With David Beavers and Garrett Ross
MANAFORT PLEADS GUILTY: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller under a plea agreement announced Friday, POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn report. “The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier bank- and tax-fraud trial in Virginia, but only after ‘successful cooperation; with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts,” Gerstein and Samuelsohn write. “Later, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Manafort is agreeing to ‘cooperate fully and truthfully’ with the investigation. However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.” Full story.
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MANAFORT’S LOBBYING CAMPAIGN REACHED OBAMA: Friday’s court documents offer new details about the extent of Manafort’s pro-Ukraine lobbying campaign on behalf of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. One detail that caught our eye: The pro-Ukraine campaign reached the top of the White House, with one of the members meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2013. “A member of the so-called Hapsburg Group, which comprised former European politicians Manafort convened as part of his lobbying effort in support of … Yanukovych, came with a foreign prime minister on May 16, 2013, to meet with Obama and Biden, ‘as well as senior United States officials in the executive and legislative branches,’ according to the court documents,” Marianne writes. “Alan Friedman, a former journalist based in Europe who helped Manafort launch the group, told Manafort after the meeting that the member of the Hapsburg Group ‘delivered the message of not letting ‘Russians steal Ukraine from the West,’” prosecutors say.
—“The court documents also indicate that Manafort ‘orchestrated a scheme to have … ‘[O]bama jews’ put pressure on the administration’ to support Yanukovych. As part of his effort, Manafort disseminated stories that said ‘a senior Cabinet official’ who had previously criticized Yanukovych was supporting anti-Semitism because the official backed [former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko], who in turn had formed a political alliance with a Ukraine party that espoused anti-Semitic views,’ the court documents state. Manafort worked with a senior Israeli government official to provide a statement on the issue, prosecutors say, with the hope that the story would force the administration to “understand that ‘the Jewish community will take this out on Obama on election day if he does nothing.’” Full story.
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COURT DOCUMENTS PROVIDE MORE DETAIL ON MERCURY, PODESTA: Friday’s court documents also provide more detail on the two lobbying firms that worked with Manafort, Mercury and the Podesta Group, as well as the role of the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the campaign. Mercury and the Podesta Group have said they didn’t know they were working for Yanukovych. They were hired by a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. But the court documents, which refer to Mercury and the Podesta Group as “Company A” and “Company B,” state that employees at both firms “understood that they were receiving direction from Manafort and President Yanukovych, not the Centre, which was not even operational when Companies A and B began lobbying for Ukraine.”
— In addition, the documents state that Manafort hired Skadden, which isn’t named in the court documents, to write a report evaluating the trial of Tymoshenko, who was a political opponent of Yanukovych. According to prosecutors, the law firm told Manafort “that the evidence of Tymoshenko’s criminal intent ‘is virtually non-existent’ and that it was unclear even among legal experts that Tymoshenko lacked power to engage in the conduct central to the Ukraine criminal case.” Manafort did not disclose that, prosecutors say. Spokespeople for Mercury, Tony Podesta and Skadden did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
** A message from the National Confectioners Association: The confectionery industry is comprised of hundreds of family-owned businesses as well as global companies operating nearly 1,300 facilities in all 50 states. Manufacturing chocolate and candy, we directly employ 54,000 people in the U.S., and we support more than 550,000 American workers in other industries. Learn more at PowerOfSweet.com. **
ANOTHER SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE STAFFER HEADS TO K STREET: Ryan Abraham is the latest congressional staffer to head to K Street after the passage last year of the Republican tax law. He started this week as a lobbyist at Washington Council Ernst & Young. The twist: Abraham is a Democrat who served as senior counsel for tax and energy on the Senate Finance Committee under Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Many of the other senior tax staffers who’ve headed downtown this year have been Republicans, including Mark Prater, the Senate Finance Committee’s former chief tax counsel, who’s now at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Brendan Dunn, a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
— Abraham didn’t help to write the GOP tax law, but he’ll be advising Ernst & Young’s clients on its implementation, he said in an interview. “Treasury and IRS have a lot on their plate, especially when it comes to the new international regime,” he said, referring to new international tax rules being hammered out. Ernst & Young’s tax lobbying clients include American Express, Charles Schwab, Citigroup, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Pernod Ricard, Prudential and Rio Tinto, among others. Abraham is banned from lobbying the Senate Finance Committee for one year under Senate ethics rules, but he’s allowed to lobby other committees, including the Joint Committee on Taxation, as well as the House and the administration.
