John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine

As the Russian and Ukranian situation is back in American news with the revelations of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, I was reminded of the Podesta name. There is John Podesta and his older brother, Tony Podesta. I had been trying to remember the Podesta name for a while now. Both brothers were major players in these events and investigations (see earlier post: Democratic Failure of the Democratic Party). John often acted as an intermediary and orchestrator for the DNC elite, but it was Tony who was the key link as head of the Podesta Group. The New York Times noted, it is “tragic — or at least ironic — that the Russia investigation for which [John] has been advocating has ensnared his brother” (Kenneth P. Vogel, Russia Scandal Befalls Two Brothers: John and Tony Podesta). These investigations are dangerous games when all of these corrupt power-mongers have skeletons in their closets, which is likely why both sides have been pulling their punches (e.g., Donald Trump, after being elected president, choosing to not reopen the investigation against ‘Crooked Hilary’).

After earlier having seen the Podesta name in the Mueller investigation, the part they played largely disappeared from view or rather from the news reporting. That made me suspicious since, to my mind, this demonstrated the most damning link in the chain of oligarchy. The Podesta brothers were right in the middle of so many different scandals and had long been key political actors within the Clinton machine. The Podesta brothers and the Clintons practically grew up together in the Democratic Party. “For both John and Tony Podesta, the connections with Democratic politics began at an early age. In 1970, they worked together on the Rev. Joseph D. Duffey’s antiwar Senate campaign in Connecticut, for which Tony Podesta served as a top official, and his younger brother — as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton — were volunteers” (Vogel).

John Podesta worked as “Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, as well as Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chair” (Geoff Earle, Is power lobbyist Tony Podesta next? Hillary campaign chairman’s brother quits firm they set up together after Mueller looked at his dealings). Also, consider that the Podesta Group was started through a partnership between John Podesta and Barack Obama, further demonstrating the extent of political ties (Andrew McCarthy, Triangulating Manafort — Obama, Clinton and Ukraine). Even with the Mueller investigations still going on, the social life of the Podesta brothers was obviously unaffected: “In a sign of how plugged-in [Tony] Podesta remains, he was spotted at a surprise 70th birthday party for Hillary Clinton over the weekend. Also present were former Clinton advisors John Podesta, Huma Abedin, and Sidney Blumenthal, Politico reported.” Their public appearance at such an event communicated that they remained party insiders and powerful figures.

Early on, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller gave immunity to Tony Podesta who, in his capacity as the head of the Podesta group, shared guilt with Paul Manafort. If the purpose was to discover the truth and prosecute the guilty, this move by Mueller made no sense as it took away all leverage to gather info from the Podesta brothers and, instead, ensured their silence. Criminal charges against Tony Podesta might have linked the Russian and Ukrainian scandal directly to top DNC leaders, specifically the Clinton and Biden families but maybe also Barack Obama. Yet the focus has been almost entirely on Republican Manafort who only ever gets referred to in his former and rather brief role as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. That is odd in that Trump in 2014, of course, was not president nor yet a presidential candidate; heck, he was not even a Republican or apparently involved with Manafort in any way when Manafort in 2014 was engaged in this illegal activity as an undisclosed foreign agent. Then again, the two were part of the same social circle and crony network such as how, back in 1980, Trump hired Manafort’s Republican firm (he was their first client) and so maybe there is an old crony connection there (indeed, Trump is a creature of the swamp), although supposedly Manafort had to reintroduce himself when he sought to become Trump’s campaign manager; as a side note, the Reagan campaign was another early client of this firm.

