Stone, Manafort, Trump, and a Long Caviar Story

Roger Stone’s conviction did not just serve as a conclusion to his case. That conviction revealed that the evidence the Special Counsel’s office collected was so compelling that neither he nor his lawyers could mount a substantive defense against a single one of the seven charges. Roger Stone did not even take the stand, which is notable considering the nature of his entire career as a political operative. For once, Stone was unable to spin the facts, even slightly. His absence from the stand spoke volumes. He was finally silent, if but for a moment.

Just as importantly, neither he nor his lawyers were able to defend the Trump campaign, either. On its face, much of the evidence in Stone’s trial was also evidence against the Trump campaign. For the first time, evidence emerged that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, knew about Stone’s self-proclaimed connections to Wikileaks and Assange. Moreover, Manafort directed his deputy Rick Gates to keep in touch with Stone and Manafort even communicated directly with Stone after the Republican National Convention. During this exchange, Stone informed Manafort that “additional information would be coming out down the road” from Wikileaks.

Rick Gates’ testimony and the Mueller Report also revealed details about Stone’s direct communications with Trump, most notably that after hanging up with Stone, Trump declared that more information would be coming from Wikileaks. This evidence contradicted Trump’s responses to the Special Counsel.

Now that evidence has emerged that both the head of the Trump campaign and Trump himself were in direct contact with Stone about pending Wikileaks dumps, the corrupt conspiracy can be laid out. “It is a long caviar story to tell,” as Konstantin Kilimnik once remarked to Manafort, during one crucial coded exchange.  Due to the unavoidable length of the remaining analysis, a summary is in order.

The Summary

Trump had repeatedly announced to the world that he wanted dirt on Hillary Clinton. Unit 26165 of the Russian GRU hacked into DNC systems and John Podesta’s emails to acquire material that could be used to hurt Clinton’s campaign and help Trump. Once that material was acquired, they sat on it for months, while at the same time advertising that they had acquired this material to individuals within the Trump campaign, to an individual who was closely associated with the Trump campaign who also had direct access to Trump, and to a member of the Trump organization. Russia advertised to only the Trump campaign and some of that advertising happened well before Trump became the presumptive nominee.

None of this advertising would be needed if they only sought to anonymously help Trump via the leaks. As the evidence shows, their advertising created extraordinary risk that their espionage would be traced back to them. However, they had material Trump wanted and they wanted sanctions relief in return. So, they held the material, while seeking to elicit a signal from the Trump campaign. That signal came in the form of the publicly announced RNC platform change regarding arming Ukraine and regarding sanctions. As Ukraine is a matter of great importance to Russia, to such an extent that they have invaded Ukraine several times in recent years, that Ukrainian part of the signal also spoke volumes.

In reply, Russia released the DNC material, which served to verify that they were more than capable of providing the dirt Trump wanted. But it wasn’t quite what Trump wanted. They held onto the more useful Podesta dirt, awaiting a handshake from Trump himself. Meanwhile, Assange publicly told the world that more material would be coming. The Trump campaign was paying close attention.

And on July 27, 2016, Trump held his last press conference as a candidate, wherein he spent 13 seconds staring into the camera and issuing that long-awaited handshake. 5 hours later, Russia began targeting Hillary Clinton’s personal offices. Following Trump’s announcement, Roger Stone would work to ensure that the deliverables would come, as Russia promised via Assange. Concurrently, the Trump campaign strategized in preparation for those promised leaks. Then, a month prior to the 2016 election, the leaks slowly started dripping. In November 2016, Trump won the election.  Once Trump entered the transition phase, members of his team worked to assure Russia that the deliverables Russia wanted would come.

Robert Mueller’s Statement

In May 2019, Mueller issued a public statement about his work and referenced the OLC policy to which he was bound by regulation. The entirety of that statement is worth another read, but there are a few points he made that deserve further consideration.

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now. And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.

Robert mueller

At another point, he states that “beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself.” Finally, he provided further insight into his work by mentioning that “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony.”

Impeachment is the process outlined in the Constitution for addressing wrongdoing by the President. Mueller set out to preserve the evidence where he was not able to recommend charges due to the OLC. Where he was, he consistently achieved results, as further evinced with Stone’s conviction. The work speaks for itself and Stone’s conviction is part of that work. His work was not concluded when he filed the Mueller Report. So, as elements of his investigation come to a close, they are in addition to his previously submitted report.

Stone’s indictments are no longer allegations. A jury of his peers found him guilty. This development merits further consideration in the context of the Special Counsel’s carefully chosen words in the report. His recently released interview notes also deserve consideration. Beyond the material the Special Counsel collected, there are public records he referenced in footnotes and other publicly available materials that add further context.

In late August 2019, I wrapped up a 25-page analysis of the events that transpired in 2016. More evidence has emerged since then and it continues to match that analysis. In the forthcoming section, I will highlight some of the data points found within my more extensive analysis, while also adding the new data into this record. Rest assured, this piece will not be 25 pages long. While the remaining evidence remains in reserve if needed, the case can be made in far fewer words.

Manafort, Deripaska, Kilimnik, Gates, and Ukraine

At the time of this writing, an impeachment inquiry is underway in the House of Representatives. This inquiry focuses on allegations that Donald Trump corruptly leveraged military aid to extract personal political favors from the Ukrainian government. The events that transpired in 2016 heavily involved a man with an extensive history inside Ukraine. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort worked inside Ukraine for years and his time there is where the evidence begins.

