Sunday, July 16, 2017
Trump, the Supreme Court, Ukraine, Manafort, Donald Jr., Hillary and the Democrats
AS A NEW WEEK STARTS, THE REAL NEWS IS CONFUSED AND FULL OF PROPAGANDA. • And, it ranges from Trump's travel ban to Ukraine. • • • THE TRAVEL BAN AND THE HAWAII "OBAMA" JUDGE. Attorney General Jeff Sessions went directly to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking for clarification of its June 26 travel ban decision and an immediate stay of US District Judge Derrick Watson’s July 13 ruling that modified his original injunction stopping Executive Order 13780, which placed a temporary ban on all refugees and a temporary travel ban on residents of six Middle Eastern countries. The original Watson injunction was largely overturned in the Court’s June 26 decision, but Watson’s July 13 ruling significantly scaled back President Trump’s Supreme Court victory. • Late Friday, Acting Solicitor General Ken Wall filed a motion at the Supreme Court asking for the justices to clarify who qualifies as a close family member. If the Court is unwilling to go there, Wall alternatively asked the Court at minimum to stay Watson’s ruling while the US Department of Justice (DOJ) appeals his latest decision. The DOJ said in its Supreme Court motion : “The district court’s interpretation of this Court’s June 26, 2017, stay ruling distorts this Court’s decision and upends the equitable balance this Court struck." The DOJ argued two points : Attorney General Sessions and the DOJ said to the Supreme Court that the US government contract with a resettlement agency to help immigrants after they are admitted to the US does not give any foreign individual with a pending visa application a relationship with the US. • Think about it this way -- if I own carwash and hire you to protect anyone who may actually in the future use my carwash, that contract does not give any potential future user of my carwash the right to demand to be allowed to use my carwash and be protected. • In addition, the DOJ asked the Court to simply follow the definition of "close familial relationship" the meaning it has in the INA, the controlling US Statute -- that is, spouses, children, parents, and siblings. • The government asked for the following relief : The Court should clarify its June 26 stay ruling as set forth above. But, if the Court does not grant the entire relief asked for by the DOJ, then the DOJ covers every eventual decision the Court could reach by asking that any decision include a stay of the Hawaii district court's stay until either the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court issues a decision. • This may seem like a lot of angels dancing on pinheads, but it is the Justice Department's effort to protect the US from unvetted immigrants until the government can determine which countries have vetting program databases and information that the US can rely on in deciding who gets a visa to enter the US. The outcome of the DOJ’s motion now awaits a response from the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the DOJ’s appeal of Judge Watson’s July 13 modified injunction will go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Let's hope the Supreme Court saves Americans from the extreme danger of permitting unvetted immigrants and visitors who are terrorists coming into the US. • • • UKRAINE IS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Politico reported in January that Ukraine officials were seeking ways to apologize to "incoming" President Donald Trump for their secretive efforts to help Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The Politico report said Ukrainian officials assisted Clinton by publicly denigrating Trump’s fitness for office, and by pushing documents attempting to implicate Trump or his aides in corruption and suggesting they were launching investigations into the purported allegations -- only to stymie such investigations as the election neared -- according to Politico’s January 11 article. Breitbart commented on the Politico report, saying : "Ukraine’s interference on Clinton’s behalf negatively affected the Trump campaign when accusations against Trump aide Paul Manafort helped cause him to quit the campaign. Politico’s investigation found evidence of Ukrainian government involvement in the race that appears to strain diplomatic protocol dictating that governments refrain from engaging in one another’s elections.” But, Breitbart said that after Trump won the presidency, the Politico report said that members of the Ukrainian government and their operatives were seeking ways to ingratiate themselves with Republican organizations and groups close to Trump. Politico cited several Ukrainian operatives who have started making overtures to people who might get them in Trump’s good graces. • Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko’s administration, along with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, insisted in January that Ukraine stayed neutral in the American presidential race. But, Politico said : "Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisors, a Politico investigation found." • Politico reported that a Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Ukrainian efforts, according to Politico, "had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia." • Experts suggest that the rampant corruption, factionalism and economic struggles weighing on Ukraine, as well as its ongoing strife with Russia, would make it