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Manafort: ‘I Have Never Met Julian Assange Or Anyone Connected To Him’

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Former President Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort adamantly denies The Guardian‘s report that he had contact with Julian Assange. The Guardian changed its headline to reflect that sources told them as much.

Here is Manafort’s statement:

“This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false,” Manafort stated.

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Wikileaks laughed out loud at the story.

I reported on Fusion GPS spy Natalia Veselnitskaya’s links to the Manafort case, and the fact that she worked out of an Obama administration official’s office in Washington, D.C.:

The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who set up Don Trump Jr. for a meeting in Trump Tower as part of a Fusion GPS plot was operating out of the Washington offices of Cozen O’Connor, a law firm run by an anti-Trump former Obama administration official whose super PAC donated to Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election.

Veselnitskaya’s work from the Cozen O’Connor office provides more evidence of a Democrat and establishment Republican effort to set up the Trump campaign for a future Russian collusion case. Veselnitskaya was allowed into the United States by the Obama Department of Justice while the former Obama official who runs Cozen O’Connor publicly warned then-candidate Trump that if he became president he would be investigated by the DOJ for contacts with foreign leaders. Veselnitskaya reportedly had dinner meetings with Fusion GPS chief Glenn Simpson the day before she met in Trump Tower and also the day after she went inside Trump Tower.

Big League Politics has confirmed that a Cozen O’Connor partner who lives in the same apartment building as James Comey’s friend Daniel Richman — who leaked classified information to the press on Comey’s behalf — spoke with Richman during the period that Comey and the Fusion GPS team were trying to obtain FISA warrants on Trump Tower.

Let’s break down the facts of an Obama administration official’s involvement in the Trump Tower plot:

Russian and U.S. citizen Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military veteran, was present at Veselnitskaya’s meeting with Don Jr. in Trump Tower after leading a lobbying push supposedly to repeal the Magnitsky Act. Akhmestshin is believed by insiders to be linked to Russian government intelligence, a fact that the Washington Post seized on when reporting that he met with Don Jr. and Jared Kushner in Trump Tower. A nonprofit group focused on promoting Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya’s cause to lawmakers actually hired Cozen O’Connor, which the law firm confirms.

“In the spring of 2016, as the presidential race was heating up, Akhmetshin and lobbyists he hired sought meetings on Capitol Hill to make their case against the sanctions law. Akhmetshin hired former Democratic congressman Ron Dellums, along with a team of lobbyists from the law firm of Cozen O’Connor.
Steve Pruitt, a business colleague speaking on Dellums’s behalf, said his involvement was brief and ended when he determined that Congress was unlikely to change the law.

In June, after visiting Trump Tower in New York, Veselnitskaya came to Washington to lend a hand in the lobbying effort.

She attended a meeting of the team at the downtown offices of Cozen O’Connor, where she spoke at length in Russian about the issues but confused many in the room, who had not been told previously about her involvement, according to several participants.”

Washington Post passage ends

Cozen O’Connor managing partner Howard Schweitzer is listed here on a DOJ form from an investigation into the breaking of lobbying laws by Russians trying to repeal the Magnitsky Act — which was just a front to get Russians in the room with Don Jr. We know now that Natalia Veselnitskaya was actually operating out of the Cozen O’Connor offices.

Schweitzer worked as general counsel for the Export-Import Bank under George W. Bush and was chief operating officer of the TARP bailout program under both Bush and Obama from 2008-2009.

“In October 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson appointed Howard as the first COO of TARP. In this position, Howard led program execution and built the TARP infrastructure. He served as a key point person regarding the financial crisis through the presidential transition and continued to serve as TARP COO under Secretary Timothy Geithner until August 2009,” reads Schweitzer’s Cozen O’Connor bio.

“He served as chief operating officer of the TARP in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations,” reads Schweitzer’s bio for a Politico piece he wrote in August 2016 headlined “7 Reasons Why Trump Would Hate Being President.”

Schweitzer’s virulently anti-Trump piece for Politico tries to make the case that Trump was “sabotaging his own bid for the White House.” Schweitzer said that if Trump became president then “He’ll be investigated to death” by Congress and the Justice Department for his business dealings and “relationships with foreign leaders.”

The narrative was being set.

The Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor law firm also has a political action committee that donated to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, in addition to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Martin O’Malley. In the 2018 election cycle, the Cozen O’Connor PAC donated more money to Hillary Clinton’s dormant campaign.

Here is Veselnitskaya seated behind Obama ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul at a June 2016 congressional hearing focused on Russia.