With the help of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Manafort entered into Ukrainian politics back in 2004. While in Ukraine, Manafort helped a pro-Russian candidate resurrect his political career, with the assistance of Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik. As the linked WSJ article notes, Manafort’s work overseas didn’t only involve Ukraine. It also involved other nations where Russia had interests, such as Montenegro and Georgia. The latter nation currently has regions under Russian occupation, much like Ukraine. His work in these other nations was at the behest of Deripaska, as well.

As Deripaska said of himself in relation to the Russian state in 2007, “I don’t separate myself from the state. I have no other interests.” This wasn’t the only time he conveyed such sentiments, as another exchange corroborated that he aimed “to be indispensable to Putin and the Kremlin.” Accordingly, wherever Manafort and Deripaska have been involved, it has been to advance Russia’s interests. Twice it was in support of Russian-backed politicians, with Yanukovych in Ukraine and with a former Georgia politician that had been exiled.  Rick Gates confirmed the nature of this arrangement and a 2005 Manafort & Davis memorandum described the benefits that their work could confer on “the Putin Government.” (Mueller Report, Vol. I. p. 131)

What would later be initiated during Manafort’s time in the Trump campaign had already taken place in Ukraine, for the benefit of Russia-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort was knowledgeable about and played a significant role in those events. Moreover, Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik assisted him in his work.

Long before the 2016 election, Yanukovych’s political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko was subjected to a black ops campaign. This work sought to manipulate public opinion via prolonged character assassinations. The strategy included the use of social media, including Twitter and Youtube. On Twitter, the tactic incorporated the use of confederate accounts to propagate their messaging. Stories were also planted in the media to target Tymoshenko. Once those stories were planted, they could then be amplified by those social media confederates as part of a covert influence operation. Tymoshenko was ultimately locked up in 2011. However, not long after Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014, she regained her freedom. Moreover, the Ukrainian government admitted her prosecution was politically motivated.

The Government admitted that the criminal prosecution against Ms Tymoshenko had been politically motivated and acknowledged a violation of her rights guaranteed by Articles 3, 6, 7, 8 and 13 in connection with Article 8 of the Convention, Article 18 in connection with Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the Convention, and Article 4 of Protocol No. 7. They also informed the Court about various measures taken as a consequence of the violations which they admitted had occurred in the applicant’s case.

Yanukovych effectively stole nearly 3 years of Tymoshenko’s liberty and locked up a political opponent with Manafort’s help.

During Manafort’s time in Ukraine, he also authorized the use of an anonymous briefings campaign against Hillary Clinton to help Yanukovych. One of those anonymous briefings appeared in Breitbart in a piece by Ben Shapiro. That same piece criticized Clinton for her support of Tymoshenko, at a time when Tymoshenko was a political prisoner of Yanukovych’s government. Her imprisonment was never so much as hinted at in Shapiro’s article.  

Manafort and his team weren’t the only ones with a history in Ukraine. Roger Stone also did some work in Ukraine for Volodymyr Lytvyn, who would go on to be awarded the Russian Order of Friendship. Also, according to Roger Stone’s own account, Lytvyn “joined Yanukovych only to to [sic] block nut-case Tymshenko.” Roger Stone’s tweet made it plain that he kept track of Ukrainian politics, even after his work was done there. Just as Stone’s tweet said, the Ukrainian politician that Stone helped would go on to aid Yanukovych by preventing Tymoshenko from forming a coalition, which afforded Yanukovych the opportunity to consolidate power.

When Yanukuvych fled Ukraine, Stone and his friends had a conversation about Manafort. In reply to Stone’s inquiry about Manafort’s whereabouts, one recipient proposed he was in Moscow with Yanukovych and another opined that Manafort was seen prepping to flee Ukraine with gold bullion. Considering what would later become headline news, this commentary was quite prophetic. This discussion also illustrates that Stone was very much aware of Manafort’s history.

The Trump Campaign

Yet in March 2016, Roger Stone helped Manafort join the Trump campaign. (Mueller Report, Vol. I. p. 134) The Trump campaign itself had ample opportunity to uncover Manafort’s past, as much of it was a matter of public record. For instance, The New York Times wrote about Yanukovych and Manafort in 2007. This and other information would be simple to find during routine vetting. Moreover, the evidence shows that the Trump transition team did vet potential hires. Yet, just as they disregarded the red flag that “Tillerson’s Russia ties go deep,” they also disregarded Manafort’s past.

In April 2016, Manafort appeared on MTP and Chuck Todd asked if Stone was involved in helping him join the Trump camp. In response, Manafort claimed that wasn’t the case. This was an atypical move, as Stone and Manafort had worked together on numerous occasions since the 1980s and he never denied it before. Their association was even a major focal point via the Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly lobbying firm. Yet this time, Manafort sought to hide that information from the world.

Before proceeding, there are a few more points to cover regarding Manafort’s arrival.  He was so determined to join that he even offered to work for free, despite a large outstanding debt he owed Deripaska. (MR, Vol. l. p. 132, 141) Upon entering the campaign, he immediately involved Rick Gates, Konstantin Kilimnik, and Oleg Deripaska. As discussed earlier, all three of these men were previously involved in his work in Ukraine.

