DEVELOPING: MANAFORT OFF THE SHORE
Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian Member of Parliament and former journalist, revealed new documents related to Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort who also worked for nearly a decade for the ousted Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych who fled in disgrace after ordering security services fire on demonstrators in Maidan square in Kyiv. These new documents show Manafort allegedly “laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan. The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.” Leshchenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, “released a copy of an invoice on letterhead from Manafort’s consulting company, based in Alexandria, Va., dated Oct. 14, 2009, to a Belize-based company for $750,000 for the sale of 501 computers. On the same day, Manafort’s name is listed next to a $750,000 entry in the ‘black ledger,’ which was considered a party slush fund… Leshchenko alleges that Manafort falsified an invoice to the Belize company to legitimize the $750,000 payment to himself.” A Deputy Prosecutor General in Ukraine, Nazar Kholodnytskyi “said in an interview on Tuesday that the documents hadn’t been confirmed by law enforcement or, to his knowledge, submitted for examination.” CNN compares the signatures on the Leshchenko document to a Department of Justice document, both allegedly signed by Manafort. Manafort, like the Russian state, never does anything wrong if you ask him so he denied everything.
MANAFORT PUT IN TIME WITH PUTIN
The Associated Press reports, “Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.” Quite the scoop. “The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.” The AP reports, “in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.” The link? “Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.” The two “maintained a business relationship until at least 2009”. Manafort allegedly used “a company, LOAV Ltd., that he had registered in Delaware in 1992. He listed LOAV as having the same address of his lobbying and consulting firms in Alexandria, Virginia. In other records, LOAV’s address was listed as Manafort’s home, also in Alexandria.” Rick Gates, Manafort’s former partner in Eastern Europe, told the AP that he was aware of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska. Another foreign agent who failed to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) in the Trump campaign since, “Manafort did not disclose details about the lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period the contract was in place.” Again, if only there were surprises and disappointments left. “Willfully failing to register is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000,” which is a paltry sum compared to the amounts Manafort allegedly made or potentially laundered certainly. Eventually Manafort and Deripaska’s relationship soured and in 2014 it was “laid bare” in bankruptcy court in the Cayman Islands. Deripaska accused Manafort of fraud since “The billionaire gave Manafort nearly $19 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable, according to legal filings by Deripaska’s representatives. It said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska’s queries about how the funds had been used.”
From The AP.
FBI PROBING BREITBART AND INFO WARS FOR RUSKI OPS
In the flurry of news out of the Comey on the Hill hearing of the House intelligence committee Monday, TRUMPISTAN WATCH overlooked an important McClatchy story stating, “Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid,” citing “two people familiar with the inquiry”. The FBI observed, as many journalists had already (causing TRUMPISTAN WATCH to wonder how much they are picking up from press reports versus truly detecting through investigation), that “Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories,” specifically from nutty sites like Breitbart “News” and Info Wars as well as Russian state-run Sputnik and RT when Trump was hurting. Given the noticeable pattern of individuals like Glenn Greenwald and Breitbart “News” lining up ideologically along with Russian state propaganda at some very interesting moments, if true this is very welcome. Again, it turns out the lack of sustainable pay for those we trusted as guardians of truth in our society, namely journalists, has provoked a national security problem when coupled with the chase of the sensational in the form of click-bait. Turns out after so many years of a prevailing ethos of if they click on it, everything else is irrelevant, we have come full circle to the broken fragments of the Fourth Estate and the realization that truth matters.
PLUNGING TO OLD LOWS
BuzzFeed reports, “A Russian lawyer who was a witness in a US federal court case connected to the largest money-laundering scheme in Russian history was hospitalized in critical condition after plunging four stories on Tuesday in Moscow, a spokesman said.” The lawyer, Nikolai Gorokhov, was a key witness in USA v. Prevezon, which “is on the brink of going to trial in Manhattan — right in the middle of a massive shakeup of federal prosecutors by President Trump.” Bill Browder, who was instrumental in getting the Magnitsky Act passed in the U.S., confirmed Gorokhov’s role to BuzzFeed telling the online outlet, “His name is redacted in all the documents… the feds were very concerned for his safety. I can confirm his role.” The case itself brought by “ the Department of Justice alleges that Prevezon, a Cyprus-based real estate company owned by a Russian national, purchased several New York City apartments with funds linked to a decade-old $230 million tax fraud case — the biggest in Russian history — perpetrated by gangsters and corrupt officials.” Prevezon, as it is Russian, naturally denies any wrongdoing because Russians never do anything wrong, especially Russian gangsters and corrupt officials, just ask them. Curiously Trump’s firing of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara might elevate Marc Mukasey “who at one point was defending Prevezon”. Browder was the head of the Hermitage Fund in Russia when the corrupt officials and gangsters allegedly involved in this fraud stole “three companies held by the Hermitage Fund, which at one time was the largest Western investor in Russia.” In 2007, “an organization of Russian mobsters, corrupt officials, and law enforcement orchestrated a raid,” and then sued the companies into oblivion which “resulted in rulings against the companies totaling a massive $973 million”. The fraud did not end there though as they then “filed for tax refunds to the tune of $230 million, which was immediately approved by tax officials in cahoots with the fraudsters.” Here is where Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s now deceased lawyer who passed in Russian custody after severe torture, an incident that lead to the passage of the Magnitsky Act in 2012 stateside, which was wholly opposed by Russia. The Magnitsky Act “froze the assets of Russian human rights abusers and banned them from obtaining visas to enter the country.” “By digging through bank records, Magnitsky was able to track the $230 million — which happened to be the exact amount that Hermitage paid in taxes in 2006 — to bank accounts opened with obscure banks controlled by Russian gangsters.” Why would the Russian state ever harm him? Obviously their denials should be taken at face value because as is known corrupt Russian officials and gangsters would never harm a fly. The Prevezon case “is the first major case going to trial involving money laundering from the crimes that led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky,” according to Bill Browder.
