The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to appear at a hearing tomorrow as part of the ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein released the following statement:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein released the following statement:
While we were willing to accommodate Mr. Manafort’s request to cooperate with the committee’s investigation without appearing at Wednesday’s hearing, we were unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee. Yesterday evening, a subpoena was issued to compel Mr. Manafort’s participation in Wednesday’s hearing.
Manafort had earlier met with Senate investigators. A person with intimate knowledge of the investigation revealed he agreed to provide notes of the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower last year with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney. The meeting ignited national controversy after President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., revealed that he met with Veselnitskaya during the presidential campaign. An intermediary for Veselnitskaya promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic opponent. Trump Jr.’s emails contradict months of denials by the Trump administration of any collusion with Russian operatives.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has also sought to distance himself from the meeting and is returning to Capitol Hill tomorrow for the second day of meetings with the Senate and House intelligence committees. Kushner describes attending the meeting, noting that he arrived late and that when he got there, the Russian lawyer was discussing a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” Kushner wrote in an 11-page statement that is his first public accounting of what he says are his four meetings with Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition. “Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get our [sic] of meeting.’”
The subpoena might be the least of Manafort’s troubles. On top of recent accusations of money laundering, Manafort secretly worked for a Russian oligarch to advance the interests of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, according to a March report from The Associated Press. As early as 2005, Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Putin ally Oleg Deripaska to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government,” the AP report continues.
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote to Deripaska in a 2005 strategy memo. The effort, he continued, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
In memos, Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, particularly the U.S., to allow oligarchs to retain formerly state-owned assets in Ukraine. He recommended building “long term relationships” with Western journalists and a multitude of measures to improve recruitment, communications, and financial planning by Russian sympathizers in the region.
Manafort also considered extending his existing work in eastern Europe to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Georgia. He pledged to further legitimize governments friendly to Putin and to undermine anti-Russian figures through political means, nonprofit front groups and media operations.
The AP obtained documents which laid out Manafort’s plans, including strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. It is still unclear how much work he performed while under contract. People familiar with the relationship between the two men, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret payments publicly, said money transfers to Manafort amounted to tens of millions of dollars, continuing through at least 2009.
The documents further reveal that Manafort pushed policies as part of his work in Ukraine “at the highest levels of the U.S. government — the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department.” He also said he had hired a “leading international law firm with close ties to President Bush to support our client’s interests.” He did not identify the firm. Manafort also declined to identify legal experts for the effort at leading universities and think tanks, including Duke University, New York University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Manafort never disclosed details about the lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period he worked under contract. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their activities to the Justice Department. While failing to register is a felony and can result in imprisonment up to five years and a fine up to $250,000, the government rarely files criminal charges.
When pressed for comment, Manafort confirmed he worked for Deripaska in various countries, but suggested he was the subject of a “smear campaign.” He accused the media of casting his work in an “inappropriate or nefarious” light.
“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort said at the time. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”
Manafort was forced to resign from Trump’s campaign last August amid revelations that he, while working in Ukraine as an international consultant, allegedly pocketed $12.7 million in cash payments from Ukraine’s former ruling party between 2007 and 2012. The report, initially published in the New York Times, asserts that the money could be part of an illegal, off-the-books system. Officials with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau say the listed payments come from a handwritten ledger used to keep track of off-the-books payouts by former Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions. Manafort’s name appears 22 times in the ledger.