WASHINGTON – Special Counselor Robert Muller, in his recently disclosed investigation into Tony Podesta involvement in Ukraine, appears to be focusing on the public relations contract the Podesta Group had with the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), the same Ukrainian group that established a similar consulting contract with Paul Manafort.
On Dec. 20, 2013, Reuters reported that the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine had paid $900,000 to the Podesta Group for a two-year contract aimed at improving the image of the Yanukovych government in the United States, which the Podesta Group told Reuters they were implementing through contacts with key congressional Democrats.
To date, the mainstream media has focused attention largely only on the contract Manafort’s K-Street firm Davis, Manafort & Freedman established with the ECMU, not the contract established by the Podesta Group.
On Feb. 21, 2014, Russian leader Vladimir Putin helped then-President Yanukovych to flee violent protests seeking to oust him from office, by flying out of Ukraine and traveling through Crimea, to arrive Russia, where he has remained, trying desperately to restore himself to power back home in Kiev.
The background of the controversy traces back to 2007 when Yanukovych’s political party, Ukraine’s Party of Regions, hired the ECMU to perform an “extreme makeover,” repositioning the party from being perceived as a “haven for Donetsk-based mobsters and oligarchs” into that of a legitimate political party.
In Manafort’s case, opponents have failed to document Manafort ever received some $12.7 million in some 22 previously undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party as supposedly documented by “black ledger” entries revealed by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Yet, this “evidence” was sufficient for New York Times reporters to conclude that Manafort had hidden back-channel ties to Putin financed by under-the-table payments arranged via Ukraine.
From there, the Democratic Party narrative charged Manafort never registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department that would only have been required if he was contracted with the Ukrainian government, not with a political party in the Ukraine, and that Manafort transferred his close relationship with Putin (via Yanukovych) to the Trump campaign.
It turns out the Podesta Group filed disclosures with the Justice Department, but only after the work Manafort was doing for ECMU was reported in the press.
The Democratic Party narrative continues to suggest Manafort’s close relationship to the Kremlin allowed him to position the Trump campaign to receive a dump of hacked emails that embarrassed the Clinton campaign by exposing the efforts Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as chairman of the DNC, took to rig the primaries for Hillary, to the distinct disadvantage of challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The entire Democratic Party narrative is thrown into disarray if it turns out the Podesta brothers, via the Podesta Group, have tighter and more easily documentable financial ties to Russia, involving far greater numbers than have ever been suggested to tie Manafort to Russia via Ukraine.
CNN further reported on Aug. 19, 2016 the Podesta Group had issued a statement affirming the firm has retained the boutique Washington-based law firm Caplin & Drysdale “to determine if we were misled by the Centre for a Modern Ukraine or any other individuals with potential ties to foreign governments or political parties.”
The Podesta Group statement issued to CNN continued: “When the Centre became a client, it certified in writing that ‘none of the activities of the Centre are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.’ We relied on that certification and advice from counsel in registering and reporting under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
The CNN statement concluded with the statement, “We will take whatever measures are necessary to address this situation based on Caplin & Drysdale’s review, including possible legal action against the Centre.”
In breaking the story that the Podesta Group had hired Caplin & Drysdale, Buzz Feed reported on Aug. 19, that both the Podesta Group and Manafort’s D.C. political firm were working under contract with the same group advising Yanukovych and his Ukrainian Party of Regions – namely the non-profit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine based in Brussels.