DEVELOPING: MANAFORT ON THE SHORE
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told CNN that the committee wants to question former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Warner said, “”In the case of Paul Manafort, he was the actual campaign manager. We’re going to need to bring him in and have that kind of conversation.” We hope it’s an adult one about very adult topics like money, greed, corruption, treason and even sex — America really only cares about that last one.
From The Hill.
FBI MONITORED RUSSIAN GAMBLING RING AT TRUMP TOWER
From 2011-2013, the FBI monitored a Russian gambling ring at Trump Tower, according to The New York Daily News. The so-called “mastermind” Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov is an Uzbekh gangster known as a fixer of matches and sporting events worldwide with a reported mafia nickname of “Taiwanchik”. The alleged ring was operated out of unit 63A and allegedly laundered $50 million through the U.S. banking system. The resident of the unit, “Vadim Trincher, a Russian businessman and power player,” found himself “sentenced to five years in jail for his illegal happenings at the tower.” Interestingly a few months after the 2013 raid, ABC News reports, “Tokhtakhunov was in the VIP section of Miss Universe Moscow not far from President Trump.” Recall Trump’s host was Araz Agalarov, an Azeri oligarch close to Putin who is one of Russia’s biggest property developers. His son Emin told Forbes Monday they gave Trump $7 million to host the contest because they are friends who take care of each other. Interesting friends. Agalarov is also named in the Steele dossier as someone who would have knowledge of the contents of the alleged kompramat sex tape of Trump. Americans might also have somewhere in their memories recollections of match fixing around the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Well, “Tokhtakhunov was previously indicted for trying to fix figure-skating competitions at the 2002 Winter Olympics.”
From The New York Daily News.
TARGETING THE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS
Andrea Chalupa, an American of Ukrainian descent whose sister Alexandra began an investigation on behalf of the DNC into Paul Manafort reports some very strange things happen to her sister on U.S. soil as a result, according to Newsweek. Alexandra’s home had been targeted in an “attempted home break-in” and her iPhone was hacked “and a death-metal track popular in Russia appeared on her playlist.” Alexandra also had her car “broken into and trashed twice,” though “with nothing stolen.” What is creepy is what happened the second time, when the intruder “left a red, traditional Ukrainian blouse draped across the back seat.” All the incidents were reported to the Washington DC police and the FBI, but no follow up ever came.
The New Yorker profiles Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader in this catastrophic time of Trump, whose job it ostensibly is to spearhead the Congressional resistance. He has round the clock protesters in front of his apartment asking, “What the f*ck, Chuck,” and “At least one demonstrator brought a model of a skeleton, to illustrate the importance of a spine.” “I’ve been in Congress a long time and I have never, ever seen anything like this,” Senator Chuck Schumer said, adding, “we would all do well to remember that democracy, the most benevolent, desirable, effective, and just form of government devised by man, is also one of the most fragile systems of government devised by man.” Schumer also clearly harbors some bitterness about the 2016 election. He said, “yes, you could say if Comey wasn’t there we would have won,” referencing a referring to FBI Director James Comey and specifically a letter he sent to Congress concerning errant emails found on a laptop belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband Anthony Weiner the week of the election. Many Democrats attribute this letter to Hillary’s loss in the election, especially after Fox News incorrectly asserted that she was being indicted. “But we should have won anyway, with Comey and with the hacking… If you ask average voters, ‘What did we stand for?,’ they say we weren’t Trump. It wasn’t good enough.” Despite the incredible peril the republic finds itself in, Schumer is characteristically upbeat, “‘Even though this is a total change for me in so many ways, I enjoy waking up in the morning and being ready for the fight.’ At another point, he said, ‘Deep, deep down, I believe in the American people—their solidness, their decency, even at times when they’re angry and frustrated, their pulling back and trying to do the right thing. And I’ve believed in it my whole life and this is the most challenging time for it, but I still believe in it.’” Remarkable thing to say after more than a year of exposure to Trump rallies and all the Jerry Springer-esque carnival stupidity that entails.
