July 27, 2017 10:05 am -

This isn’t going to help Team Trump:

The Department of Justice has identified a former business associate of ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as an “upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime.”

The declaration came in a 115-page filing as part of the government’s case against Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who was once involved in a failed multimillion-dollar deal to buy New York’s Drake Hotel with Manafort, and an important player in the Ukrainian political party for which Manafort worked.

Firtash is being prosecuted for what federal prosecutors in Chicago say was his role in bribing Indian officials in order to get a lucrative mining deal to sell titanium to Boeing.

In 2008, according to court records, Manafort’s firm was involved with Firtash in a plan to redevelop the Drake Hotel for $850 million. Firtash’s company planned to invest more than $100 million, the records say.

One of the other partners working with Manafort on the deal was the former exclusive broker for Fred Trump’s properties, Brad Zackson. Fred Trump is the now-deceased father of Donald Trump.

Eventually, documents show, Firtash’s investment company transferred $25 million into escrow to further the project.

Also in 2008, according to a State Department cable posted by WikiLeaks, Firtash told U.S. Ambassador William Taylor that he got his start in business with the permission of one of Russia’s most well-known organized crime bosses, Semion Mogilevich. But Firtash claimed to Taylor that he was forced to deal with such people.

Firtash was a major backer of Ukraine’s Party of Regions, the pro-Russian party for which Manafort worked for many years, according to the federal criminal complaint and another leaked State cable. Manafort’s firm made more than $17 million in gross revenue from the party in just two years, according to his recent Foreign Agent Registration Act filing.

USA Today adds this nugget:

Firtash is represented Lanny Davis, the former White House counsel under President Clinton, Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security Secretary under President George W. Bush, and former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, according to the Chicago Tribune.

These stories dropped hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to have arm-twisted Manafort into cooperating with their Russiagate probe:

The Senate Judiciary Committee dropped a subpoena late Tuesday that would have compelled President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to testify publicly before the committee in its ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

In a joint statement, committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley and ranking Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Manafort produced documents Tuesday after the subpoena was issued and agreed to meet with committee members in the future for an interview.

“It’s important that he and other witnesses continue to work with this committee as it fulfills its oversight responsibility,” the statement said. “Our investigation is still in its early stages, and we will continue to seek information from witnesses as necessary. … Cooperation from witnesses is always the preferred route, but this agreement does not prejudice the committee’s right to compel his testimony in the future.”

Wow.You almost get the feeling that if Manafort does manage to wriggle out of a prison term, he’s going to spend rest of his life in the witness protection program. here’s hoping he enjoys the scenery in beautiful Northern Michigan!

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.