New Manafort docs appear to contradict own lobbying claims

New documents filed in court by Paul Manafort’s lawyers appear to contradict his legal team’s own claims that the former Trump campaign chairman’s team only lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government in Europe.

The revelation could be important as Manafort is trying to fend off charges from special counsel Robert Mueller that Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government. Earlier this year, Mueller accused Manafort and his former deputy, Rick Gates, of secretly organizing a group of former European politicians known as the “Hapsburg group” to lobby in the U.S. for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his party.

But, according to prosecutors, Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, pressed those involved in the lobbying campaign to stress that the effort was focused exclusively on the European Union. A federal judge later ruled that Manafort was attempting to tamper with the testimony of potential witnesses and ordered him jailed over the incident.

Thursday’s documents — filed as part of a motion in court seeking to withhold more than 50 pieces of evidence from the jury in the upcoming trial — could complicate the EU-focused narrative. Several exhibits included in the court filing seem to contradict Kilimnik’s assertion that the Hapsburg group never lobbied in Washington.

“The Hapsburg team will also do a series of events between March and May in Washington DC designed to change the public rhetoric directed at Ukraine, but to also influence key members of the US Government through private meetings held at the highest levels,” Manafort wrote to Yanukvych in a memo dated Feb. 21, 2013. “This will include major speeches, participation in key events, and private meetings with senior US officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, and other members of the Administration.”

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

The memo isn’t the first evidence that the Hapsburg group — which included a former Austrian chancellor and a former Italian prime minister — lobbied in the U.S. Manafort wrote in another memo made public by Mueller’s team last month that he had “organized and leveraged” the visits of two Hapsburg group members to Washington. And disclosure reports retroactively filed by two Washington lobbying firms show that members of the Hapsburg group met with lawmakers in Washington around the same time.

Manafort is not set to face trial on his lobbying-related charges until September. However, he will face trial next week on separate Mueller charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

The documents filed by Manafort’s lawyers on Thursday comprise hundreds of pages and offer the most detailed look yet into the lobbying campaign he orchestrated in Europe and Washington.

In a memo to Yanukovych dated Feb. 4, 2013, Manafort wrote that John Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state “is a positive development for us and will be a dramatic change from former Secretary Clinton.”

The Feb. 4 memo isn’t the only one in which Manafort appeared wary of Hillary Clinton, who had stepped down as secretary of state days earlier.

“It is important to understand that holdovers from the Clinton days and the US Embassy in Kyiv are not objective and are conspiring to identify options to get sanctions as a tool to pressure the Yanukovich Government,” Manafort wrote in another memo to Yanukovych.

Manafort also described Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee, as good for Ukraine.

Manafort was more pessimistic about Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the new chairman of another subcommittee, suggesting that he’d use his position to raise the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister and Yanukovych’s political rival. Yanukovych’s government imprisoned Tymoshenko on what were widely condemned at the time as politically-motivated charges.

“It is highly likely that Smith uses this subcommittee as a vehicle to hold hearings on [Tymoshenko’s] situation and possibly promote legislation,” the memo reads.

Smith had previously introduced a bill to encourage free and fair Ukrainian elections. Lobbyists hired by Manafort and Gates had lobbied against bills in 2012 condemning Yanukovych’s imprisonment of Tymoshenko.

Some of the documents are more cryptic.

One document, dated Jan. 15, 2013, lists four consultants in the U.S.: “Podesta/Devine/Weber/ Barry Jackson.”

The lobbyists Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group and Vin Weber of Mercury and the consultant Tad Devine have all confirmed that they worked with Manafort and Gates. But Jackson, a former chief of staff to one-time House Speaker John Boehner, has not been tied to Manafort.

Jackson said he had no idea why his name was there.“I have done no work with or for Paul Manafort nor on behalf of the Yanukovych regime and know of no reason why my name shows up in a document,” Jackson wrote in an email to POLITICO on Thursday evening.

Congress grapples with debt ceiling crisis, July 23, 2011

On this day in 2011, President Barack Obama summoned congressional leaders to an emergency meeting at the White House to deal with a federal debt crisis after failed efforts to strike a bipartisan “grand bargain” — one that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had said would have cut $3 trillion to $4 trillion in spending over 10 years.

“I want them here at 11 a.m. tomorrow,” Obama told reporters after his talks with Boehner had reached an impasse. “They are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.”

Obama told congressional leaders at their Saturday meeting that global markets could react adversely to the failure on Friday to strike a deal, a point reinforced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The hourlong meeting broke up shortly before noon without resolving the impasse.

“We have run out of time for politics. Now is the time for cooperation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) said after the failed session.

