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While writing about the Hunter Biden laptop story, we still had the same nagging question: How did Paul Manafort, with all his heavy Ukraine-lobbying baggage, get to chair Donald Trump’s campaign in the first place? So we started looking.

Oddly, when we did a Yahoo search on that question, the first link that came up was to an entity called Just Security, funded in part by Open Society Foundations. What? Thanks, but no thanks, Yahoo; George Soros isn’t exactly the person to tell us the truth about Manafort (or anything else). Don’t click the link unless you want to see billionaire Soros staring back at you with those lifeless eyes, no doubt from his Bond villain-style subterranean lair, complete with piranha tank. All he needs is a white Persian cat.

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org

The next story Yahoo selected for us appeared more promising: an article in Time magazine from October 2017, just a few days after he’d been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The article says that in mid-2016, “when his nomination seemed in peril, Trump turned to a longtime acquaintance, Paul Manafort, who owned a condo in Trump Tower and had a political pedigree that peaked in the 1970 and ‘80s, despite Manafort’s reputation for representing foreign autocrats.”

Not much information there, but the Time article at least asks the question we’re asking: “How did such a colorful political operative, known for his international clientele and larger-than-life reputation, wind up trading in the jet-setting pace for one more domestic political campaign?” They said they found Trump’s decision to hire him “confounding.”

The problem with this article, though, is that its sources can’t agree on why Trump thought hiring Manafort would be a good idea.

The piece summarizes three basic theories and offers some interesting background on Manafort’s relationships with other Trump associates such as Roger Stone.

https://time.com/5003298/paul-manafort-indictment-donald-trump/

We also learn how Manafort and his baggage quickly became problematic and led to infighting. Too much of the campaign became about him.. Trump said “You’re fired!” on August 19, 2016. Manafort had chaired the campaign for only three months.

But as Columbo would say, “There’s something about this that bothers me...” The presence in Trump’s campaign of Manafort, with his previous work for a couple of pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine, seems all too convenient for those working so hard to falsely tar Trump as an ally of Putin. Is there more to this story than we have heard in the media?

Fortunately, we found a mother lode of information about Manafort, his dealings in Ukraine, and how they relate to what happened later with the Trump campaign and special counsel. It’s Andrew C. McCarthy’s book BALL OF COLLUSION, specifically Chapter 3. Read this chapter, and you’ll be taken on a guided tour of the Washington DC and Ukraine swamps, going back decades. And it’s swampier and murkier than you ever imagined, populated with Russians and Ukrainians, Republicans and Democrats.

In “An Old Story: Beltway Consultants as Agents of the Kremlin,” McCarthy explains that when the Soviet Union disintegrated at the end of 1991, “suddenly, a gravy train roared through the badlands of ‘gangster capitalism’...the spoils of a fallen empire that became available to the shrewdest and most ruthless bidders.” On one side were the oligarchs, who often came up from nothing in Soviet Russia through alliances with organized crime and corrupt government officials. On the other were the well-connected American lawyers and lobbyists who worked as political operatives.

This is the muck Manafort swam in, and I suppose there’s a certain skill in prospering there without ending up sleeping with the fishes in the Black Sea. As McCarthy puts it, “The guys with their snouts in the trough are the same guys who write and enforce the laws, the benefits accruing as they glide between the ‘public service’ and the private lobbying sides of the revolving door –- the door between political office and political consultancy, between law enforcement and law evasion.”

If you’re like me, when you read that sentence, you realize our own country can increasingly be described this way. We don’t have to go to Ukraine to encounter it –- it’s here.

In fact, you might be shocked at some of the names of Americans politicians and bureaucrats that turn up in this story: the venerable Bob Dole, John McCain (a lot), former FBI Director William Sessions, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, Hillary (of course) and many more. I’ll quote one key paragraph: “Most Americans are not familiar with the fraught history and politics of Ukraine...the netherworld of Washington political lobbying for foreign interests –- especially for despots and Mafiosi-turned-magnates. When Hillary Clinton lost an election, and it came time for her progressive sympathizers and Republic anti-Trump agitators to pin her defeat on Russian espionage, it was easy to craft a narrative that painted Trump political consultants who’d worked for Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs as Putin’s puppets. All that was necessary was for the rest of us to forget the last quarter-century, to develop amnesia about Washington’s projection of post-Soviet Russia as a political and business partner, an effort that Mrs. Clinton herself had been in up to her neck...”

