they were submitted, July 27, 2017. It’s findings seem to reinforce the Bloomberg account: https://www.lawfareblog.com/whats-actually-manafort-fara-filing
On June 27, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort retroactively filed disclosure forms under the Foreign Agents Registration Act detailing his business relationship to the pro-Russia Ukrainian Party of Regions. The forms describe $17.1 million in receipts to Manafort’s company, DMP International, LLC (“DMP”), all from the Party of Regions. They also describe $3.9 million in expenses, including $2.6 million in travel and living expenses. DMP earned a net total of $13.2 million from Party of Regions. Here’s the 87-page filing Manafort made yesterday:
Document Pages 1-87 [available in the body of the story]
What follows is a detailed summary of the material contained in the disclosure. While Lawfare does not normally summarize FARA disclosures, given the intense interest in this one in the press, we thought it would be useful to give some detail about what’s in it.
One notable thing that is not in this document: any reference to the often-reported $12.7 million in cash payments Manafort is alleged to have received from the party. According to The New York Times, these payments were recorded in a handwritten ledger that also showed evidence of payments to election officials. The filing makes no reference to anything of the kind, perhaps because yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Ukrainian prosecutors found no proof of illegal payments to Manafort.
The registration statement (Form NSD-1) lists the registered agent as DMP, a Delaware corporation formed on June 29, 2011 and wholly-owned by Manafort. Manafort and Richard W. Gates III are listed as the company’s principal and employee, respectively, that “render services to the registrant directly in furtherance of the interests” of the foreign principal. The foreign principal is listed as Ukrainian Party of Regions.
According to a report in Politico by Ken Vogel and David Stern, the false allegations of secret cash kickbacks to Manafort had been engineered by the Poroshenko regime, and fed to Steele and a gullible and willing American media through the DNC: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-2...
One of the most damaging Russia-related stories during Donald Trump’s campaign can be traced to the Ukrainian government.
Clinton’s campaign seized on the story to advance Democrats’ argument that Trump’s campaign was closely linked to Russia. The ledger represented “more troubling connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said in a statement. He demanded that Trump “disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.”
A former Ukrainian investigative journalist and current parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko, who was elected in 2014 as part of Poroshenko’s party, held a news conference to highlight the ledgers, and to urge Ukrainian and American law enforcement to aggressively investigate Manafort.
[ . . . ]
At the time, Leshchenko suggested that his motivation was partly to undermine Trump. “For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world,” Leshchenko told the Financial Times about two weeks after his news conference. The newspaper noted that Trump’s candidacy had spurred “Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election,” and the story quoted Leshchenko asserting that the majority of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side.”
III. Alexandra Chalupa attracted the attention of the GRU to the DNC
As Vogel and Stern go on to show, Alexandra Chalupa at the DNC worked directly with the Clinton Campaign and the political officer at the Ukrainian Embassy to “research” Paul Manafort:
Andrii Telizhenko, who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy under Shulyar, said she instructed him to help Chalupa research connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia. “Oksana said that if I had any information, or knew other people who did, then I should contact Chalupa,” recalled Telizhenko, who is now a political consultant in Kiev. “They were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa,” he said, adding “Oksana was keeping it all quiet,” but “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa.
Chalupa’s political work with the Ukrainian Embassy and a wide network of allies in Kiev and Washington did not go unnoticed. Before the DNC went public with allegations that its communications had been hacked from abroad, and before the alleged mass hacking of DNC email by the GRU, Chalupa had made herself a highly visible target for counter-intelligence surveillance.
Within a few weeks of her initial meeting at the embassy with Shulyar and Chaly, Chalupa on April 20 received the first of what became a series of messages from the administrators of her private Yahoo email account, warning her that “state-sponsored actors” were trying to hack into her emails.
As part of her work at DNC was to develop a “a network of sources in Kiev and Washington, including investigative journalists, government officials and private intelligence operatives,” Politico reported.
This raises an interesting question about whether it was Chalupa’s activities aiding the Ukranian intervention in the U.S. electoral process that may have triggered a response by the Russians to expose active measures taken by an arm of the Democratic Party in Ukrainian internal politics. Among the DNC documents released by Wikileaks was this May 3, 2016 email [ID #3962] from Chalupa to Luis Miranda, the DNC’s communications director in which she confided she had “been working with” Isikoff on stories involving Manafort’s activities in Ukraine. Chalupa wrote she had arranged for Isikoff to attend a DNC-sponsored conference with Ukrainian journalists, the subject of which was efforts to target Manafort.
IV. Michael Isikoff and the Oleg Deripaska Connection
Just a week before Chalupa’s email, Isikoff published a story in Yahoo News that included details derived from lawsuits filed by Oleg Deripaska seeking $26 million alleging that Manafort had mismanaged the Oligarch’s funds in a telecommunications investment in the Ukraine five years earlier. The lawsuits, filed in Cyprus, the Cayman Islands and later in Virginia, failed to obtain money but they did reveal in enormous detail Manafort’s network of offshore banks and foreign business activities. Deripaska’s lawsuits laid the factual basis for Mueller’s charges.
