Manafort Judge Probably Loved It A Lot When Lawyers Lied To Her, Don't You Think?
Get your chips out, kids, it's time for another round of Redaction Bingo Funtimes! Because in addition to the eleventy other HOLEESHIIIT stories today, we just got the transcript from Paul Manafort's sentencing hearing Monday in DC District Court. So let's hurry up and see if we can make sense of this gobbledygook before the clock strikes indictment-thirty again. Ready?
The [REDACTED] Scheme. And by [REDACTED] we mean 'KICKBACK.'
When last this dipshit graced these pages, prosecutors had just entered a heavily redacted 100-page affidavit by an FBI agent attesting to Manafort's lil' lying problem. We stared at the black bars until we saw spots, and then decided that prosecutors had inadvertently stumbled upon a kickback scheme at Trump's Rebuilding America PAC, set up by the president's good pal Tom Barrack, who shows up errrrywhere in this mess -- the inauguration, the PAC, schemes to enrich his company off connections to the Trump administration. This guy is BAD NEWS.
But back to the PAC! It looked to us like Manafort put his two buddies Laurance Gay and Ken McKay in charge of hoovering up unlimited Ameros from big money Trump donors, but he'd worked out a side deal to get a 3 percent cough, cough commission on the ad buys, most of which went through GOP favorite Multi Media Services (MMS). MMS then turned around and paid $125,000 directly to Manafort's lawyers at WilmerHale in the summer of 2017. Which is very, extremely not normal.
As we said last three weeks ago, we think that works out to:
In the summer of 2016, Manafort had been instrumental in setting up the [PAC] and having [Gay] run it. The [PAC] had engaged [Multi Media Services, aka MMS] at Manafort's suggestion and [MMS] performed [digital media services in support of candidate Trump]. The [PAC] gave [MMS] approximately $19 million for [cutting ads]. Under the terms of the contract between [Manafort's lobbying firm Davis Manafort Partners, DMP] and the [PAC], [the PAC] was to receive a 6% commission on all [ad buys.] According to [a witness, possibly Ken McKay], half of the commission was to be provided to [DMP], although this was not reflected in the contract.
And oh, lookie here at this transcript ... TOLDJA! Here's what prosecutor Andrew Weissman told Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Monday.
Because -- and then this is definitely an educated guess: But what we think the actual -- what was really going on was that Mr. Manafort was aware that there was a -- to put it charitably, a [REDACTED] scheme where Mr. [REDACTED] was paying money back, not to the [REDACTED], but to the head of the [REDACTED], and that Mr. [REDACTED] was holding the money for Mr. [REDACTED]. Mr. [REDACTED] may -- may have, in turn, had that same relationship, or similar relationship, with Mr. Manafort, although that's not necessary to our argument.
So when Manafort was theoretically working on the Trump campaign "for free," he was actually collecting a $570,000 "commission" from Trump's PAC. Neat trick, huh? Which is probably why he told prosecutors on September 20, 2018, that the payment was a "loan" from his buddy Laurance Gay. Then he told the grand jury that it was a "gift," because someone, presumably Gay, was paying his legal bills as a token of gratitude for getting him work in the past. In his final version of the story, the $125,000 was income, which he picked up on his 2018 return. Ipso facto, NO COLLUSION!
As proof that Manafort wasn't lying his ass off, his lawyers state that their client was merely confused. It was kind of a gift, see, but since he got a 1099 from someone for that money, Manafort figured he should just cough up the additional $62,000 in federal and state income tax at a time when he was totally illiquid. You know, out of an abundance of caution. And the lawyers will produce the metadata on that unsigned promissory note that Gay "discovered" in 2018 to prove that it totally, really existed in 2017 at the time MMS paid Manafort's legal bills. The lawyers never bothered to find said metadata before the sentencing hearing because, ummmm, reasons.
Judge Jackson seemed deeply skeptical of the unsigned promissory note that magically appeared in an email in October of 2018, 15 months after the money was advanced, when Mueller's team started asking about the transaction.
So, I feel like that not only is it possible that he wasn't being truthful with the Office of Special Counsel, but you [Manafort's lawyers] were kind of really downplaying it in your description to me. So, what do you want to tell me about this promissory note that makes its first appearance during the debriefing session?
Better hope you find that metadata, fellas! Judge Jackson doesn't seem too happy about being fed a line of horseshit.
And, if we read the transcript correctly, Mr. Weissman seems to be implying that someone at MMS was in on the kickback scheme, which is why they collected $20.2 million dollars and "refunded" $1.1 million after the election.
We've got payment records, and the payment records are coming from Mr. [REDACTED]. So how does Mr. [REDACTED] get involved? And that's when we got version two. And so the issue for Mr. Manafort is, how does he now justify Mr. [REDACTED] being anywhere near this scheme? And then, once he switches to Mr. [REDACTED], the issue is, why did he first go to Mr. [REDACTED]? And so -- and we know the answer through Mr. [REDACTED]'s interview, where he tells us how that happened.
