A Russian spy used Manafort as his puppet — and why Cohen is now in deeper doo-doo
TIME Magazine dropped a big exclusive this morning:
When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.
A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”
You might call it one part loan sharking, one part blackmail!
When he joined the campaign in the spring of 2016, Manafort was nearly broke. The veteran political consultant had racked up bills worth millions of dollars in luxury real estate, clothing, cars and antiques. According to allegations contained in court records filed in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands, he was also deeply in debt to Boyarkin’s boss, the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was demanding money from Manafort over a failed business deal in Ukraine and other ventures.
Boyarkin says it fell to him to collect the debt from Manafort. “I came down on him hard,” he says. But the American proved elusive. In a petition filed in the Cayman Islands in 2014, lawyers for Deripaska, a metals tycoon with close ties to the Kremlin, complain that Manafort and his then-partner had “simply disappeared” with around $19 million of the Russian’s money.
According to TIME, neither Manafort’s representatives nor the Office of Special Counsel had any comment.
In the meanwhile, the season of holiday cheer managed to all but obliterate a major revelation concerning Michael Cohen’s own Russian fustercluck.
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.
During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.
The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.
We have two good reasons to doubt that any of those four sources are members of Team Cohen. There is this…
Cohen’s spokesman, Lanny Davis, denied Cohen made the Prague trip as recently as this week, saying Cohen “has said one million times he was never in Prague,” adding, “One million and one times. He’s never been to Prague. … He’s never been to the Czech Republic.” However, Davis is no longer a member of Cohen’s legal team and admitted he has not been briefed on what Cohen has revealed to Mueller.
… and this, courtesy of one of the best intelligence sector journos around, Observer.com‘s John Schindler.
[T]he important part of the McClatchy story isn’t the cell phone data, rather indications that friendly spies had information about the reputed Prague trip. As the report states, “[in] late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague.” In other words, a friendly spy service picked up signals intelligence that may corroborate the Steele dossier.
You can bet both developments have Trump’s clown car of lawyers and advisors scrambling behind the scenes.
You can also bet that the odds that Trump is not going to serve his full term have more than incrementally increased.