WELCOME TO UKRAINE WEEK!

In an interview last fall, Ukrainian Trump fixer Andrii Derkach gave an interview in which he told the truth about what’s happened to the politics of his country and the U.S.: “Since 2016, Ukraine has been at the center of domestic politics and the political confrontation of its strategic partner, the United States” and the result has been a “series of international scandals and corruption, in which some representatives of law enforcement and diplomatic bodies of the two countries are mired.” 

All signs are flashing red that next week will see more of Ukraine at “the center of domestic politics and political confrontation” of the United States. Next week may well be “Ukraine week” in the US Presidential election. Trump’s friends and enablers everywhere are taking the final steps to counter any final Ukraine revelations in the 2020 election. Forces hostile to anticorruption in Ukraine are also using this period to sweep out the last vestiges of the system erected in Fall 2014 to fight corruption in the country.

The first sign that Ukraine week is about to unfold is that Trump’s friends are being protected from prosecution.

Yesterday, the new powers-that-be in the Southern District of New York took a cue from Attorney General William Barr and rewrote the history of the campaign to smear Joe Biden by filing a superceding indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The prosecution took out all references to Rudy Giuliani and the campaign he helped orchestrate to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch; the prosecutors claim a flimsy reason: “streamlining” the facts. Also gone from the indictment is Congressman-1, Pete Sessions, tossed by voters from his suburban Dallas seat, now running for the safer TX-17 seat in Waco. Rudy is off the hook.

Bigger still are the huge changes that occurred yesterday in Ukraine. The Constitutional Court gutted the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, known as NABU, the only governmental force that emerged from the 2014 Package of Reforms passed by the Ukrainian Parliament that’s consistently fought corruption in recent years. Late last month, the same court declared the appointment of NABU’s Director, Artem Sytnyk invalid. These changes mean that the forces behind corruption in Ukraine are moving to eliminate their opponents in the last days of Trump’s term, perhaps expecting a Biden win. It is time for the chips to be cashed in. Don’t be surprised by a sudden peace before the end of the year between Ukraine and Russia which recognizes Crimea as Russian. If it happens, Trump will try and drop sanctions as what might be a final payoff to Putin and his associates.

Two other developments guarantee that Ukraine Week is coming in the US presidential campaign. First, the aforementioned Andrii Derkach, the Ukrainian Lawmaker the Treasury Department branded a “Russian Agent” a week ago. Look for indicted Ukrainian Lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko to be featured on tapes that will purport to show Joe Biden involved in corruption. The Onyshchenko Tapes have been a feature of a Russian disinformation campaign since 2016.

Close observers should keep their eyes peeled, however, for another “Onyshchenko Tape” that will debut in America next week. Reports are the pro-Russian fugitive Onyshchenko will not like it.

Finally, the two biggest pieces of “Ukraine Week” are likely to drop right here in the US. The first is a report to be issued by Senator Ron Johnson’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Johnson promised supporters last Monday. This will be full of accusations from Onyshchenko and Derkach.

The final piece we are likely to see from the Trump camp is something out of the Durham investigation, Barr’s wished-for probe to discredit the Mueller Investigation. Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham told supporters to wait 10 or 12 days for something from the Durham probe.

The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America will be out next week, just in time to give you the whole story behind the last five years of disinformation spread by Putin, Trump-friendly Ukrainians, and the president himself, who faces a reckoning with voters November 3.

Copyright 2020 by Cobra y Craneo, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

The Black Ledger

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DERKACH, HANNITY, AND TRUMP: THE OPENING OF THE DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST ROBERT MUELLER

Adapted from The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America, Chapter 1 “All Decided in the Back Room,” Chapter 2 “Revenge Rules the Soul of the Fool,” Chapter 3, Red Erie, and Chapter 5 “Somebody Gave an Order to Bury the Black Ledger”

Today, the U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine’s parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, or Rada for short. The press release finally called Derkach what he is, an agent of Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation. Derkach has long-supported pro-Russian parties in the Rada and was a member of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. It is most unusual then, that he has been retweeted by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

In 2007, Derkach was swept into Ukraine’s legislature along with a majority bloc controlled by the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The mastermind of that campaign was Paul Manafort, Jr. Derkach was no stranger to politics—his father, a former KGB agent, ran the Security Service of Ukraine under pro-Russian president Leonid Kuchma and was implicated in the murder of a dissident journalist.