There is so, so much fuckery in this gift/loan/payment for services rendered, but let's move on to the RUSSIA STUFF, 'kay?
It's Not Witness Tampering If You Really Believe the Lie
Remember that har-har-hilarious time that Manafort got caught uploading his witness-tampering WhatsApp messages to the iCloud, so Robert Mueller could just download them and take a well-deserved Saturday afternoon off? Manafort was desperate to prove that he hadn't violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by lobbying in the US for his Putin-loving Ukrainian buddies, so he reached out to his old buddy Konstantin Kilimnik to say, HEY, REMEMBER ALL OUR UKRAINIAN LOBBYING TOOK PLACE IN EUROPE, RIGHT? Which Kilimnik and everyone else associated with the project knew was bullshit -- they'd paid millions for European leaders to come here and lobby the American Congress to recognize the legitimacy of the pro-Putin Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort even ghost-wrote a March 2013 Hill editorial where a retired European leader praised good, wise, and totally legitimate leader Yanukovych -- but by sheer coincidence that piece has sadly been memory-holed and no longer exists.
More to the point, though, Kilimnik knew damn well that they'd lobbied in the US. So when Manafort told prosecutors that he was just checking in with old Kostya, and that guy was sure that most of their work was in NOT AMERICA, Manafort was lying. Which his lawyers knew, so they yanked him aside and told him to cut that shit out, probably. Although in their version of events, they just refreshed his memory, after which he corrected the record. So, no harm no foul!
Ready For Some Sexxxxxxy [REDACTED]?
Judge Amy Berman Jackson got the ball rolling on Topic III, which she broke up into "the Ukraine stuff and the [R-E-D-A-C-T-E-D] stuff."
Shifty sonofabitch! Manafort was still discussing Ukraine with his Russian fixer Konstantin Kilimnik last winter after he'd already been indicted by Robert Mueller? AYFKMRN?
There is a lot blacked out in this section on Ukraine. Manafort seems to have conveniently "forgotten" some of his meetings with Kilimnik, although he miraculously remembered when presented with government evidence that they took place. Go figure! We're going to go out on a limb and guess that first redaction up there reads "plan for." As in when was Paul Manafort going to get that idiot Donald Trump sign off on a plan for ditching those annoying sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and make his BFF Vladimir Putin a happy man!
But Manafort's lawyers have an answer for that, and it is NO SANCTIONS! NO SANCTIONS! THESE DISCUSSIONS OF SANCTIONS ARE IMMATERIAL BECAUSE SANCTIONS ARE ETERNAL!
Nope. NBC reports that it was only the persistent outcry over the Russia investigation that stopped the Trump administration from magically unsanctioning Russia forever.
In fact, former State Department officials told NBC News in 2017 that the Trump administration had been gearing up to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia. Amid the furor over the Mueller investigation, that hasn't happened.
Besides which, here on Planet Earth, those jackals just lifted sanctions on Putin's favorite Oleg Deripaska last week! So don't piss on our leg and tell us it's raining.
The transcript contains extensive discussion of when and why Manafort shared internal Trump polling data with Kilimnik. We already knew that Manafort's associate Rick Gates claimed the data was supposed to be passed to Ukrainian oligarchs Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov in the spring of 2016. Although we don't yet know why.
But on the subject of polling, prosecutors seem very interested in a poll Manafort conducted as part of ratfucking efforts for some Ukrainian client in 2017.
What the hell is this, and why did Manafort lie about it? DUNNO! But we do know that Manafort would never sell out his country, and if Kilimnik did something untoward like try to use him as a backdoor channel to get a Ukrainian "peace plan" through -- achieving peace by, say, handing the entire country over to Mother Russia -- well he just shut that business right down. Because Paul Manafort is not that kind of girl, Mister!
LOLOLOL, sure. Fine. Whatever.
There were another 50 pages of prosecutors laying out Manafort's lies about reaching out to the Trump administration. Turns out when Manafort said he had "no contacts" with the White House, he meant, "besides trying to get jobs for a bunch of assholes with my old pal Donny." To which the defense counsel responded RICK GATES IS A LIAR about 50 times, and also insisted that their client's misstatements were really just mistakes. Things forgotten when he was locked in jail like a common criminal. And anyway, so unimportant that he can't really be prosecuted for little misdirections. We all do it, Your Honor!
And then Andrew Weissman told them to STFU because Manafort's lies go the the heart of Mueller's investigation into Russian ratfucking in the 2016 election, so that grifty liar can stay LOCK HER UPPED for all eternity.
Sucks to be you, Pauly!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.