And though Manafort seems like a villain right out of Central Casting, McCarthy explains that in his role as a consultant he was toeing a line, constantly playing one sordid side against the other, and even playing Europe against Moscow. It was a balancing act. Claiming that Manafort was “Putin’s puppet” is revisionist history.

Read this chapter, and you’ll see how ridiculous it was to malign Manafort as an agent of Russia. Influence peddling is not the same thing as collusion. What he was doing as a consultant was the norm --- it was "unsavory but legal."

The various personalities in Manafort’s world are too numerous to mention here –- encompassing many of the people involved with the “dossier” –- but it’s not necessary to keep track of them all. There were Republican consultants, Obama consultants and Clinton consultants. In McCarthy’s words, “The Ukrainian politician is navigating a minefield of power centers, amid rampant corruption and organized crime.”

So in the end, given the pervasiveness of The Swamp, I guess it’s not so strange after all that someone with these shady connections ended up heading a presidential campaign –- Trump’s or anyone else’s –- though it sure came in handy for Trump’s enemies when they were looking for anything to attack. Keep in mind, too, that those from the most prestigious firms would not work for Trump. Heck, I’ll bet some would work for a corrupt Russian oligarch before they’d work for Donald Trump!

So he might not have had much to choose from. Remember how hard it was for him to find attorneys when he was impeached? Law firms that might've agreed to represent him were threatened and ostracized. We’ll keep looking for more on this story, but for now, this seems to be an explanation that actually makes sense. It could just be that Manafort was super-aggressive, had handled many campaigns, would actually take the job, and, hey, had a condo right there in Trump Tower. Where the FBI probably spied on him.

A note on the Oscars

March 28, 2022

By “Huckabee” pop culture guru Pat Reeder (http://www.hollywoodhifi.com)

Since I’m the resident showbiz historian, trivia expert and movie lover, it would normally fall to me to report on last night’s Oscarcast. But I didn’t watch it. And if I didn’t watch it, I can’t imagine who did.

Oh, I took a stab at it. But I only lasted until the end of the three-way monologue in which Regina Bell, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer did lines about how sexist and racist Hollywood is (gee, it must be run by Republicans! Oh, wait...) and took a gratuitous swipe at Mitch McConnell (yeah, that’s who Americans are riled up at as they put their mortgage payments into their gas tanks – way to read the audience, ladies.) They ended by taunting viewers in Florida and chanting, “Gay, gay, gay,” proving that they not only didn’t understand what the NOT-“Don’t Say Gay” bill is, they also didn’t care if one of our most populous states immediately tuned out. Heck, I’m in Texas, and that’s the point where I switched to the “Hometown” marathon on HGTV.

By the way, were I writing their material, I wouldn’t be so eager to embrace the sexualizing of young children. Do you really want to remind the audience of what a hotbed of pedophilia Hollywood is? Or make us think about the former king of the Oscars, Harvey Weinstein, who’s currently doing a 23-year prison sentence for rape and facing additional charges? Since the holier-than-thou stars already seem to have forgotten about all that pesky MeToo business, here’s a reminder of it from Kyle Smith in 2018:

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/hollywood-sex-grooming-gang-les-moonves-harvey-weinstein/

I caught up with the rest of the show later through reviews and clips, and it’s obvious that as with most of this year’s movies, I didn’t miss anything worth seeing. The only major nominees I saw were “Lucy and Desi” (I liked them; didn’t like the movie) and “Nightmare Alley,” because my wife Laura is a film noir fan. It was a remake of someone else’s original that was lavishly produced, only gorier, more lurid, not as well written and 40 minutes longer than the original. So pretty much the standard Hollywood product these days. That’s why most of the movies I saw in theaters in the past year were TCM revivals.