Yet, despite the obvious improbability of the narrative, Isikoff managed to spin the tale to allege that Manafort was extraordinarily close to and under the control of the man who had sued him. This story and many that were based in it, claimed without further explanation that Deripaska is “close to Putin” and thus, it is implied, Manafort was being controlled by the Kremlin. Pure guilt by association once removed by a major lawsuit. What Isikoff and the rest failed to explain was why if Manafort was really a cat’s paw for Putin inside the Trump campaign, why would Russian Intelligence pair him up with the man who had sued and revealed so much damaging material about him?
Another glaring inconsistency that Isikoff failed to answer about Deripaska was how it is that the Oligarch is purely a tool of Putin’s Intelligence service when, in fact, he had worked with the FBI and CIA going back to at least 2009, when as a reward for his cooperation he was granted national interest parole to enter the U.S. on numerous occasions thereafter to move his money into New York banks? What Isikoff may or may not have known is that Christopher Steele had been working his contacts at the Dept. of Justice, including his old friend Bruce Ohr, on behalf of obtaining another visa for Deripaska in January 2016. Nevertheless, the FISA Judge eventually issued the surveillance warrant based in part on information contained in Isikoff’s article and Steele’s Dossier.
In her May, 2016 email, Chalupa hinted to Miranda of “a big Trump component…that will hit in next few weeks.” She also claimed that she was being targeted in state-sponsored computer hacking attempts because of her research on Manafort. The first installment of the Steele Dossier was dated 20 June, 2016, and that Steele had been busily working his sources to compile the notorious “Pee Pee” Dossier for weeks.
Finally, in a post published at Medium in mid-December, 2016 Chalupa explained that she was pursuing a mission to overturn the results of the November election. She wrote: https://medium.com/@alexandrachalupa/russias-interference-americans-have...
Trump’s consistent refusal to admit Russia’s involvement, especially given his access to highly classified information, demonstrates he is either unreasonable and possibly of unsound mind or he is aiding and abetting Putin. This is a national security issue that the Electoral College must take seriously when casting their votes on Monday.
Also, largely ignored in the major US media was action that has been initiated in response to Ukraine's meddling in the 2016 elections and Kiev's coordination with the DNC: https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-mp-derkach-seeks-probe-of-ukrain...
Senate judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter last month to examine whether Alexandra Chalupa, a former consultant with the DNC, violated laws governing work with foreign governments, by failing to register possible cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A conservative watchdog group, Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT), also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming Chalupa “knowingly solicited” damaging information on Manafort from Ukrainian officials.
V. The “Black Ledger” was Never Referenced by Mueller
Evidence of real Ukrainian collusion with the Clinton Campaign is the very real and, from the evidence to date, far more substantial dopple-ganger of the propaganda and political dirty tricks alleged to have been used by Russia to meddle in the 2016 Presidential election. Yet, key facts about Manafort and Ukraine continue to be falsified and obscured by the major U.S. corporate media.
Indeed, Manafort was not charged in his recent conviction with the alleged $12.7 million secret kickbacks from the Party of Regions. Nor was he indicted on that basis. The superseding Indictment issued in February replaces that filed last October. The superseding indictment is here: https://www.vox.com/2018/2/22/17042254/robert-mueller-paul-manafort-indi...
The public continues to be confused about the source of Manafort’s funds obtained in Ukraine that add up to some $60 million between various business deals about half of which have been shown to be from the Party of Regions.
Indeed, the alleged $12.7 million was not accounted for by Mueller and the prosecution of Manafort never even referenced it during trial. Given its importance to the development of “Russiagate” political scandal and charges of “collusion”, this is a strange omission in the record. The charges and evidence in the Manafort prosecution merely show that funds “in excess of $12 million” were transferred from offshore bank accounts to pay for goods purchased in the U.S. were not reported on his tax returns from 2008-14 as income during those years. [See, superseding Indictment, p. 8]
At trial, we learn more specifics. Again, the prosecution did not show or specify that any of the $60 million in funds Manafort received from work in Ukraine for were derived from the “black ledger.” According to the WaPo, Paul Manafort trial Day 7: Manafort took in $60 million over five years, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/…/paul-manafort-trial-day-7-live-coverage/ [behind pay wall]; mirrored at https://investigaterussia.org/media/2018-08-08/manafort-trial-day-seven
3:18 p.m.: Manafort took in $60 million over five years, including $31 million from Ukrainian politicians in 2012.
