The August 2nd Meeting

One of the things I like to do is point out seminal pieces. This one from WaPo has been the subject of pretty constant comment and reports a meeting on August 2nd, 2016 between Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, and Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s partner in his Ukrainian Political Consulting operation in a Cigar Club named the Havana Room located at 666 5th Avenue, Jared Kushner’s White Elephant.

What we actually know about it is Rick Gates is co-operating with Mueller so I suppose he knows all. Manafort for his part insists it was just a friendly get together with an old friend and all they did was gossip about Ukrainian politics, it was however around the time that the Campaign’s private polling made it’s way to the GRU and the Internet Research Agency.

The speculation is that “Ukrainian Political Gossip” is exactly the same thing as “Adoption Programs” in the more notorious June meeting that included Junior and Jared and it doesn’t seem at all far fetched to me that Manafort and Kilimnik’s chat was about the Quo of the Russian Treason Plot, namely lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Oleg Deripaska denies ever meeting Kilimnik but it doesn’t take much imagination to see a straight line from Manafort to Kilimnik to Deripaska to the GRU or, of course from Manafort to Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio.

Does this development advance things? Maybe not so much as is stuff we already mostly knew, though not the specifics of them.

How Manafort’s 2016 meeting with a Russian employee at New York cigar club goes to ‘the heart’ of Mueller’s probe
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Washington Post
February 12, 2019

The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump’s presidential bid. The encounter goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge in a sealed hearing last week.

One subject the men discussed was a proposed resolution to the conflict over Ukraine, an issue of great interest to the Russian government, according to a partially redacted transcript of the Feb. 4 hearing.

During the hearing, the judge also appeared to allude to another possible interaction at the Havana Room gathering: a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to his Russian associate.

There have long been questions about why Manafort would break away from his duties running Trump’s campaign to meet with his Russian employee, an encounter The Post first reported in 2017.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA official who now teaches at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said that episode raises many red flags.

Manafort “goes way outside the normal bounds of behavior,” Mowatt-Larssen said.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, called the details about what occurred at the Grand Havana Room gathering “the most interesting and potentially significant development we have seen in a long time.”

Prosecutors have alleged that among the false statements Manafort made to investigators during his interviews in recent months were key lies about the Aug. 2 meeting and other interactions with Kilimnik.

Less than two weeks earlier, the issue of Russia’s role in the campaign had exploded into view when WikiLeaks published thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s supporters immediately fingered Russia in the hack, a view later embraced by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Instead of condemning the Kremlin, Trump mockingly asked Russia to find emails Clinton had deleted while serving as secretary of state. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said at a July 27 news conference.

Trump also made a series of public statements in July that appeared to echo Kremlin talking points on foreign policy. In an interview with the New York Times, he questioned the U.S. commitment to defending NATO partners from Russian aggression. Then he promised to look into recognizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

“You know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” he said in an ABC News interview July 31.

In court last week, prosecutors focused on Manafort’s choice to meet with Kilimnik in person during this period.

“There is an in-person meeting at an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman to be spending time and to be doing it in person,” Weissmann said.

At the same time, Manafort was strategizing about how to use his prominent role with the Trump campaign to halt a personal financial spiral, court records show. He owed millions in property taxes and for home improvements, insurance policies, credit cards and other debts, according to documents introduced during his trial in Virginia last summer.

Manafort viewed Kilimnik — his liaison to high-level Ukrainian politicians and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska — as key to leveraging his unpaid role as Trump’s campaign chairman, emails reviewed by The Post show. The two were in frequent contact during Manafort’s tenure at Trump’s campaign, according to court records.

A Russian army veteran who had trained at a military language academy known as a feeder school for the intelligence services, Kilimnik had worked for Manafort since 2005, when he began serving as a translator for Manafort’s Ukraine operation.

In documents filed in court last year, Mueller’s prosecutors wrote that Gates, Manafort’s deputy, said Kilimnik told him he had formerly been an officer in the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit accused of engineering the 2016 election interference. Prosecutors said the FBI has assessed that Kilimnik’s intelligence ties continued into 2016.

On July 29, 2016, Kilimnik wrote Manafort a cryptic note.

Kilimnik told Manafort he had met that day with the man who had given Manafort “the biggest black caviar jar several years ago.” The Post has previously reported that congressional investigators believed Kilimnik’s reference to “black caviar” was a code for money.

Kilimnik wrote that he and the man had talked for five hours and he had important messages to relay to Manafort as a result. Kilimnik asked when Manafort would be available to meet.

“Tuesday would be best,” Manafort responded. The following Tuesday was Aug. 2.

When they saw each other days later at the Grand Havana Room, one topic the men discussed was a peace proposal for Ukraine, an agenda item Russia was seeking as a key step to lift punishing economic sanctions, according to court records.

Prosecutors have accused Manafort of lying to them about how frequently he and Kilimnik discussed the matter — initially telling investigators he would not “countenance” the idea because he viewed it as a “backdoor” of some kind. Despite Manafort’s claim of disinterest, prosecutors said he and Kilimnik continued to pursue the subject in several subsequent meetings, including one in January 2017 when the Russian was in Washington for Trump’s inauguration.

There are also indications in the transcript of last week’s hearing that prosecutors have explored whether it was at the Manhattan cigar bar that Manafort shared polling data related to the 2016 White House race with Kilimnik — another topic about which Manafort lied, they allege.

The sharing of that data was first disclosed, apparently inadvertently, in a court filing by Manafort’s attorneys last month. At the time, it was unclear when Manafort passed along the information to his Russian employee — as well as the substance of the material.

During last week’s hearing, the judge devoted a significant portion of time to discussing what appeared to be the polling data — something she noted Manafort initially said “just was public information.”

During last week’s hearing, the judge devoted a significant portion of time to discussing what appeared to be the polling data — something she noted Manafort initially said “just was public information.”

Weissmann said Manafort had a motive to lie about sharing material with Kilimnik as he was running Trump’s campaign. “It’s obviously an extremely sensitive issue,” the prosecutor said, adding: “We can see what it is that he would be worried about.”

What exactly might have been shared with Kilimnik at the Grand Havana Room appears to be a matter of dispute.

On the day of the gathering, Manafort sent Gates an email asking him to print material for a meeting, according to court records. The substance of the material has not been publicly disclosed.

It is unclear how long Kilimnik remained in the United States after the Grand Havana Room meeting.

Flight records show that a private plane belonging to Deripaska landed at Newark Liberty International Airport shortly after midnight on Aug. 3, just hours after Kilimnik and Manafort met. The plane spent only a few hours on the ground before taking off again and returning to Moscow.

Larissa Belyaeva, a spokeswoman for Deripaska, said the plane carried only members of his family.

“We can confirm that Mr. Deripaska has never lent his private jet to Mr. Kilimnik nor has ever had any interaction with him,” she said.

In the days after the meeting, Manafort’s work in Ukraine bubbled into public view. On Aug. 19, he resigned from Trump’s campaign.