impossible for Ukraine to pull off an ambitious covert interference campaign in another country’s election. And President Petro Poroshenko’s administration, along with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, insists that Ukraine stayed neutral in the race. Ukraine has traditionally enjoyed strong relations with US administrations, and Poroshenko is scrambling to re-inforce that dynamic, recently signing a $50,000-a-month contract with a well-connected GOP-linked Washington lobbying firm to set up meetings with US government officials “to strengthen US-Ukrainian relations.” • • • PAUL MANAFORT AND ALEXANDRA CHALUPA -- THE ROOTS OF THE STORY. The Ukrainian antipathy to Trump’s team -- and alignment with Clinton’s -- can, according to the Politico report, be traced back to late 2013 when the country’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort had been advising, abruptly backed out of a European Union pact linked to anti-corruption reforms. Instead, Yanukovych entered into a multibillion-dollar bailout agreement with Russia, sparking protests across Ukraine and prompting Yanukovych to flee the country to Russia under Putin’s protection. In the crisis that followed, Russian troops moved into the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and Manafort dropped out. But, Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the attention of veteran Democrat Party operative Alexandra Chalupa, who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration. Chalupa went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, although she also was paid by other clients during that time, allegedly including individual Democratic campaigns and the DNC’s arm for engaging expatriate Democrats around the world. • Chalupa, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, maintains strong ties to the Ukrainian-American diaspora and the US Embassy in Ukraine. She a lawyer who was doing pro bono work for another client interested in the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 and began researching Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russian oligarchs who funded Yanukovych’s political party. In an interview in January, Chalupa told Politico she had developed a network of sources in Kyiv and Washington, including investigative journalists, government officials and private intelligence operatives. While her consulting work at the DNC in the 2016 election cycle centered on mobilizing ethnic communities -- including Ukrainian-Americans -- she said that when Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign took off in late 2015 she began focusing more on research and expanded it to include Trump’s ties to Russia, as well. She occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, Chalupa said. In January 2016 -- months before Manafort had taken any role in Trump’s campaign -- Chalupa told a senior DNC official that, when it came to Trump’s campaign, “I felt there was a Russia connection,” Chalupa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election.” Chalupa said she shared her concern with Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Valeriy Chaly, and one of his top aides, Oksana Shulyar, during a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy. • According to someone briefed on the meeting, Chaly said that Manafort was very much on his radar, but that he wasn’t particularly concerned about Manafort's ties to Trump since he didn’t believe Trump stood much of a chance of winning the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency. That all started to change, according to Politico, "just four days after Chalupa’s meeting at the embassy, when it was reported that Trump had in fact hired Manafort, suggesting that Chalupa may have been on to something. She quickly found herself in high demand. The day after Manafort’s hiring was revealed, she briefed the DNC’s communications staff on Manafort, Trump and their ties to Russia, according to an operative familiar with the situation." A former DNC staffer and the operative familiar with the situation agreed that with the DNC’s encouragement, Chalupa asked embassy staff to try to arrange an interview in which Poroshenko might discuss Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych. The embassy declined that request, but officials there became “helpful” in Chalupa’s efforts, she said, explaining that she traded information and leads with them : “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” But she stressed, “There were no documents given, nothing like that.” • Ukraine ambassador Chaly's aide, Oksana Shulyar, vehemently denied working with reporters or with Chalupa on anything related to Trump or Manafort, explaining “we were stormed by many reporters to comment on this subject, but our clear and adamant position was not to give any comment [and] not to interfere into the campaign affairs.” Shulyar said her work with Chalupa “didn’t involve the campaign,” and she specifically stressed that “We have never worked to research and disseminate damaging information about Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.” • But, Andrii Telizhenko, now a political consultant in Kyiv but who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy under Shulyar, said she instructed him to help Chalupa research connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia, telling Politico : “Oksana said that if I had any information, or knew other people who did, then I should