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Washington Post | 27Apr2016 | Anne Applebaum,  Michael Isikoff, 
newest adviser served disgraced Ukrainian strongman
When democracy arrived in the eastern half of Europe a quarter
century ago, imported from the West, it did not come in its purest,
most Athenian form. Of course the West loaned the East quite a few
constitutional lawyers, as well as lots of idealists who could talk
about judicial reform or give advice on how to organize an election.
But on the heels of the idealists arrived another crowd of “experts”:
the spin doctors, the masters of negative campaigning and the public
relations firms who had honed their craft in U.S. elections and were
more than willing to sell their expertise in the East as well.
Famously, a group of California political consultants claimed
to have masterminded Boris Yeltsin’s campaign to win the Russian
presidency in 1996. Even if their role wasn’t quite what they spun it
to be, that campaign, like many that followed, certainly deployed what
were generally called “American-style” campaign tactics. Rock concerts,
hip “get out the vote” MTV campaigns -- none of that had been used in
Russia before. In the years that followed, copycat campaigns popped up
all over what had once been the eastern bloc.
But now we may be about to witness the opposite phenomenon: the flow of
political influence from East to West. Donald Trump’s new campaign
adviser Paul Manafort returns to U.S. politics after many years spent
working for Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine until he fled the
country in disgrace in 2014. We don’t really know what, exactly,
Manafort did for his Ukrainian client. But we do know how Yanukovych
won the Ukrainian elections in 2010, and how he ran the country.
Perhaps Manafort can transmit some lessons from his experience for a
would-be U.S. president.
To begin with, Yanukovych did undergo a profound “image makeover”
strikingly similar to the one that Trump needs right now. Yanukovych
was an ex-con, close to Russian-backed business interests in Ukraine.
He had, in other words, “high negatives.” But he cleaned up his act,
stopped using criminal jargon and presented himself as a “reform”
candidate, as opposed to the crooked establishment. Since everybody was
genuinely sick of the crooked establishment, he won -- despite the fact
that he was no more honest than the people he’d said he was trying to
beat. This of course, is what Trump is going to try to do: persuade
people to support him because he is an outrageous, truth-speaking
“outsider”, even though in reality he’s as much of an “insider” as it
is possible to be. Manafort, with his deep experience in this
particular con trick, can help.
On his way to power, and once in power, Yanukovych also became
famous for the use of rented thugs, known as “titushki,” who could be
used to intimidate opposition protesters, journalists, or whoever
needed to be scared off. These weren’t police, and they weren’t
security guards. They were just guys paid by Yanukovych to rough people
up and scare them. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s party,
Fidesz, has recently made use of a similar method, deploying skinheads
to prevent their political opponents from registering for a referendum.
We’ve seen prototype versions of this tactic already in use at Trump
rallies. Perhaps Manafort, fresh off his experiences in Ukraine, can
develop the concept further.
Some of Yanukovych’s tactics might be harder to deploy, such
as falsifying election results (though it’s not like that never
happened in the U.S.) or abolishing the right to protest (though Trump
at times sounds like he wouldn’t mind passing such a law if he could).
But others are already in use. Pro-Trump troll armies, for example --
fake Twitter accounts programmed to tweet the same message, a very
popular tactic east of the Dnieper -- are already in the field.
Another Yanukovych tactic -- paid supporters at rallies -- is
already in the Trump arsenal too. Let’s just hope that, if Trump wins,
we won’t need a Maidan revolution to put American democracy back
The Washington Post
Anne Applebaum is Director
of the Global Transitions Program at the Legatum Institute in London
Yahoo News | 26Apr2016 | Michael Isikoff
Trump’s campaign chief is questioned about ties to Russian billionaire
A lawyer for Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s chief campaign aide,
acknowledged Tuesday evening that the longtime GOP operative has been
questioned by officials from the Cayman Islands in connection with a
$26.2 million investment by a billionaire Russian oligarch who was his
partner in an ill-fated telecommunications development in Ukraine. The
lawyer’s comments came in response to an earlier story by Yahoo News
about the Cayman officials’ efforts to track down Manafort for his
The dispute goes back years, but last summer, court-appointed
liquidators from the Cayman Islands initiated legal action in federal
court in Alexandria, Va., seeking to question under oath Manafort and
two business partners about a business deal involving firms controlled
by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate who for years was barred
from entering the United States over allegations of ties to organized
“These guys are chasing their money,” said Rick Davis, one of the
partners subpoenaed in the case and the manager of John McCain’s 2008
presidential campaign. “They [Deripaska’s firms] invested in something
and it just went away. They are actually trying to track down where the
company went and where the [money] went.”
