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Paul Manafort, Rick Gates Surrender to Special Prosecutor; Hillary’s Uranium Deal Resurfaces

2017-10-30

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: sunrise through a pall of smoke from forest fires

Paul Manafort, who was in charge of Don the Con’s presidential campaign for a critical period in the spring of 2016– when he was trying to consolidate his primary wins to have an uncontested Republican National Convention– has surrendered to Mueller and the Special Prosecutor’s office this morning.  Rick Gates, an associate of Manafort’s, has apparently also been indicted.

So who is Paul Manafort?  Well, in 2006, he garnered a space in Trump Tower New York for a reported $3.7 million.  He did not officially become part of Trump’s election team until April 2016, and was ousted a few months later when his recent work with the pro-Russian Ukrainian government that was overthrown by protesters in 2014 became widely known; they had paid him some $12 million in cash which was recorded in a hand-written ledger left behind by the fleeing Ukrainian government.  Manafort has been an important part of Republican presidential campaigns since Reagan’s onslaught in 1976; he played a part in Reagan’s Republican National Convention and subsequent efforts by Republican presidential candidates.

Who is Rick Gates?  He was a protege and long-time business associate of Mr. Manafort.  He signed documents relating to a bank account in Cyprus that was apparently set up to receive payments from Eastern European clients.  The exact charges that Gates and Manafort face may relate to money-laundering or other crimes, possibly even unrelated to the campaign; one charge described in the news is “conspiracy against the US”, which sounds like a campaign-related issue rather than simply giving advice to foreign autocrats.  Mr. Manafort has worked for numerous dictators, such as former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and Ukrainian leader Victor Yanukovitch.

What relation do these charges have to do with Don the Con?  So far, it is not known by the news media.  One could speculate (and many have) that the charges are an attempt to pressure Manafort into turning state’s evidence against Don.  That may be inaccurate; Manafort may simply be the first egregious lawbreaker that Mueller has chanced upon.  The evidence against Manafort has been very strong since before Mueller was even appointed because a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was sworn out against Manafort (among others) before last year’s election.  That ‘wire-tapping’ may have been the source of Don’s claim that Obama illegally surveilled him and Trump Tower because Don may have been incidentally recorded during that process.  In fact, Obama had no role in the FISA work and may not have even seen any of their work product.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Manafort was in charge of Don’s campaign at the infamous meeting with Natalya Veselnitskaya ( a Kremlin-associated Russian lawyer ), Don Jr., and other campaign staff in June 2016, when she presented a memo that had been vetted by Kremlin operatives and was represented as “dirt” on Hillary Clinton directly from the Russian government.

The scale of this indictment can be guessed from Don the Con’s hysterical reaction on Twitter.  Don repeatedly demanded to know why Hillary had not been indicted for her “selling out” American uranium mines to a Russian company, Rosatom, when she was secretary of state.

In reality, she was only one of several top Obama administration officials who signed off on the Rosatom deal; whatever strategic damage that has done to American interests is unknown.  It does seem odd that the American government would allow a Russian government associated consortium to buy the rights to some 20% of American uranium mining capacity ( although it appears that only 11% of US uranium is being produced by this company ).  Since 2010, Rosatom has owned a majority stake in Uranium One, the American uranium mining and production consortium, and in 2013, Rosatom obtained 100% control of the company.  Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t have a license to export uranium from the United States, so Russian “control” of one-fifth of US uranium deposits is notional.   What is more, a nuclear non-proliferation expert told Politifact that Russia’s buying control of Uranium One “had as much of an impact on national security as it would have if they set the money on fire. . .”

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) (on which the Secretary of State sits as well as the Attorney General), the Utah state government’s nuclear regulator,  the secretaries of the Department of Defense, Commerce, Energy, and Homeland Security, and the heads of the Office of the US Trade Representative and the Office of Science and Technology Policy all had to sign off on this deal, so Hillary’s role as secretary of State in approving it was small.

Perhaps not coincidentally, some nine of the Russian and foreign participants in the deal are said to have given the Clinton Foundation $145 million; as Don claimed in June 2016, “Clinton approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium holdings to Russia, while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.”  However, Clinton claimed that she was not personally involved in approving the deal, and her assistant secretary of state for such affairs backed her up and said she did not intervene.  A total of nine government agencies signed off on the deal.  In addition, the bulk of the money given to the Clinton Foundation came from the former owner of Uranium One, who had divested himself of the company in the fall of 2007, eighteen months before Clinton became Secretary of State.

Other non-coincidences include a half-million dollar speaking fee for an engagement in Russia was paid to Bill Clinton by a Russian bank involved in the deals, in 2010, just when the Rosatom purchase was being approved.  Of course, Bill collected a hundred million dollars in speaking fees altogether, so one speech more or less makes little difference to him.

A point man for Putin in the US, Vadim Mikerin, was under FBI investigation starting in 2009.  He apparently was responsible for bribery and other misdeeds related to Russian attempts to gain influence in the atomic energy business.

The Hill reported two weeks ago that since 2009 the FBI was investigating whether Russia had been trying to gain influence or control in the US uranium industry and had “gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”  This information was available to the CFIUS at the time the deal was approved but apparently the deal was so insignificant from the point of view of national security that it was approved anyway.

This information was sourced from the Guardian, the New York Times, Politifact, The Hill, CNN, and NBC this morning at 8:30 AM Eastern time.

 

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