Manafort had Gates draft memoranda announcing his appointment to the Trump campaign. These memoranda were transmitted to Kilimnik, who translated and distributed them. Manafort followed up with Kilimnik, inquiring as to whether Oleg Deripaska had seen the prior transmissions and how his position within the campaign could be used to “get whole.” (Mueller Report, Vol. l. p. 135)

As for Trump, he had been making it publicly known that he was fixated on Hillary Clinton’s emails, even going so far as to state that he’d choose Supreme Court justices based on their willingness to look into her emails. Long before he became the presumptive nominee, he was advertising against her and referencing her emails, as he did in November 2015 on his Instagram account. These announcements contained useful information for those who have a team of hackers to target Clinton staffers. Shortly before Manafort joined the Trump campaign, such a team had begun a spearfishing operation focused on the Clinton campaign. (MR, Vol. I. p. 37)

Not long after their work commenced, GRU Unit 26165 stole the email access credentials of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager. With those access credentials, they were able to acquire Podesta’s email correspondence, which potentially could have included any email correspondence he received from Hillary Clinton herself. The hacking of individuals who are close to a target can yield sensitive information from or about the target. Even targeting the spouse of an individual who is connected to the true target could potentially yield valuable data.  For example, redundant emails from Hillary Clinton to Huma Abedin were discovered on Anthony Weiner’s Dell laptop by the FBI. Podesta was targeted because of his connection to Clinton, just as many others with connections to Clinton were targeted.

After they acquired the Podesta material and added it to the exfiltrated DNC cache, they began an extensive advertising campaign directed at only the Trump campaign, per the Mueller Report. They had dirt on the Clinton campaign, and it was no secret that Trump was fixated on such dirt. Mueller’s investigation notes revealed that the efforts to uncover such dirt were far more extensive and involved far more people than previously known. Even some members of the RNC were involved in these efforts.  Yet those efforts had come up empty.

Russian intelligence had not come up empty. Accordingly, they reached out to individuals with Trump connections via numerous channels. They started by targeting a seemingly less conspicuous individual within the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos. As stated by Papadopoulos during his interview with the Special Counsel, Mifsud only became interested in Papadopoulos when he told Mifsud that he was a member of the Trump campaign. Once this became known to Mifsud, he would meet with and contact Papadopoulos on numerous occasions. After Mifsud returned from a trip to Moscow, he would again meet with and relay an important message to Papadopoulos.

“One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.” (MR, Vol. I. p. 81)

It is worth emphasizing that this is exactly what transpired in mid-to-late 2016. Russia used the anonymity of the internet via Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks to offer a taste of what they had hacked. They then used Wikileaks to dump their stolen content in July 2016 and again in October 2016. As Wikileaks was not seen as connected to Russia at the time, this served to mask Russia’s involvement. This is precisely why, as explained in the footnotes on page 81 of the Mueller Report, the Australian government reached out to the FBI on July 26, 2016. The DNC documents had just been dumped via Wikileaks and they had evidence that Papadopoulos had foreknowledge of this event. An event such as this had never happened before in an American election, yet Papadopoulos knew it was coming over two months in advance of the event.

Papadopoulos proved to be a less than useful messenger. He failed to unwittingly elicit the kind of results Russia was seeking from the upper echelons of the Trump campaign. As seen in the numerous emails from Papadopoulos to various other Trump campaign members, he was single-mindedly focused on setting up a meeting between Trump or other Trump campaign officials and Russia. This was not the primary message that Russia was hoping he would convey. However, due to continuous efforts by individuals in and around the Trump campaign to obstruct the investigation, to include destruction of evidence, that he may have conveyed such a message cannot be completely ruled out.

Following the failed messaging attempt via Padadopoulos, May 2016 was busy, in terms of outreach. On May 7, 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik took a 3:00 a.m. train to meet with Paul Manafort alone in New York City. (MR, Vol. I. p. 138) On May 17, 2016, Jared Kushner received an email from a Trump policy aid named Rick Dearborn, wherein Dearborn relayed that an officer of a Russian state-owned bank wanted to meet with a high-level Trump campaign official and that this officer claimed to be carrying an offer from Putin. (MR, Vol. I. Footnote 651) Finally on June 3, 2016, Rob Goldstone reached out to Donald Trump Jr on behalf of Emin and Aras Agalarov, who had asked him to pass along a message from the Crown prosecutor of Russia, per Goldstone.

Where all other attempts had come up short, this attempt was immediately fruitful. Trump Jr responded within minutes, stating that “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Rob Goldstone then notified Emin Agalarov about Don Jr’s response. But Emin wasn’t interested in waiting until ‘later in the summer.’ Three days later he reached out to Rob Goldstone, inquiring if there had been “[a]ny news?” That same day, Goldstone reached out to Trump Jr again to set up a phone call between Emin and Trump Jr. (MR, Vol. I. p. 113)

On the same day of that phone call between Emin and Trump Jr, Emin’s father Aras Agalarov reached out to Ike Kaveladze, who was the senior vice president at Aras’ real estate company, Crocus Group. He asked Kaveladze to attend a meeting at the Trump Organization in New York and asked him if he knew anything about the Magnitsky Act. He also provided Kaveladze with Natalia Veselnitskaya’s contact information. (MR, Vol. I. p. 113) Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer who has lobbied extensively within the United States regarding the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on various Russians over the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky while he was imprisoned.

This exchange reveals several pieces of data. First, Emin relayed the results of his conversation with Don Jr to his father, Aras. This is how Aras knew there would be a meeting. Second, Aras deemed this meeting to be so important that he asked his vice president to attend it. Third, Kaveladze had previously never been in contact with Veselnitskaya, as he did not have her contact information. Finally, the only information that Aras divulged to Kaveladze was that this meeting was related to those sanctions.

Rob Goldstone’s conversation with Don Jr also revealed information outside of what was discussed. It revealed that Goldstone was asked to begin a conversation, one that Emin could have initiated himself. Reporting shows that prior to the revelations about the Trump Tower meeting, Emin bragged in an interview about his ongoing access to the Trumps, including messages with Don Jr that extended into January 2017. He even discussed the LOI that was signed by Trump regarding Trump Tower Moscow.