Richard Hibey, a lawyer for Manafort, emailed Yahoo News Tuesday night
stating that “Mr. Manafort and others appeared for depositions some
months ago and answered all questions,” mooting the legal action in
Virginia, and added, “we are not privy to any other developments.”
Hibey, however, declined to address any specifics about Manafort’s
dealings with Deripaska, noting that since “the matter is pending in
the Caymans, it would be inappropriate to discuss it.”
Davis told Yahoo News that, through his lawyer, he informed the Cayman
Island court officials that he knew nothing about the investment, even
though Manafort’s company in the partnership with Deripaska, Davis
Manafort International, still bears his name.
In fact, Davis said, he hasn’t spoken to Manafort in more than five
years, didn’t know how to reach him and was stunned to learn last year
about Manafort’s side business investments with Deripaska, a
controversial figure who -- through Davis’ help -- had met with McCain
and other U.S. senators in 2006 during a time the Russian oligarch was
seeking to persuade U.S. authorities to allow him to enter the United
“I was like, what the f*** is this?” Davis recalled when he learned the
Cayman Island court officials wanted to question him about the
Ukrainian telecommunications investment. “I wasn’t involved in this
In earlier court filings in the Caymans, Deripaska’s lawyers had
alleged that Manafort and another of his business partners, Rick Gates
(who also recently went to work for the Trump campaign), had failed to
respond to repeated requests for audit reports or any other information
about the Ukrainian investment funds put out by Deripaska. Gates also
did not respond to a request for comment by Yahoo News. “It appears
that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared,” Deripaska’s
lawyers wrote in a petition to the Cayman Islands court filed in Dec.
Whatever the explanation, the court documents shed new light on a trail
of complicated offshore business dealings (many of them through firms
registered in the Cayman Islands, Cyprus and elsewhere) that Manafort
engaged in with wealthy Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs --
relationships he appears to have forged while serving as chief
political consultant to former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych,
an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin who fled Kiev in February
2014 and now lives in Moscow.
These ties could prove problematic for Manafort, especially in light of
a report today by Politico that Trump has increasing misgivings about
his new top aide, who is trying to position the Republican frontrunner
as a more conventional candidate. According to Politico, Trump also had
concerns about Manafort’s past ties to controversial foreign figures
like Yanukovych and, as reported by Yahoo News last week, to a
Pakistani intelligence front group -- associations that Trump was
apparently unaware of when he hired him.
A separate lawsuit filed in New York three years ago details multiple
business deals that Manafort had with another pro-Putin oligarch,
Dmitri Firtash, including plans to purchase New York’s Drake Hotel and
develop a high-end resort on the Bahamian island of Bimini.
The New York lawsuit, filed on behalf of former Ukranian Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych’s rival, alleged that Manafort’s business
deals were part of a “racketeering” scheme to launder hundreds of
millions of dollars through a “labyrinth” of Firtash-controlled
companies in Panama, Cyprus and Europe for the benefit of Yanukovych.
The lawsuit was tossed out by a federal judge in New York last fall on
the grounds that it mainly involved overseas activity that was not
within the jurisdiction of the court. But as part of the case, the
lawyer for Tymoshenko, Kenneth F. McCallion, put into the court record
documents detailing Manafort’s business arrangements with Firtash,
including memos and emails about meetings between them in Kiev and a
copy of an agreement to create a limited partnership with Firtash
registered in the Cayman Islands that was signed by Manafort in April
2009. (Firtash two years ago was indicted by a federal grand jury in
Chicago for alleged conspiracy to bribe Indian government officials for
a titanium contract. He was arrested in Vienna, but the Austrian
government rebuffed a Justice Department request for his extradition
last year. The oligarch remains a federal fugitive with an outstanding
Interpol warrant, afraid to risk arrest by leaving Austria, according
to a source close to him.)