The Russian Agent

Andriy Derkach’s own connections to Russia’s security services also run deep. He attended the university run by the KGB, the Dzerzhinsky Higher School. It is not a surprise, then that the U.S. Treasury would identify him as a Russian Intelligence Agent. It is unusual that the President of the United States would tweet a theory that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election the day after Derkach requested an investigation in Ukraine of the same theory.

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Predictably, the story begins with Paul Manafort. Manafort continued to advise Trump for three years after Trump’s 2016 win. Russian Intelligence Agent Konstantin Kilimnik called it Manafort’s “cunning plan” increase Hillary Clinton’s negatives in Rust Belt states. While Manafort was in discussions to join the Trump campaign, the Russian government directed the GRU to steal emails from Democratic sources. Six days later, Trump called Manafort to offer him the job. Manafort used the emails to draw attention to Clinton’s violation of State Department regulations by using private server for her email as Secretary of State.

But Manafort would not be on the campaign for the final stretch. In mid-August 2016, The New York Times linked Manafort to the Black Ledger, a group of documents showing that Yanukovych had used bribery and influence campaigns to become President and hold power in Ukraine.

Manafort’s strategy provided a victory. Studies showed that Trump dominated the media atmosphere of the 2016 campaign and that more copy was written about Hilary Clinton’s emails than any other subject during the campaign.

As four separate investigations closed in on Trump, he turned again to Manafort. This time Manafort advised him to go on attack. For three years, Trump and the Republicans targeted Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, the FISA warrants, the Steele Dossier and the conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. Trump agreed. The plan was to claim the Black Ledger was false and that its dissemination to reporters was a Ukrainian plot to interfere in the U.S. elections.

In July 2017, the Trump Administration began its counter-attack on the four investigations from Sarah Sanders’ podium in the White House Press Room. On July 10th she attacked the Democrats for accepting help from the Ukrainians. Days later, on July 16th, the President’s lawyer, Jay Seuklow went on CNN to push back on reports of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort and Russian agents. He too claimed Ukraine had “interfered” in the 2016 election. Social media accounts associated with Russia’s troll army, the Internet Research Agency, like @USA_Gunslinger, began promoting the theory.

This Trump disinformation operation had Manafort’s fingerprints all over it. Like all the others that would follow it, it included a Ukrainian element. In July 2017, that element was Andriy Derkach.

From his from his seat in the Rada Derkach began pushing the Trump line regarding election interference. On July 24, he wrote to Prosecutor General Lutsenko, asking that he open an investigation into “illegal interference in the election of President of the United States organized by a criminal organization.” That organization, he claimed, was the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, which had hosted a press conference in August 2016 about the Black Ledger, showing Manafort’s name in the book.

That same evening Hannity had Ukraine on the mind. He made conspiratorial asides about Ukrainian interference to nearly every guest. The next day, President Trump, reacting to a Hannity show the night before laced with unsupported asides about Ukrainian interference, tweeted: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G.” and tagged Fox News host Sean Hannity.” 

Trump’s tweet of the theory of Ukrainian Interference, July 2017

While Sessions did not open an investigation, Ukraine did, without hesitation on August 2. It was no surprise the Poroshenko government was more on board with an investigation of alleged Ukrainian interference in 2016 than Trump’s own Attorney General. In June, President Poroshenko and his Prosecutor General, Yuiry Lutsenko met Rudy in Kyiv. Since then, the prosecution of the Black Ledger cases had come under Lutsenko’s control, Poroshenko had met in the Oval Office with Trump, Ukraine had signed a deal to buy U.S. Coal and the U.S. had agreed to sell Ukraine Javelin missiles all in the space of two months.

This was not the last appearance of Andriy Derkach. In between today’s sanctions and July 2017, he gave a revelatory interview. At the height of the impeachment investigation, Derkach explained to Interfax-Ukraine that “since 2016, Ukraine has been at the center of domestic politics and the political confrontation of its strategic partner, the United States.” The result was a “series of international scandals and corruption, in which some representatives of law enforcement and diplomatic bodies of the two countries are mired.” On all of that Derkach was right. The story of Russian interference, really about recovery of Putin’s hold on Ukraine, was really just that. A scandal about Ukraine.