Later that day, Boehner met separately with key Republican lawmakers in a further bid to cobble together a deficit-reduction package that could pass muster in the GOP-controlled House. “We are working, and I’m confident there will be a resolution,” Boehner told fellow House Republicans during an afternoon conference call. “There has to be.”

They deadlocked over major elements of an agreement even as several lawmakers said they were determined to make a new compromise public on Sunday before financial markets opened in Asia. But that bid also soon foundered.

On July 31, Obama and Boehner announced that an agreement had been reached to raise the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling until after the 2012 election. The president signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 into law on Aug. 2, the date Treasury officials said the nation’s borrowing authority would have expired.

On Feb. 9, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, suspending the debt limit through March 1, 2019.

Absent further action by Congress, when the suspension expires, the U.S. Treasury will once again find itself up against the debt limit. At that point, the secretary would begin deploying so-called extraordinary measures, accounting maneuvers that allow for full government operations to continue for an additional, but necessarily limited, period.

When such extraordinary measures run out and Treasury depletes its cash reserves, the federal government would reach the “X Date” — the day when the U.S. government is unable to meet its obligations in full and on time. A preliminary analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center indicates Treasury will have enough cash on hand, given its ability to deploy extraordinary measures, to operate the federal government through at least the summer, if not the fall of 2019, thus encompassing most of Trump’s term in the White House.

As of April 30, the total national debt amounted to about $21 trillion.

Robert D. Ray, longtime Iowa governor, dies at 89

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former longtime Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, who helped thousands of Vietnam War refugees relocate to the state and defined Iowa’s Republican politics for years, has died. He was 89.

Ray, who never faced a serious election challenge during his 14 years as governor, died Sunday morning at a nursing home in Des Moines, said his former chief of staff David Oman. Ray had been battling Parkinson’s diseas for several years, Oman said.

Ray once said that his approach to governing was simple: leave politics out of the decision-making process.

“I used to tell the staff, whenever we would talk about something like that, that you don’t start talking about politics at all,” Ray told The Associated Press during an interview in November 2011. “Let’s just decide what the right thing to do is, and then we’ll decide how to promote it.”

During his 14 years as governor, Ray never faced a serious election challenge before he decided not to again seek re-election in 1982.

Recalling his time at the state’s helm, Ray said he was especially proud of his work beginning in 1975 to resettle refugees from the Vietnam War in Iowa. The state became one of the largest resettlement locations in the U.S., and Ray dismissed any notion that relocating thousands of people fleeing Vietnam to his largely rural Midwestern state would carry political risks.

“It was saving the lives of refugees,” Ray said. “People would say that you might not get re-elected and I would say I can make more money if I don’t get re-elected.”

He was born Robert Dolph Ray in Des Moines on Sept. 26, 1928. Ray graduated from the Drake University law school in 1954, and became active in Republican politics while practicing law. He eventually was considered a leader of the party’s moderate wing.

He became chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and was credited with rebuilding it after the devastating GOP losses in 1964, when Barry Goldwater headed the party’s national ticket and lost in a historic landslide to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Ray was rewarded for his efforts with his gubernatorial win. He also served as chairman of the National Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, the Midwestern Governors Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Council of State Governments. And in 1976, he and his wife, Billie, and their three children were the first family to live in the governor’s mansion in Terrace Hill.

Although Ray was a strong Republican throughout his life, some of his decisions seemed to run counter to GOP leanings at the time.

He signed into law the state’s bottle deposit system, which encouraged recycling by tacking a fee on soda and beer bottles that was repaid upon their return. He also created the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, which advocates for policies that benefit women and girls. He also signed executive orders promoting civil rights and energy conservation.

“Obviously he was intelligent and a good politician, but he also had this compassion and forward thinking,” veteran Republican activist Becky Beach said in 2011. “To be a conservative Republican and talk about women’s rights was not something that everybody looked favorably on.”

But she noted that Ray “always had such a presence and generosity that kind of transcended whatever the chaos of the day was.”

Jerry Fitzgerald, who served as Democratic House majority leader during part of Ray’s tenure, said the former governor was reasonable and wanted to solve problems.

“He was an honorable man who did a lot of good things for the state,” Fitzgerald said a November 2011 interview.

Current Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised Ray’s leadership.

“His civility, courage and common-sense governing set a high standard for those who followed,” Reynolds said Sunday.

Ray remained active in public life after leaving the governor’s office, including serving as interim mayor of Des Moines in 1997, the same year he helped form the Institute for Character Development at Drake University. A year later, he served as the university’s interim president.

What attracted him to politics, he said, was the chance to work with people and improve their lives.

“There’s an excitement about being able to help other people, particularly in the governor’s office,” Ray said. “Money isn’t the only reason you exist.”