Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Agent of the Pro-Russia Party of Regions, Charged With Conspiracy Against the United States

In digressing somewhat from the usual climate change related coverage I perform here to explore a matter of extraordinary importance to us all — I’m going to provide you with a closer look at the attempted corruption of U.S. Democracy by a foreign petro-state (Russia) and its agents. This expose is related, tangentially, to climate change in that it hints at the degree to which petro-state and related corporate actors are presently able to influence, circumvent, or corrupt the U.S. political, electoral and lawmaking system. The lengths to which such entities will go to peddle that influence. And, in the case of Manafort and Russia, an expansive effort both to hide such activities and to circumvent or undermine U.S. law and order.

Manafort, Lobbyist for Dictators, Insurgents, and Tyrants, Pushes Russian Interests in U.S. Congress

Paul Manafort has represented, consulted and lobbied for a long list of nefarious persons throughout his career. The names include Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, dictator of the former Democratic Republic of the Congo Mobutu Sese Seko, and Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi. His primary role was to peddle the influence of these various bad actors to U.S. based corporations and U.S. government. But as shady as his earlier career may appear, Manafort’s activities hit a new low during the 2000s and 2010s as Manafort worked with pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders and with agents in Moscow itself to advance Russian interests in the Ukraine and in Europe through secret attempts to shape U.S. policy.

The activities with which Manafort is now charged by the FBI in an investigation led by former FBI Director and highly decorated U.S. Veteran Robert Mueller, were specifically aimed at expanding the influence of Russia in the Ukraine and creating resistance within the top levels of American government to U.S. responses against pro-Russian activities and related aggression in that state. That Manafort is charged with secretly representing Russian interests in Ukraine through its proxy the Party of Regions, of receiving payment for those services by Ukrainian and Russian agents, by hiding those payments from the U.S. government through money laundering, and by lying and failing to report his activities as a foreign agent in the U.S.

Collusion and Conspiracy with Russia

These alleged activities, given assistance by co-conspirator Gates, occurred from 2006 to 2014 in direct support of pro-Russian political activities in Ukraine and lobbying in the U.S. to support or to block intervention against such action by Russia and its Russian sympathizers in Ukraine. False reporting to the FBI and contacts between Manafort and Russian agents extended into the period encompassing the Trump Campaign in 2016 and the Trump Presidency in 2017.

But what’s even more disturbing is there appears to have been an active attempt by Manafort to enable Russia to directly influence the Trump Campaign, to use the Trump Campaign as a funnel for Russia-sourced weaponized information against Hillary Clinton, and to otherwise enable an active campaign aimed at disrupting the U.S. election in a similar manner to Russia’s disruption of Ukrainian democracy during recent years.

From Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times:

So here’s where we are. Trump put Manafort, an accused money-launderer and unregistered foreign agent, in charge of his campaign. Under Manafort’s watch, the campaign made at least two attempts to get compromising information about Clinton from Russia. Russia, in turn, provided hacked Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.

Newly released court filings also found that while acting as Trump’s Presidential Campaign manager, Manafort asked his employee Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen, to offer a Russian Billionaire with close associations to Vladimir Putin — Oleg Deripaska — “private briefings” about the Trump campaign. Exactly the kind of Russian collusion by top Trump Campaign people that Trump himself has repeatedly denied.

Manafort and Gates, according to charges, also acted secretly within Washington as lobbyists for Yanokovich and the Party of Regions prior to Manafort chairing the Trump Campaign. During this time, they attempted to promote pro-Ukrainian policy in Congress, lobbied in opposition to sanctions against the Yanokovich and Party of Regions Government, lobbied that the elections in which Yanokovich achieved power, which were reportedly highly irregular and were disrupted by pro-Russian agents, were valid, and lobbied in support of the imprisonment of Yanokovich’s political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko.

The charges against Manafort are therefore related to the Trump Campaign in that Manafort continued to deceive U.S. investigators, hide foreign agent income, contacts, provide information about the Trump Campaign to Russian agents, seek out Russia-sourced information about Hillary Clinton, and otherwise enable a broader information warfare campaign by Russia against the U.S. while operating as a key member of that Campaign. Contacts communication, information sharing, and other forms of collusion that were still ongoing at the time and that appear to have generated a coordinated effort by Trump campaign staff and the larger Russian information warfare effort against the U.S. election.

In addition, it was widely known at the time that Manafort had represented Russia’s interests in Ukraine, though the extent was not as clear as it is today. All as Trump’s own election-based communications amplified and were amplified by the activity of Russian linked bots, accounts, and media within the U.S. A pro-Trump fomentation of internal U.S. divisions information warfare campaign by Russia that continues within the U.S. to this day.

Trump Campaign Aide George Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI About Attempts to Gain Russian Dirt on Hillary Clinton

The charges against Manafort and his assistant Gates come in conjunction with a guilty plea to charges of lying to the FBI by Trump Foreign Policy aide George Papadopoulos. From NYMag:

According to a newly unsealed affidavit, in late April 2016 George Papadopoulos met an unnamed professor in London, who told the Trump campaign adviser that he had “just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials” — and learned that “the Russians had emails of Clinton … thousands of emails…”

Weeks after Papadopoulos’s rendez-vous in London, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner took a meeting with Russian lobbyists on the understanding that the Kremlin wished to provide the Trump campaign with “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” — as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor and oil consultant named by Trump as one of his key advisors during the campaign, has been accused of lying about his activities in seeking Russia-sourced information about Hillary Clinton’s emails from a Putin-linked professor during the Campaign. He has pleaded guilty to those charges and is reportedly working with the FBI on the case of Trump Campaign collusion with Russia. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the numerous charges filed against them.

Many experts expect today’s announced indictments to be the first of many against members of the Trump Campaign for collusion with Russia. And the heaviest charges have now risen to the level of conspiracy against the United States.

Never Before Has a Campaign Manager of a Sitting President Faced Such Charges

This event is unprecedented in that a former campaign chair of a sitting U.S. President has never been charged with conspiring with a hostile power against the government of the U.S. A historic event that will add to the already dark infamy of the Republican Party. To be very clear, adding Manafort as campaign chair, at the very least, represents a massive failure of judgement on the part of Trump himself. But, it is more than possible, given Trump’s efforts to actively distract from, sabotage, and obstruct the Mueller Investigation and related Congressional investigations, that the Manafort apple here doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

(UPDATED)

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Hat tip to Wili

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