Yet, he did not reach out to Don Jr directly on this matter. Moreover, when news broke about that Trump Tower meeting, messages from Goldstone to Emin revealed that Rob Goldstone repeatedly sought to hide Emin and Aras’ involvement in setting up this meeting on behalf of the “Crown prosecutor,” as Goldstone put it. Notably, he referred to Veselnitskaya as the “Russian government attorney” in an email to Don Jr. (MR, Vol. I. p. 114)

Prior to setting up the meeting, the topic of sanctions was not one that Emin, Aras, Goldstone, or Kaveladze had experience in. If it was a matter that concerned Aras, he surely would have a person in his staff who was familiar with the topic and would have assigned that person to attend the meeting. As his lawyer Scott Balber stated, Kaveladze attended as the family’s emissary “just to make sure it happened and to serve as an interpreter if necessary.”

More importantly, neither Aras nor Emin Agalarov were among the 18 Russian nationals who were the subject of the Magnitsky Act or the sanctions it imposed. This was not a matter in which they had a personal stake. However, Emin and Aras Agalarov had connections to the Trumps which dated back to the deal which ensured that the 2013 Miss Universe pageant would be held in Moscow. They were a well-known channel to the Trumps.

The meeting was set up on behalf of the “Crown prosecutor,” and that person and a succession of others gave the message to someone else to convey. Reporting from Business Insider has revealed that the meeting was arranged at the request of the Russian prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika. Four days after the Trump Tower meeting, an anti-Magnitsky Act propaganda film was given to Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher and reporting revealed that it came from Yuri’s office. As that report also states, unlike Emin and Aras, the deputy prosecutor general is subject to the Magnitsky sanctions. Business Insider’s reporting also reveals that Aras Agalarov is very loyal to Yuri Chaika and even wrote an op-ed in his defense.

Both Goldstone and Kaveladze attended the Trump Tower meeting with Manafort, Don Jr, and Kushner on June 9, 2016. After it wrapped up, Aras Agalarov preempted the prearranged Kaveladze call he had asked for and quickly called Kaveladze to find out how the meeting went. (MR, Vol. I. p. 120) He was clearly very eager to find out about the meeting. The day after the meeting, Goldstone made arrangements via Trump’s secretary Rhona Graff for a “fairly sizeable birthday gift” from Emin and Aras to be delivered to Donald Trump at Trump Tower.

 Over a year after this secret meeting took place, the world started to learn of its existence, due to reporting in the New York Times. In response, Donald Trump Jr repeatedly tried to mask the purpose of the meeting, updating his story in misleading ways as more evidence was uncovered about the meeting. For instance, he initially claimed the meeting was about an adoption program, then when the evidence showed he was hiding the truth, he said that it was about dirt on Hillary Clinton but that the lawyer was vague and ambiguous.

He would eventually release the emails to preempt the media’s release of them. This was part of a strategy wherein the Trump team and Trump Jr pushed coordinated messaging about Don Jr’s ‘transparency.’ Hiding a meeting for over a year and then repeatedly seeking to conceal its purpose is not ‘transparency.’

Paul Manafort did not issue a statement on the meeting for quite some time. Veselnitskaya tried to conceal that she attended the meeting on behalf of the Russian government. Later, evidence would emerge that there had been a coordinated effort to craft a consistent story about the purpose of the meeting. Per the Mueller Report, that effort included Trump’s involvement with the drafting of Don Jr’s statement, Trump instructing aides not to release the emails, and that the number of lawyers who could access them should be limited (Vol II. p. 5). Moreover, the Trump organization’s lawyer Alan Futerfas sent a prepared statement to Rob Goldstone (Vol. I. p. 122), and Veselnitskaya arranged for an anti-Magnitsky Act organization to send a transcript of her remarks to her translator Samochornov (Vol. I. p. 122). Additionally, in the evidence that was published by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alan Futerfas reached out to Emin Agalarov a few days in advance of the news and Emin emailed Kaveladze, asking “Ike is this ou[r] lawyer?” Futerfas also was shown to have reached out to Kaveladze directly.

Emin Agalarov was also shown to have coordinated messaging about the meeting with Goldstone and Kaveladze. In response to a proposed statement by Goldstone on July 10, 2017, Emin replied with an edited version that omitted information which Goldstone recalled being discussed in the meeting.

There were repeated, coordinated attempts to hide the purpose of the meeting. Those attempts continue to this day. This is extraordinarily similar to the events surrounding Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Following that event, the memorandum of the call was moved to a secret server to restrict access. Once released, a witness reported that parts of the memorandum did not reflect what was said in the call. There were also secret meetings  and attempts to mislead the public and conceal the truth. There were attempts to hide that Trump extorted Zelensky for a personal political favor, including the release of the aid when the whistleblower began sounding the alarm.

The primary difference between these events is that the shoe was on the other foot. Instead of Trump needing material that Russia controlled, it was Zelensky in need of material that Trump controlled.

One of their main talking points regarding Zelensky is that there can’t be quid pro quo because they released the aid before they got Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into Biden. This same strategy was employed regarding the Trump Tower meeting. All the coordination, obstruction, and concealment was meant to hide that the Russian lawyer was there to make a deal. The coordinated story only revealed half of what was discussed. They settled on only revealing that the Magnitsky Act and the related sanctions were discussed.

A discussion about sanctions and the Magnitsky Act was improper but it was not worth hiding, especially for Russian attendees. Veselnitskaya would know, as she publicly submitted testimony to Congress about the Magnitsky Act only 5 days after the meeting. If she got nothing out of the meeting from Manafort, Trump Jr, and Kushner, why would she care that the meeting was now public? That’s an American political issue, not a Russian issue. Yet, she helped conceal the facts and changed her story several times. She even attempted to coordinate a story with her interpreter via the anti-Magnitsky Act organization.