During the same period that Manafort was pursuing the business deals
with Firtash, he was also soliciting investments from Deripaska,
according to the court petition filed by Deripaska’s lawyers in the
Cayman Islands and, more recently, by the Cayman liquidators in
Long known as one of Putin’s favorite oligarchs, Deripaska made
billions of dollars in the aluminum business in the 1990s, becoming one
of Russia’s wealthiest men. But in 2006, the State Department, at the
FBI’s request, revoked his visa to enter the United States because of
concerns about allegations of corruption, bribery and possible ties to
organized crime, which Deripaska denied.
According to “Missing Man,” a forthcoming book by New York Times
reporter Barry Meier, the FBI later relented and secretly arranged to
have the Department of Homeland Security issue Deripaska a temporary
visa in 2009, allowing him into the U.S. to meet with American business
leaders after the oligarch promised he could help the bureau find
Robert Levinson, a former bureau agent who has gone missing in Iran.
But according to Meier’s book, Deripaska’s leads went nowhere and
bureau officials determined they had been had by the Russian. The FBI
concluded that Deripaska and two associates “were bullshit artists who
had used Bob’s case as a means to try to get the United States to do
what they wanted without ever delivering anything,” Meier writes.
The court filings in Alexandria stem from an agreement in March 2007 to
create a Cayman Islands partnership called Pericles Emerging Market
Investors, between a firm owned by Manafort and Gates and Surf Horizon,
described as a company incorporated that summer in Cyprus to serve as a
special purpose vehicle for investments by one of Deripaska’s companies
in Moscow. (Deripaska is not identified by name in the court filings,
but sources directly familiar with the case told Yahoo News he was the
principal figure with whom Manafort had partnered.)
The partnership’s purpose was to “generate significant long-term
capital appreciation” through private equity investments in Ukraine,
Russia and elsewhere. As part of the deal, Deripaska’s firms paid $7.35
million in management fees to Manafort and Gates.
But the deal went south after Pericles paid $18.9 million in 2008 to
holdings in Cyprus controlled by Manafort and Gates for the purchase of
Black Sea Cable, a Ukrainian holding company for telecommunications and
Internet interests in that country. Citing the worldwide financial
crisis that year, Deripaska’s firms later suspended further investments
and the two parties agreed to wind down their partnership, according to
the filing by Deripaska’s lawyers.
Lawyers for the Russian oligarch then started seeking information --
and audits -- about what happened to the investment and the management
fees Deripaska’s firms had paid. In court papers, they allege they
discovered that the Ukranian investment had been structured differently
than they had been led to believe -- and with different partners. When
they sought obtain copies of the agreement and sales contracts, as well
as promised audit reports on their investment, Manafort and Gates did
not respond to their requests. Deripaska’s lawyers then sought and
obtained the appointment of court-appointed liquidators to investigate
what happened to his money.
Guardian | 27Apr2016 | Peter Stone
new right-hand man has history of controversial clients and deals
For almost four decades, Donald Trump’s newly installed senior campaign adviser, Paul Manafort,
has managed to juggle two different worlds: well known during US
election season as a shrewd and tough political operative, he also
boasts a hefty resume as a consultant to or lobbyist for controversial
foreign leaders and oligarchs with unsavory reputations.
The controversial clients Manafort has represented have paid
him and his firms millions of dollars and form a who’s who of
authoritarian leaders and scandal-plagued businessmen in Ukraine,
Russia, the Philippines and more. On some occasions, Manafort has
become involved in business deals that have sparked litigation and
allegations of impropriety.
