Mueller met with ex-Ukraine president while Manafort was lobbying for him
Mueller is leading the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which has been alleged by Democrats and others. US President Donald Trump has called the investigation “the single greatest Witch Hunt in American history.”
In October last year, Mueller charged Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, and false statements.
None of the charges were related to Manafort’s work with the Trump campaign, however, but to his lobbying business for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Since Yanukovych was seen as pro-Moscow, Russiagaters often point to this case as an example of “the collusion.”
For all Mueller’s zealotry in digging into the Trump team’s alleged foreign dalliances, the special counsel has kept quiet his own history of dealing with Yanukovych while he was a client of Manafort.
As director of the FBI, Mueller travelled to Ukraine to meet with Yanukovych in June 2013. The two men spoke about counter-terrorism operations and strengthening the US-Ukraine relationship. It did not seem to bother Mueller that the Obama administration was critical of Yanukovych, accusing him of being pro-Russian.
“Your visit is very interesting for Ukraine and relations between our law enforcement bodies have established good traditions of cooperation and communication in the course of 20 years.” the Ukrainian Embassy’s Facebook page quoted Yanukovych as saying.
“I am confident that there is a potential for further broadening of cooperation.” The page was first dug up by the Daily Beast.
The FBI director also said “that in the course of his meetings in Ukraine, he planned to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest.” What these issues were was not specified.
One of the central topics of the Mueller-Yanukovych talks was the controversial Ukraine-EU association agreement. While it would have opened Ukraine’s borders to goods from the European Union, the treaty would have also invalidated the existing free-trade pacts with Russia, Ukraine’s largest trading partner at the time.
“There are some preparations left but I hope that we will fulfill everything and sign the Agreement,” Yanukovych said at the time of the meeting with Mueller.
One of the lobbyists working with Yanukovych to promote the association agreement was
Paul Manafort. Through two consulting firms, the Podesta Group (founded by Hillary Clinton’s ally) and Mercury LLC, Manafort lobbied the US Congress, attempting to convince them that Ukraine was heading in a pro-Western direction. Ukraine did not, and Yanukovych was deposed in a US-backed coup following protests against corruption, and for joining the EU.
A month before visiting Ukraine, Mueller journeyed to Moscow. There he again discussed counter-terrorism with Russian officials, the Daily Beast reported. Of course, this meeting was carried out at a time when maintaining normal relations with Moscow was not the stain on an American politician’s character it is today.
Indeed, following that meeting, Presidents Obama and Putin announced that the two countries would be cooperating more closely in the fight against terrorism. All of that seems like a distant memory now, as Mueller continues to investigate anyone who might have once had Russian dressing on their salad.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to Mueller’s charges, and remains on 24-hour GPS-monitored house arrest.