Tuesday Reads: Mostly Manafort

Good Morning!!

Lots of news breaking on Paul Manafort after the Mueller filing yesterday informing the court that Manafort lied repeatedly to the FBI after agreeing to a plea deal. The Guardian just released a blockbuster story, although quite several Intelligence experts on Twitter are questioning whether it’s legit.

The Guardian: Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort denies the report. More from The Guardian story:

Manafort’s first visit to the embassy took place a year after Assange sought asylum inside, two sources said.

A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”.

According to two sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.

Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt….

The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

One expert Twitter skeptic:

I’m sure other reporters are already trying to confirm the Guardian story. A strong argument in favor of the piece is that the primary author is Luke Harding, a writer with excellent sources in Russian in Ukraine. He’s the author of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, a terrific book. Natasha Bertrand’s take:

Others are discussing why Manafort would have lied to the Mueller team. It could be he’s betting on a pardon, but more likely he’s terrified of being murdered by Putin and other oligarchs. Here’s something interesting:

Listen to the full podcast at Slate.

The notion that Manafort fears Russian oligarchs more than he fears Mueller and prison makes sense, it fits with this story by Betsy Woodruff from a year ago: Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime.

Buried deep in Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link between Donald Trump’s former campaign and Russian organized crime.

The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.

The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.

Semion Mogilevich in Moscow court, 2008

Mogilevich, who also has ties to Trump, is easily the most powerful man in the Russian mafia.

Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to the FBI, responsible for weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution. In 2009, he made the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

“Ivan Fursin was a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization,” Taras Kuzio, a non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations and a specialist on the region told The Daily Beast.

Martin Sheil, a retired criminal investigator for the IRS, said the indictment, with its connections to Fursin, helps illuminate the murky world Manafort operated in before taking the reins of Trump’s presidential bid.

“This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort,” Sheil told The Daily Beast.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Trump is freaking out this morning, tweeting insane attacks on Mueller.

This post at Alternet summarizes some of Marcy Wheeler’s recent arguments about Manafort and Mueller: This reporter argues that Trump used Manafort as a ‘mole’ inside Mueller’s investigation — but it just blew up in their faces.

Marcy Wheeler, one of most astute Mueller watchers who once provided as yet undisclosed information to the FBI about the investigation, argued compellingly that Manafort has been acting as a mole within the investigation for President Donald Trump. Even more intriguingly, though, she believes Mueller knew this and may have used Manafort against the president.

Marcy Wheeler

The only sane reason, she claimed in a new blog post, that Manafort would lie to Mueller even after taking a plea deal, is that he’s banking on a pardon from Trump, which would, in any case, cover only federal and not state crimes.

“Just about the only explanation for Manafort’s actions are that — as I suggested — Trump was happy to have Manafort serve as a mole in Mueller’s investigation,” she wrote.

If this is right, it could be devastating for Trump. He finally turned in his answers to the special counsel’s investigation last week — and he may have relied on Manafort’s “insider knowledge.”

“But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them,” Wheeler explained. “That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.”

There are several reasons Wheeler’s argument is compelling. First, as she previously noted, Manafort’s plea agreement did not include a provision to limit him from speaking with outside parties about the investigations, even though Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy who also pleaded guilty in the probe, was forced to agree to such a provision. For some reason, Mueller wasn’t worried about Manafort’s lawyers communicating with Trump — which he has been doing.

Click the link to read the rest.

I wonder how long his lawyers will be able to prevent Trump from pardoning Manafort?

A couple of other stories, one recent and very disturbing and one historical.

The Daily Beast: Trans Woman Was Beaten in ICE Custody Before Death, Autopsy Finds.

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras, died on May 25, nine days after being transferred to a dedicated unit for transgender women at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, which is operated under contract by CoreCivic, the second-largest private prison company in the United States.

“There she developed severe diarrhea and vomiting over the course of several days,” wrote forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, “and finally was emergently hospitalized, then transported to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she remained critically ill until her death.” [….]

The autopsy concluded that Hernández Rodriguez’s cause of death was most likely “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection,” which made her susceptible to the physiologic effects of untreated dehydration.

“According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernández Rodriguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill,” Sperry wrote.

