On October 30, Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 criminal charges, among them conspiracy against the United States, failure to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and money laundering. Both men have pleaded not guilty. What makes this case most interesting to our readers is that the FARA charges are related to Mr. Manafort’s work when he represented the interests of the odious Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies.
The indictment was the result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. Mr. Manafort, readers will recall, at one time served as campaign manager for Donald Trump. In particular, he was the campaign’s manager at the time of the Republican Party convention.
As The Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin noted: “…Trump’s pro-Putin team unabashedly Russified the RNC platform, according to multiple news sources.” She quoted this from Politico’s Josh Meyer: “U.S. investigators are focusing on an enduring mystery of the 2016 election: whether Trump campaign officials made the Republican Party platform more friendly to Russia as part of some broader effort to collude with the Kremlin, according to congressional records and people familiar with the probes. Congressional investigators have interviewed ex-Donald Trump aides and advisers including J.D. Gordon, the national security policy representative at last year’s GOP convention, about the campaign’s push to remove proposed language from the 2016 Republican platform that called for giving weapons to Ukraine.” Thus, the platform issue is now part of the larger probe into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia.
Then there is the issue of money laundering. Mr. Manafort apparently concealed millions of dollars he made while working for the pro-Russian, pro-Putin Party of Regions in Ukraine. Readers may remember that a “black ledger” discovered in Ukraine appeared to show the party’s payments of $12.7 million to Mr. Manafort’s political consulting firm in the years 2007-2012. And Mr. Manafort did more than work on the domestic image of the Party of Regions and Mr. Yanukovych, who was elected president in 2010. He also lobbied on Mr. Yanukovych’s behalf in Washington, promoting him as a “pro-Western democrat,” as The Washington Post observed. Of course, we all know just how “pro-Western” he turned out to be. To make a long, convoluted story short: President Yanukovych was ousted from office by the people of Ukraine as a result of the Euro-Maidan movement that grew into the Revolution of Dignity. Notably, Mr. Manafort continued to work for the Party of Regions, now called the Opposition Bloc, even after Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia.
That is why it is galling to see some news media citing Mr. Manafort’s work on behalf of Ukraine. You see, his work had nothing at all to do with Ukraine and everything to do, ultimately, with Vladimir Putin, whose satrap Mr. Yanukovych was.
And here’s the kicker: Ukraine also wants to question Mr. Manafort. RFE/RL reported that Ukrainian prosecutors plan to ask the U.S. Justice Department for permission to interview Mr. Manafort in connection with a corruption case they’re pursuing; Ukrainian officials say they want to cooperate with the Justice Department and the FBI. What’s more, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, when asked by the CBC about the Manafort case during a visit to Canada, said though he had not received “any requests for information” from the U.S. special counsel’s office, “if we receive a request we will, of course, provide the information we have.”