In 1985, Manafort and his first lobbying firm, Black Manafort
Stone & Kelly, signed a $1m contract with a Philippine
business group to promote dictator Ferdinand Marcos just a few months
before his regime was overthrown and he fled the country.
In the mid-1990s, Manafort reportedly received almost $90,000 from a
Lebanese-born businessman and arms merchant to advise French
presidential candidate and then prime minister Edouard Balladur, a
controversial payment that surfaced as part of a long
running French investigation -- dubbed the Karachi affair -- into
allegations that funds, including those Manafort received, came from an
arms sale of French submarines to Pakistan and were illegally funneled
into the French presidential campaign.
And in 2010, Manafort helped pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych remake his
tarnished image and win a presidential election in Ukraine. The effort
was arguably the high point in a decade of political and business
consulting in that country involving figures such as gas tycoon Dmytro
Firtash, who was separately charged in 2014 by US officials with being
part of a bribery scheme in India. The US has sought to have him
extradited from Austria, where he was arrested. Firtash and a
billionaire Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, also worked with Manafort
on separate byzantine investment deals in New York and Ukraine,
respectively, that have led to lawsuits.
The financial dividends that the globetrotting 67-year-old
Manafort reaped from these clients and others are palpable: he has
homes in Alexandria, Virginia, Palm Beach, Florida, and the Hamptons,
in New York, where his house is valued at almost $5.3m, according to
property records. For good measure, Manafort has a condo in Trump Tower.
But some former US Department of State officials familiar with
Manafort say his track record as an international adviser may create
new headaches for a campaign that has already been criticized for its
weak foreign policy credentials and for Trump’s controversial
pronouncements and stances, including his warm words for Vladimir
Putin, an ally of ex-Manafort client Yanukovych.
“Advising Yanukovych is like putting lipstick on a pig,” said
David Kramer, who was a top state department official handling
Ukrainian and Russian issues in the second half of the George W Bush
administration. Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and now lives
was “someone who was involved in massive corruption and had blood on
his hands”, he added.
Likewise, some foreign analysts who track Ukraine and Russia
voice strong concerns about Manafort’s work and question Trump’s
judgment in bringing him on. “Any presidential candidate should
properly vet the backgrounds of and moral decisions of the people he
picks to advise him,” said Atlantic Council deputy director Alina
Polyakova, adding that Manafort’s past work in Ukraine “absolutely
should cast a shadow on Trump’s campaign”.
And some GOP insiders voice similar concerns. “Putin is not
very popular in the US,” one party veteran operative dryly observed.
“Working for his allies probably demands some explanation on Trump’s
Similar issues about Manafort have arisen before: his work in
Ukraine sparked a decision not to bring him on board as John McCain’s
convention manager in 2008, according to people close to the McCain
Nevertheless, Manafort’s role with Trump has expanded quickly
since he was tapped in late March 2016 to manage Trump’s convention
operation and round up delegates, a speciality of Manafort’s going back
to the 1976 GOP convention, when he worked for Gerald Ford’s campaign.
Now, Manafort is opening a Washington DC office and hiring some key
staffers -- including a few former lobbyists who have worked with him
over the years, as Politico first reported -- as the campaign tries to
fend off critics and wrap up the nomination.
Ed Rollins, who managed Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign, told
the Guardian that Manafort did a “good job” working for him as
convention manager. “He’s a good operative and will help Trump.”
“Paul has become the public face of the campaign in addition
to Trump and has the authority to speak for Trump, which nobody has
really had before,” said Charlie Black, his lobbying partner for almost
15 years at Black Manafort Stone & Kelly.
But Black, who is supporting Ohio governor John Kasich, adds
that Manafort’s recent comments at a private Republican national
committee meeting where he tried to assuage critics by
saying that Trump has just been “projecting an image” and that “the
part he’s been playing is now evolving” represented a risky and
difficult makeover. “I’ve known Trump for 30 years and he’s had the
same personality. Whether or not he can win, it’s a mistake to try to
change him into something he’s not,” Black said.
Some GOP fundraisers are also dubious about whether Trump and
his top aides can pull off such a makeover.