Sperry’s autopsy, the second conducted on Hernández Rodriguez’s body following her death, also found evidence of physical abuse, with “deep bruising” on her hands and abdomen, evidence of blunt-force trauma “indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with blunt object.” An accompanying diagram illustrated long, thin bruises along Hernández Rodriguez’s back and sides, as well as extensive hemorrhaging on Hernández Rodriguez’s right and left wrists, which Dr. Sperry found were “typical of handcuff injuries.”

Horrifying. I’m sure we’ll being hearing many shocking stories about ICE abuses in the coming months and years.

Michael Isakoff at Yahoo News: In the closet in the White House: The tortured history of the gay man who touched off the purge of gays in government.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, left, and Robert Cutler, his special assistant for national security affairs. Photo by Joseph Scherschel, the Life Picture Collection, Getty Images

In the annals of presidential directives, few were more chilling than a document signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in April 1953. Crafted during the height of the Cold War, Executive Order 10450 declared that alongside Communism, “sexual perversion” by government officials was a threat to national security. The order became the trigger for a massive purge of the federal workforce. In the years that followed, thousands of government employees were investigated and fired for the “crime” of being gay.

The full story of Executive Order 10450 and its terrible consequences has only started to surface in more recent years as a result of books like “The Lavender Scare” and films like “Uniquely Nasty,” a 2015 Yahoo News documentary that this reporter co-wrote and directed. But it turns out there was an untold personal drama behind the making of the anti-gay White House order — a saga that is recounted for the first time in a new book to be published next week, “Ike’s Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler.”

Written by Peter Shinkle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it tells the life story of the author’s great uncle, a central character in the creation of Executive Order 10450. A blue blood liberal Republican from a prominent Boston family, a Harvard graduate and member of the elite Porcellian Club, a wealthy banker and U.S. Army general during World War II, Robert “Bobby” Cutler Jr. became a close adviser to Eisenhower during his 1952 presidential campaign. He then was tapped by Ike to serve as White House special assistant for national security affairs, the forerunner to the position of national security adviser.

In that post, Cutler, who prided himself on never talking to the press, was a pivotal figure, helping to direct U.S. foreign policy during an era of tense global confrontation with the Soviet Union. And it was Cutler who oversaw the drafting of Executive Order 10450 — a role all the more remarkable because, as Shinkle reveals, Cutler was a gay man who secretly pursued a passionate, yearslong relationship with a young naval intelligence officer on the national security council staff.

Please go read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?

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42 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Mostly Manafort”

  1. dakinikat says:

    From Scott Horton
    “I’m intrigued by the Guardian’s sourcing for its story today about Manafort’s meetings with Julian Assange. They draw on a “well-informed source” with connections to the Ecuadorian intelligence services. Over the last several years, the Guardian has scooped a number of Assange stories based on sources inside the Ecuadorian embassy and in Quito. Their stories have been borne out repeatedly. What these sources suggest is that Assange was from early in his stay in South Kensington dealing with Russian agents and surrogates, particularly surrounding the provision of WikiLeaks information. They make fairly clear that Assange was aware of the identity of the people he was dealing with, and that he lied about them prolifically. Now we know that Assange has in fact been indicted, and the indictment sealed. We don’t know what the charges are and we don’t know what facts are alleged in connection with them. But we can surmise, especially from the Guardian’s reporting, (1) that Assange’s Ecuadorian hosts spied on him throughout his stay, (2) that they engaged and instructed a Spanish security firm to do this inside the embassy, (3) that reports on his meetings identified who visited him, how long, and what they brought with them and gave Assange, (4) that these reports were provided to the Ecuadorian government in Quito, (5) that while most of the Ecuadorian government was and is very positively disposed towards Assange, there are also a number of figures who loathe him (less because of his politics, more because of his sanitary practices and his mistreatment and abuse of his pet cat, curiously enough) and who appear to have leaked materials to journalists. It’s a safe bet that if the Guardian got this material, then US intelligence has it too, and indeed, likely in much more detail. (Consider for instance that Spain is a NATO member, that Spanish intelligence routinely funnels information it secures to the US, and that Spanish security companies routinely funnel information they secure to Spanish intelligence). All this leads me to suspect that the allegations against Assange may well lay out his dealings with the Trump camp and with Russian intelligence in enormous detail, and that the evidentiary sources for such allegations may well be formidable. And this leads me in turn to think that it would be a high priority for Russian military intelligence to insure that Assange does not fall into US hands. This has the makings of a major Hollywood motion picture, for it’s a case in which real life is far more interesting than espionage fiction.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Lots more people skeptical of Guardian report. I still think Luke Harding would not fall for fake news, but we’ll see. Also, anything that Glenn Greenwald is skeptical of I tend to think is probably legit.