They have been trying to hide that the subject which was conveyed to George Papadopoulos also came up in the meeting. Sanctions and the fact that Russia had hacked materials were both discussed. For a moment, let’s revisit the Papadopoulos case. He had advance knowledge from Mifsud, which revealed that “the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.” (MR, Vol. I. p. 81)

That there was nothing of value exchanged at the meeting (besides valuable information) is no surprise. That was never the plan. The Trump campaign wasn’t going to be handed the dirt. That would undermine the ‘anonymous’ aspect of what was described to Papadopoulos. And Russia was never going to give their assistance for free. They certainly wouldn’t give it away at a meeting where the Trump campaign reps could not guarantee that Trump was agreeable to the terms. Manafort could hypothetically be fired or resign at any minute and neither Trump Jr nor Kushner could reasonably be expected to have the power to give Russia the sanctions relief. Only Trump was in a position to gain that power. They came with an offer. One that only Trump could be expected to fulfill, if he was elected.

Five days after the meeting, two of the meeting attendees unintentionally confirmed that the meeting included discussions that related to this CNN article, entitled ‘Russian hackers stole Dems’ Trump files, firm says.’ Reading through the article, the assessment is still in the early stages and the forensic analysts aren’t yet aware of the extent of material that was exfiltrated from the servers. But the story is taking shape at this point and extensive Russian hacking operations were discussed in the article.

 Rob Goldstone attached a screenshot of that article to an email. In the body of the email he wrote, “Top story right now – seems eerily weird based on our Trump meeting last week with the Russian lawyers etc.” In response to that email, Ike Kaveladze said, “Very interesting.”

Kaveladze could have replied any number of ways. If he didn’t understand Goldstone’s meaning, he could have replied, “How so?” Or perhaps, “I don’t follow.” Or, “Huh?” However, both of them were in the meeting and knew what was said. The meaning of Goldstone’s message was obvious to Kaveladze and didn’t require more than the mention of the Trump meeting with the Russian lawyers for Ike to know what Rob meant. This topic came up in the meeting. The Mueller Report shows that the coordinated story mentioned nothing that could be even tangentially related to this headline or the body of the article. These attendees could not have interpreted the purported discussions to have a connection to that article.

The coordinated story was designed specifically to omit that the discussion included the passing along of information about Russian hacking. Sanctions relief and Russian hacking were both discussed. Telling the public and investigators about the sanctions wasn’t an issue, so long as the Russian hacking discussion remained hidden. Similarly, they tried to mask, obfuscate, suppress and otherwise obstruct the world from learning about Trump leveraging the military aid in an attempt to extract a personal political favor from Zelensky.

The Senate’s evidence regarding that referenced CNN article, in combination with Goldstone and Kaveladze’s remarks, seems to be missing from the Mueller Report. It has either been redacted from the record or Mueller’s team wasn’t in possession of this evidence. Considering what is contained in these messages, this absence significantly alters the meaning of the Mueller Report.

As mentioned in the title of this piece, this is a long caviar story. Now would be as good a time as any to cover that internal polling data which Manafort had Gates occasionally transmit to Kilimnik, who passed it on to Oleg Deripaska. (MR, Vol. I. p. 129) As covered at the beginning, Manafort was heavily involved in a social media campaign to smear Tymoshenko. He gained valuable experience in leveraging social media against a political target.

Manafort concealed evidence from investigators about this polling data. The questions regarding why he hid it and what he was seeking to hide can be resolved by considering three points: the purpose of internal polling data, an August 2, 2016 meeting, and the extensive active measures campaign which the Russian government employed online to help Trump and harm Clinton. In October 2019, a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed the purpose of the active measures campaign and exposed that the efforts were much broader and more effective than early assessments had suggested. Those early assessments were based on far less data, as social media platforms had yet to uncover the full extent of the operations.

 The Russian efforts included a small paid advertising campaign which could then be amplified further by anonymous accounts they operated. The anonymous accounts were the primary tool they used in their efforts. They operated on more platforms, controlled far more anonymous accounts, and were far more convincing and far more successful than originally known. That internal polling data played a role in their effectiveness.

On August 2, 2016, Manafort, Gates, and Kilimnik met in NYC. During one portion of the discussion, Manafort provided a briefing to Kilimnik.

That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.

(MR, Vol. I. p. 140)

Within a single briefing, Manafort combined the campaign’s messaging, the referral to that internal polling data they had been sharing with Kilimnik to pass on to Deripaska, and the specific states to target. Internal polling data analyzed over time, as could be done due to the occasional transmissions of that data, tells a story. It tells the observer how effective their tactics are in changing potential voters’ minds. If a tactic is used and it is not changing the targeted audiences’ minds, it can be scrapped, and a different tactic can be employed. Knowing which states to target, as spelled out by Manafort, can help focus the strategy and better allocate available resources.

Simply put, Manafort relayed via Kilimnik that Russia should target Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota with the messaging and use the internal polling data to monitor and make adjustments, as needed.

As Kilimnik has only acted as an intermediary between Manafort and Deripaska, what is said by Kilimnik in the meeting is said on behalf of Deripaska. When Manafort speaks to Kilmnik, he is speaking to Deripaska, who does not separate himself from the Russian state. Manafort is giving Deripaska the updated strategy for the social media campaign Russia has been waging to help Trump. It is no surprise that extensive reporting emerged in 2017, such as this CNN article which said, ‘Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin.’ Furthermore, social media accounts ran by Russians promoted ‘Miners for Trump’ rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in October 2016. One look at Manafort’s list explains how they knew to do that.