Cozen O’Connor’s connections to the anti-Trump “Operation Crossfire Hurricane” plot are wide-ranging, and show up in unexpected places.

James Comey’s friend, Columbia University professor Daniel Richman, leaked classified information that Comey gave him. During this leaking period, Richman was apartment-building neighbors with a partner at the Cozen O’Connor law firm that strategized with Fusion GPS operative Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian plant who set up Don Jr. in Trump Tower.

Veselnitskaya and Fusion GPS, led by Glenn Simpson, were part of John Brennan and Peter Strzok’s CIA-led “Operation Crossfire Hurricane” plot aimed at President Donald Trump and the Trump campaign.

“Yes, he is my neighbor,” Amy Wenzel, a partner at Cozen O’Connor, confirmed in a phone conversation with Big League Politics, confirming that they spoke. They live near each other in a Brooklyn high-rise.

The Washington Post’s release of Trump Tower documents shows the crowd surrounding non-sexual honeypot Natalia Veselnitskaya. The crowd of conspirators knew they were damaging Trump by setting up the meeting.

The Post confirms British-citizen music promoter Rob Goldstone’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he described the conspirators’ push to get the meeting despite the fact that they knew it would create trouble for the Trump campaign.

The Post reports:

“Rob Goldstone told the committee that his client, the Russian pop star and developer Emin Agalarov, had insisted he help set up the meeting between President Trump’s son and the lawyer during the campaign to pass along material on Clinton, overriding Goldstone’s own warnings that the meeting would be a bad idea.

“He said, ‘it doesn’t matter. You just have to get the meeting,’ ” Goldstone, a British citizen, testified.

The intensity with which Agalarov and his father, the billionaire Aras Agalarov, sought the Trump Tower meeting, which has become a key point of scrutiny for congressional inquiries and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was revealed in more than 2,500 pages of congressional testimony and exhibits released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning.”

Washington Post passage ends

Natalia Veselnitskaya is also inextricably linked to the case against Paul Manafort.

The Russian attorney partner of Paul Manafort who was named as a defendant in new Robert Mueller charges is also linked to the Russian spy Natalia Vesenilskaya, who attended a meeting with Don Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner in Trump Tower.

According to Mueller’s new charges, Manafort’s Russian partner Konstantin Kilimnik tried to intimidate or coerce witnesses in Manafort’s upcoming money laundering trial. That puts Konstantin Kilimnik at the center of the Mueller effort to find obstruction of justice in Trump-World (Mueller is giving himself until September 1 to try to find obstruction of justice, after finding no Russian collusion involving Trump).
So who is Konstantine Kilimnik? It turns out that Kilimnik is linked to Veselnitskaya, the Fusion GPS agent, according to Senate documents.

Here is how ProPublica described Kilimnik: “Konstantin Kilimnik: Manafort, who worked for the pro-Russian party in Ukraine before running Trump’s campaign, had an employee in Kiev named Konstantin Kilimnik who U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence, according to Politico. Kilimnik served in the Russian army and learned English at a school that experts say often trains spies. Kilimnik denied being a spy to The Washington Post. Manafort had dinner with Kilimnik last August in New York, just before he was forced out of the Trump campaign amid growing questions about his work in the Ukraine, the Post reported.”

Documents reveal Kilimnik’s ties to Veselniskaya. Let’s take a look at United States Senate Judiciary Committee documents questioning Veselniskaya in October. Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Veselniskaya if she knew a handful of characters believed to be conspirators in the case.

Grassley and Feinstein specifically asked Veselnitskaya if she knew Konstantin Kilimnik.

Here is page 4 of the documents, naming Kilimnik:

Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as senator from Alabama.

Veselnitskaya’s meeting with Don Jr. in Trump Tower provided some of the basis for warrants to surveil Trump Tower and for other FBI surveillance measures on the Trump campaign.

The fact that Veselnitskaya, a lawyer herself, was in the meeting with Trump Jr. and Kushner opened the president’s son and son-in-law up to being qualified as “target associations” for law enforcement under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, passed during the Bush administration.

Veselniskaya’s link to suspected conspirator Kilimnik is now coming under scrutiny.

Patrick Howley is the founder and editor-in-chief of Big League Politics. He previously served as Lead Hillary Clinton Reporter for Breitbart News during the 2016 election, where his coverage of the Clinton email scandal drove the national news cycle. In his years reporting in Washington, he has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business, C-Span, Newsmax TV, One America News, Sky News, BBC Radio, and The Hugh Hewitt Show.

Follow Howley on Twitter

 

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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva

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Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.

Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review

Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.

Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.

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Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.

Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.

Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”

Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”

According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.

Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”

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