Nonetheless, during the Ukranian dealings, Trump presumably was still a Clinton Democrat or at least still family friends with the Clintons, having not yet dreamed of a GOP coup and presidential power, whether or not he was ever complicit in any way with what was going on with the Clintonian Podesta Group. Certainly, Manafort was tied up with the Clinton Democrats at the time, since he personally hired the Podesta Group and directly worked with them, specifically Tony Podesta. By the way, Manafort also “had brought influential Democrats into his Ukrainian work, such as former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig” (Andrew McCarthy, Triangulating Manafort — Obama, Clinton and Ukraine). He hired them “to work on behalf of a nonprofit that was ostensibly independent but which prosecutors say was “under the ultimate direction” of the Ukrainian president” (Theodoric Meyer, Why the Russia probe demolished one lobbying firm but spared another). Manafort and Tony Podesta both knew about the Ukranian president’s role and so they were equally complicit in working with a foreign power in their role as lobbyists, but only Manafort (and Rick Gates) was charged and prosecuted for acting as an unregistered foreign agent (Theodoric Meyer, Emails give new detail about Mercury, Podesta role in Manafort’s lobbying). Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) of Mercury, the other firm hired by Manafort, also was aware of the connection to the Ukranian government. He had private meetings with Tony Podesta, which demonstrates how bipartisanship works in Washington, D.C. Yet Weber escaped with even less scrutiny than the Podesta brothers and Mercury is still in operation, possibly because Weber is too well positioned and respected in the D.C. political establishment. This demonstrates that it’s not about partisanship but about connections, about who is and is not expendable. The key point is that all of these people knew they were involved in illegal activity but chose to keep it a secret with the expectation it would remain a secret.

What is the significance to the party elites? It’s true that the two families, Trumps and Clintons, were tight; they attended each other’s social events, including weddings, and their daughters were bosom buddies. Trump had been supporting and funding the Clinton Democrats in the previous decades and, as far as I know, remained a member in good standing within the DNC elite until he decided to run as a Republican candidate and go against Hillary Clinton’s own political aspirations. Whatever was Trump’s involvement or not, it’s interesting that the Republican Manafort who was drawn into the sphere of the Clinton Democrats decided to become the campaign manager of Trump, a former Clinton Democrat. And so Manafort, like the Podesta brothers and Weber, offers a point of connection for all parties in this orbit of power games. These were among the most powerful political figures in the country across multiple administrations and so it is almost guaranteed many others were involved, maybe even the CIA, but only Manafort took the fall. Was Manafort bribed or threatened to not give the names of other guilty parties? How was he and his family compensated for making such a sacrifice? That none of these conspirators were assassinated like Jeffrey Epstein demonstrates they were not perceived as major threats to the rest of the establishment.

That still leaves open the motivations and agenda behind it all. Why was Manafort hiring what was essentially a Democratic firm started by the Podesta brothers with one of the brothers being in the top rank of Clinton Democrats? Manafort, along with Roger Stone, is a major Republican insider going back to the Reagan administration: “Other men key to the 1994 landslide’s strategy were fellow “Reagan boys” and lobbyists Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Those men would years later be key to getting Donald Trump elected president. He [Trump] was one of their firm Black, Manafort and Stone’s first clients thanks to infamous and later disbarred attorney Roy Cohn (Donna Ladd & Nick Judin, Mississippi Lobbyists, Associates in Thick of Trump’s Ukraine-Russia Web); that firm would later add Democratic Peter Kelly as a named partner and so, “It has often been said that the addition made the new firm — Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly — the first bipartisan lobbying shop in town” (Manuel Roig-Franzia, The Swamp Builders).

Manafort would appear as solidly Republican as they come, to the extent that he grew up as a Young Republican leader and his father, Paul Manafort Sr., was a Republican politician. On the other, hand he was known to lack any principles in his willingness to play both sides of the field, sometimes working simultaneously with competing candidates. Still, his ideological bent was clear. He was not a typical old school Republican but already at a young age was “trying to steer the party to the right” (Roig-Franzia) — maybe, in his transpartisan scheming, he was a force behind what also pushed the Democrats so far right, assuming the Clintons didn’t go willingly. It does get one wondering. Why else was he so deep into Clinton territory of a powerful Democratic lobbyist firm? Who exactly was working for whom and for what purpose and to what end? Why this bipartisan interest in Ukraine that made possible a strange form of bipartisan cooperation? The Podesta brothers, Clinton insiders possibly acting on behalf of the Clintons themselves, were choosing to work with Manafort, one of the worst Republican swamp creatures to ever haunt the halls of Washington power.