    • NW Luna says:

      Agree with you on Greenwald.

      I don’t understand this:

      In any case, bizarroworld that anyone thinks if you wanted the Russian government to do some hacking that talking to WikiLeaks would ever be any part of that process.

      Certainly WikiLeaks is a conduit for info from the Russians — but why wouldn’t it work the other way? Though Manafort himself has contacts with Russia with whom he would communicate without going through Assange.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Trump suggests he has inside information on the Russia probe, hours after Mueller said former campaign chief Manafort violated plea deal

    As he pilloried the special counsel, Trump echoed the salvos against the investigation recently launched by right-wing conspiracy monger Jerome Corsi, who claimed Monday that he rejected a plea deal offered by Mueller. Corsi had said that he would “rather sit in prison and rot” than say he lied to Mueller.

    “Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “The Fake News Media builds Bob Mueller up as a Saint, when in actuality he is the exact opposite. He is doing TREMENDOUS damage to our Criminal Justice System, where he is only looking at one side and not the other.”

    The president’s attacks also highlight lingering questions about the possibility of Trump granting presidential pardons to some of the people targeted by the special counsel — a notion that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared to entertain Tuesday. The former New York City mayor suggested that Mueller’s probe may be going too far when NBC News asked him whether the president plans to offer Manafort a pardon.

    • bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

    This is intriguing. $19 million is the amount that Carter Page was supposedly promised from that oil company deal–from the dossier.

    • NW Luna says:

      Well. Sheer coincidence, or … ? Though you’d think Page would want to keep some for himself.

      At any rate, this shows why we need regulations to ensure more detail on financial transactions of any organization that lobbies.

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    Thank you for all the information in this thread.

    • NW Luna says:

      Yes, thank you.

    • bostonboomer says:

      There is quite a bit of info in the post as well. I hope some people will read the last two articles, which are very interesting and important.

      • NW Luna says:

        Oh, I meant the post too. I’m in the middle of the last article. The 2nd to the last I doubt I can stand to read.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Yes, it’s pretty horrible. Thanks for reading the Eisenhower article. I found it very enlightening. I actually remember when I was a kid hearing about how gay people (not called that then) were subject to blackmail. What bullshit! A lot of things Eisenhower did were creepy, like adding “in God we trust” to money and adding “under God” to the pledge.

      • dakinikat says:

        Finally got to read then … they both were important and spoke to our ongoing treatment of the GLBT community. The Eisenhower guy was a piece of work!

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Carl Bernstein scoop seems to support Luke Harding’s at the Guardian.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      I think this means that the details have to be really horrible. Or the links to Trump/Kushner are obvious. Or both.

      • Enheduanna says:

        Luna – I doubt there are Trump/Kushner links talked about on those tapes. They probably do link MBS to the murder.

        The Trump/Kushner exposure is obvious. I just still cannot begin to understand how they are getting away with this.

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. bostonboomer says:

    U.S. Editor of Financial Times:

    • NW Luna says:

      Big Brother is a corporation. That’s why I don’t like vertical systems where one’s tech device — phone or computer — runs on software from the same company that makes it, and you have to buy other designer’s software at a “store” run by the big company that makes your computer or phone.

  12. Enheduanna says:

    Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg has passed:

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/spongebob-creator-stephen-hillenburg-dies

    Sadly he was only 57 and died of ALS. What a great life though!

  13. dakinikat says:

  14. dakinikat says:

  15. bostonboomer says:

    For what it’s worth, John Schindler says intel community knows about Manafort and Assange visits.

  16. NW Luna says: