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Manafort PR Bid Led Ex-Chancellor to Vow Discretion-for a Fee

Bloomberg 2018-06-14 04:09:22

Former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer promised to help Paul Manafort carry out a discreet lobbying campaign to help pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s image in the West in exchange for a fee of as much as 30,000 euros a month.



Gusenbauer was willing to help Manafort assemble "a small chorus of high level European third-party endorsers and politically credible friends” to promote the idea of a Ukraine under Yanukovych that was closer to Europe than Russia, according to a filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller briefly unsealed Wednesday in Washington federal court.



Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, recruited Gusenbauer in 2012 as the charter member of a collection of veteran European politicians known as the Hapsburg Group.



They were paid 2 million euros ($2.4 million) to conduct secret lobbying in the U.S. as well as Europe, according to an indictment accusing Manafort of acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine, and laundering millions of dollars. While the memo only outlines work to be performed in Europe, it noted the terms and tenor of Gusenbauer work.



“Alfred Gusenbauer is willing to be discreet,” Alan Friedman, a former British journalist who helped Manafort organize the lobbying campaign, wrote in a June 10, 2012 memo. “In a just concluded telephone conversation today, he understood completely and embraced the idea of what he called ‘underground commenting.”’

Friedman added: “My view is that this is a very good investment.”

Mueller Reveals Memos on Manafort’s U.S. Lobbying for Ukraine

The memo also listed four other other Europeans who could serve as “key participants,” including former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The filing was briefly posted in the electronic court docket and then was replaced with a redacted version where the names of Gusenbauer and others were blacked out, along with other information.

The role of the Hapsburg Group is now at the center of the special counsel’s allegations that Mueller and his associates engaged in unregistered lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of Yanukovych and his Ukrainian Party of Regions.

In a revised indictment last week, Manafort was accused of plotting with his Ukrainian fixer, Konstantin Kilimnik, to tamper with two witnesses involved with the Hapsburg Group, including Friedman. Prosecutors say Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort is scheduled to be arraigned June 15 on the new indictment, which prosecutors have cited as a reason to revoke his bail before trial.

Manafort is also accused of bank and tax fraud in a federal case in Alexandria, Virginia, set to go to trial on July 25. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases. Kilimnik hasn’t responded to the U.S. charges.

The potential recruits for the Hapsburg Group included Belgian judge Jean-Paul Moerman, Bodo Hombach of Germany and Javier Solana of Spain, one-time head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to the memo.

Gusenbauer would write op-ed pieces and speak out in the European media, according to the memo.

On June 12, Mueller’s team filed two memos, including one by Manafort they say documented how he directed efforts to influence U.S. lawmakers and media on behalf of Yanukovych. One Manafort memo, dated April 22, 2013, detailed to Yanukovych how he had organized meetings with members of Congress in Washington. It will likely play a key role in Manafort’s trial in Washington, which is set to begin Sept. 17.

Attorneys for Manafort have characterized the outreach as a legitimate exercise of free speech and their client’s right to express his disagreement with Mueller’s allegations.

The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington), and 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).