Former special counsel Robert Mueller listens to committee members give their opening remarks before he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
To gain a better understanding of the significance of the infamous Ukrainian “black ledger,” it’s helpful to know the backstory. And no one does a better job of this than Fox News’ contributor and investigator Dan Bongino in his book “Spygate.”
A pro-Western Ukrainian-American lawyer and activist named Alexandra Chalupa stands at the center of the collusion story. She hated then-political consultant/lobbyist Paul Manafort for his role in the re-election of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 and his subsequent work for the pro-Russian party in Ukraine.
Immediately after Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, “allegations of Trump-Russia collusion started to gain steam” and much of this narrative was driven by Alexandra Chalupa.
Chalupa had worked as a consultant for the DNC and for Democratic politicians including several Clinton campaign officials. Between 2004 and 2016, she had earned $412,000 from the DNC, but left to focus on researching or rather “destroying” Manafort. Chalupa had “watched him since 2014.” According to Dan Bongino:
The moment Manafort joined the Trump team, Chalupa alerted the DNC of the “threat” of Russian influence. Chalupa’s sister, Andrea, spread the word on a Ukrainian television show calling Manafort’s hiring a “huge deal” and describing him as the “puppet master of some of the most vile dictators around the world.” His hiring, she said sent a “very, very, very, very, very serious warning bell going off.” This fear was rooted in the belief that Manafort was the mastermind behind Yanukovych’s corruption. (Bongino: Spygate)
Still, Manafort continued to hang on until August 19th when the New York Times reported that:
Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau found a black ledger in a bank vault abandoned by Yanukovych showing $12 million in cash payments earmarked for Manafort by Yanukovych’s political party. “Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also include election officials. In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles.” (Bongino: Spygate)
Manafort had no choice but to resign from the campaign. The identity of the leaker remains a mystery. But, considering the news was damaging to Manafort and Trump and helpful to the Hillary campaign, and that Alexandra Chalupa had devoted herself full-time to the business of destroying Manafort, I suppose we can guess who was behind it.
Investigative journalist John Solomon has reported the blockbuster news that the black ledger which had forced Manafort’s departure and cast the first shadow of “Russian Collusion” over the Trump campaign, “had been fabricated.”
It turns out that Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner who agreed to cooperate with the Mueller team in exchange for a reduced sentence, had given this information to Mueller’s investigators in April 2018. Solomon learned this information from examining a written summary of an April 2018 special counsel’s interview.
Solomon emphasizes that the ledger and the dossier were the two key pieces of evidence in the case against President Trump.
Gates told prosecutors, “The ledger was completely made up.”
Solomon interviewed Gates for this story and writes that he confirmed the information in the summary, telling him, “The black ledger was a fabrication. It was never real, and this fact has since been proven true.” According to Solomon:
Gates’ account is backed by several Ukrainian officials who stated in interviews dating to 2018 that the ledger was of suspicious origins and could not be corroborated.
If true, Gates’ account means the two key pieces of documentary evidence used by the media and FBI to drive the now-debunked Russia collusion narrative — the Steele dossier and the black ledger — were at best uncorroborated and at worst disinformation. His account also raises the possibility that someone fabricated the document in Ukraine in an effort to restart investigative efforts on Manafort’s consulting work or to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
After gaining wide attention as purported evidence of Russian ties to the Trump campaign, the ledger was never introduced as evidence at Manafort’s 2018 trial or significantly analyzed in Mueller’s final 2019 report, which concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election. No FBI 302 interview reports have been released either showing what the FBI concluded about the ledger.
And Solomon thinks he knows why. Gates had managed the day-to-day operations of Manafort’s business and his “lobbying efforts for Yanukovych…and was deeply familiar with when and how payments were made and from whom.”
In the April 2018 summary, Gates told investigators that the New York Times “article was completely false. As you now know there were no cash payments. The payments were wired. The ledger was completely made up.” They asked him how he could be so sure. He said the “ledger did not match the way Yanukovych’s Party of Regions made payments to consultants like Manafort.”
Manafort’s team had confirmed with the party’s former accountant that the black ledger could not be a contemporaneous document because the party’s official accounting books burned in a 2014 fire during Ukraine’s Maidan uprising.
“All the real records were burned when the party headquarters was set on fire when Yanukovych fled the country,” Gates told the investigators, according to the interview summary.
The Party of Regions accountant reached by Manafort’s team told them that the black ledger was a “copy of a document that did not exist” and it “was not even [the accountant’s own] handwriting,” Gates told the prosecutors.
Gates’ account to prosecutors closely matches what several Ukrainian officials have said for more than a year.
In the spring of 2018, Solomon spoke to Ukraine’s Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskyy who told him that “he believed the black ledger was not a contemporaneous document, and likely manufactured after the fact.” He said, “It was not to be considered a document of Manafort. It was not authenticated. And at that time it should not be used in any way to bring accusations against anybody.”
Konstantin Kilimnik, a former business partner of Manafort’s and Gate’s, said “he had written to a senior State Department official in August 2016, that the black ledger did not match actual payments made to Manafort’s firm.” (Kilimnik was indicted in Manafort’s case, but remains at large.)
Kilimnik wrote: “I have some questions about this black cash stuff because those published records do not make sense. The time frame doesn’t match anything related to payments made to Manafort…It does not match my records. All fees Manafort got were wires, not cash.”
In December 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that two of that country’s government officials — member of parliament Sergey Leschenko and Artem Sytnyk, the head of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine — illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger evidence.
While that ruling has been overturned on a technicality, the role of Sytnyk and Leschenko in pushing the black ledger story remains true.
Last fall, Glenn Beck obtained an audio tape of Sytnyk telling his with friends that he had helped Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I posted about that here.
Last summer, Leschenko told Solomon that he “first received part of the black ledger when it was sent to him anonymously in February 2016, but it made no mention of Manafort. Months later, in August 2016, more of the ledger became public, including the alleged Manafort payments.” He also said he made the decision “to publicize the information after confirming a few of the transactions likely occurred or matched known payments.” Leschenko said the ledger could not be used as an official document because it couldn’t be authenticated.
It’s time for the Durham team and/or leaders of the appropriate Senate committees to question Alexandra Chalupa (if they haven’t already) under oath about her role in 2016 election meddling – at length.
After all, we learned about Chalupa’s involvement in the frequently cited January 2017 Politico article by Kenneth Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian Efforts to Sabotage Trump Bsckfire.”
As mentioned above, the two documents which provided “evidence” that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians to win the election were the Steele dossier and the black ledger. The FBI had known since their first interview with Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source in January 2017 that the dossier was fake. And, we’re now learning that in April 2018, the Mueller team learned that the black ledger was phony.
That should have been the end of the Mueller Investigation. Yet, they kept it going until William Barr became the Attorney General and they were asked to justify why it continued.
First, they wanted it to continue through the midterms to hurt Trump and help Democrats take back the House. Was that not election interference?
And second, they wanted the time to continue digging for dirt on the President. They were hoping to nail him on obstructing their bogus investigation.
In a December interview with Fox News, Barr was asked when he expected Durham’s investigation to end. Although he couldn’t give a definitive answer, he estimated a late spring or early summer timeframe. Unlike the Mueller team or Adam Schiff, the Durham team doesn’t leak. We know that it shifted into a criminal investigation in October and we know that they asked the CIA for all of John Brennan’s communications records.
After Mueller’s disastrous testimony before the House in July, we can’t expect any serious answers from him.