Trump is right: …it started with Ukraine.

Candidate Donald J Trump with campaign chair Paul Manafort, 2016 [Slate photo]

Trump’s claim is correct: “a lot of it started with Ukraine.” However, he’d best not be kicking that hornets’ nest. Ukraine was where the Russians perfected their election-tampering skills during their successful campaign to ensure the election of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine president. The Russians later deployed techniques tested in Ukraine to ensure Trump’s election as US president in 2016.

The Russians were aided in both campaigns by Paul Manafort, who became Trump’s campaign chair in 2016. In 2013, Manafort hired Republican operative and former congressman Vin Weber’s Mercury Public Affairs firm to lobby members of the US Senate and House foreign relations committees on behalf of Yanukovych. Manafort set up the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), where he laundered funds from Yanukovych and pro-Russian Ukraine oligarchs through a straw-donor scheme carried out by Weber and his Mercury lobbyists.  

The scheme “engaged … every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Manafort wrote in a 2013 memo to Yanukovych. That engagement included a Nov. 13, 2013, visit with the current chair of the committee, Idaho’s Sen. Jim Risch, who on Dec. 4, 2013, received $1,000 contributions each from Mercury lobbyists Weber, Ed Kutler, and Mike McSherry, who were acting as unregistered foreign agents. In early April 2014, the ECFMU paid Mercury over $218,000 in fees and “reimbursements.”  

The Mercury/ECFMU/Manafort straw-donor scheme also contributed to US House foreign committee members, including “Putin’s favorite congressman” Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, both of California, who are no longer in congress. Weber, Kutler, and McSherry have tried retroactively to update their foreign lobbying disclosures. In late August 2019, Weber resigned from Mercury Public Affairs, the lobbying group he founded, ​because of his association with Manafort and his failure to register as a foreign agent, which was still being investigated.

Trump displays his ignorance not only of what it was that actually “started with Ukraine,” but also of the technology of the election-manipulation process. In his infamous July 25 conversation with Ukraine president Zelensky, he said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike . . . [​there are ellipses here​] . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people – the server, they say Ukraine has it.”

In searching for “the server,” the Tweeter-in-Chief betrays his ignorance of the very computer networks through which he spews his own daily rants. Trump seems to believe that Ukrainians tried but failed to highjack the 2016 presidential election for Hilary Clinton and that the evidence thereof is stored in a computer hidden away in Ukraine by an anti-Trumper oligarch. Of course, there is no such “server.”

CrowdSource is the cybersecurity company that the Democratic National Committee hired to investigate the 2016 hack of its computer system, which was comprised of 140 cloud-based servers. CrowdSource traced the hack back to two groups of Russian disinformation operations. Their discoveries were confirmed by US security officers and detailed in the Mueller investigation.

Boise TV Reporters Confused about Nov. 5 Election Results

Local reporting confuses editorial opinion with factual reporting.

Boise NBC affiliate KTVB’s Nov. 6, 2019, report on voter approval of Propositions 1 and 2 is fraught with error and is more an editorial than a news report:

https://www.ktvb.com/article/news/local/propositions-to-hold-vote-on-boise-library-stadium-projects-pass/277-0be1b5fa-166c-4724-9727-a97d31669e6e

Never once does the story report that both measures were approved overwhelmingly—Prop. 1, 69.1 percent to 30.9 percent, and Prop. 2 by 75.2 percent to 24.8 percent.

The report incorrectly states that “interim city attorney Natalie Mendoza in January wrote that the propositions are unconstitutional.” In fact, in January Ms. Mendoza was reviewing an early draft of a proposed citizens’ initiative. What Ms. Mendoza actually wrote is: “The subject matter of the Initiative is likely administrative in nature, and therefor unconstitutional.” (my emphasis) To support her analysis, she cited Colorado Supreme Court findings “in a case with similar underlying facts.”

As a result of Ms. Mendoza’s critique, the initiatives were totally rewritten in order to ensure that they are legislative and not administrative. They require voter approval before the city can “directly or indirectly appropriate, spend money, incur debt or expenses for the construction of or any additional aspect of any major library project” costing $25-million or more or any stadium/sports complex costing $5 million or more. The propositions placed before voters have never been the subject of review by the city attorney or any other legal opinion.

Following certification that the initiatives had received the requisite number of signatures to be placed on the November ballot as propositions, the city council held the required hearing on whether to adopt the ordinances proposed by the initiatives outright, thus obviating the need for a “vote to vote.” During the council’s deliberation, the mayor and two council members opined on the constitutionality of the proposed ordinances. The Mendoza critique was cited without acknowledging that her analysis was of an earlier draft of the initiatives and not of the ordinance language approved by the petitioners. When asked her opinion, then city attorney Jayme Sullivan pointedly declined to offer an opinion on the measures’ constitutionality.