There were all the expected genuflections to current liberal political obsessions like trans people; plus the usual dumb production decisions, like replacing the tech awards with an idiotic Twitter poll, having “who the heck is that?” presenters instead of actual movie stars, and showing disrespect for the “In Memoriam” honorees by turning it into a production number. If they were going to set it to music, why not “Take Me When I’m Gone to Forest Lawn”?

https://youtu.be/lnO5ZLlFWUM

But then the whole thing went permanently off the rails when Will Smith reacted to Chris Rock’s joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith by charging out of the audience and slapping Rock while twice yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f---ing mouth!” That was bleeped on American TV, but went out over foreign broadcasts and is all over the Internet.

Instead of being arrested (and where was security, by the way?), Smith went back to his seat and was later rewarded with a Best Actor Oscar. He used his speech to cry, defend the assault as protecting his family, and apologize to the Academy (but not the guy he punched.) Several commentators noted that if it had been anyone else, he would have at least been removed if not arrested (and if he were white, charged with a hate crime), but certainly not rewarded and given an uninterrupted TV platform.

https://redstate.com/tladuke/2022/03/28/will-smith-got-his-feelings-hurt-at-the-oscars-and-hit-a-comic-now-come-the-real-jokes-n541904

Incidentally, far funnier than Rock’s joke was a CNN commentator’s attempt to blame Smith’s assault on – you guessed it -- Donald Trump.

https://www.foxnews.com/media/cnn-analyst-blames-trump-aftermath-will-smith-chris-rock-oscars-incident

Now, you might argue that Rock’s joke was tasteless or cruel (and it was), and Smith was being gallant in defending his wife. But it’s hard to claim that this is the most glamorous, sophisticated night of the year when the most memorable moment was a star having a meltdown and assaulting a comedian for telling a joke he didn’t like while shouting the F-word twice. It made a WWE Smackdown look sophisticated. And these people dare lecture the rest of us on how we’re supposed to behave because WE’RE not tolerant enough?

FYI: Please don’t claim that Will Smith is the exception. Here’s a story about Sally “The Flying Nun” Field threatening to physically assault Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott (who’s in a wheelchair, by the way) because she disagrees with their views on unfettered abortion and sexualizing kindergartens.

https://www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2022/03/26/sally-field-if-i-see-ron-desantis-or-greg-abbott-i-cannot-be-responsible-for-what-i-would-do/

There’s a famous book called “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” Judging from this year’s Oscars, today’s celebrities act as if they’re still in kindergarten, and the only things they’ve learned there so far are sex lessons and gender politics.

Part 2 observed that many of the same people who originated the Russia Hoax also were involved in Trump’s impeachment over his (appropriate) phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Paul Manafort, described as “ground zero for all manufactured Trump scandals,” was alleged to have dark dealings as a lobbyist in Ukraine, and we expressed curiosity as to how he, of all people, ended up as Trump’s campaign manager. George Soros, described as probably the most influential man in Ukraine, also ties into the story, through funding for an entity called the Democratic Integrity Project --- that name is so funny --- founded by Dianne Feinstein staffer and (yes) former FBI analyst Dan Jones, who gave Fusion GPS $3.3. million. Dan Jones brought in Hillary campaign chairman John Podesta, and their purported field of endeavor was –- egad –- to study how Russian intel operations were influencing elections.

Recall that during Trump’s impeachment, which would’ve been exposed as a joke if the existence of Hunter’s laptop had been revealed by the FBI, a parade of pro-Soros, pro-”Anti-Corruption” Action Center (AntAC) witnesses was brought in by committee chairman Adam Schiff. That’s about where we left off last week.