After the Trump Tower meeting, the Mueller Report catalogues a change in Manafort’s discussions with Kilimnik. He stops using Oleg Deripaska’s initials as he had done previously and becomes far more coded in his language, as does Kilimnik.  For instance, in July 7, 2016, he refers to Deripaska as “our friend” and “boss.” Kilimnik’s correspondence also refers to Deripaska as “boss” and “V.’s boss.” (MR, Vol. I. p. 137) ‘V’ is a reference to Victor Boyarkin, who is Deripaska’s deputy. Notably, Boyarkin is a former Russian lieutenant-colonel who served in the GRU. Considering the hacking done by Unit 26165 of the GRU, Boyarkin’s history with the GRU and his proximity to Deripaska seems relevant.

On June 12, just three days after the Trump Tower meeting, Julian Assange publicly announced that he had “emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.” (MR, Vol. I. p. 52) Notably, there is a section in the Mueller interview notes that spans from June 12 to July 22, 2016, which was the date of the DNC leaks. During this span, Gates reported that “Trump was frustrated that the releases weren’t happening.” (Mueller Interviews. p. 27) As this section of the Mueller team’s interview notes are grouped into dated sections and this commentary comes near the very beginning of this grouping, it seems reasonable to interpret that this complaint came not long after the Trump Tower meeting and Assange’s “pending publication” announcement.

As Goldstone discussed five days after the meeting, the top story on CNN was the Russian hack of the Democrats. If any of the meeting attendees doubted that the Russian lawyer or Assange were serious, that news surely erased that doubt. Furthermore, as the Stone trial revealed, Stone had been telling Manafort that leaks were coming that would help Trump as least as far back as April. Gates also noted that Manafort stated he “would be updating other people on the campaign, including the candidate” about upcoming releases, as conveyed by Stone. He also told Gates in April and May that there would be helpful releases coming from Wikileaks.

Steve Bannon also testified that Stone had privately conveyed he had a relationship with Wikileaks and Assange possibly as far back as spring of 2016, which matches Gates’ testimony. If any members of the Trump campaign doubted Stone before, the Trump Tower meeting and the hacking news dispelled those doubts. In fact, the record shows that before the first major leak, the Trump campaign was building a messaging strategy around upcoming leaks in June/July. (Mueller Interviews. p. 40)

For the record, on the subject of the hack & leak events, Gates’ testimony seems to be truthful. His testimony reflects that of someone who wasn’t in the Trump Tower meeting and was never informed of what took place there. His lack of information on the true nature of the leaks, as seen in some of his Stone testimony, is because he wasn’t in the meeting. He can only provide information based on what he saw, heard, or was told after the fact. There are numerous occasions in the Mueller Report where he explains that Manafort kept him in the dark. For example, Manafort never gave him an explanation on the purpose of the internal polling data. Furthermore, Manafort met with Kilimnik while excluding Gates in May 2016. These were matters about which he had no meaningful information. Unless the evidence is still redacted, he also had no knowledge about the RNC platform.

Circling back to Assange’s “pending publication” commentary, no later than two days after this announcement, the campaign would have been fully aware that Assange was speaking for Russia. They had been informed in the meeting with Veselnitskaya about Russian hacks, Stone had advance knowledge that helpful material would be coming from Wikileaks, Assange has just confirmed publicly what Stone was predicting privately, and news has broken that Russians hacked the Dems.

It seems reasonable to expect that the Trump campaign is wondering what “pending publication” means. The publications would remain in ‘pending’ status for a full 40 days from Assange’s announcement. This is the context pertaining to the revelation that “Trump was frustrated that the releases weren’t happening.” Day after day, the releases remained in pending status, and all other efforts to dig up fresh dirt on Clinton were coming up empty. During this time, according to the testimony in the Mueller interview notes, “Trump was generally frustrated Clinton’s missing emails had not been found.” (p. 39)

On page 28 of the Mueller interview notes, there is a lengthy redaction which followed Gates’ testimony about a “messaging strategy being built around the possible content of an upcoming release.” After the redaction, Gates “indicated there was disagreement on where the information came from within the campaign.” Then he is recorded answering questions that are in relation to whether Kilimnik was directed to “reach out to his Russian contacts on the issue.”

This section of notes spanned from the date Assange remarked about “pending publication” to the date that the DNC documents were dumped by Wikileaks. Four days before the dump, the RNC platform was altered in a crucial way. That alteration was then announced publicly to the world. Prior to this point in time, American policy in Ukraine ran counter to Russia’s aims. Russia invaded Crimea when their original Ukrainian plan involving President Yanukovych was upended with Yanukovych’s ouster. They still occupy Crimea and they are now targeting the Donbas region in Ukraine. They are incrementally seizing Ukrainian territory and America has long opposed this.

The only publicly announced alteration to the RNC platform was the Trump campaign’s successful efforts to kill an amendment which:

announced “support” for “maintaining (and, if warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored” and for “providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning.”  

(MR, Vol. I. p. 125)

 In the article which announced this development, the details about the sanctions and the lethal defensive weapons were both highlighted. The article title was sure to grab the attention of any interested parties, considering it was phrased as ‘Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.’

As covered in the earlier data regarding Manafort’s pro-Russia Ukrainian work, he and his team proved more than capable of planting stories in the media. It was an important part of their ‘black-ops’ strategy. As has been noted by political analysts, such as here, committee deliberations on party platforms don’t tend to make the news. Evidence of routine or even occasional leaks of internal platform committee deliberations was hard to find during extensive searches for such material.

Case in point, this Russia-related news was the only leak at the time of those strategy sessions. Making this public served to let the Russians, Americans, and Ukrainians know about these pro-Russia alterations.

