Saturday, February 24, 2018

Manafort musings

I've been doing a project completely unrelated to this blog and now I'm dead tired, so I haven't much time to write. Yet I have much ground to cover, and I must do so rapidly. Don't be surprised if you see more than the usual amount of typos.

Now that Gates has cut a deal, I'm feeling less pessimistic about the Mueller investigation. Clearly, Gates must think that Trump will lose his battle to retain the presidency.

A few talking heads on the teevee are saying that Manafort has signaled that he expects a pardon. Malcolm Nance, in the interview embedded above (definitely worth a listen), argues that Mueller is going for espionage charges. Sayeth Nance, Trump dare not pardon anyone brought up on such a charge.

Really? I'm not sure about that. This president has no shame. Personally, I won't feel secure until I see a firm indication that Manafort is facing state charges, which Trump cannot pardon.

Last night, Chris Hayes brought up a point which I've been hinting at for some time: Manafort and other players may not be motivated by the threat of prison or the promise of a pardon. We're talking about the Russian mob here. These guys are more brutal than the Italians.

This thing probably won't end without a high-profile corpse or two. Whose corpse, you ask? Dunno, but if I were Gates -- or Manafort -- I'd ask for some sort of protective custody. Hell, do you really think that Putin would balk at a presidential assassination if he felt it necessary?

Manafort obviously fears Oleg Deripaska. In fact, intimidation from Deripaska seems to be the key factor that forced Manafort to join, and head, Team Trump during the election. I'm starting to favor the theory that Manafort did not want to take on that gig, but was forced to do so.

They say that Oleg Deripaska won his position in Russia's heirarchy by racking up a hefty body count. Keep that fact in mind.

Deripaska himself got on Putin's bad side about ten years ago, and has been angling to stay in favor. So if Deripaska manipulated Manafort, he did so at Putin's behest.

Inauguration. Everyone seems to have missed a key point: Rick Gates was the Deputy Chair of the inaugural committee. As Rachel Maddow -- and almost nobody else -- has noted, the Trump inauguration raised more than twice as much money as necessary. Nobody knows where the extra money went.

Correction: Gates knows.

Did Manafort take the lolly? Did he use it to pay off his debt to Deripaska?

In order to understand All Things Manafort, you absolutely must read this lengthy Atlantic investigation by Franklin Foer, who deserves a Pultizer. Here's an interesting historical tidbit which you may want to ponder as you try to figure out what happened to the missing money from the Trump inauguration:
Another alumnus of Manafort’s firm answered my questions about the Marcos money with an anecdote. After the election of George H. W. Bush, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly agreed to help organize the inauguration festivities. The firm commissioned a company from Rhode Island to sell memorabilia on the parade route—T-shirts, buttons, and the like. After crews had taken down the reviewing stand and swept up the debris, the alumnus recalled, a vendor showed up in the office with a bag full of cash. To the disbelief of his colleague, Manafort had arranged to take his own cut. “It was a Paul tax,” the former employee told me. “I guess he needed a new deck. But this was classic: Somebody else does the work, and he walks away with the bag of cash.”
By the way, the reference to "Marcos money" concerns one of the more brazen "takings" on the Manafort resume. Did he also steal from Deripaska? Apparently, something like that happened, because Deripaska became awfully pissed off.
The sad truth is that all of the damning information contained within the Mueller indictment would have remained submerged if Manafort had withstood the temptation to seek out a role in Trump’s campaign.
As noted before, my current theory is that he wasn't "tempted." Perhaps his hand was forced. 

A final point. After giving the latest round of Manafort material a close read -- and after giving a close listen to last night's MSNBC and CNN analysis -- It seems likely to me that Manafort, and others on Team Trump, somehow knew that Trump would win.

Even at a time when Hillary seemed lightyears ahead of Trump in the polls, these guys were acting as though the fix were in. Think about it: How could Manafort hope to make Deripaska "whole" if Trump had lost?

In other words, I'm talking about election fraud. Direct tampering with the ballot boxes. From the afore-cited Atlantic piece:
When Marcos called a snap election to prove his democratic bona fides in 1986, Manafort told Time, “What we’ve tried to do is make it more of a Chicago-style election and not Mexico’s.” The quip was honest, if unintentionally so. In the American political lexicon, Chicago-style elections were generally synonymous with mass voter fraud. The late pollster Warren Mitofsky traveled to the Philippines with CBS News to set up and conduct an exit poll for the election. When he returned, he told the political scientist Sam Popkin the story of how a representative of Manafort’s firm had asked him, “What sort of margin might make a Marcos victory legitimate?” The implication was clear, Popkin told me: “How do we rig this thing and still satisfy the Americans?”
Manafort clearly has had experience with rigging elections in foreign lands, and I doubt that he would have moral qualms about the rigging of an election in his home country. I'm not just talking about trolling and similar shennanigans: I'm talking about hacking the tabulators. Trump's task was to get within spitting distance; the Russians would supply the spit.

