Breaking news is just off the wires at the BBC.
It appears the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, was willing to go the extra mile to ensure he would appear to be a close ally of Donald Trump in public last year:
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.
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.
Mr Cohen denies the allegation.
The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Trump’s deletion of any reference to “Russian aggression” in Ukraine from the GOP party platform in 2016, along with Trump’s expressed wish to repair relations wth Russia, plus real or perceived “pro-Russian” ties of many top Trump advisers (Paul Manafort, Michael Page), all doubtless left Poroshenko highly alarmed that his Kiev regime was losing clout.
Mr. Poroshenko had backed the losing horse in the US presidential election – releasing dirt on Trump’s aide Paul Manafort in an effort to score points with Hillary Clinton, whom he thought certain to win. But after Trump sailed to a resounding victory, Porky needed to ingratiate himself with Mr. Trump.
Unable to secure a full fledged meeting with Trump, the Ukrainian leader chose a backdoor method:
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”.
This senior official’s account is as follows – Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help.
He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president’s lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000.
There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.
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.
It appears unclear whether Cohen accepting the money would have itself been unlawful, or if only Cohen’s failure to register as a foreign agent would qualify as illegal conduct.
But despite the backchannel dealing, it appears Cohen’s influence with the US president was not what Mr. Poroshenko had hoped for:
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.
That had been agreed through official channels. Mr Cohen’s fee was for getting Mr Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit.
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.
“Poroshenko’s inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was.”
And all this was done merely so Poroshenko could be seen to have had a “meeting” with Trump prior to any Trump meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Plus to kiss Trump’s rear in apology for backing his opponent in the election.
The BBC story goes on to say The Donald extracted a much heavier price from Ukraine than just an apology:
A report by a member of a Western country’s intelligence community says Mr Poroshenko’s team believe they have established a “non-aggression pact” with Mr Trump[…]
The report says that an “element of the understanding” between Poroshenko and Trump was that Ukraine agreed to import US coal and signed a $1bn contract for American-made diesel trains.
These deals can only be understood as Poroshenko buying American support, the reports say.
In March, the Trump administration announced the symbolically important sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
From the look of it, Trump made sure the US got the much better end of the bargain.
This report from the BBC comes just days after FOX News highlighted that Ukraine paid a lobbying group headed by Tony Podesta – brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta – over $1 million.
Following Hillary’s defeat in the 2016 election, Podesta’s firm collapsed, as his clients suddenly dried up.
Trump pointedly asked in a tweet last Sunday why Muller had not charged Tony Podesta with any crime.
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