Does It Matter if Ukraine’s Pro-Russian Party Gave Manafort Secret Cash?

Documentation is nice, but it doesn’t really surprise anyone; Paul Manafort worked for a Ukrainian political party friendly to Russia for a long time.

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials . . .

Anti-corruption officials there say the payments earmarked for Mr. Manafort, previously unreported, are a focus of their investigation, though they have yet to determine if he actually received the cash. While Mr. Manafort is not a target in the separate inquiry of offshore activities, prosecutors say he must have realized the implications of his financial dealings.

Manafort responds that the whole thing is false. If he received official on-the-books payments from political parties, why would they be giving him cash off-the-books, too?

Manafort also insists, “I have never received a single ‘off-the-books cash payment’ as falsely ‘reported’ by The New York Times, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.” That last part seems like a bit of a dodge. If someone does work for the Democratic National Committee or Obama for America in 2012, does that mean they can say they’ve never done work for the U.S. government? In both cases, they’re answering to the president, and it seems reasonable to conclude their viewpoints and interests align.

As noted in a Morning Jolt way back in March, the Manafort-Yanukovych relationship stretched on for years.

Manafort’s friends describe his relationship with Yanukovych as a political love connection, born out of Yanukovych’s first downfall when he was driven from power by the 2004 Orange Revolution. Feeling that his domestic political advisers had failed him, Yanukovych turned to a foreign company, Davis Manafort, which was already doing work for the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. The former Ukrainian PM and Manafort, the Georgetown-educated son of a Connecticut politician, hit it off.

Manafort’s firm had a set of international clients and produced an analysis of the Orange Revolution that Yanukovych found instructive, according to one operative involved in Yanukovych’s political rehabilitation. Manafort became, in effect, a general consultant to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, shaping big-picture messaging, coaching Yanukovych to speak in punchy, American-style sound bites and managing teams of consultants and attorneys in both Ukraine and the United States ahead of an anticipated Yanukovych comeback. While it’s difficult to track payments in foreign elections, a former associate familiar with Manafort’s earnings say they ran into the seven figures over several years.

After Yanukovych’s 2010 victory, Manafort stayed on as an adviser to the Russia-friendly president and became involved in other business projects in Eastern Europe.

Manafort also declares, “My work in Ukraine ceased following the following the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2014.” Well, yeah, there wasn’t as much he could do for his client after that:

Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych has said he accepts some responsibility for the killings that led to his overthrow in February 2014.

“I don’t deny my responsibility,” he told BBC Newsnight, when asked about the shooting of demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square.

He never ordered the security forces to open fire, he said, but admitted he had not done enough to prevent bloodshed.

“I did not give any orders [to use firearms], that was not my authority… I was against any use of force, let alone the use of firearms, I was against bloodshed.

“But the members of the security forces fulfilled their duties according to existing laws. They had the right to use weapons,” he said.

More than 100 protesters died in the clashes on Kiev’s central square, where huge crowds had confronted police for months.

A year after the bloodshed some witnesses told the BBC that fatal shots had also been fired at the police.

In February 2014 Mr Yanukovych was whisked away by Russian special forces to a safe haven in Russia.

After years of supporting Ukrainian resistance to Russian threats, the GOP platform suddenly changed this year. We know Manafort’s worldview is considerably friendlier to Vladmir Putin, Russia, and its political allies than the average American foreign policy maker’s. Is this because of secret cash, past contractual work, or Manafort’s personal definition of American interests? If you see Putin as a threat to American interests, does it really matter?

And if taking money from a foreign interest makes someone unacceptable to be in or near the Oval Office . . . what about the Clinton Foundation and its millions of dollars from the Saudis, Kuwaitis, state-owned Russian companies, oligarchs, and so on?

Of course, in an ordinary year, an accusation like the one in the Times would be a big deal. This year, it will be eclipsed by some new Trump comment by midday.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Is Burning

Hey, is anybody paying attention to Milwaukee?

For a second night, disorder hit Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood late Sunday, with protesters throwing rocks, bricks and glass bottles at police, shots ringing out and a shooting victim rescued by officers and whisked to a hospital in an armored vehicle.

The disturbances came as the city coped with the aftermath of Saturday night’s violence that followed a police shooting of an armed suspect.

At around 11 p.m., police dressed in riot gear had to move in and disperse a crowd at Sherman Blvd. and Burleigh St., after protesters started throwing objects.

An 18-year-old man was rushed to a hospital with a serious gunshot injury, Milwaukee Police said. The shooting occurred in the in the 3000 block of N. Sherman Blvd.

Police said an officer was also taken to a hospital after suffering an injury when a thrown rock broke the windshield of a squad car.

With neighbors sweeping debris from scorched businesses, and political and religious leaders urging calm, Milwaukee began to come to terms Sunday with the night of fire and violence that followed the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old armed suspect by a 24-year-old police officer.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn provided details of Saturday afternoon’s shooting and confirmed that the officer is African-American. So was the suspect, Sylville K. Smith.

Donald Trump will be in West Bend, Wisconsin Tuesday. Time for that “law and order” refocus again?

Where Are They Holding the Olympics? At Gunpoint.

Yes, it’s amazing that Usain Bolt came from behind to win gold again, that the Brazilian gymnasts were weeping with joy at winning silver and bronze before their hometown crowd, and that people were saying “raise the roof!” for U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, because one of these nights she’s going to vault so high she crashes into the ceiling.

But those of us who thought Rio de Janeiro was, at best, a deeply flawed host city nearly got the worst kind of vindication.

Citing the USOC, the IOC first denied the report, which first was reported by Fox in Australia. The USOC later confirmed the incident, saying [Ryan] Lochte and three other U.S. swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, were in a taxi leaving France House early Sunday that was stopped by robbers posing as police.

Lochte told NBC’s Billy Bush the robbers’ car sideswiped the taxi.

“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte told Bush. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.

“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, “Get down,” and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”

Fortunately, by all accounts, no one was hurt. But this is only the latest in a string of incidents that have plagued the Games. A stray bullet somehow landed in an equestrian press conference. Rocks pelted a media bus (which some inside said were bullets). Two Australian rowing coaches were reportedly robbed at knifepoint last week. A Portuguese education minister was mugged. A group of Spanish sailors were held up at gunpoint in May. Two Australian Paralympic athletes were mugged in June. On Sunday, Australia announced it was banning its athletes from going to Rio’s beaches.

Maybe this is as bad as it will get; muggings and near-misses and stray bullets but no one going home grievously wounded or in a body bag because of Rio’s crime. If that’s the case, then it will be better luck than the International Olympic Committee deserves. They prioritized geographic diversity (and perhaps bribery) and chose to avert their eyes from the very real problems of the city and the country. The only true karma will be if those disguised cops mug a member of the IOC selection committee next.

ADDENDA: Kurt Schlichter with #caring words of wisdom that will probably fall on deaf ears:

I am simply not going to disregard people I’ve read and listened to for years because we disagree on this one thing. That’s crazy talk. In fact, I’m going to read and listen to them more closely because echo chambers where you hear only what you want to hear tend to make you dumb. Look, the guys I disagree with have some good points — regardless of whether any of them think I have any good points. Ben Shapiro, Jim Geraghty, Jonah Goldberg and Bill Kristol are suddenly wrong about everything because I think they are wrong about one thing? That’s an actively stupid notion, and I refuse to embrace it. 

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