What is this seeming alliance between top RNC insiders and top DNC insiders in meddling in what is essentially the covert foreign policy operations of an extra-governmental deep state and international ruling elite? Both parties are deep in this scandal and one can imagine the skeletons in closets of dozens, if not hundreds, of other powermongers and plutocrats. What exactly is going on here? Maybe it has nothing to do with party politics at all. These conspirators were acting as mercenaries and sociopaths, not loyal partisans. All of these corrupt figures simply followed the money and in resource-rich Ukraine wealth overflows: “Like the inhabitants of all borderlands throughout history, many Ukrainians have learned to play one side against the other in securing money and power for themselves. Lavishing money on an American consultant with deep ties to the Republican establishment (like Manafort) or to the Democratic one (like Hunter Biden or Devine) can go a long way in securing influence in Washington and, hopefully, still more money in the form of American aid. The same can be done to secure the flow of Russian funds” (Julia Ioffe, Here’s Why Ukraine Pops Up in So Many U.S. Scandals).

In that case, the connection between the Trumps and the Clintons, between Manafort and Podesta, etc is simply what connects all plutocrats. In the end, they are a singular plutocracy and hence are part of a global oligarchy. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. As for Trump, it’s not clear that he is directly involved in any of this particular scandal. Just because he is a sleazy corporatist and crude narcissist who maybe should be impeached or even imprisoned for many other reasons it doesn’t mean he is guilty of every allegation against him. If anything, the Clintons seem more implicated in it all, even if they are more experienced and capable in maintaining plausible deniability. Keep an eye on John Podesta and see if his name comes up. He might be the key to it all. Or else he might represent a loose thread that, if pulled, could begin unraveling the web of control and silence.

It’s amusing for me to see these conspiracies discussed on the ‘mainstream’ corporate media. It is even getting mixed up in the campaign rhetoric of major candidates. In decades past, no matter how much evidence there was in support, such talk would have been dismissed as conspiracy theory. The only place where it used to be taken seriously was on the talk shows of those like Art Bell and Alex Jones. How much the world has changed. We are no longer arguing about the conspiracies being real but now the debate is over who is guilty or rather who is most guilty. No one is left who still doubts that our world is ruled by conspirators who wish to do us harm. We just need to figure out and agree upon who are these dangerous people and how to deal with them.

The problem is the government officials leading the investigations are often also creatures of the swamp. Asking someone like Robert Mueller or Nancy Pelosi to drain the swamp would be as meaningful as expecting Trump to fulfill this promise. Other than a populist uprising and revolt, the only thing that could have an impact is if and when the ruling elite turn on each other and the dark secrets begin spilling out. That seems to have already begun, but the deep state and the corporate media propagandists are doing everything in their power to suppress the revelations and control the narrative.

* * *

Let us extend our discussion. We began with Ukraine and so now we’ll move onto Russia, the powerhouse that is behind so many of these conspiracies. Putin loves to get his hands in everything and it boosts his ego to cause problems. Russia may no longer have the military power of the Soviet Union, but Putin has found other forms of power to be just as useful. He is a product of the KGB and no one doubts he is smart. Too many American leaders underestimated him and might have managed to get his claws into numerous politicians and their families, from the Clintons to the Trumps. To get things started, consider the Podesta link (J. Michael Waller, 13 reasons why the Russia probes must be expanded):