What's more, I think that Mueller and American intelligence have privately reached (or at least considered) the same conclusion. They won't discuss election rigging in public, of course.

As we have demonstrated in many previous posts, hacking the tabulators is perfectly possible. See here.
The report, to be unveiled at an event at the Atlantic Council, comes as the investigation continues by four Hill committees, plus Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, on top of the firm intelligence community assessments of interference.

Though the report offers no proof of an attack last year, experts involved with it say they’re sure it is possible—and probable—and that the chances of a bigger attack in the future are high.

“From a technological point of view, this is something that is clearly doable,” said Sherri Ramsay, the former director of the federal Central Security Service Threat Operations Center, which handles cyber threats for the military and the National Security Agency. “For us to turn a blind eye to this, I think that would be very irresponsible on our part.”
Added note. This "Hapsburg Group" business is fascinating -- and frustrating, because so far we don't have names.
In a June 2012 memorandum labeled “Eyes Only,” Mr. Manafort described a “Super V.I.P.” effort, which aimed to “assemble a small group of high-level European highly influential champions and politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine.”

The group was managed by “a former European chancellor” — identified in the indictment only as Foreign Politician A — in coordination with Mr. Manafort. In 2013, that politician and other former politicians quietly lobbied members of Congress and officials in the Obama adminstration on behalf of Ukraine, which was then led by Mr. Manafort’s client, President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

The former chancellor was not named in the indictment. The head of government in both Germany and Austria is known as the chancellor.
After I've had some rest, I'll try to I.D. these "Hapsburgs." Until then, feel free to have a go at this poser for yourselves.
Gates deal is currently 4-5 years versus 20. Makes sense to deal and why Manafort isn't dealing is mysterious. Nearly 70, a 20 makes it a life sentence. Pardon us out Joseph. Many of the financial crimes violate state law. I think Manafort might be concerned about a firing squad.

An informed look at "ex-chancellors" points with 90% probability to Gerhard Schroeder of Nord Stream/Rosneft fame.
from TPM:

Jeremy Corbyn and Kevin Kuhnert both get smeared as Russian agents at about the same time (well, Czechoslovak in Corbyn's case, but the StB did a lot of work for the KGB)...and then...Andrew Neil, senior media figure who works at the BBC, tears into the Tory politicians for smearing Corbyn. And guess what he also does? He accuses Angela Merkel of causing Brexit.

D'you know what? I think he means to say she did it for Vladimir Putin. He's saying she's nash.

This is the first time any senior figure has suggested (between the lines) what I have long believed to be the case: that forces that wield powerful influence within the EU wanted Britain to leave. In a sense, Britain was thrown out. There is little reason to think German foreign ministry analysts who specialise in Britain are crap at their jobs and ascribed too much importance to opinion polls that were predicting months before the vote that Remain would win by a small margin. There is a lot of reason to think that the City of London pissed its rivals off by trying to extend its influence in continental Europe. Or that it was a sitting target. I haven't worked out yet whether the City was on the offensive or the defensive. But matters concerning the City were crucial to the "Dave's deal" negotiations.

At that time, there was a question of how much Britgov would sacrifice to help the City. And now? Now there is the same question.

Every idiot nowadays is an expert on Britain's trade relations and its economy, the Norwegian, Swiss and Canadian models, and the WTO. They usually miss the fact that the British economy is based around the financial services sector largely based in the Square Mile and its outposts. As Thatcher led a government that smashed what remained of Britain's productive base, she sneered that the City was where so much "wealth" was "created". Now that living standards are falling, millions of people are in terrible debt, and most expect to be worse off than their parents - few have any hope of a better life - even Tory politicians don't say that any more. But "Hail the City and fuck the rest of the country" is still what most of the bastards think.

Some background: the average price of a detached house in Greater London is more than £1m.
That Malcolm Nance interview is sobering. Made me think of the Sochi Winter Olympics when the trouble in Ukraine boiled over. Many said, this is the start of WWIII. Four years later and here we are. Russian leadership had vowed that the next war would not be fought on Russian soil. Here we are.
Hell, do you really think that Putin would balk at a presidential assassination if he felt it necessary?

Oh, I dunno..

If history is any guide, it's much more likely the Agency will do it, frame a patsy and then blame it all on the Russians.

Then we can really get our war on.
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