In the on-set closing comments on his report, Joe Parrish opines that “…knowing those challenges have been made to these propositions, it’s essentially wait-and-see; but, Kim, I know a lot of people are still confused about what the entire situation meant…we’ll find out if it’s gonna be challenged in a court of law soon.”

No legal challenges have been made! There is no evidence that “a lot of people” are confused: 51, 423 voted on Prop. 1; 51,694, on Prop. 2—nearly as many as voted for mayor: 51,842.

Kim Fields then opines: “…the question is where do we draw the line: Do we go for a vote every time the city council wants to spend $10 or $100?”

The propositions have nothing to do with city expenditures of $10 or $100. They specifically set the bars at $25 million for any library, $5 million for any stadium.

Joe: “That’s the legal issue here: This is an administrative process that the voters technically, probably, weren’t supposed to weigh in on. It’s gonna be a court decision to make, but it’s easy to forget sometimes that this isn’t a true democracy. It’s a democratic republic. You elect the people you want to represent you, and when you make those votes for any elected official, you’re also voting with confidence for them to vote the way that you would want them to in the future and handle business the way you would want to.”

This assertion is the editorial opinion of Mr. Parrish based, apparently, on the conjecture of the mayor’s spokesperson that, “there are still concerns…about the legality of those ordinances going forward.” However, no legal analysis of the now lawfully adopted ordinances has been conducted by anyone other than the attorney for Boise Working Together.

Kim: “One more quick question: Let’s say there are no more legal challenges, when would this go up for a vote for the people?”

Once again, the phrase “no more” implies there have already been legal challenges. There have not!

Joe: “Good question. I spoke with Boise Working Together today; they say we could probably see a vote as soon as next year. They actually had circled March, possibly, at the earliest. Maybe a year from now, next November we could see this on the ballot. Again, though, both propositions could be challenged in a court of law because they may be unconstitutional. If that happens this could be wrapped up for a while.”

KTVB’s reporter and anchor seem to be the ones who are “confused.” More than 35,000 voters, 69 percent and 75 percent majorities of those voting on Nov. 5, knew exactly what they were doing when they approved city ordinances mandating voter approval for large expenditures of their taxes.

Gary E. Richardson is a former reporter/producer for Idaho Public Television. He served for 15 years as a public information officer for several Idaho state agencies. In 1997-1998, he was an Ada County Highway District commissioner.

More evidence of Giuliani-Manafort connection

The man who revealed the “black ledger” of former pro-Russian Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, which showed unreported payments to Paul Manafort, details the Giuliani-Manafort connection:

WASHINGTONPOST.COM

Opinion | Rudy Giuliani accused me of exposing Paul Manafort’s Ukraine deals to help U.S. Democrats. That’s a lie. Ukraine has enough problems. We don’t need the U.S. president’s lawyer to make more of them.

Giuliani & Manafort

DING-DONG: As I intimated last week—I had an “inkling”—there is a connection between the straw-donor scheme Rudy Giuliani has been operating with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and Paul Manafort’s European Centre For a Modern Ukraine Rupel laundry carried out with the help of former congressman Vin Weber’s Mercury Public Affairs lobbyists, who—like Parnas and Fruman—failed to register as foreign agents:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/giuliani-consulted-on-ukraine-with-imprisoned-paul-manafort-via-a-lawyer/2019/10/02/7a6dc542-e486-11e9-b7da-053c79b03db8_story.html

An open letter to Sen. Jim Risch

You are компромаT—compromised. You should recuse yourself from decisions and vacate your chair for discussions relating to Ukraine.

According to Federal Election Commission records, on Nov. 13, 2013, you met with three lobbyists from Mercury Public Affairs—Vin Weber, Ed Kutler and Michael McSherry. They were lobbying on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a “think tank” set up by Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to front for Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia Party of Regions.

On December 4, 2013, Weber, Kutler and McSherry each contributed $1,000 to the Jim Risch for U.S. Senate Committee. These funds came from Ukraine/Russian oligarchs laundered through Manafort’s ECFMU. Weber, Kutler, and McSherry operated as unregistered foreign agents.

U.S. law prohibits your receiving campaign contributions from foreign nationals or contributions made by one person in the name of another. As a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, you must have been particularly aware of these restrictions, yet you accepted the tainted money.

While the lobbyists have tried retroactively to update their foreign lobbying disclosures, there is no record of your campaign having returned the unlawful $3,000 donation that helped finance your 2014 reelection.

I’ve forwarded the above letter to every print-media editor in Idaho for whom I could find an email address. Feel free to share it with friends and online media, blogs, etc.

The renewed focus on Ukraine (and Russia—but more about that later) makes it critical people that like Risch in positions of power come clean. I’ve also been asked for sources of the information upon which the letter is based. Here’s some of the story:

The story broke last year when Massachusetts attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee filed an election-law-violations complaint with the Dept. of Justice and, I believe, with Mueller’s investigation team. While working a case to revoke Paul Manafort’s Connecticut law license, Larrabee discovered that Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce, and Sen. Jim Risch received payments from the European Centre For a Modern Ukraine, a front that Manafort had set up to run his straw-donor scheme. No surprise that Rohrabacher, widely known as Putin’s Congressman, would take money from pro-Russian sources in Ukraine. After 20 years in the House, Rohrabacher lost his seat last year as did Royce; they both represented Orange County.

