Paul Manafort and the Pre-dawn Raid – Connecting the Dots

Paul Manafort and the Pre-dawn Raid – Connecting the Dots

The pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home has taken Robert Mueller’s investigation to a new level. While there has been much reported on Manafort and his connections to the Russians and Ukrainians, I will connect additional dots that I don’t believe have been widely reported or reported at all.

This article is, in part, based on information I have confidentially received from an independent source. No, I don’t have a contact at Wikileaks and yes I believe this information is entirely in the public domain. At least I think so.

Almost immediately after Manafort was fired (August 2016) from the Trump campaign he engaged in a frenzied series of mysterious financial transactions. Specifically, Manafort engaged in a borrowing spree against his properties taking out loans totaling about $20M. About $15M of the $20M of these loans were provided by the Federal Savings Bank in Chicago (FSB), whose CEO was a former campaign adviser to Trump. The amount borrowed was so large -about 24% of capital as reported by the WSJ (https://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-manafort-received-loans-from-another-former-trump-advisers-bank-1490779800) that it was close to breaching bank regulatory loan concentration limits. The nature of these loans was well outside of the core business of the bank. Founded by former veterans, FSB’s primary focus is VA mortgages and in fact on their website they clearly indicate their target market: “Our heroes, our priority”. Given the red carpet treatment they showed Manafort, I suppose they would classify him as a hero?!?!

What motivated FSB to provide such uncharacteristic loans to somebody who was very much in the spotlight because of his appearance in the Ukrainian Black Ledger document (which listed Manafort as having received $12.8M from the then pro-Russian Ukrainian government) remains a mystery. Bank regulators would clearly be interested in scrutinizing these loans even if within the technical limits of loan concentration regulations. The NY AG has already begun inquiries into these loans as reported by the WSJ.

In another oddly timed series of financial transactions, also in August 2016, Manafort’s son-in-law and daughter defaulted on about $15M in mortgages across a number of properties. I believe these defaults are related to Manafort’s borrowing spree. Manafort’s son-in-law and daughter were likely receiving cash from Manafort to maintain these properties and Manafort was a partner in many of these investments.  In addition to the specific timing of the defaults, Manafort’s involvement in the properties and timing of the loans raise the question whether Manafort had been using his daughter and son-in-law’s property investments to launder money earned from his Ukrainian and Russia work.

So black ledger comes out, Trump fires Manafort, Manafort goes on a borrowing spree from Trump connected bank and his son-in-law defaults on $15M worth of mortgages. I believe the borrowing spree and defaults all occurring shortly after Manafort was fired by Trump are an indication that either: 1) the source of Manafort’s cash had been cutoff suddenly- specifically his offshore cash or 2) Alternatively, perhaps Manafort owed somebody a lot of money and that loan was called in after Manafort quit the Trump campaign.

The next dot to be connected… Has anyone wondered why Manafort approached the Trump campaign to be an unpaid campaign manager? Let’s quickly dispense with the idea that Manafort had any moral or higher ideals driving him to volunteer for Trump. Manafort’s consulting firm had such a reputation for lobbying for nefarious dictators, that his firm was referred to as the “Torturers’ Lobby” (Marcos from the Philippines, Mobuto from Zaire, Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi, brutal dictator General Sani Abacha from Nigeria were among the rogue’s gallery that was Manafort’s stock-in-trade).

Yes folks this man is evil. But don’t take my word for it.

Manafort’s own daughter said (as revealed from hacked text messages which I have access to), that Manafort had received “blood money” for his work in the Ukraine. And she meant this quite literally – Manafort’s advice to the Ukraine government, in her view, contributed to the violence.

It’s worth quoting his daughter’s text messages at length. “To send those people out and get them slaughtered. As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place? A while back. About a year ago Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that?”

These lines preceded the blood money line and his daughter makes it clear that Manafort had a hand in the Ukrainian strategy that lead to the bloody crackdown.

Yes, a truly despicable individual and not somebody who feels a patriotic duty to his country.

Manafort’s entree to the Trump campaign was via Roger Stone, a long time ally of Trump and a former partner of Manafort’s consulting firm and a former Richard Nixon dirty trickster. The same Roger Stone who was privately twittering with Guccifer 2.0 – the entity that released hacked DNC messages.