One quick update before we get into Part 3: Margot Cleveland has another great piece involving the laptop, this one analyzing the strategy behind the New York Times’ admission –- finally –- that it was real. First, she makes the point that if the laptop is real, that means the scandals are real, not “Russian disinformation” as was falsely maintained by so many, as calculated election interference. Like many, she also sees this admission as an attempt to “get ahead of the story” before it gets much worse. She outlines possible charges, some quite serious. Finally, she dissects the persuasive technique used by the NYT propagandists to downplay the seriousness and gain sympathy for Hunter. This last part, especially, is a must-read.

https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/25/4-big-takeaways-from-nyts-attempt-to-control-the-hunter-biden-narrative/

Back to Ukraine. As we said, when a new Ukrainian prosecutor tried to investigate Soros-funded AntAC, he met resistance from our own U.S. embassy staff. “We ran right into a buzz saw and we got bloodied,” is how one Ukrainian official put it. That buzz saw consisted of the Obama administration, the U.S. State Department, some in the FBI, and, of course, Soros and his Open Society Foundation.

John Solomon uncovered a memo dated around the time Manfort joined Trump’s campaign that contained a chart of people to BE investigated, including “some with ties to Manafort.” It’s thought that this refers to Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, who was a business rival of Soros who had already been looked into on a civil charge of money laundering and cleared.

This was also the time when Glenn Simpson was doing oppo research on Trump and Manafort, and the DNC’s Alexandra Chalupa, from Ukraine, was bad-mouthing Manafort in America. She visited the Obama White House 27 times.

AntAC was the perfect vehicle for going after Manafort. But as Dan Bongino points out, if AntAC really had wanted to root out corruption in Ukraine, they might have taken a peek into Burisma’s showering of money on the American Vice President’s son. As Bongino puts it, “...when your benefactor is an enormous investor in the Democratic Party committing to spending millions to try and stop Trump, maybe that investigation isn’t very appealing.”

A Latvian investigative agency, the Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity, was actually trying to look into it, and they sent a memo to Ukrainian officials on February 18, 2016, notifying them that a transaction involving Hunter Biden and Burisma had been flagged.

Ukrainian officials failed to respond.

Later, when COVID hit, and hospitals and relief organizations needed all the help they could get, Soros gave $3 million –- not to help with THAT, but to Priorities USA Action, the Democrats’ Super PAC. It was earmarked specifically to fund a series of ads slamming Trump’s response to the virus. Soros had already just given them $2 million in January. Priorities indeed.

Bongino calls the Obama White House “an unofficial club for Ukraine obsessives.” There are other connections between AntAC (thus, Soros), the Obama White House and the FBI. Of these, Daria Kaleniuk, who now heads AntAC, met at the White House on December 9, 2015, with Eric Ciaramella, who would later come to fame as the anonymous “whistleblower” from Trump’s impeachment. At the time, he was a CIA employee working as a Ukraine (yes) specialist on the National Security Council. Later he was replaced in that position by Alexander Vindman, who also ended up testifying at Trump’s impeachment. Ciaramella had also worked with Joe Biden and John Brennan. It’s as I said: the same people just keep turning up again and again!

Since Ciaramella’s identity was kept secret during the impeachment, nothing was ever said about why he’d been moved out of the White House: he’d been accused of “leaking and working against Trump.” (Remember the huge concern with White House leaks during Trump’s early days in office?) That revelation would've done a lot to “impeach” this whistleblower.

As for the call from Trump to Zelenskyy that supposedly sparked the complaint, there was no wrongdoing in it at all. Certainly, no quid pro quo took place, because Zelenskyy got his military aid package and there was no investigation into Burisma and the Bidens, much as it was needed. Also, there was no cover-up, as Trump countered the false characterization of his call by releasing the full transcript himself. Of course, after that, Democrats continued to mischaracterize it and “mind-read” to cast his motives in the worst light they could, as they've always done with Trump about everything he's ever said or done.

Again, the laptop was central to the whole issue. It was evidence of the legitimate need to investigate the Bidens in Ukraine, and the FBI withheld it. Attorney General Bill Barr didn’t mention it, either, even after Biden lied about it, so the media were still able to present the false narrative that it was a Russian plot. Here’s the significance of Barr’s glaring omission.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/how-bill-barrs-silence-impacted-the-outcome-of-an-election_4357067.html

Ciaramella filed a complaint about Trump’s phone call with Intel Community IG Michael Atkinson and also summarized it in unclassified letters to Intelligence Committee chairs Adam Schiff and Richard Burr. He claimed he had “received information from multiple government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

It seems so strange to read those words now, as we know today that Hillary’s campaign is the one that did this very thing, through the solicitation of information for the Steele “dossier.” It was also pro-Hillary people in our State Department --- oh, and Joe Biden ---who tried to intimidate Ukrainian prosecutors who might have looked too closely at Hunter.

