- There are mass rallies in Lebanon that have been going on since October 17. The protesters are demanding a “complete overhaul of a political system deemed inefficient and corrupt.” One of the protesters is quoted as saying: “They think we are playing here.” (Yahoo News)
- Iraqi security forces have opened fire on protesters in fatal clashes in Baghdad (The Guardian).
- Hong Kong protests continue.
- More than a year after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, critics of bin Salman continue to be arbitrarily detained. (Guardian)
CRIME AND LAW
. Oklahoma has the distinction of being the state with the highest incarceration rate in the U.S. But, Oklahoma is commuting prison sentences for around 500 inmates. These are people serving sentences for low-level drug and nonviolent offenses.
- White House officials again refuse to show up for closed-door hearings on Capital Hill. Democrats wring their hands and say that it will be used an evidence of obstruction.
- Katie Hill (unfairly hounded out of the Congress) tweets that she hopes we elect a woman president in 2020. A woman, any woman? This is supposed to be progress?
THE TRUMP TRANSNATIONAL CRIME FAMILY
The New York Times is reporting that in 2018, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor froze four cases that were being pursued which involved Paul Manafort. It is highly likely that this was part of another deal between Ukraine and the Trump Crime Family.
- The decision to halt the investigations came as the Trump administration was “finalizing plans to sell…anti-tank missiles, called Javelins” to Ukraine.
- “The Ukrainian investigators had been tracing money paid to Mr. Manafort and a New York law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, by figures in the political party of Viktor F. Yanukovych.”
- The investigations were not closed, but an order blocked issuing subpoenas for evidence or interviewing witnesses.
- One case involved a payment of $750,000 to Manafort from a Ukrainian shell company, being investigated as money laundering. This payment was part the multimillion dollar transfers to Manafort from politicians in Ukraine that underpin indictments filed by Mueller. Before the case was frozen, prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Ukrainian banks.
- A second case concerned a former chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s foreign relations committee, Vitaly Kalyuzhny, who had signed nine of 22 entries designated for Manafort in a secret ledger of political payoffs uncovered after the 2014 revolution. The ledger showed payouts totaling $12.5 million for Manafort.
- The handwritten accounting document, called in Ukraine the Black Ledger, formed an evidential linchpin for investigating corruption in the former government. Manafort denied receiving under-the-table payments from the party and his spokesman claimed the ledger might be a forgery.
- The other two cases looked at Skadden Arps, which wrote a report with Manafort’s participation that was widely seen as whitewashing the politically motivated arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Yanukovych’s principal rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko.
- Two months before Ukraine’s government froze the cases, Horbatyuk reached out to Mueller’s office with a formal offer to cooperate by sharing evidence and leads. Horbatyuk (of the Prosecutor General’s office) said that he sent a letter in January and did not receive a reply, but that the offer was now moot, since he has lost the authority to investigate.
- Entries in the ledger appear to bolster Mueller’s money laundering and tax evasion case against Manafort, said Serhiy Leshchenko, a lawmaker who has closely followed the investigation. They indicate, for example, payments from Ukraine to a Cypriot company, Global Highway Limited, that was also named in an indictment Mueller filed in federal court in Virginia this year. The company covered hundreds of thousands of dollars of Manafort’s bills at a high-end men’s clothing store and antique shop in New York.•
- In another move seeming to hinder Mueller’s investigation, Ukrainian law enforcement allowed a potential witness to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to leave for Russia, putting him out of reach for questioning.
- The special counsel’s office has identified the man, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Manafort’s former office manager in Kiev, as tied to a Russian intelligence agency. Kilimnik was also under investigation in Ukraine over espionage, but no charges were filed before he left the country, sometime after June. During the 2016 campaign, Kilimnik met twice with Manafort. In December, a court filing in the United States said Mr. Kilimnik was “currently based in Russia.”
- But in the United States, Mueller’s office appears still keenly interested in Manafort’s ties to Russia. Among the questions Mueller would like to ask Mr. Trump, according to a list provided to the president’s lawyers, was: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”
- In Kiev, the missile sale was seen as a political victory for Poroshenko, indicating American backing for his government in the war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists and against the threat of a wider Russian intervention in the country. After Ukraine announced on April 30 that it had received the missiles, Poroshenko posted on Facebook that “the long-awaited weapon arrived in the Ukrainian Army.”
- Apart from the missiles, the Ukrainian government is propped up with about $600 million in bilateral aid from the United States annually.
- David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general who is now in the political opposition, said he did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.•
- Ukrainian politicians, he said, concluded on their own that any help prosecuting Manafort could bring down Mr. Trump’s wrath.
- “Can you imagine,” Sakvarelidze said, “that Trump writes on Twitter, ‘The United States isn’t going to support any corrupt post-Soviet leaders, including in Ukraine.’ That would be the end of him.”
- Last summer, another member of Parliament, Andrey L. Derkach, initiated an investigation into leaks to the news media about Manafort’s dealings from Ukrainian law enforcement, saying they put at risk vital American aid to Ukraine. He has openly opposed any Ukrainian role in aiding the special counsel’s investigation.
- Ukraine, Mr. Derkach said in an interview, would be taking grave risks if it assisted in what he called a politicized investigation in the United States. In Ukraine, he said, “everybody is afraid of this case.”