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Trading  | May 23, 2018

The BBC claimed on Wednesday that President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was paid $400,000 by Ukraine to arrange a meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s billionaire oligarch President, Petro Poroshenko, an allegation Cohen and two Ukrainians deny.

The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law. –BBC

The alleged payment occurred in advance of a White House meeting last June between Trump and Poroshenko, while the BBC notes that Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency halted an investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort “shortly after” the meeting. 

A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko’s administration described what happened before the visit to the White House.

Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine’s registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as “talks”. –BBC

The report states that there is no indication that Trump knew about the alleged payment, while buried towards the end of the article the BBC admits: “None of our sources say that Mr Trump used the Oval Office meeting to ask Mr Poroshenko to kill the Manafort investigation.”

According to the senior official, Poroshenko tasked a former aide with establishing a backchannel – which occurred through a “loyal Ukrainian MP.”  The MP then allegedly used his contacts within a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington, which eventually led to Micahel Cohen. 

A second source in Kiev told the BBC a similar story, except that Cohen’s payment for arranging the meeting was $600,000. 

Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti – whose law firm was just ordered to pay $10 million to a former partner over a legal feud, said that Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by Cohen’s bank with the U.S. Treasury show that he received money from “Ukrainian interests.” 

The senior intelligence official in Kiev said Mr Cohen had been helped by Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump’s business partner. Mr Sater’s lawyer, too, denied the allegations.

The Ukrainian president’s office initially refused to comment but, asked by a local journalist to respond, a statement was issued calling the story a “blatant lie, slander and fake”.

As was widely reported last June, Mr Poroshenko was still guessing at how much time he would have with Mr Trump even as he flew to Washington.

The White House schedule said only that Mr Poroshenko would “drop in” to the Oval Office while Mr Trump was having staff meetings.

The BBC report claims that while Poroshenko’s visit was coordinated through official channels, Cohen’s alleged $400,000 fee was in exchange for “more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake.” 

The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Mr Cohen had taken “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.

Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation. –BBC

Not surprisingly, when a Ukrainian journalist reached out to Poroshenko for comment, the office of the Ukraine president responded that the BBC allegations were a “blatant lie, slander and fake” only in this particular case there was no way for the Ukrainians to spin this as more “Russian propaganda fake news.” The Ukraine president also threatened to sue the BBC for its publication.

Paul Manafort’s alleged relationship with the Ukrainian government – or rather when it was a pro-Russian government, before the US-organized presidential coup in 2014 which culminated with Crimea being subsumed by Russia – was exposed in August 2016, after a report from the New York Times revealed a “secret ledger” belonging to the Party of the Regions – a pro-Russia party that paid Manafort as a political consultant along with the Podesta Group. 

Several Ukrainian sources say that Poroshenko authorized the leak of the secret ledger, thinking it would help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 U.S. election – and the BBC is implying that he paid Cohen the $400,000 in a scramble to fall under Trump’s good graces. 

Ukraine was (and remains) at war with Russia and Russian-backed separatists and could not afford to make an enemy of the new US president.

So Mr Poroshenko appeared relieved as he beamed and paid tribute to Mr Trump in the Oval Office.

He boasted that he had seen the new president before Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. He called it a “substantial visit”. He held a triumphant news conference in front of the north portico of the White House.

A week after Mr Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, Ukraine’s National Anti Corruption Bureau announced that it was no longer investigating Mr Manafort.

At the time, an official there explained to me that Mr Manafort had not signed the “black ledger” acknowledging receipt of the money. And anyway, he went on, Mr Manafort was American and the law allowed the bureau only to investigate Ukrainians.

While Ukraine didn’t completely terminate their inquiry into Manafort, the case was moved from the Anti-Corruption Bureau to the state prosecutor’s office where it languished.  The prosecutor in charge of the case told the BBC: “There was never a direct order to stop the Manafort inquiry but from the way our investigation has progressed, it’s clear that our superiors are trying to create obstacles.”

And now we wonder if, with the “Russian collusion” narrative having failed, it is time for the deep state to pivot to the “Ukraine collusion” story…

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