contact Chalupa. They were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa. Oksana was keeping it all quiet,” but “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. A DNC official stressed that Chalupa was a consultant paid to do outreach for the party’s political department, not a researcher. She undertook her investigations into Trump, Manafort and Russia on her own, and the party did not incorporate her findings in its dossiers because the DNC had been building robust research books on Trump and his ties to Russia long before Chalupa began sounding alarms. • Documents released during the summer of 2016 by an independent Ukrainian government agency -- and publicized by parliament member Serhiy Leshchenko -- appeared to show $12.7 million in cash payments earmarked for Manafort by the Russia-aligned party of the deposed former President Yanukovych. The New York Times, in an August 2016 story revealing the ledgers’ existence, reported that the payments earmarked for Manafort were “a focus” of an investigation by Ukrainian anti-corruption officials, while CNN reported days later that the FBI was pursuing an overlapping inquiry. Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, demanded that Trump “disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisors’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.” Leshchenko, who was elected in 2014 as part of Poroshenko’s party, held a news conference about the ledgers, urging Ukrainian and American law enforcement to investigate Manafort. Leshchenko suggested that his motivation was partly to undermine Trump, telling the Financial Times : “For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world.” The Financial Times noted that Trump’s candidacy had spurred “Kyiv’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before : intervene, however indirectly, in a US election,” and the story quoted Leshchenko asserting that the majority of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side.” • A spokesman for Poroshenko distanced his administration from both Leshchenko and the agency that released the ledgers, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine created in 2014 as a condition for Ukraine to receive aid from the US and the European Union. The Bureau is “fully independent,” the Poroshenko spokesman told Politico, adding that when it came to the presidential administration there was “no targeted action against Manafort.” He added “as to Serhiy Leshchenko, he positions himself as a representative of internal opposition in the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko’s faction, despite [the fact that] he belongs to the faction....it was about him personally...he pushed [the anti-corruption bureau] to proceed with investigation on Manafort.” • In January 2017, the anti-corruption Bureau told Politico that a “general investigation [is] still ongoing” of the ledger, but said Manafort is not a target of the investigation. “As he is not the Ukrainian citizen, [the anti-corruption bureau] by the law couldn’t investigate him personally,” the Bureau said in a statement. Some Poroshenko critics have gone further, suggesting that the Bureau is backing away from investigating because the ledgers might have been doctored or even forged. • Paul Manafort has always denied receiving any off-books cash from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and said that he had never been contacted about the ledger by Ukrainian or American investigators, later telling Politico : “I was just caught in the crossfire,” and suggesting that the ledgers were inauthentic and called their publication “a politically motivated false attack on me. My role as a paid consultant was public. There was nothing off the books, but the way that this was presented tried to make it look shady....all my efforts were focused on helping Ukraine move into Europe and the West.” • Politico quoted Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, a Ukrainian former diplomat who served as the country’s head of security under Poroshenko and is now affiliated with one of his leading opponents, as saying it was fishy that “only one part of the black ledger appeared. Where is the handwriting analysis?” Nalyvaichenko said it was “crazy” to announce an investigation based on the ledgers. He met in December 2016 in Washington with Trump allies, and said, “of course they all recognize that our [anti-corruption bureau] intervened in the presidential campaign.” • • • UKRAINE SUPPORTED HILLARY. Telizhenko, the former embassy aide, said that, during the primaries, Chaly, the country’s ambassador in Washington, had actually instructed the embassy not to reach out to Trump’s campaign, even as it was engaging with those of Clinton and Trump’s leading GOP rival, Ted Cruz. Telizhenko told Politico : “We had an order not to talk to the Trump team, because he was critical of Ukraine and the government and his critical position on Crimea and the conflict. I was yelled at when I proposed to talk to Trump. The ambassador said not to get involved -- Hillary is going to win.” This account was confirmed for Politico by Nalyvaichenko, the former diplomat and security chief, who said : “The Ukrainian authorities closed all doors and windows -- this is from the Ukrainian side.” He called the strategy “bad and short-sighted.” • Andriy Artemenko, a Ukrainian parliament member associated with a conservative opposition party, did meet with Trump’s team during the campaign