The Hill’s John Solomon has uncovered new information which provides one more indication that much of the conspiracy to take down President Trump originated from the Obama White House.
Solomon reported that, in January 2016, the White House summoned Ukrainian authorities to Washington under the pretense of coordinating their nation’s ongoing anti-corruption efforts. (At this time, DNC consultant Ukrainian-American Alexandria Chalupa was warning Democrats that Trump was likely to tap Paul Manafort to run his campaign. I wrote about this here and here.)
The January 2016 gathering, confirmed by multiple participants and contemporaneous memos, brought some of Ukraine’s top corruption prosecutors and investigators face to face with members of former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), FBI, State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ).
The agenda suggested the purpose was training and coordination. But Ukrainian participants said it didn’t take long — during the meetings and afterward — to realize the Americans’ objectives included two politically hot investigations: one that touched Vice President Joe Biden’s family and one that involved a lobbying firm linked closely to then-candidate Trump.
Solomon spoke to a former Ukrainian Embassy officer, Andrii Telizhenko, who said, “U.S. officials kept talking about how important it was that all of our anti-corruption efforts be united.”
The Americans told Telizhenko they were interested in reopening an investigation about improper payments to GOP lobbyist Paul Manafort from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who belonged to Ukraine’s Russia-backed Party of Regions. The FBI had closed this case in 2014. (Manafort’s firm had long been connected to Roger Stone.)
Telizhenko and other attendees “recalled DOJ officials asking investigators from Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) if they could help locate new evidence about the Party of Regions’ payments and its dealings with Americans.” Telizhenko told Solomon. “It was definitely the case that led to the charges against Manafort and the leak to U.S. media during the 2016 election.”
Solomon points out:
That makes the January 2016 meeting one of the earliest documented efforts to build the now-debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative and one of the first to involve the Obama administration’s intervention.
Needless to say, none of the officials Solomon reached out to for confirmation agreed to comment.
Shortly after this meeting, Telizhenko saw signs of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. In May 2016, two months after Manafort became Trump’s campaign chairman, information about the existence of the incriminating Party of Regions’ “black ledger” was released by NABU.
Then, in August 2016, information indicating that a $12 million cash payment had allegedly been made to Manafort was released which forced Manafort to resign immediately and lent credence to the theory that Trump’s campaign was indeed colluding with the Russians.
Nazar Kholodnytskyy, Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, told Solomon that, “Somebody kept this black ledger secret for two years and then showed it to the public and the U.S. media. It was extremely suspicious.” He said he had explicitly instructed
NABU investigators who were working with American authorities not to share the ledger with the media.
I ordered the detectives to give nothing to the mass media considering this case. Instead, they had broken my order and published themselves these one or two pages of this black ledger regarding Paul Manafort.
For me it was the first call that something was going wrong and that there is some external influence in this case. And there is some other interests in this case not in the interest of the investigation and a fair trial.
Solomon also spoke to Kostiantyn Kulyk, deputy head of the Ukraine prosecutor general’s international affairs office, who said that, “shortly after Ukrainian authorities returned from the Washington meeting, there was a clear message about helping the Americans with the Party of the Regions case.”
Solomon reported that Kulyk said Ukrainian authorities had evidence that other Western figures, such as former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, also received money from Yanukovych’s party. But the Americans weren’t interested: “They just discussed Manafort. This was all and only what they wanted. Nobody else.”
“A Ukrainian court in December concluded NABU’s release of the ledger was an illegal attempt to influence the U.S. election. And a member of Ukraine’s parliament has released a recording of a NABU official saying the agency released the ledger to help Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
Telizhenko said that Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company which was under investigation for “improper foreign transfers of money,” was also discussed at the January 2016 meeting. Bank records show that a firm co-owned by Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, had allegedly received over $3 million in payments in 2014 and 2015 from Burisma for his consulting services and for his service as a board member.
And here is the most damning request the Americans made of the Ukrainians at this meeting:
According to Telizhenko, U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kiev drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree. But then Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016, as I previously reported. The Burisma case was transferred to NABU, then shut down.
Solomon warns that “Ukraine is riddled with corruption, Russian meddling and intense political conflicts, so one must carefully consider any Ukrainian accounts.”
Never the less, Telizhenko’s claims are supported by DOJ documents, “including communications involving Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, his wife, Nellie, and ex-British spy Christopher Steele.”
Nellie Ohr was hired by Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS to help dig up dirt for the infamous Steele dossier. Solomon reports that “DOJ emails show Nellie Ohr on May 30, 2016, directly alerted her husband and two DOJ prosecutors specializing in international crimes to the discovery of the “black ledger” documents that led to Manafort’s prosecution.”
Nellie Ohr wrote: “Reported Trove of documents on Ukrainian Party of Regions’ Black Cashbox. Attaching a news article on the announcement of NABU’s release of the documents.”
Also at this time, Bruce Ohr and Steele were trying to obtain information from Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, who had a soured business relationship with Manafort. In notes written following his meetings with Steele, Ohr wrote that Deripaska was “almost ready to talk” about the money that “Manafort stole.”
The FBI met with Deripaska in September 2016 to ask if he “could help prove Manafort was helping Trump collude with Russia. Deripaska laughed off the notion as preposterous.”
Day by day, the evidence of the Obama administration efforts to build the case of collusion against Trump accumulate. What is necessary is for a team of investigation to bring it all together and lay it out in chronological order and fill in the blanks. I have no doubt that William Barr is currently on it.
Solomon concludes that what has “already been confirmed by Ukrainians looks a lot more like assertive collusion with a foreign power than anything detailed in the Mueller report.”
I think we can all agree on that.
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