New filings made public by particular counsel Robert Mueller on Friday shed contemporary gentle on the Washington lobbying marketing campaign orchestrated by Paul Manafort on behalf of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies.
Manafort “secretly retained” a number of former senior European politicians to covertly promote Ukrainian pursuits in Washington. “Though the previous politicians would seem like offering their impartial assessments of presidency of Ukraine actions, in actual fact they had been paid lobbyists for Ukraine,” based on a superseding indictment of Manafort filed by Mueller’s workforce.
The coterie of Europeans was referred to as the Hapsburg Group, Andrew Weissman, one among Mueller’s prosecutors, mentioned at a listening to on Friday. The group was led by a “former European chancellor” and was paid greater than €2 million in 2012 and 2013, based on the court docket filings.
The previous chancellor isn’t named within the court docket filings, however seems to be Alfred Gusenbauer, who served as chancellor of Austria between 2007 and 2008. Gusenbauer and two lobbyists concerned in Manafort’s lobbying marketing campaign met with members of Congress and staffers in 2013, based on Justice Division disclosures retroactively filed final yr by the lobbying agency Mercury.
Manafort known as the Hapsburg Group’s lobbying effort “SUPER VIP” in an “EYES ONLY” memo cited within the new indictment. It might contain “a small group of high-level European extremely influencial [sic] champions and politically credible buddies who can act informally and with none seen relationship with the Authorities of Ukraine,” he mentioned.
The retroactively filed disclosures present that Gusenbauer met with Home International Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Home International Affairs Committee staffers and others in Washington one week in 2013. He was accompanied by two Mercury lobbyists, Ed Kutler (who has since left the agency) and Mike McSherry. Kutler additionally accompanied Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister, to conferences with Royce and a staffer for Home Majority Whip Eric Cantor months beforehand.
Neither Gusenbauer nor Prodi may very well be reached instantly for remark.
The Hapsburg Group’s efforts had been only one half of a bigger lobbying marketing campaign masterminded by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych. It included two Washington lobbying companies, Mercury and the Podesta Group, that Manafort employed to foyer on behalf of the European Centre for a Fashionable Ukraine, an ostensibly impartial group that was actually managed by Yanukovych and his allies, based on Mueller.
Prosecutors have solely charged Manafort and his protégé, Rick Gates, in reference to the lobbying efforts. Manafort continues to take care of his innocence.
Gates admitted on Friday that he lied to Mueller’s workforce earlier this month about Mercury’s lobbying efforts and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
Gates misled investigators a couple of March 2013 assembly between Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.); former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), who’s now a lobbyist at Mercury; and Manafort, which passed off a number of months earlier than Gusenbauer’s lobbying blitz of Capitol Hill. He informed investigators that Manafort had informed him there was no dialogue of Ukraine on the assembly. However Weber and Manafort by no means mentioned that, based on Mueller, and as a substitute informed Gates that the assembly went nicely. Gates later helped Manafort put together a report on the assembly for the Ukrainians.
It’s unclear why Gates would misinform investigators — together with FBI brokers — in regards to the assembly. Each Mercury and Manafort disclosed the assembly final yr in retroactive filings detailing their overseas lobbying work.
In an interview with POLITICO final yr, Rohrabacher mentioned he and Manafort, who’ve identified one another for many years, had dinner collectively in March 2013 on the Capitol Hill Membership.
“On reflection, I don’t bear in mind him speaking about particularly who it was who had given him a contract,” Rohrabacher mentioned. “Frankly, I don’t bear in mind if it was the Russians or the Ukrainians. … He actually wasn’t making an attempt to twist my arm on any coverage challenge.”
Ken Grubbs, a Rohrabacher spokesman, confirmed that account on Friday. “Dana recollects the assembly as principally about politics, outdated occasions,” Grubbs mentioned. (Rohrabacher and Weber served in Congress collectively, and the three males have identified one another for many years.) “Ukraine got here up in passing.”
The brand new indictment additionally offers contemporary particulars in regards to the work that Mercury and the Podesta Group did on Manafort’s behalf. Staffers on the companies — recognized solely as Firm A and Firm B — “considered the Centre as a fig leaf,” based on Mueller. “As a Firm A worker famous to a different worker: Gates was lobbying for the Centre ‘in identify solely. [Y]ou’ve gotta see by way of the nonsense of that[.]”
Neither Mercury nor the Podesta Group registered as overseas brokers for his or her work on behalf of the Centre, as required by regulation for companies representing overseas governments or political events in Washington, till final yr.
Mike McKeon, a Mercury companion, mentioned on Friday the agency had been misled by Manafort and Gates.
Gates “admitted that he didn’t inform the reality to the Authorities and didn’t inform the reality to our attorneys when he spoke to them about this undertaking,” McKeon wrote in e-mail to POLITICO. “Whereas he and others concerned with this matter might have acted criminally and tried to cover it, we have now acted appropriately, following our counsel’s recommendation from the beginning. We’ll proceed to cooperate with the Particular Counsel as a result of we’re assured we acted appropriately all through.”