  • John Podesta and $35 million from a Russian industrial espionage firm. While advising Hillary Clinton in 2011, John Podesta joined the board of a small energy company in Massachusetts that, two months later, received $35 million from Rusnano, a Russian investment firm. Putin created Rusnano by decree for the purpose of committing industrial espionage. Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais, was a major figure in the creation of the Russian gangster-state in 1990s and was close to the Bill Clinton administration, whose White House Chief of Staff was John Podesta. Podesta subsequently joined the Obama White House as senior counselor in 2014, but did not declare his Rusnano business connection. That same year, the FBI issued an “extraordinary warning” about Rusnano. Podesta went on to become Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager.”
  • Tony Podesta lobbied for criminal Russian bank. John’s brother, lobbyist Tony Podesta, John’s, took $170,000 over six months in payments from a sanctioned Russian bank, Sberbank (and offshore subsidiaries). The money was for lobbying the U.S. to lift sanctions on Sberbank in 2016, while John Podesta ran Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
  • Podesta Group lobbied for same pro-Kremlin Ukrainians as Manafort. The Podesta Group, founded by John and Tony and headed by Tony, took $900,000 in payments from what Politico calls “pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians who also employed former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” The purpose was to conduct influence operations against Congress and federal agencies on behalf of the pro-Putin figures. The Trump campaign’s liaison to the RNC in 2016, Rick Gates, connected the Podesta Group with the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a non-profit whose board originally contained Ukrainian members of parliament from the pro-Russian party.” The lobbying ended in 2014 when Ukraine’s pro-Putin president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Moscow.”
  • Uranium One: Sale of 20% of US Uranium Production to Russia. Uranium One was owned by Frank Giustra, a close friend and business partner of former President Bill Clinton. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the company’s sale to the Russian nuclear agency, Rosatom, giving Putin’s nuclear weapons monopoly ownership of 20% of US annual uranium production. Sberbank, which hired lobbyist Tony Podesta, was the lead financial institution involved in the transaction. Tony Podesta’s firm also represented Uranium One before the State Department in 2012 and 2015. Giustra and others tied to the sale donated $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.” (For more info, see: Democrats, Russians, and Uranium.)

4 thoughts on “John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine

  1. Author Alleges China Used Business Deals to Influence Families of Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden
    Peter Schweizer, whose earlier book spurred an FBI probe of the Clinton Foundation, writes that Beijing uses investment opportunities to gain leverage
    By Aruna Viswanatha, March 16, 2018

    The author of a book that fueled an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation now is taking aim at two new targets—the families of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Joe Biden.

    In a new book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” conservative author Peter Schweizer argues that China has worked to gain leverage over powerful American politicians by targeting their families with investment opportunities and business deals, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in business to companies run by the families of Messrs. Biden and McConnell.

    Aides to both men strongly disputed the accuracy of Mr. Schweizer’s findings, calling them “wild accusations” without “credible sourcing” and “politically motivated hit pieces.”

    Lawmakers and government officials are required to disclose information about their financial dealings but not those of their extended families, and Mr. Schweizer argues China has tried to exploit that provision.

    The book is being published March 20 by HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp, which also owns The Wall Street Journal. It comes as U.S. counterintelligence officials have expressed concerns about China’s efforts to target President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, who have business dealings in China.

    Counterintelligence officials have worried for years about China’s efforts to cultivate relationships with family members of those in power through business dealings, and they have warned senior officials to be mindful of such relationships, according to people familiar with the briefings.

    A representative at the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment about the claims in Mr. Schweizer’s book.

    Mr. Schweizer points to what he claims is evidence of a close relationship between Foremost Group, the shipping company run by the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Beijing. The author argues that Mr. McConnell, who is Ms. Chao’s husband, has softened his views on China as that relationship grew.

    A spokesman for Mr. McConnell rejected that conclusion, pointing to multiple recent Senate floor statements in which Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, referred to China as an “aggressor state” the U.S. must confront.

    “While he makes some wild accusations, they’re not backed by any credible sourcing—which makes sense, as they are inaccurate,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said of Mr. Schweizer.

