Sunday, February 25, 2018

Least Surprising News of the Day

Pat Cox, former Irish and European Union politician, and Charlemagne Award recipient, was one of the so-called Hapsburg Group (although members deny they knew it such) organized to make the case for a Ukraine-EU association agreement (New York Times) --

Mr. Kwasniewski and Patrick Cox of Ireland, a former president of the European Parliament, said that they were working at the suggestion of the parliament’s president at the time, Martin Schulz of Germany, to get Mr. Yanukovych to release political opponents from jail to improve his standing with the Europeans as they debated the association agreement ... In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Cox said he had worked with Mr. Kwasniewski, Mr. Schulz and others to try to convince Mr. Yanukovych to release the jailed political opponents. Mr. Cox said that he had never heard of the Hapsburg Group, had never been paid by anyone for his efforts in Ukraine, and had had no dealings with Mr. Manafort. But in 2012, he said, he had been invited by Mr. Schultz to go to Ukraine with Mr. Kwasniewski, the first of some 25 trips, all done “pro bono,” Mr. Cox said, to try to get the detainees released. “The view in Western capitals was that these were the victims of selective justice,” Mr. Cox said. After meetings with Mr. Yanukovych and prosecutors, Mr. Cox and Mr. Kwasniewski were successful in obtaining the release of Mr. Ivashchenko and Mr. Lutsenko, who is now Ukraine’s prosecutor-general. “We were not successful with Yulia Tymoshenko,” who was Mr. Yanukovych’s prime political opponent at the time, Mr. Cox said. “But we did ensure that Charité hospital in Berlin would have access to her in prison and she not be subject to further trials,” he added. Mr. Cox made clear his distaste for Mr. Yanukovych, adding: “I wouldn’t lobby for him.”

A few things to note about this. One is a thriving business of eminent European people taking on high-falutin' assignments after their public service careers, which they hasten to add, is nothing as grubby as American style "lobbying." The second is the sheer number of people that got pulled into the Ukrainian economic orbit in the post-2004 era, when many long-time observers of the country would have advised that the corruption was so pervasive that it would be impossible not to get tainted, even with people skilled at the mental reservation that they were not lobbying.  And the third is the biggest hole in the Trump-Russia narrative to the extent that it depends on Paul Manafort's connections: up until 2014, Manafort was lobbying for what Putin didn't want, that Ukraine-EU Association agreement. And after 2014, Manafort had lost his Ukrainian gravy train, and needed to start cashing in his properties purchased with money from his shady Ukrainian connections. That's precisely the legal theory in the latest Mueller indictment.

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