[Marxism] Manafort's double-dealing

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 4 07:15:57 MST 2018

(A couple of months ago, some FB friends expressed some surprise that 
Manafort was involved with some deal that went against Kremlin 
interests, thereby debunking Russiagate. I responded that Manafort never 
had anything in common ideologically with Alexander Dugin or Global 
Research, et al. He is a mercenary. Period. To drive that point home, I 
referred to an article about his approaching Poroshenko to sell his 
services. Here's the latest proof of how futile it is to line him up 
ideologically with the "axis of resistance".)

NY Times, Dec. 4, 2018
Manafort Tried to Broker Deal With Ecuador to Hand Assange Over to U.S.
By Kenneth P. Vogel and Nicholas Casey

WASHINGTON — In mid-May 2017, Paul Manafort, facing intensifying 
pressure to settle debts and pay mounting legal bills, flew to Ecuador 
to offer his services to a potentially lucrative new client — the 
country’s incoming president, Lenín Moreno.

Mr. Manafort made the trip mainly to see if he could broker a deal under 
which China would invest in Ecuador’s power system, possibly yielding a 
fat commission for Mr. Manafort.

But the talks turned to a diplomatic sticking point between the United 
States and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In at least two meetings with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Moreno and his aides 
discussed their desire to rid themselves of Mr. Assange, who has been 
holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, in exchange for 
concessions like debt relief from the United States, according to three 
people familiar with the talks, the details of which have not been 
previously reported.

They said Mr. Manafort suggested he could help negotiate a deal for the 
handover of Mr. Assange to the United States, which has long 
investigated Mr. Assange for the disclosure of secret documents and 
which later filed charges against him that have not yet been made public.

Within a couple of days of Mr. Manafort’s final meeting in Quito, Robert 
S. Mueller III was appointed as the special counsel to investigate 
Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters, and it 
quickly became clear that Mr. Manafort was a primary target. His talks 
with Ecuador ended without any deals.

There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort was working with — or even 
briefing — President Trump or other administration officials on his 
discussions with the Ecuadoreans about Mr. Assange. Nor is there any 
evidence that his brief involvement in the talks was motivated by 
concerns about the role that Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks played in 
facilitating the Russian effort to help Mr. Trump in the 2016 
presidential election, or the investigation into possible coordination 
between Mr. Assange and Mr. Trump’s associates, which has become a focus 
for Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Manafort and WikiLeaks have both denied a recent report in The 
Guardian that Mr. Manafort visited Mr. Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy 
in London in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

But the revelations about Mr. Manafort’s discussions in 2017 about Mr. 
Assange in Quito underscore how his self-styled role as an international 
influence broker intersected with the questions surrounding the Trump 

And the episode shows how after Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Manafort 
sought to cash in on his brief tenure as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman 
even as investigators were closing in.

The Ecuadoreans continued to explore the possibility of Chinese 
investment, but with the United States Justice Department and 
intelligence agencies stepping up their pursuit of Mr. Assange and 
WikiLeaks, Mr. Moreno’s team increasingly looked to resolve their 
Assange problem by turning to Russia.

In the months after Mr. Moreno took office, the Ecuadorean government 
granted citizenship to Mr. Assange and secretly pursued a plan to 
provide him a diplomatic post in Russia as a way to free him from 
confinement in the embassy in London. (That plan was ultimately dropped 
in the face of opposition from British authorities, who have said they 
will arrest Mr. Assange if he leaves the embassy.)

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Mr. Manafort, said that it was Mr. Moreno 
— not Mr. Manafort — who broached the issue of Mr. Assange and “his 
desire to remove Julian Assange from Ecuador’s embassy.” Mr. Manafort 
“listened but made no promises as this was ancillary to the purpose of 
the meeting,” said Mr. Maloni, adding, “There was no mention of Russia 
at the meeting.”

Late last year, Mr. Mueller’s team charged Mr. Manafort with a host of 
lobbying, money laundering and tax violations in connection with his 
consulting work for Russia-aligned interests in Ukraine before the 2016 
election. Mr. Manafort was convicted of some of the crimes and pleaded 
guilty to others as part of an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors. 
But prosecutors said last week that he violated the deal by repeatedly 
lying to them. Mr. Manafort remains in solitary confinement in a federal 
detention center in Alexandria, Va., waiting for a judge to set a 
sentencing date.

The trip to Ecuador was part of a whirlwind world tour that represented 
the last gasps of Mr. Manafort’s once lucrative career.

In those final months, Mr. Manafort pitched officials from a range of 
governments facing a variety of challenges, from Puerto Rico to Ecuador 
to Iraqi Kurdistan to the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Manafort, who served 
on the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation in the 
Reagan administration, presented himself as a liaison to the new Trump 
administration and, in some cases, as a broker for arranging investments 
from a fund associated with the state-owned China Development Bank.

In Quito, he told Mr. Moreno’s team that he could arrange a major cash 
infusion from the Chinese fund in the Ecuadorean electric utility, and 
could ease any potential concerns from the Trump administration about 
such an investment, according to people involved in arranging the meetings.

The week after the Quito trip, Mr. Manafort traveled to Hong Kong to 
meet with representatives from the China Development Bank’s fund to 
discuss the possible investment in Ecuador, as well as a proposal being 
pushed by Mr. Manafort to buy Puerto Rico’s bond debt, possibly in 
exchange for ownership of the island’s electric utility.

In both cases, Mr. Manafort assured the Chinese he could win support 
from Washington, despite Mr. Trump’s oft-expressed qualms about China.

Brokering a deal to bring Mr. Assange to the United States could have 
been even more complicated. Not only had Mr. Assange not been charged at 
the time of Mr. Manafort’s trip, but Mr. Assange’s work was — and 
remains — a particularly fraught matter for Mr. Trump and his team.

Mr. Trump and his allies had cheered on WikiLeaks during the campaign, 
when it released troves of embarrassing internal emails and documents 
stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 
campaign chairman. Since then, though, the United States intelligence 
agencies and Mr. Mueller’s team have made the case that the documents 
were stolen by Russian government agents, 12 of whom were charged by Mr. 

Mr. Assange had been pursued by Swedish prosecutors on a rape accusation 
from 2010. The Ecuadorean Embassy in London granted him asylum in the 
summer of 2012. That was under Mr. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa, 
whose political identity was based partly on his antagonism toward the 
United States. Swedish authorities abandoned their attempt to extradite 
him last year, which invalidated the warrant for his arrest.

During Mr. Correa’s last day in office, the Ecuadorean government wrote 
a letter repeating its requests to Britain to accept Mr. Assange’s 
asylum status. The letter asserts that United States officials had left 
“no doubt about their intention to persecute Mr. Assange with the aim of 
punishing him for alleged offenses.”

Mr. Moreno had signaled during his campaign that he would like to wash 
his hands of Mr. Assange. And last December, Ecuador began carrying out 
the plan to move Mr. Assange to Russia as a diplomat, which would 
require him to become an Ecuadorean citizen.

In a citizenship interview at the embassy in London, Mr. Assange 
explained that he wanted to become a citizen because “I’ve been welcomed 
here for the last five years and I feel practically Ecuadorean,” 
according to a written summary of the meeting.

Within 10 days, Mr. Assange was granted citizenship, according to 
documents released by Paola Vintimilla, an Ecuadorean lawmaker who 
opposes Mr. Assange’s presence in the embassy. But a subsequent effort 
to grant Mr. Assange diplomatic status, and the immunity that would come 
with it, was rejected by the British government.

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