Bongino’s Chapter 8 in FOLLOW THE MONEY reveals even more connections and conflicts, some involving Adam Schiff and IG Atkinson, who defied a Justice Department order when he set events in motion to notify Schiff about the false whistleblower complaint. Highly recommended reading!

UPDATE: In very welcome breaking news, California Rep. Darrell Issa has announced that if (when!) Republicans take back the House this year, he will lead an investigation of the 2020 election-related suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

The Epoch Times has a report --- it's "premium," but we'll have the full story coming up.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/republicans-plan-to-investigate-hunter-biden-laptop-story-issa


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

The deeper significance of Hunter laptop story, Part 2

The deeper significance of Hunter laptop story, Part 1

Here’s today’s link to Fox News’ continually-updated bulletins on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

https://www.foxnews.com/live-news/ukraine-russia-live-updates-03-28-2022

Latest developments: Ukrainian officials claim that Russia plans to split the country in two, like North and South Korea. President Zelenskyy laid out a roadmap for peace, but Russia censored his interview. Ukraine said it’s investigating graphic videos posted on the Internet that allegedly show Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian POWs in the legs. But Ukraine’s top military commander accused Russia of staging the videos as propaganda.

The big story is once again a reaction to something that fell out of President Biden’s mouth with a clank: A Kremlin spokesman called it “alarming” that Biden said of Putin, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." The 24/7 emergency verbal spill squad at the White House had to rush to “clarify” that Biden was not calling for regime change in Russia, which, as much as anyone might wish for it, is not something Presidents say out loud because they don’t want to spark World War III.

https://redstate.com/bonchie/2022/03/27/joe-bidens-big-gaffe-perfectly-exposes-the-imbecility-of-the-experts-n541772

While Biden’s staffers desperately try to convince us that he “didn’t really mean it” for the 400th time, other liberals in the media are trying to spin it as brave truth-telling, or comparing it to Reagan’s famous quote, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Except they can’t decide between claiming that was also a slip of the tongue by Reagan (it wasn’t) or comparing Biden’s unfiltered blurt to Reagan (it’s a very different thing to challenge a leader to tear down a wall and to publicly call for a rival nation’s leader to be overthrown, particularly when that nation has nukes and you don’t know what he’ll do or if his replacement might be even worse.)

Do I personally wish Putin weren’t the leader of Russia? Of course! But would his downfall necessarily result in someone better taking his place? Considering the most likely successors, that’s an open question. The point is, I can talk about that because I’m not the President, but Joe Biden is. Yes, I’m as annoyed about that as you are.

As for all the panicking and spinning about Biden calling for Putin to be overthrown, then all the backtracking about how he didn’t really mean it that way...Okay, let me get this straight:

So Democrats are NOW saying that even if the President thinks Putin is a monster and shouldn’t be in power, he can’t actually come right out and SAY that because it might have enormous negative consequences. Privately, he might deplore Putin, but he has to publicly show respect because calling for him to be overthrown could spark World War III. They’re now embracing Will Rogers’ century-old definition of “diplomacy,” that it’s the art of saying “Nice doggy” until you can pick up a rock.

Here’s my question: when did this standard come back? I heard for four years that if Trump didn’t publicly denounce Putin, if he “made nice” with him at summits, etc., it meant he was a tool of the Russians. If he even admitted that Putin was smart while criticizing him for taking advantage of dumb US policies, it meant he "admired" Putin or was colluding with Russia. But now, we must understand that Presidents can’t just blurt out any random nasty thought about Russia that crosses their minds because their words carry weight.

Funny how it took having a Democrat President who blurts out any random thought that crosses his mind for them to finally realize that.