So clearly Manafort was not volunteering to help Trump for the good of his country. Why then did he approach the Trump campaign about working for him? I believe that Manafort was pushed/blackmailed to offer his services to Trump by Russia. I believe he was so tightly in the grip of powerful Russian forces that he was forced to do their bidding. I believe Paul Manafort became an agent for Putin. While direct evidence of this is limited, the NYT recently revealed that Manafort, via shell companies had been indebted to various Russian linked entities.

The New York times reported that Manafort was heavily in debt to several Russian/Ukrainian entities via shell companies based in Cyprus, a place where Russian money goes to get washed.  This debt could provide a clue as to the leverage Russia had over Manafort. The debt was outstanding several months prior to Manafort joining the Trump campaign and in response to the NYT article Manafort’s representative said that the debt was gone by the time he joined the campaign. So somehow nearly $20M of Manafort’s debt disappeared around the time of Manafort’s joining the Trump campaign.

One lender of the Cyprus loans was related to the Party of Regions – the pro-Russia Ukrainian political party that Manafort was providing consulting services to. The other lender was related to Russian aluminum magnate and Putin confidante Oleg Derapaska – more on Derapaska below. Manafort also had a failed cable investment deal with Derapaska for which Derepaska sued Manafort and later mysteriously dropped the lawsuit.

An important thread in this narrative relates to the following: who did Manafort work for in Russia and what was the nature of the work. First, the who. In Russia Manafort did work for Oleg Derapaska as noted above. As has been reported by AP, Manafort’s offer to Derapaska in 2005 was very clearly intended to help the Putin regime (“model can greatly benefit the Putin Government” Manafort suggested according to documents obtained by AP). According to an AP report, Derapaska and Manafort signed the agreement around 2006 and Manafort was meant to receive $10M/year for his efforts. While it’s not clear when the agreement ended, the trail AP found goes cold after about 4 years (from 2005-2009). However, Manafort’s relationship with Derapaska continued right until Manafort joined the Trump campaign as highlighted above via outstanding loans and potentially related investments.

In my view, Manafort was specifically pushed to be Trump’s campaign manager by his Russian connections (both of Manafort’s key clients – Ukrainian political party and Derapaska had deep ties to Putin), in order to help steer the election to Trump and to help move the RNC platform to be more pro-Russia. This is indeed what happened. The RNC platform was mysteriously changed to remove language that would encourage the US to provide lethal weapons to the new Ukrainian government (which took power after the ouster of Putin’s puppet and Manafort’s client Yanukovych) who were then locked in a battle with Russian proxy forces in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian change in the RNC platform was reportedly pushed by Trump whom, I believe, was in turn pushed by Manafort. As you can imagine, Trump is unlikely to have read the RNC platform much less pushed for such a change. I believe it was Manafort, acting on behalf of Putin, who pushed for the change. The mainstream media hasn’t explored this angle nearly enough.

The final dot to be connected: How does Manafort’s bad deeds relate to the Trump-Russian election collusion more broadly? I already noted my suspicion that it was Manafort who made the pro-Russia change to the RNC platform. We now know that Manafort attended the Russia meeting with the hapless Don Jr. It has been largely accepted that Manafort was a passive participant at this meeting. It remains to be seen whether this was the case or whether Manafort used Don Jr as a shill and decoy to remove suspicion from himself. It was clearly inadvisable for anyone in Trump’s camp to attend this meeting. With Manafort’s experience he would know that attending this meeting would raise all sorts of questions. So why did he attend? I submit that his Faustian bargain with Putin, gave him little choice. And he likely arranged for Don Jr. to receive the invite so that Manafort could claim clean hands. This is somewhat speculative on my part and I don’t believe has been reported by other sources.

The key takeaways from this story: 1) Manafort engaged in a number of suspicious transactions right after leaving the Trump campaign, 2) Manafort joins Trump campaign at a time of personal financial turmoil with significant entanglement with entities with ties to Putin, 3) Shortly before offering his services to Trump we know Manafort was heavily in debt to Putin linked entities, 4) the RNC platform changed to favor Russia – a change likely driven by Manafort, 5) Manafort has consistently denied working for Russian interests, but there is now widespread evidence to the contrary, 6) Manafort “innocently” attends critical Don Jr meeting where Russian government sources offer to provide information incriminating Hillary Clinton. I believe Manafort was far more than a passive attendee at this meeting – indeed I submit that it was part of his Faustian bargain.

Ok if Manafort’s so guilty why, you may ask, hasn’t more of his emails surfaced or been hacked? To answer that question, I will leave you with an excerpt below from his daughters’ hacked text messages. He was likely mostly successful in covering his tracks as this excerpt implies. Mostly.

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