From The New Yorker.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
MUST READ: FORMER HUNGARIAN COUNTER-INTEL AGENT SPEAKS
Ferenc Katrein, a former Hungarian Counter-Intelligence Agent who resigned in 2013 when “he felt he can no longer identify with the leadership,” gave an interview to Index.hu, a Hungarian news website. Katrein “worked for the Hungarian National Security Office (NBH) and then for the Constitution Protection Office (AH) between 2000 and 2013” eventually becoming the Executive Head of Operations and the Chief Advisor to the Director General. He currently lives abroad as a civilian, he said. Those countering Russian intelligence including “internationally recognised experts were redirected to other areas referring to constant reorganisations and so-called optimisation.” Katrein believes the Russian threat to Europe is at “the highest level” and notes the Cologne New Year’s Eve incident of 2015, which media has not attributed to Russian operations in Europe, but Katrein absolutely does. “Russia plays a part in aggravating the migration crisis and especially in using it for propaganda and gaining influence,” he notes. He also clearly outlines the Russian playbook and previously Soviet before it (the playbook has really only been updated to accommodate the new technologies; go read Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain less you have any doubt) as one to conquer sectors “such as politics, energetics, law enforcement, homeland defence, educational-scientific research, the media, etc.” with a 10-20 year time frame in mind. MUST READ.
“IT’S LIKE A COUP”
People Magazine, not known as the bastion of hard hitting anything, has a Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich-quoting headline, “It’s like a coup,” after Ivanka, aka nepotism Barbie, reportedly seeks a security clearance and is receiving a White House office. Others have likened her to Gulnara Karimova or Leyla Aliyeva, first daughters of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan known for outsized roles and profits from their father’s regimes. Media Matters writer Eric Boehlert notes, “clearance w/no job title—so she wants the power but no responsibility” – just like Gulnara and Leyla. In a tweet quoted by People, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reminds us all that during the transition Ivanka and Jared said they would not seek security clearances, something they are doing or have in fact done. This is so much winning for the Trumps and no one else. The People Magazine stories certainly were not supposed to look like this. The Washington Post reports at least some self-awareness in that Ivanka released a statement noting “there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president,” albeit very ahistorical internationally because Leyla fits and Gulnara did before her jailing the role Ivanka already has. The paper also notes, echoing The New York Times’ reporter’s tweet that, “”Ivanka’s political ascent stands in contrast with some of her previously stated intentions.” She saw power + got hungry and greedy, just like many an autocrat’s child before her.
A WORLD WITHOUT IDEOLOGY
The Ottawa Citizen in the Canadian capital has a compelling piece about something TRUMPISTAN WATCH has oft meditated on as of late, namely the overall lack of any ideology guiding international affairs unless you are willing to add an –ism to mafia, but that is too many vowels in a row for English language grammar! So we are stuck, adrift without an –ism of meaning motivating men to action. As a result, “Propaganda is the obeisance that demagogy and autocracy pay to the human desire to understand and to do the right thing.” Brian Lee Crowley, the author of this piece notes, that when there was an Iron Curtain “fiction was confronted with truth” in the form of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, BBC, and others but after the fall of the Berlin Wall, “We laid down those arms.” By contrast, “Russia did not. If anything, the Kremlin has redoubled its efforts, with the result that in ideas terms, the West today is bringing a knife to a gun fight.” Crowley correctly notes the result is that, “we are getting shot up.” By flooding the zone with false information, racist hate propaganda, and misinformation, the Kremlin succeeds at “corroding trust” which “breaks down established relationships”. I would say that has worked smashingly state side, especially as the Russians have sought to infiltrate and disrupt existing social movements and political parties. Indeed, “The Americans are playing right into the Kremlin’s hands with their reaction to Vladmir Putin’s clear attempts at manipulation of the U.S. election via hacked emails, hacking claims the Russian government does not deny.” Crowley warns, “business cannot afford to be indifferent to this phenomenon,” citing a 2014 incident in the U.S. where a fake incident at the Columbia Chemicals plant in the U.S. “proved to be a fake story planted by a Kremlin troll farm” known as the “Internet Research Agency”. Russia is concerned about fracking reducing energy costs and cutting into Moscow’s profits. “Also in their sights: LNG and oilsands.” The fact is that through click-bait journalism and eroded online advertising profits compared to the old ones in print, the media has helped create an information environment in which, “conspiracy theories targeting business and political leaders and institutions are hugely popular”. Did you ever imagine journalists’ salaries, or more accurately, the lack of them would become a national security threat?