The Black Ledger

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Copyright 2020 by Cobra y Craneo, Inc. All Rights Reserved

A FRIEND OF VLADIMIR PUTIN JUST NOMINATED TRUMP FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Adapted in part from Chapter 1 “All Decided in the Back Room” of The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America.

Unsurprisingly, there is a backstory behind Christian Tybring-Gjedde, the Member of the Norwegian parliament that just nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. It, of course, involves Russian President Vladimir Putin

In early 2014, the Ukrainian people rose up against Viktor Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine and a client of Vladimir Putin. A protest campaign demanded Yanukovych do as he promised and sign an association deal with the European Union. During growing camping-out protests on Kyiv’s central square, the Maidan, Yanukovych faced a dilemma like the one currently faced by Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko. A large mass of protesters was flooding the streets, making governance difficult.

Like Lukashenko, Yanukovych turned to Putin. With help from Russian agents, the regime positioned police snipers on buildings and activated plans to engage in military-style clearing of the streets with armed police. On February 20, snipers shot 88 people from the rooftops, triggering a successful February 22 vote to impeach Yanukovych.

As Yanukovych fled for Russia that night.  Putin huddled with his advisors.  “We ended at about seven in the morning,” he later said. “When we were parting, I said to my colleagues: we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia.” 

Five days later, on February 27, gunmen wearing uniforms without insignia seized the Crimean Parliament and government buildings.  Deputies voted in a new government.  When accused of sending the heavily armed soldiers without insignia to storm the Crimean Parliament, Putin provided an alternate explanation: the men were local defense forces who bought their uniforms at stores.

The West condemned these actions, including Norway, whose Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Børge Brende forcefully condemned the actions of Russia in taking over Crimea. But not all Western politicians were opposed to Putin.

Putin launched a worldwide disinformation campaign to try and justify his actions against Ukraine. It started in the United Nations. On March 3, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had written a letter appealing “to the President of Russia Vladimir V. Putin to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to re-establish the rule of law, peace, order, stability and to protect the people of Ukraine.”  Photos showed Churkin holding up the letter to display it to the assembled members of the Security Council. In the spring of 2017, these photos became inconvenient, like the Yanukovych letter and Churkin himself.  

Putin did not stop there. Using the Internet Research Agency, the same organization that would attack the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA flooded social media and web comment sections with anti-Maidan content in Russia and Ukraine.

At the same time Putin allies around the world spoke up for him, including Christian Tybring-Gjedde, the man who today nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. Tybring-Gjedde told Norway’s Klassenkampen that the West was overreacting. “I belong to those who believe that the West and especially the United States should have thought more about before going out with immediate and violent condemnation” he told Klassenkampen. “I think this needs to be put into a bigger perspective. It is not obvious that the new government in Ukraine is more democratic than the previous one,” he added.

Putin had many international friends like Tybring-Gjedde. He worked by co-opting local elites like Tybring-Gjedde and Yanukovych by offering them less than savory deals while threatening them with the revelation of negative information, known as “kompromat.” It was a pattern that would repeat itself, first, across the former Soviet Republics and later, the world.

Days later, on the basis of the Yanukovych letter, Russian troops invaded Ukraine, streaming into Crimea on March 15th. On March 16th, Russia administered a hastily-drawn up referendum and claimed that the results showed a landslide for annexation into Russia.

An aide to German Chancellor Merkel summed up Putin’s actions: “It’s just so twentieth century—the tanks, the propaganda, the agents, provocateurs.” The Russian government was left internationally isolated and Putin struggled under a strong sanctions regime. Two years later, Putin would turn to a risky plan to interfere in the U.S. Presidential election to reverse the sanctions and the result of the Euromaidan revolution.

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The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America

Copyright 2020 by Cobra y Craneo, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“DADDY TOM SAYS WE SHOULD GET PAUL”

Adapted and abridged from The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America, Chapter 1 “All Decided in the Back Room” and Chapter 3, “Red Erie.”

Paul Manafort Jr. was a lobbyist, one of the best. Manafort was also a political strategist, one of the best. He had advised the Presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Roger Stone said it succinctly: Manafort was “charming, entertaining, well-tailored” and “certainly understands power and how it works.”

