WASHINGTON – A mysterious Israeli connection appeared on Friday within the pages of the plea deal signed between Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, and the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
According to the document, in 2012, while Manafort was working as a lobbyist for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, he received help from a senior Israeli official in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of Ukraine’s then-opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine on October 28, 2012.
Manafort and the senior Israeli official, who is not named in the document, worked to jointly accuse Tymoshenko’s supporters and allies of supporting anti-Semitism. Manafort bragged at the time that “Obama Jews” would put pressure on the American administration to disavow Tymoshenko and her supporters as a result of his ploy.
“Manafort sought to undermine United States support for Tymoshenko,” the document states. “He orchestrated a scheme to have, as he wrote in a contemporaneous communication, ‘Obama Jews’ put pressure on the [Obama] administration to disavow Tymoshenko” and support the Ukrainian government, which was his client.
The document further states that “Manafort coordinated privately with a senior Israeli government official to issue a written statement” that would highlight the alleged anti-Semitism of his client’s political rivals in Ukraine. Then, “with secret knowledge of that Israeli statement,” Manafort worked to spread the story in the American media.
“I have someone putting it in the New York Post. Bada bing bada boom,” Manafort wrote to one of his associates. He wanted to use the allegations in order to pressure the Obama administration into acting against his clients’ rivals in Ukraine. “The Jewish community will take this out on Obama on Election Day if he does nothing,” Manafort said at the time.
The document doesn’t name the senior Israeli official that Manafort communicated with. However, in October 2012, at the same time that Manafort was working on this issue, Israel’s then-foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, published a statement attacking the political rivals of Manafort’s clients in Ukraine for espousing anti-Semitism. Lieberman’s statement was featured in reports by a number of American news outlets, including The New York Times and Breitbart.
"Israel is concerned by the recently signed agreement between the Batkivshchyna party and the extremist party Svoboda, who’s anti-Semitic outbursts have caused outrage in Ukraine and Israel more than once," the statement read. Batkivshchyna, or Fatherland, is lead by Tymoshenko, while Svoboda, or Freedom, is an ultra-nationalist party.
"For example, in the past, the leader of Svoboda has praised 'the fight against the moscali [derogatory term for Russians] and the zhyd [derogatory term for Jews].' The expression of such views brings to mind the dark pages of history of the last century, which have led humanity to the tragedy of World War Two. Israel condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms, and expresses hope that common sense will prevail," the statement concluded.
Lieberman, who is currently defense minister, denied on Friday that he had ever met with, spoken to or worked with Manafort.