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.

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/

Kiev in Flames!

A vivid slide show of the deadly protests in Ukraine. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this in the US where we seem to have lost sight of what brought us together as the gaps that divide us seem to have widened.

An anti-government protester sits on the Founders of Kiev monument during clashes with riot police in central Kiev on Feb. 20.

Dead bodies lay on the ground surrounded by fellow anti-government protesters during clashes with riot police in central Kiev on Feb. 20.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/02/18/kiev_in_flames_protest_escalate_ukraine?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=SITREP%20JAN%2020%202014