In his guise as lobbyist, Manafort pushed the agendas of both U.S. and foreign interests. Donald J. Trump and his Trump Organization were clients. Manafort pushed back on Indian casinos in Congress for the New York real estate mogul. In front of a Congressional committee, Trump famously boasted “nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump” but “there is no way Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob.” 

But Manafort was touched by scandal. After advising George H. W. Bush’s successful campaign in 1988 he convinced Bush’s Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve taxpayer money for a low-income development in New Jersey. For his efforts, Manafort received $1,000 per unit approved. After the funds came through, Manafort bought the property.

Caught, Manafort responded: “You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying.” Manafort’s business soon began to tend more to foreign clients, often disreputable ones.

The most important amongst these foreign clients was the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, the Party of Regions. But when its leader, President Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted by a pro-Western revolution in 2014, Manafort went into the political wilderness. Stone wryly emailed mutual friends: “Where is Paul Manafort?” A mock multiple-choice quiz followed: “Was seen chauffeuring Yanukovych around Moscow,” was one option. The other two were “Was seen loading gold bullion on an Army Transport plane from a remote airstrip outside Kiev and taking off seconds before a mob arrived at the site,” and “Is playing Golf in Palm Beach.”

In reality, Paul Manafort was out of money and looking for options. In 2015, one came up. Donald Trump was running for President of the United States. Manafort began reaching out to the Trump campaign for work in January 2016. 

Suddenly people close to Ukraine’s pro-Russian bloc were confident that Paul Manafort was going to be named the campaign manager of the Trump effort. When GOP lobbyist Sam Patten met with his new client, former Party of Regions stalwart Serhii Lyovochkin in Kyiv, he was surprised to be asked if Trump was going to hire Paul Manafort to run his campaign. Patten thought the idea was fanciful.  A bigger surprise awaited: Konstantin Kilimnik, a man rumored to be a Russian agent, told Patten it was “likely” that Manafort would be Trump’s campaign manager.

At a January 30, 2016 meeting with Trump confidant Tom Barrack, Manafort asked Barrack to try and get him on to the Trump campaign.  After all, they lived in the same building.

Barrack obliged, bringing Manafort up twice in February to Trump.  Manafort prepared strategy memos to convince Trump. Barrack forwarded them to Trump’s longtime personal assistant Rhona Graff, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner. In the email, Barrack explained why they should make the hire: “Manafort is a genius killer,” he insisted. Ivanka printed out a copy of the email from Barrack and attached a note: “Daddy, Tom says we should get Paul.”

After being carefully briefed by Tom Barrack and told that Manafort would be “non-paid,” the candidate was convinced. According to Barrack, Manafort offering to work for free “were the magic words

On the evening of March 16th, Donald Trump personally called Manafort and asked him to run the delegate process for him.  Manafort emailed Barrack that evening: “You’re the Best!” read the subject line. “We are going to have so much fun and change the world in the process” Manafort gushed.  Immediately after the public announcement of Manafort’s hire on March 28, Konstantin Kilimnik emailed Sam Patten and rubbed it in. Manafort was running the Trump campaign. By early April, Manafort’s daughter texted her sister: “Dad and Trump are literally living in the same building and mom says they go up and down all day long hanging and plotting together.” 

Out September, 2020.

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THE BLACK LEDGER

The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin’s Disinformation War to America is a unique book that places Ukraine’s effort to court Donald Trump in the final months of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election at the center of our understanding of the past four years. It offers a coherent narrative that will help you understand these events, and explains what motivated the key players—Putin, Ukranian figures, and Trump. It also ties the drama of the Republicans’ defense of the four Russia investigations that Trump has faced to disinformation tactics that originated in the former Soviet Union. The book also incorporates the most current information—such as the recent release of Volume 5 of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Report. The book contains never-before revealed secrets of the five-year story of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Most importantly, The Black Ledger discredits the pending false Biden narratives to be launched this Fall by Oleksandr Onyshchenko and his associates, Andrii Derkach, Andrii Telizhenko, Viktor Shokin, Nazar Kholodyntsky and, of course Rudolph W. Giuliani.

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