A forensic accountant from the FBI closed her direct testimony by saying that between 2010 and 2014 over $60 million flowed through Paul Manafort’s overseas accounts and he spent $15 million of that on homes, clothes and other personal purchases.
Prosecutors say Manafort paid taxes on only about half of his foreign income. He is also accused in Washington, D.C., federal court of failing to register as a foreign agent for his work in Ukraine. He did register in June 2017, but Magionos testified that in those filings, he understated his foreign income significantly.
[ . . .]
5:13 p.m.: IRS agent: Manafort did not pay taxes on $16.4 million in Ukrainian income
Evidence submitted at trial by the prosecution does not show that Manafort’s unreported income matches up with receipts from the so-called black ledger. Lest one conclude that Manafort was merely failing to report income so as to hide that source, alone, the actual numbers revealed at trial show there is no such direct relationship. At trial, Manafort was accused of underreporting $9.2 million in 2012, whereas it was reported elsewhere that his alleged take from the secret black ledger accounts that year is shown to be less than half that amount.
The WaPo further reported that during summation on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Paul Manafort trial Day 12: “Defense argues government failed to prove guilt” [behind pay wall, mirrored at]: https://relevantscience.blogspot.com/2018/08/paul-manafort-trial-day-12-...
To emphasize the scope of what he says was Manafort’s tax fraud, Andres posted a chart showing how much income Manafort did not report in each of the years from 2010 to 2014. At the lowest point, in 2014, Manafort had $1.3 million in unreported income. At the highest, in 2012, he had $9.2 million in unreported income. The chart was prepared by one of the prosecutors’ witnesses.
Now, compare those amounts to the record of alleged payments made to Manafort shown in the “black ledger” posted by the NABU on August 18, 2016. That shows: https://nabu.gov.ua/en/novyny/statement-regarding-pmanaforts-appearance-...
To avoid rumors and speculations, the NABU is publishing copies of 19 pages, containing 22 items related to the name of Paul Manafort.
1. 20.11.07 – $455 249 – Оплата от третьих лиц на Манафорта US (payment from the 3d parties to Manafort US)
2. 20.11.07 – $6 374 – Оплата услуг по Манафорту (payment of services with regards to Manafort)
3. 18.09.(09?) – $ 4 632 – ПК 7 шт. Манафорт (7 personal computers Manafort)
4. 14.10.09 – $750 000 – Манафорт (Manafort)
5. 26.10.09 – $854 – Сервер Манафорту (Server to Manafort)
6. 9.11.09 – $ 6000 – Расх. pа платеж Манафорту (Expenses for payment to Manafort)
7. 9.11.09 – $ 6000 – Расх. pа платеж Манафорту (Expenses for payment to Manafort)
8. 30.11.09 – $500 000 – Платеж на Манафорт (Payment on Manafort)
9. 09.12.09 – $6000 – Расх. pа платеж Манафорту (Expenses for payment to Manafort)
10. 14.12.09 – $ 1 300 000 – Платеж Манафорт (Payment Manafort)
11. 16.12.09 – $15 600 – Расх. pа платеж Манафорту от 14.12 (Expenses for payment to Manafort as of 14.12)
12. 18.01.10 – $1 075 000 – Контракт Манафорт (Contract Manafort)
13. 08.04.10 – $ 846 000 – П.Манафорт – расходы в Украине (P. Manafort – expenses in Ukraine)
14. 22.09.10 –$ 750 000 – Манафорт (Manafort)
15. 04.11.10 – $ 1 150 000 – Оплата контракта Манафорт (Payment of the contract Manafort)
16. 27.04.11 – $142 000 – Оплата услуг Манафорта (Payment for Manafort’s services)
17. 30.05.11 – $300 000 – Платеж Манафорт (Payment Manafort)
18. 11.10.11 – $135 000 – Пол Манафорт (Paul Manafort)
19. 21.06.12 – $3 468 693 – Пол Манафорт контракт (Paul Manafort Contract)
20. 10.07.12 – $645 000 – Манафорт социология (Manafort sociology)
21. 09.10.12 – $400 000 – Манафорт – экзит пол в реальн. вр (Manafort exit poll in real time)
22. 09.10.12 – $12 467 – Манафорт – международные наблюдатели (Manafort, foreign observers).
VI. Ukrainian Espionage and Propaganda that Impacted the US Elections Continues to be Obscured
While Trump won in November, the Poroshenko regime in Kiev and its allies in Washington at least obtained the satisfaction of revenge when Paul Manafort was convicted of eight of eighteen tax and bank fraud charges Tuesday. Unfortunately, the substance of the key NYT report and Steele Dossier against Manafort has never been proven. It was exploited and turned into black propaganda that manifestly spoiled the 2016 Presidential election and has poisoned the American political process to this day.
This is the story of how “Russiagate” sprang from burning Kiev and a failed CIA operation to regime change Vladimir Putin that has reignited the Cold War.