March 22, 2017 12:59 pm -

This happened a decade ago, and thanks to loopholes in lobbying disclosure laws remained hidden until someone at AP got the smoking memos. This is going to leave a big nasty mark:

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, 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, The Associated Press has learned.

The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed 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. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate 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. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

Manafort’s plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.

But that’s not all. Remember Preet Bharata, the prosecutor fired by Trump? He was investigating ties between Russia, money laundering, and Trump’s business circle – and one of his key witnesses just “fell” from the fourth floor of a Moscow building:

Nikolai Gorokhov, who is the attorney representing the family of [now-deceased] anti-Putin lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, is still alive but in intensive care with severe head injuries, according to the Daily Beast. The Beast also reports that Gorokhov was a witness in recently fired U.S. attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation of a Russian money laundering ring operating out of New York City. BBC reporter Daniel Sandford tweeted that Gorokhov was due in court this week to testify before a grand jury on what he knew, citing British financier Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital.

In his own investigation, Magnitsky learned that officials working within Russia’s Interior Ministry and its tax bureau were members of the Klyuev Group. In a 2012 letter to President Obama, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) described the group as a “dangerous transnational criminal organization” which is allegedly involved in “numerous international crimes.” Sen. McCain equated the Klyuev Group with the Sinaloa drug cartel, which is one of Mexico’s most ruthless organized drug smuggling and trafficking organizations. Magnitsky was later tortured and killed in jail in 2009, presumably due to his knowledge of the group’s members and activities surrounding tax fraud.

Meanwhile, another Trumpite with close ties to Putin, Secretary of International Message Boy Rex Tillerson, is having an episode of colic:

Rex Tillerson did not want the job of secretary of state and was convinced to take up the mantle on the insistence of his wife, he said, according to an interview published in an Independent Journal Review (IJR), the only media outlet that was given access to Tillerson during his recent Asia trip.

“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of State, I was stunned;” Tillerson explained that he had never met President Trump before the election.

“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” Tillerson said in an IJR interview conducted on his official plane during the three-nation Asia trip. When asked why he had accepted the job, he replied saying that his wife (Renda St. Clair) “told me I’m supposed to do this.”

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.