FEC records are not easy to search. I can’t find the link but have print-outs of the campaign’s Form 3’s for the Dec. 4, 2013, $1,000 contributions of Weber, Kutler and McSherry (Images #14020124372 & …76).

Here’s a link to “Manafort lobbyists met with Idaho’s Jim Risch, leading to claim of illegal donations,” by Cynthia Sewell, Idaho Statesman (online), June 14, 2018: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article213135899.html I also have a clip of the print version: “Mueller probe eyes meeting between lobbyists, Risch” by Cynthia Sewell, Idaho Statesman, Vol.153, no. 325, Friday, June 15, 2018 (print)

It’s been more than a year since I researched this stuff, and there appear to have been some more recent developments. I understand that Risch was questioned by Mueller’s investigators​; apparently, nothing came of it.

​In late August this year, former Congressman Vin Weber resigned from Mercury Public Affairs, the lobbying group he helped found, ​because of his association with Paul Manafort and his failure to register as a foreign agent, which was still being investigated:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/longtime-lobbyist-and-former-congressman-vin-weber-resigns-from-lobbying-firm/2019/08/30/ae444f26-cb3b-11e9-be05-f76ac4ec618c_story.html

​Given the growing importance of Ukraine​ in current events, I think it’s important that his constituents be reminded that Mr. Risch does not have a clean plate in matters involving Ukraine, Russia, Vin Weber, or Paul Manafort.

While most of the focus is currently on Trump’s pressuring Zelenskyy about Biden, Trump was also pushing another right-wing ​agenda item when he told ​Zelenskyy,

I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like to get to the bottom of it.

Trump betrayed both his obsession with the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and his feeble grasp of the technology involved in the DNC hack that set it in motion:

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/27/765186504/what-the-cybersecurity-company-crowdstrike-has-to-do-with-the-trump-ukraine-matt?fbclid=IwAR1V8xNkQXqe5xr8JPTr0Cg6q8W2sZjRQ8U-LfevRmxKJUc7PsM7OjEU_8o

https://fortune.com/2019/09/28/crowdstrike-conspiracy-theories-trump-ukraine/

Idaho Press Carries Out Hatchet Job on Boise Mayoral Candidate

Early in the week of July 21, a packet of WikiLeaks documents hacked from Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was sent to the Idaho Press by an unnamed source.

The anonymous source alleged that Boise City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean is part of a “dark money” political fundraising effort to shield progressive donors from campaign finance laws that would require them to disclose their identities. McLean is campaigning to unseat Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who is running for a fifth four-year term.

In support of the claimed election law violation, the “packet” included a March 2015 email to John Podesta, then-White House chief of staff. National Education Association director John Stocks had forwarded the email to Podesta, inviting him to a Ketchum meeting of the Idaho Progressive Investors Network, which McLean founded a decade ago. Stocks, a progressive organizer and Idaho state senator in the 1980s, is a member of McLean’s network.

Along with McLean’s meeting invitation, Stocks attached information about Better Idaho, a group that promotes progressive causes supported by several investors in McLean’s network.

On July 25, the Idaho Press headlined the story:

McLean defends political fundraising through organization she founded

The clear implication of the header is that McLean is on the defensive about her fundraising organization. You have to read on to learn that the emails are not about fundraising for her mayoral campaign but about work she did in her profession as an advisor to investors who want to fund progressive causes.

The story begins with this sensational lede:

City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean makes an appearance on the notorious website WikiLeaks, but she says it’s not in relation to any fundraising for political candidates or “dark money.”

The only actual appearance McLean makes (present tense) is her smiling photo above the lede in the online edition. Her forwarded emails made their appearance three years ago when WikiLeaks published the hacked contents of John Podesta’s computer.

Reading on, we learn that four years ago Stocks wanted to get Podesta to Idaho to take him on a hike in the Boulder-White Clouds roadless area to lobby then-president Barack Obama to designate the area as a national monument. Podesta never came.

In the rest of the story, McLean explains that neither her investors network nor Better Idaho raises funds for political candidates. Their purpose is to connect donors to Idaho causes they care about like education, public lands, and other issues affecting the state’s future. Because the work relates to clients’ financial decisions, members’ names are not published.

Gary E. Richardson is a former Idaho Public TV reporter/producer. He is not endorsing any Boise mayoral candidate but knows “dirty tricks” when he sees them.

The original Idaho Press story can be viewed at https://www.idahopress.com/news/local/mclean-defends-political-fundraising-through-organization-she-founded/article_4cd221e9-fd83-5cdd-a3be-05137128b991.html