More importantly, after returning to Ukraine following a trip to the United States in the summer of 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik privately bragged that he played a role in the RNC platform change. As an intermediary between Manafort and Deripaska, his involvement in this matter reveals that he passed messages between Manafort and Deripaska about this alteration in advance of the alteration.

The author of the Washington Post article covering the platform change would ask an important question in early August 2016.

Why is Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort denying that his staff worked to keep the Republican platform from supporting U.S. weapons deliveries to Ukraine? His claims about the episode contradict not only the facts, but also the candidate’s long-standing position on the issue.

Manafort contested the proven links to his staff because he knew the context of where that platform change came from and what its purpose was. That change was a public commitment to Russia that they would take actionable steps to give Russia what they requested. And just in case anyone missed it, another article popped up three days later which discussed the platform change and featured commentary from Charlie Black. This individual was the ‘Black’ in the lobbying group that Manafort and Stone collaborated on. He also reported in an interview that he still keeps in touch with Manafort. Stone, Manafort, and Black even had a meeting in DC just before the inauguration. That interview is also intriguing in that Black claims that he told reporters that “Roger couldn’t find Russia on a map” when they asked him whether Stone could be a Trump campaign link to Russia. If Stone can find Ukraine on a map, he can certainly find Russia.

One day after the second article, Russia released the pending DNC material. Upon finding out, “the campaign was very happy about the release by WikiLeaks on 07/22/2016. Trump was advised not to react to the releases and let it play out.” (Mueller interviews. p. 28) Gates noted that around this time, there was a pivot to “How do we use the released information?”

The Mueller interview notes also contain testimony that the Seth Rich conspiracy narrative had begun circulating in the Trump campaign as a counter-narrative to deflect blame from Russia (p. 12). Other reporting has since revealed that this conspiracy had been planted online by the Russian SVR. The efforts by the SVR to plant this conspiracy started on July 13, 2016. The record shows that Julian Assange and Roger Stone propagated this same attempted coverup in the summer of 2016.

At the same time, Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik were trying to pin the blame on Ukraine, despite all the evidence that it was orchestrated by Russia. (Mueller Interviews. p. 14) This strategy had been used before, when Russia launched an active measures operation online to blame the Ukrainian government for shooting down of civilian airliner MH17. Donald Trump and Giuliani are still trying to baselessly blame Ukraine, and reporting has revealed that this strategy would help justify lifting sanctions on Russia, as placing the blame on Ukraine paints Russia as an innocent victim.

On July 26, 2016, Julian Assange appeared on CNN Moscow to announce that ‘A lot more material’ relevant to the US electoral campaign may be released via Wikileaks. I have a few more observations to make about this announcement, but it would take far too long to cover here. Perhaps in another piece.

The following morning, Trump gave a presser in which he devoted significant time diverting blame from Russia for the hacks. Yet, for a moment, he was willing to entertain the notion that Russia was behind it. Following that moment, he stared at the camera with his arms locked to the podium and slowly proclaimed, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily.” I’ve analyzed that footage previously, so any readers who would like more information can find it here.

Interestingly enough, Trump recently sought to have President Zelensky give a public announcement in which he would deliver a message that had been crafted by Trump’s team. That message contained two parts, one regarding Burisima and Biden, the other regarding an investigation which would legitimize the Trump campaign’s conspiracy that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election.

The similarities here are striking. Had he made that statement, President Zelensky would be helping Russia and Trump, just as Trump’s presser did. Deflecting blame onto another country to shield Russia is also a recurring theme here. It was also of paramount importance that President Zelensky was the one who made the announcement. And it had to be public, with the world watching. As mentioned earlier, the shoe was on the other foot. Trump was now in a position to do to Zelensky what had been done to him.  

Five hours after Trump’s statement in 2016, GRU Unit 26165 began targeting the personal offices of Hillary Clinton for the first time. (MR, Vol. I. p. 49) The next day, Konstantin Kilimnik was summoned to Moscow, where he met with Oleg Deripaska. Following the meeting, Kilimnik contacted Manafort and arranged a face-to-face in NYC, where they would discuss Deripaska’s “long caviar story.”  (MR, Vol. I. p. 149) The meeting went forward as planned on August 2nd, 2016. By chance, Deripaska’s private plane arrived in New Jersey that evening, carrying his wife, daughter, mother, and father-in-law. (MR. Footnote 921)

During the meeting, they discussed that internal polling data and the battleground states, as covered earlier. They also discussed the Ukrainian “peace plan,” which Manafort later admitted was a backdoor means for Russia to seize control of the Donbas region. (MR, Vol. I. p. 130) Trump has been privately and publicly pressuring President Zelensky to agree to the terms of that “peace plan.”

Then the conversation turned to the debt Manafort owed Deripaska. This topic came up repeatedly in discussions between Kilimnik and Manafort, with Manafort looking for more information from Deripaska about any movement on the issue. You may recall that he inquired at the beginning about how he could use his position in the campaign to “get whole.” In the meeting, Manafort makes it clear that he’s also arranging to obtain payment for some work in Ukraine. When the meeting ends, they leave at separate times, so that the media won’t report on his meeting with and connections to Kilimnik. (MR, Vol. I. 141)

The next day after the meeting, a quote from an anonymous Republican appeared in CNN, which specifically mentioned that Manafort (and unnamed others) “feel like they are wasting their time” with Trump. Shortly thereafter, Trump would hire Steve Bannon as campaign CEO and promote Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager. Manafort resigned two days later. While the news of those black ledger payments from the Party of Regions (Yanukovych’s party) certainly was problematic, he told Bannon he knew it was coming for over two months (Mueller interviews. p. 113) If he wanted to protect the Trump campaign, he would have resigned before it came out. But he wasn’t done with his work within the campaign. Not until Trump stepped to the podium on July 27, 2016.