From The Ottawa Citizen.
ACTIVE MEASURES WATCH: INDEPENDENT JOKE REVIEW
Independent Journal Review, the Mike Pence adviser-linked newly formed hagiographic journal of the current fake administration is off to a rocky start in what was supposed to be a “week to shine”. Well when you start with a foundation of bullshit and then pile on a bunch of trolling antics, whether it is publishing a potentially fake interview with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson billed as some Bannon-seeming exclusive (NO WAY does Tillerson use the word “global” four times in one sentence) or certainly fake news that Obama corrupted the judicial process on Trump’s Muslim travel ban during a brief stay over in Hawaii, the results are certain to not be much more than a pile of bullshit. Then there is the fact that “The website had already earned scorn for using its newfound White House access to publish what were seen as glowing pieces about the new administration.” Come on, everyone call it out just like the president when you see it but with it meaning something, FAKE NEWS! Turns out their Chief Content Officer, a troll and serial plagiarizer by the name of Benny Johnson who was previously fired by BuzzFeed for plagiarism, was told earlier that the Obama meeting with the judge story “was an unfounded conspiracy theory, but assigned it to [Kyle] Becker anyway”. Johnson won some big post-election internal power struggle to become lead troll after the reputable folks bailed ship. Johnson sounds very Trumpian. “’You commit the cardinal sin of your craft and you’re still allowed to do whatever you want? That’s a really bad thing,’ said one person familiar with the matter. Another said, ‘He yelled, cried, had meltdowns… The whole emotional gambit sort of happened.’” But then the bigger boss came in and suspended everyone! Oh my god, who let the adults in the room? The Independent Joke Review, just like the nation, was in the midst of a total white boy meltdown. Curtain fold on “a giant native ad for the Trump administration,” TRUMPISTAN WATCH hopes. But as today’s TRUMPISTAN WATCH goes to press something Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly said to their “reporter” on his Asia trip last week, namely that he didn’t want the job of Secretary, and had planned to retire in March was getting a second wave of traction in the U.S. press. TRUMPISTAN WATCH would say to both Tillerson and the Independent Joke Review that it is too late for regrets as both are accomplices to this alleged treason now.
SHIT DMITRY PESKOV SAYS
After yesterday’s hearing of the House intelligence committee lit up the political arena stateside, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested the committee is “confused”. Is it? More like schizophrenic, disjointed and ideologically aligned. According to Peskov, “They are trying to find confirmation of their own conclusions but can’t find either proof or confirmation and are going round in circles.” That sounds like the Republicans, aka the Russia Party, he is describing. To those of us in the media who received little victory messages from accounts appearing to belong to Russian military intelligence online, there can be considerably less confusion. Perhaps it is the Kremlin that is confused by the notion of consequence and investigative procedures that don’t result in a total white wash. Cover-ups and purges are far more familiar in Russia.
From ABC News.
THEY WON’T BE SO KIND TO YOU
For some peculiar but ostensibly straight as an arrow moral seeming reason USA Today’s editor went to bat for Breitbart “News,” the venomous propaganda network spewing hate speech all over the political landscape and psycho-sphere that is Steve Bannon’s previous home turf. In a post on Twitter, David Mastio, the Deputy Editorial Page Editor, said it is “a dangerous move for press freedom.” Is he trolling us too? You know what is more dangerous? Russian propagandists infiltrating our mainstream outlets, something you should be aware of has already happened.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM OUR PRESS AND THEIRS—–
JOHN KERRY IN LATVIA FOR TWO DAYS
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Latvia on a two-day visit. According to The Baltic Times, Kerry told news service BNS that “”People are looking at places like Latvia, where you have a government that wants to move forward, where you have good policies, where you have a ready workforce, you have the ability to trade within states of the EU and outside.” In other words, “Latvia is a great place to invest in and has a great potential for attracting foreign investment.” Kerry also noted, “You have a strong education system, you have a ready and willing workforce, you have membership in the EU, which is critical to a set of rules and standards, accountability, and transparency. And you have a desire, there is a demand.” Now they had the Soviets for half a century – does this sound like a society that wants to go backwards in time to those harrowing days when the country resembled North Korea at times such as under Stalinist Soviet occupation? Particularly curious is the fact that Kerry noted, “You have stood your ground under very real threats that a lot of people in various parts of the world don’t fully understand. You have a strength of character that is worth being proud of.” Unlike say the United States, which is scrambling to reverse the Russian effort to capture the state through active measures as much of the population remains asleep? Think about that. Latvia has stood its ground better than we have. Why do you think TRUMPISTAN WATCH fights so hard? Its author is one generation removed from Soviet slavery and barbarism.
From The Baltic Times.
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