“I wish him good luck in altering Trump’s candidacy,” said Mel
Sembler, a top fundraiser for the Super Pac Right to Rise that was
backing Jeb Bush, and a former ambassador during the George W Bush
Manafort’s remarks at the RNC meeting, which were meant to be
private but were secretly recorded, seem to have briefly roiled the
campaign and irritated Trump, whom Manafort likes to call the “boss”,
GOP sources say.
Feeling some heat, Manafort over the weekend tried to walk
back his comments, saying on Fox News that “we’re evolving the
campaign, not the candidate”. On Saturday, Trump told a crowd at a
rally in Connecticut: “I’m not toning it down.”
Eyebrows have also been raised over several new hires on
Manafort’s brief watch, which include a few ex-lobbyists and
consultants -- such as Rick Gates, who handled some Ukraine-related
projects for Manafort in largely administrative functions -- who have
little campaign experience.
Still, Manafort seems to be moving fast to consolidate his
power and in some ways supersede campaign manager Corey Lewandowski,
who has been enmeshed in controversies over his rough treatment of a
Manafort’s ties with Trump stretch back a long way: Trump
turned to Manafort’s first lobbying firm in Washington in the late 80s
for lobbying help for the Trump Organization. Trump forged close ties
with Manafort’s then partner Roger Stone, who became a confidante of
the billionaire and is now an informal campaign adviser who had a role
in promoting Manafort’s hiring.
But Manafort’s work in Ukraine and his links to some
scandal-plagued business figures, such as the oligarchs Firtash and
Deripaska, and the arms dealer Abdul Rahman el-Assir, could wind up
embarrassing the Trump campaign -- especially given its repeated
attacks on Washington insiders and lobbyists for special interests.
Based on documents and sources close to Manafort, the Guardian
has learned new details about a few of the controversial leaders and
business figures Manafort has lobbied for or advised during his decades
as a Washington insider.
- Manafort had long business and social ties to businessman
and international arms dealer El-Assir, whom the lobbyist reportedly
told investigators in 2013 had paid him almost $87,000 in 1994 for
advising French presidential candidate Balladur. The funds Manafort
received drew scrutiny in France as part of the lengthy probe into
whether proceeds from the sale of French submarines to Pakistan, which
was brokered by El-Assir and another weapons merchant, were illegally
funneled into Balladur’s presidential campaign. Manafort was
interviewed by US Justice Department officials in 2013 at the request
of the French government. Richard Hibey, Manafort’s attorney, said that
he didn’t have any evidence that Manafort received $87,000 and that he
didn’t know of payments made by El-Assir to him for the campaign work.
Hibey said he was aware of $34,000 that was paid to Manafort’s firm for
polling that he did for Balladur’s campaign. Manafort’s lobbying firm
in Washington also did some tax and other work for El-Assir, who was
chairman of the Houston-based Gulf Interstate Engineering company,
according to sources familiar with the firm’s work, and the two men
socialized in Washington and in Europe. Manafort’s ties with El-Assir
go back to the 1980s, according to two people familiar with them and a published account in France.
El-Assir has said that in 1988, Manafort introduced him to Pakistani
leader Benazir Bhutto, whose government Manafort’s firm represented in
Washington for a few years. Manafort later lobbied from 1990 to 1995 for
the Kashmiri American Council -- as Yahoo News recently reported
-- which was revealed as a Washington-based front group for Pakistan’s
spy agency ISI when the US Department of Justice charged it in 2011
with covertly influencing US policy towards Kashmir, the long-disputed
area between Pakistan and India. The Kashmiri council’s director, Syed
Ghulam Nabi Fai, pleaded guilty to conspiracy
and tax fraud charges, and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
- Manafort’s work in Ukraine began in 2005 for the country’s
leading oligarch, steel and mining billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, and led
to a multi-year stint advising ousted president Yanukovych, an ally of
the oligarch. For at least a few years, Manafort’s Ukraine work earned
him in the low seven figures annually, according to a person familiar
with his operation in Ukraine. Manafort’s team in Ukraine at various
times included some American operatives, such as Gates, and Konstantin
Kilimnik, a former official with the International Republican Institute
in Moscow, said the source familiar with the Ukraine work. Manafort has
been credited with helping to reshape Yanukovych’s image to make him a
more appealing candidate in 2010 by, among other things, getting him to
speak Ukrainian instead of Russian, which he had done in past
campaigns. Both before and after his 2010 victory, sources say that
Manafort would meet periodically with high-level officials in the US
embassy in Kiev and often tout Yanukovych’s pro-free market and
pro-business views with an eye to buffing his image. Manafort’s job
wasn’t easy, say people familiar with Yanukovych. “His client was
somebody who had a very troubled reputation,” said former Bush State
Department official David Kramer.