and said he personally offered to set up similar meetings for Chaly but was rebuffed. Artemenko said : “It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team, to publicly supporting her, to criticizing Trump....I think that they simply didn’t meet because they thought that Hillary would win.” • The Trump campaign supposedly reacted to the Ukraine 'boycott' by eliminating a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that called for the US to provide “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian incursion. • The Ukraine outreach ramped up after Trump’s victory. Chaly's aide, Oksana Shulyar, pointed out that Poroshenko was among the first foreign leaders to call to congratulate Trump, and during the transition met with close Trump allies, including Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, and Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while the ambassador accompanied Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, to a round of Washington meetings that included one with Jim DeMint, then-president of The Heritage Foundation, which played a prominent role in Trump’s transition. • • • MANAFORT'S UKRAINE PAYMENTS ARE AGAIN IN THE NEWS. The New York Post reported on Sunday that more evidence emerged Saturday about the questionable operations of the Kremlin-linked Ukraine political party that hired Donald Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort as a consultant. Somehow, the money Manafort told US authorities he earned in 2012 and 2013 from Ukraine’s Party of Regions exceeded what the party said was its entire operating budget, the New York Times said. Manafort collected $17 million from working for the party, which was led by Vladimir Putin ally Victor Yanukovych. Manafort reported the sum in a Department of Justice filing in June. But, according to the NY Post, in reports filed with the Ukraine government, the now-defunct Party of Regions reported total expenses of just $15 million in 2012 and 2013 -- less than the sum Manafort collected. Yanukovych won election in 2010. He fled to Russia in 2014 amid accusations of corruption, vote-rigging and police abuse. The current Ukrainian government accuses Yanukovych of stealing $1 billion from the national treasury, and in May put him in trial in abstentia for treason. The trial was adjourned on Wednesday and will resume in August. Manafort’s work for Yanukovych included lobbying the US government to influence its Ukraine policy and establishing a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit in Washington, DC. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told the NY Post : “Any questions about the reporting obligations of the Party of Regions should be directed to those within the party responsible for such reporting. Just last month Ukraine officials indicated that there is no proof of illicit payments” to Manafort." • Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign last August after weeks of revelations about his longstanding ties to Yanukovych and other Putin allies. • But, it seems prudent to ask if this latest New York Times 'revelation' is just one more hit on President Trump by means of another fake news story. • • • DONALD TRUMP JR. MEETING WITH RUSSIAN STIRS UP UKRAINE ISSUE AGAIN. Paul Manafort was reported last week to have participated in the June 2016 meeting between President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, and others. Trump Jr. went to the meeting because he was told he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s own ties to Russia. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow appeared on all five Sunday-morning news shows this weekend. Sekulow said Trump Jr. did nothing illegal by setting up the meeting, and Trump’s other campaign aides did nothing illegal by attending : “What statute is being violated here? This is interesting, and I understand why you’re covering it. But the fact is -- no legal violation for the meeting. The meeting itself is not a violation of the law.” • • • DEAR READERS, while the Ukraine and Russian fake news will be with us for some time to come, and while it may be slightlyboring to have the details in hand, it is always best to be prepared, because we Trump supporter-Deplorables are continually called upon to defend our President from the fake news coming out of the Swamp and its Creatures -- who sometimes slimy-on-up to Maine. The MSM is unconcerned that Trump, and his son, are being subjected to innuendo and character assassination by foreigners schmoozing around at Democratic National Headquarters with the goal of electing Hillary Clinton. That is perfectly 'okay' with the mainstream media. But, let Donald Trump Jr. meet with a Russian -- who undoubtedly wanted to make him look bad, in a meeting possibly arranged by Fusion, the group that worked for Hillary and tried to smear Trump Senior during the campaign by creating a fake news report about his behavior in Moscow, now proven to be a pack of lies. • On Sunday morning in a series of tweets, President Trump defended his son amid the revelations, even as Progressive Democrat Senator Warner told the MSM that nothing Trump Jr. or President Trump says can be believed -- Warner actually said that on TV. Trump's tweets accused the fake news of "distorting democracy" : "Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?....With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!" • We couldn't say it any better ourselves, could we ??