    A Transportation Department spokeswoman said Ms. Chao has had no involvement with her family’s business for more than four decades, and called the book’s claims “spurious and deliberately malicious.” Ms. Chao and Mr. McConnell also have no financial investment in Foremost Group. A Foremost representative Group didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Mr. Schweizer also points to what he claims is evidence of close ties between the Chinese government and Rosemont Seneca Partners, a now-closed investment firm that was owned by Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, and the stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry, Christopher Heinz. Mr. Schweizer outlines investments that he says came as Messrs. Biden and Kerry were managing America’s relationship with Beijing.

    In December 2013, Mr. Schweizer writes, Bank of China set up a collaboration with Rosemont Seneca with $1 billion in funds backed by the Chinese government, giving a Western firm access for the first time to a cross-border investment fund formed in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone.

    A person familiar with the firm disputed Mr. Schweizer’s description of the relationship between Rosemont Seneca and a Chinese investment fund, and said neither the firm nor Messrs. Biden or Heinz “ever received any payments” from the Chinese investment fund. A person close to Mr. Heinz said he had no operating role in Rosemont Seneca.

    A spokesman for Mr. Kerry and an aide to Mr. Biden disputed Mr. Schweizer’s claims.

    A spokesman for Mr. Kerry said Mr. Schweizer “traffics in drive-by character assassination via false innuendo, errors, and omissions” and that “Secretary Kerry’s only agenda was America’s agenda.” An aide to the former vice president said, “We aren’t going to engage on a politically motivated hit pieces based on a series of demonstrable, factual errors from a Breitbart-affiliated author and his financial backers.”

    Mr. Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, which is chaired by conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, has a history of alleging corruption by top politicians. In the summer of 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started a corruption inquiry based on the claims he made in a book about Bill and Hillary Clinton : “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

    Justice Department officials were skeptical about the strength of the evidence, but the investigation, which broadly centers on whether Clinton Foundation contributors received favorable treatment from the State Department under Hillary Clinton, is continuing. The Clinton Foundation has long denied wrongdoing, saying it is a well-run charity that has done immense good.

    In his new book, Mr. Schweizer cites what he calls evidence from public sources including news reports and company records that Foremost Group does significant business with a Chinese state-owned defense conglomerate, China State Shipbuilding Corp. Foremost ships are constructed by Chinese government shipyards, with some construction financed by the Chinese government; employ Chinese crews, and carry goods for Chinese state-owned companies as well as other clients, Mr. Schweizer writes.

    Mr. Schweizer also points to the appointment of Ms. Chao’s sister, Angela Chao, to the board of state-owned Bank of China, 10 days after the 2016 election. Angela Chao, who is chairman and chief executive of Foremost Group, according to her personal website, couldn’t be reached for comment. Efforts to reach CSSC and Bank of China were unsuccessful.

    Elaine Chao and Mr. McConnell reported in a financial disclosure a 2008 gift from her father, James, the founder of Foremost, valued at between $5 million and $25 million. Mr. Schweizer, citing a news report, wrote that the gift more than doubled Mr. McConnell’s personal wealth.

    • That book is a great example of the kind of corruption that happens in both main parties. That is because plutocracy knows no loyalty, not to party or country. It is a kind of imperialism but one of a dark state. I’m reminded of “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States” by Daniel Immerwahr. Indeed, America is an empire.

      Every empire is corrupted and taken over by outside forces. The plutocrats who inherit the empire take it for granted and sell it off piece by piece. It is the next aspiring empire to come along, China in this case, who takes advantage of the corrupted polutocrats of such aging empires. Then the cycle begins again, as China will go through the same imperial life cycle.

      The only other option is to not become an empire in the first place. That is the old dilemma. Right from the beginning, when Americans gained their freedom and liberty, some of the founding fathers were already scheming on how to make America the next great empire. The temptation is impossible to resist for some people.

      The more important question is why do we the people allow it. More than the elite over in England, the elite the Americans should have feared most were those in the colonies.

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