Manafort PR Led Ex-Chancellor to Vow Discretion -- for a Fee

(Bloomberg) -- Former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer promised to help Paul Manafort carry out a discreet lobbying campaign to help pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s image in the West in exchange for a fee of as much as 30,000 euros a month.

Gusenbauer was willing to help Manafort assemble “a small chorus of high level European third-party endorsers and politically credible friends” to promote the idea of a Ukraine under Yanukovych that was closer to Europe than Russia, according to a filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller briefly unsealed Wednesday in Washington federal court.

Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, led an effort that recruited Gusenbauer in 2012 as the charter member of a collection of veteran European politicians known as the Hapsburg Group.

They were paid 2 million euros ($2.4 million) to conduct secret lobbying in the U.S. as well as Europe, according to an indictment accusing Manafort of acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine and laundering millions of dollars. The memo filed Wednesday, which outlines work to be performed in Europe, noted the terms and tenor of Gusenbauer’s work.

“Alfred Gusenbauer is willing to be discreet,” Alan Friedman, a former British journalist who helped Manafort organize the lobbying campaign, wrote in a June 10, 2012 memo. “In a just concluded telephone conversation today, he understood completely and embraced the idea of what he called ‘underground commenting.”’

Gusenbauer would do the work at his annual rate, Friedman wrote, floating the idea of pushing the rate down to 25,000 euros a month. “My view is that this is a very good investment,” Friedman wrote in the memo, labeled “Confidential” and “for Paul Manafort.”

The filing was briefly posted in the electronic court docket and then was replaced with a redacted version in which the names of Gusenbauer and others were blacked out, along with other information.

Gusenbauer, in a telephone interview, said that he didn’t know what “underground commenting” referred to and that he hadn’t questioned the provenance of the fees he received. He said he gave speeches that aligned with his belief in the need to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union.

Mueller Reveals Memos on Manafort’s U.S. Lobbying for Ukraine

The unredacted memo listed four other other Europeans who could potentially serve as “key participants,” including former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Prodi, Gusenbauer and Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, were previously identified by Bloomberg and other media as having worked on behalf of the Hapsburg Group.

Friedman wrote that other potential recruits could include Belgian judge Jean-Paul Moerman, Bodo Hombach of Germany and Spain’s Javier Solana, the one-time head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Those politicians hadn’t yet been approached, he wrote. It’s unclear whether the group followed up with Moerman, Hombach or Solana.

"I have never worked for this group," Hombach wrote in an email. "I don’t have any relationship to this group. I don’t know why my name is mentioned in connection with it."

Moerman didn’t immediately respond to a message left with the Belgian constitutional court. Solana didn’t immediately respond to a message left with his assistant.

The role of the Hapsburg Group is now at the center of the special counsel’s allegations that Manafort and his associates engaged in unregistered lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of Yanukovych and his Ukrainian Party of Regions. Gusenbauer would write op-ed pieces and speak out in the European media, according to the memo.

In a revised indictment last week, Manafort was accused of plotting with his Ukrainian fixer, Konstantin Kilimnik, to tamper with two witnesses involved with the Hapsburg Group, including Friedman. Prosecutors say Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort is scheduled to be arraigned June 15 on the new indictment, which prosecutors have cited as a reason to revoke his bail before trial.

He is also accused of bank and tax fraud in a federal case in Alexandria, Virginia, set to go to trial on July 25. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in both cases. Kilimnik hasn’t responded to the U.S. charges.

On June 12, Mueller’s team filed two memos, including one by Manafort they say documented how he directed efforts to influence U.S. lawmakers and media on behalf of Yanukovych. One Manafort memo, dated April 22, 2013, detailed to Yanukovych how he had organized meetings with members of Congress in Washington. It will likely play a key role in Manafort’s trial in Washington, which is set to begin Sept. 17.

Attorneys for Manafort have characterized the outreach as a legitimate exercise of free speech and their client’s right to express his disagreement with Mueller’s allegations.

The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington), and 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

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