- Newly unsealed documents show that Paul Manafort had an integral role in editing an op-ed written by a pro-Russia Ukrainian operative.
- The discovery prompted special counsel Robert Mueller to pull out of a bail agreement his office reached with Manafort’s lawyers.
- The court filings show that Manafort did more than just read the draft op-ed and fix typos: He inserted big-picture themes that painted himself in a positive light.
New court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and unsealed on Friday show that Paul Manafort made extensive edits to an op-ed written by a pro-Russia Ukrainian operative that painted a flattering picture of Manafort’s highly controversial lobbying work.
Mueller abruptly pulled out of a bail agreement his office had reached with Manafort’s legal team when one of his special agents, Brock Domin, discovered that Manafort had been helping to write an op-ed in violation of a court gag order.
Domin obtained an email from Manafort to his longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian citizen believed to have ties to Russian intelligence. In that email “was a printed copy of the Microsoft Word file attached to Manafort’s e-mail, which contains the draft ‘op ed’ for Oleg Voloshin,” Domin wrote.
“The Microsoft Word document has red tracked changes, of which ‘paul manafort’ is listed as the electronic author.”
The author of the op-ed, which was published by the Kyiv Post on Thursday, was Oleg Voloshyn, a former spokesman for Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs under the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Voloshin initially told Bloomberg that Manafort had “absolutely nothing to do” with the article.
“It is totally mine,” he said. He added that he had written it because he was angry about a McClatchy report published late last month detailing Manafort’s many trips to Russia between 2005-2011, while he served as a top Yanukovych adviser.
“I was just annoyed at a McClatchy publication that falsely claimed Manafort had derailed Association Agreement with the European Union,” Voloshin said.
‘That money we have is blood money’
The court filings unsealed on Friday show that Manafort did more than just read the draft op-ed and fix typos: He inserted big-picture themes that portrayed him as having advised Yanukovych to befriend the west and move away from Russia.
“Also, during these early months, VY [Viktor Yanukovych] implemented other important policy changes that signaled he was serious about moving Ukraine into the western orbit,” Manafort wrote.
“HERE NEED TO ADD a couple of major reforms VY brought to country in order to position Ukraine to apply for membership,” he continued. “Reforms that changed a Soviet based legal economic framework to a western one (increase of NATO exercises/nuclear deal/”
He also added the line: “Even at the end of the process Manafort was engaged in helping the Europeans and the Ukrainians negotiate the final terms” of Ukraine’s prospective association agreement with the EU.
Manafort’s allies have insisted that his work in Ukraine was centered around drawing it closer to the West. But when Yanukoych was ousted in 2014 over his decision to derail the EU Association Agreement in favor of working more closely with Russia, Manafort continued to align himself with Yanukovych’s cronies. He helped form a political party, the Opposition Bloc, that was even more aligned with Russia than Yanukovych’s disbanded Party of Regions.
One of Manafort’s daughters, Andrea, went so far as to indicate in a text message that Manafort had advised Yanukovych to order the bloody crackdown on protesters in 2014.
“That money we have is blood money,” she wrote in a series of texts that were hacked and published online earlier this year. Her father confirmed to Politico that the texts were authentic.
“You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,” she continued, according to the texts. “As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine.
The text exchange continued: “Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people out and get them slaughtered.”
A ‘carnival atmosphere’
Mueller’s office wrote in a court filing that they were asking the court to unseal the draft op-ed and Domin’s Declaration because it had already been published (Voloshin gave it to TPM earlier this week.)
“Because the op-ed has now been published, the reasons for sealing the declaration have been rendered moot, and we submit that public docketing of those materials is appropriated,” the government wrote. “Counsel for Manafort does not consent to the filing of the attached response and has not taken a position on the unsealing request.”
Mueller’s office also asked the court to deny Manafort’s request to modify his conditions of release from house arrest and GPS monitoring. The government pulled out of the modified bail agreement proposed last week when it learned that Manafort was still making changes to the op-ed as recently as November 30.
Manafort’s attorney argued on Thursday that Mueller was violating Manafort’s First Amendment “rights to defend himself and his reputation, and to correct the public record” by making edits to the op-ed.
The government wasn’t buying it.
“That is incorrect,” prosecutors wrote on Friday. “The ‘substantial [governmental] interest in preventing prejudice to an adjudicative proceeding’… does not disable a district court also from shielding against prejudice caused by ‘the creation of a ‘carnival atmosphere’ in high-profile cases,’ even when the defendant—rather than an attorney—is the one creating that atmosphere.”
They concluded that because Manafort’s conduct “raises serious concerns about his trustworthiness,” the court should deny the motion to release him from home confinement.
“Bail is fundamentally about trust,” they wrote.