Friday, March 08, 2019

Otherwise Blameless Life

Obligatory: Manafort, Stone, and Atwater, 1985. Photo by Harry Naltchayan/Washington Post.
Hi, folks—weekend crew reporting for duty!

I have to laugh at Judge Ellis remarking that Paul Manafort had led an "otherwise blameless life" except for the period between 2004 and 2018 when he committed all the crimes he's charged with in the Virginia and DC cases. Does he believe Manafort went to Ukraine and suddenly became a professional criminal at the age of 55?

I have my doubts, above all over his work for Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, reported by Ken Vogel in Politico Magazine back in June 2016, not long before Manafort's promotion from convention manager to campaign manager (the article was published literally the day after the meeting in Trump Tower with the anti-sanctions campaigner Natalia Veselnitskaya where he was reported to have fallen asleep, seemed later to have been taking desultory notes on his phone, and possibly, as Emptywheel pointed out, recorded the whole thing, which would now be in the hands of the Special Counsel, with Manafort's other electronic devices):
One example, according to documents, including some published here for the first time: Marcos earmarked huge sums of cash for Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 campaigns — as much as $57 million, according to one claim made to Philippine investigators. There’s no evidence that any cash ever made it into Reagan’s coffers, which would have been illegal since U.S. election laws ban donations from foreigners. And, despite extensive government investigations on both sides of the Pacific into the freewheeling spending of the Marcos regime, there’s never before been much serious inquiry of what ultimately happened to the cash intended for political contributions. The lack of a transparent paper trail — combined with the larger than life personas of Marcos and Manafort — spawned a swirl of theories.
Theories, in June 2016, but by that August, when the black book accounts began to emerge of the extravagant secret payments Manafort had been taking from his Ukrainian clients, getting him bounced from the Trump job, the Philippines story should have been taking on a different resonance.

Knowing Manafort as we do now, I think we can make a few good guesses as to where that money went. And while I'm not finding rumors like that involving his other unsavory clients, I'm wondering, especially about Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi, who paid him $600,000 a year from 1985 to 1992 to craft his image as a "freedom fighter" to appeal to the Reagan administration (and the governments of South Africa and Israel), as Sébastien Roblin explained—
Savimbi flew to Washington, where he gave speeches at Freedom House, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. At the latter, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi as “a linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior … one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”
—because Savimbi financed his operations through his control of the Angolan diamond fields, and diamonds are a classic way of making untraceable payments, which he used to grease all sorts of palms:

From Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, by Sheri P. Rosenberg, Tibi Galis, Alex Zucker, 2015.
Undercover payments are a way of life for everybody Manafort works with, from Mobutu Sese Seko to Putin and Deripaska and Donald J. Trump. I think when the history of these times is really written Manafort and Stone will turn out to have been criminals all their lives, going back to those College Republican campaigns in the late 1970s.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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