TODAY’S NOTABLE REGISTRATIONS: The spate of hiring trade lobbyists continues. Ice Air LLC, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment manufacturer, hired a team at Blank Rome Government Relations including former Sen. and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to lobby for “an exemption from China tariffs on imported HVAC equipment,” per a filing. Former Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Ariz.) and a team at Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures will lobby for Unaka Company on behalf of Meco Corporation on “trade matters related to domestic barbeque grill manufacturers.”
— Blount International Inc., an Oregon manufacturer of forestry, agricultural and construction equipment, hired former Rep. Gerald Weller (R-Ill.) and team at Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg to lobby on Section 301 tariffs. And lobbyists at Sorini, Samet & Associates also signed a pair of clients for which they will lobby on Section 301 tariffs of Chinese imports: Darex LLC, a manufacturer of industrial bit sharpeners; and Zebra Technologies Corporation, an Illinois printing manufacturer.
TRUMP TAKES SHOT AT JOHN KERRY, CITES FARA: “President Trump on Thursday night took fresh aim at former secretary of state John F. Kerry, accusing him of engaging in ‘illegal’ meetings with an Iranian official,” the Washington Post’s John Wagner reports. “In a radio interview this week to promote a new book, Kerry said he had met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ‘three or four times’ since leaving office and that their discussions included the nuclear deal that Trump has since scrapped.”
— Trump tweeted Thursday night: “John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people. He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!” Wagner notes that FARA “requires those who represent the interests of foreign governments in a ‘political or quasi-political capacity’ to disclose those relationships and details about their activities. It was not clear from Trump’s tweet why he thought Kerry would need to register.” Full story.
— Nik Deogun is chief executive of the Americas and U.S. senior partner at the Brunswick Group. He was previously editor-in-chief and senior vice president of business news at CNBC.
NEW JOINT FUNDRAISERS:
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS:
Blank Rome Government Relations: Ice Air LLC
C-Suite Strategic Counsel LLC: George Pasiakos
Catalyst Old River Hydroelectric Limited Partnership: Catalyst Old River Hydroelectric Limited Partnership
Dentons US LLP: Council for Responsible Nutrition
Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures, LLC: Unaka Company, Inc. on behalf of Meco Corporation
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough: Liberty Tire Recycling
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.: Blount International, Inc.
Sorini, Samet & Associates, LLC: Darex, LLC
Sorini, Samet & Associates, LLC: Zebra Technologies Corporation
The Bennett Consulting Group: Trout Unlimited
Venn Strategies, LLC: Assertio Therapeutics
Washington Global Law Group, Pllc: Guam Shipyard
NEW LOBBYING TERMINATIONS:
Capitol Hill Consulting Group: Offshore Marine Service Association
** A message from the National Confectioners Association: For every job created in confectionery manufacturing, another ten are supported in related industries, creating a 1:10 multiplier effect. Beyond economic impact, America’s leading chocolate and candy companies are committed to community engagement, responsible marketing and helping consumers manage their sugar intake. Consumers understand the unique role that chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle; in fact, most people in the United States enjoy chocolate & candy about twice a week, averaging about 40 calories per day and about one teaspoon of added sugar per day from confectionery items. Confectioners are a vital piece of the American economy, as they have been manufacturing some of the world’s most iconic brands for decades. Learn more about the #PowerOfSweet at PowerOfSweet.com. **
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