When Manafort departed, Roger Stone continued seeking information on the next Wikileaks release and determined that it would be in October and it would involve John Podesta, per the Mueller Report. At one point, Roger Stone reached out to Donald Trump, and shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming. (MR, Vol. I. p. 54 & testimony in Stone trial)

In accordance with the testimony from Stone’s trial, Stone knew Wikileaks would have damaging information that would help them in April 2016. Notably, the first communications that the Mueller team uncovered between Wikileaks and the GRU operations Guccifer 2.0/ DCLeaks was in June. (MR, Vol. I. p. 45) Moreover, the exact date of the communications was three days after Wikileaks announced those pending publications. It was those two GRU entries that had published material as a “preview,” per page 45 of Volume I. The only way that Stone would know what he knew and that Wikileaks would know they’d be receiving that DCLeaks / Guccifer 2.0 material would be if there were hidden communications between these operatives. Considering all the destruction of evidence and the witness intimidation Stone engaged in, this seems likely.

The John Podesta leaks would come in October, as ‘predicted.’ They continued to slowly leak out up to the November elections. The Trump campaign became the Trump transition, and Veselnitskaya appeared again in late November 2016, with a reminder of the sanctions deal. While it was never confirmed whether she was able to meet with anyone, Rob Goldstone’s communication wasn’t indicating that a meeting was required. The possibility of Veselnitskaya’s presence was couched with the phrasing, “If needed.” The transmission of the sanctions documentation to Rhona Graff was enough to send the message and Rhona confirmed the message was received.

In December 2016, communications from Veselnitskaya revealed that she expected Trump would remove Preet Bharara, who was the attorney overseeing the Prevezon money-laundering case. Veselnitskaya represented Prevezon in the case.  She wasn’t quite aware that Trump hadn’t officially taken office and couldn’t remove Bharara yet. But he eventually would do so, and the case would be settled. Prevozon was right in the middle of preparing for trial and was not expecting such a deal. As one Prevezon lawyer said, “the offer was too good to refuse.”

In 2019, she was indicted for obstruction of justice in the Prevezon case. She is accused of seeking to conceal her involvement in drafting fabricated evidence, and in secretly coordinating with a senior Russian prosecutor. The Prevezon case arose due to the evidence that was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, who was then tortured and murdered in prison for the crime of exposing money-laundering.

This all sounds so familiar. I can’t seem to put my finger on why secret coordination, fabricating evidence, and Magnitsky all sounds so familiar.

Oleg Deripaska would eventually receive hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief, a fact that Trump’s team sought to keep out of the public record. Sanctions would be lifted on Rusal. Trump would go on to give Putin exactly what he wanted in Syria, yet this was just one of many other moves that Trump had made to thank Putin and the Russian government.

What’s past is prologue.

William ShakespearE – the tempest

Over a decade ago, Manafort, Kilimnik, Gates, and Deripaska began working to advance Putin’s interests in Ukraine. Whether Rick Gates was a witting agent or an unwitting asset in this work is not entirely clear, although some evidence indicates it was the latter. The others were well aware of the origins of these efforts.

When the original plan failed, the Russian government began taking a more direct approach. They began seizing territory, first in Crimea, then in the Donbas region. In 2016, a “peace plan” emerged that Kilimnik and Manafort knew was a “backdoor” means for Russia to control Eastern Ukraine. Under the pretense of autonomy for the Donbas region, Ukrainian land would no longer be under control of the Ukrainian government. As nature abhors a vacuum, the Russian government would fill that power vacuum with someone under their control, just as they had done with Yanukovych.

Paul Manafort knows this strategy. He was intimately involved in the execution of such a strategy and he made millions in the process. Much of that funding came directly from Russian oligarch Deripaska, who works to advance the Kremlin’s interests under the pretense of autonomy. In Trump, Manafort saw a candidate who was immensely friendly towards Russia and recognized that he could use his past experience and his connections to put that candidate in office.

Russia also saw the opportunity there and had previously worked with Manafort to achieve those aims. But they wouldn’t give it away for free. They needed concrete commitments from the candidate, not empty platitudes. They conveyed the commitments they needed from the candidate and only began providing the fruits of their hacks when the campaign publicly committed to supporting Russia’s position on sanctions and Ukraine.

Trump then stepped up to the podium and in a matter of 13 seconds, the trajectory of American history changed dramatically. Russia accelerated their work and became intensely committed to ensuring his victory. A Trump victory would be a Russian victory. After his election, he began helping Putin achieve his aims in certain regions, especially in Ukraine. Instead of Putin pressuring Ukraine to sign the “peace plan” and the Americans resisting his efforts, Putin could now pressure Ukraine with the help of the American President.

It is no coincidence that what Trump sought from President Zelensky would help both Trump and Putin. That was entirely by design. The narrative he sought to force Zelensky to legitimize had originated in Russia. When Speaker Pelosi said, “All roads lead to Putin,” she was not being hyperbolic. She is a very measured person and said it because the overwhelming evidence makes this plain. Under the pretense of autonomy, Trump is advancing the Kremlin’s interests.

It isn’t so hard to allow that pretense to blind us from what Trump has done and is doing. This is why the Kremlin relies on this kind of pretense in their operations. The ‘independent’ businessman, the oligarch, the ‘independent’ journalist, and the politician who seem autonomous on the surface but their actions betray them, over time. This pretense is one of the primary tools the Kremlin uses to achieve continuous results in their work to undermine democracy.