- In 2008, Manafort teamed up with real estate executive Brad
Zackson, who was a top aide to Trump’s father Fred, and others in a
real estate scheme to buy prime properties in the US, including the
famed Drake Hotel site in New York, and elsewhere, mainly on behalf of
Ukrainian gas billionaire Firtash, another backer of Yanukovych. No
deals were ever completed; in 2011 a civil racketeering suit that
alleged money laundering in excess of $25m was filed against Firtash,
Manafort and several affiliated companies by then jailed Ukrainian
political opposition leader and Firtash business competitor Yulia
Tymoshenko. But a New York court dismissed the charges on procedural
and jurisdictional grounds.
Like Yanukovych, Firtash had a troubled reputation. Former US
ambassador William Taylor said in a secret memo from 2008
that in a meeting he had with him, Firtash “acknowledged ties to
Russian organized crime figure Semyon Mogilevich, stating that he had
needed Mogilevich’s approval to get into business in the
The ties that Manafort had with Firtash -- which included
three meetings in 2008, according to documents that were part of the
lawsuit -- in their abortive real estate ventures involved a maze of
companies and solicitations of investors with dubious backgrounds. One
key example: a private equity company called Pericles Emerging Markets
Partners, which Manafort helped set up with funding from Russian
investors. A principal one, an informed source says, was aluminum
oligarch and Putin favorite Deripaska, who at the time was barred from
entering the US due to concerns about organized crime links.
According to a 2014 Cayman Islands court filing,
the Russian investors charged in a petition that about $26m they had
invested with the Cayman-based Pericles -- via an offshore entity in
Cyprus that the Russians controlled -- to acquire a Ukrainian cable TV
company and an internet venture was unaccounted for by Manafort and his
partner Gates. The court petition from the Russian entity in Cyprus
(known as Surf Horizons) said that the two men had failed to reply to
requests for information since 2011 about the status of their Ukrainian
investment -- which was slated to be sold off -- and that Manafort and
Gates had “disappeared”.
The court filing shows that Surf Horizon was seeking to
recover as much of its investment as possible through a liquidation of
Pericles. The court quickly issued a ruling in favor of the Russian
investors to help them recoup funding by putting Pericles into
liquidation. As Yahoo News reported, the
Cayman court sought discovery from a federal court in Virginia, which
ordered Manafort, Gates and others to give depositions in the US about
Pericles and the Ukrainian investments in 2015; Hibey, Manafort’s
attorney, told the Guardian that his client and others had complied
last year and there had been no further requests in the US.
Manafort failed to respond to several queries about his
Ukraine work, as well as his ties to El-Assir, Deripaska and Pericles.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday [24Apr2016], he defended his
work for Yanukovych: “The role I played in that administration was to
help bring Ukraine into Europe
and we did.”
Despite Manafort’s years of controversial lobbying and foreign
consulting, and the flap over his RNC comments, there is evidence that,
for now anyway, his roles in the Trump campaign have been growing.
“Manafort has an ever-expanding portfolio,” said a senior GOP
operative, including “messaging and overall strategy”. Manafort, the
operative said, recently suggested Trump deliver a major foreign policy
talk in Washington, something that took place on Wednesday, [27Apr2016]
drawing mostly negative reviews from policy experts.