Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) ()
Text messages stolen from Paul Manafort Jr.’s daughter are causing fresh headaches for the lawyer and veteran political consultant as he faces investigations in both the U.S. and Ukraine.
As a former top campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, Manafort was already back in the headlines this week following FBI Director James Comey Jr.’s confirmation to Congress of an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
But pilfered iPhone data for Andrea Manafort Shand, a 31-year-old former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C., is bringing a new focus on her father’s activities in Ukraine, as well as renewing interest in Skadden’s work for one of Manafort’s key clients.
Ukrainian hackers reportedly stole some 285,000 personal messages by Manafort Shand in an effort to blackmail her father by threatening to expose his alleged ties to Russian officials. Manafort acknowledged the hack in a late February interview with Politico, but declined to discuss specific exchanges, some of which show Manafort Shand questioning “blood money” her father purportedly received for his work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Kremlin-friendly Party of Regions.
Yanukovych now lives in Russia after being ousted as Ukraine’s leader in the country’s February 2014 revolution, but documents from the Party of Regions that allegedly point to payments to Manafort and other activities by the Yanukovych government are now the subject of investigations by Ukrainian prosecutors. One human rights lawyer in Ukraine representing the victims of police shootings during the crackdown by Yanukovych’s regime is now calling for an inquiry into the four years’ worth of messages hacked from Manafort Shand’s iPhone.
Manafort Shand worked at Skadden as an associate in the nation’s capital from October 2012 to October 2016, according to her biography page on professional networking website LinkedIn. She left Skadden last fall to become an associate general counsel at investment advisory firm Fort LP. (Some of the personal correspondence captured by hackers from Manafort Shand includes her interview schedule with Fort executives as she prepared to leave Skadden.)
Manafort Shand did not return a call to her office on Tuesday. Skadden declined to comment, and Manfort, through a spokesman, offered a statement focused solely on his work for the Trump campaign and last year’s cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee.
“I had no role or involvement in the cyberattack on the DNC or the subsequent release of information gained from the attack, and I have never spoken with any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved in the attack,” Manafort said. “The suggestion that I ever worked in concert with anyone to release hacked emails or sought to undermine the interests of the [U.S.] is false. Despite the constant scrutiny and innuendo, there are no facts or evidence supporting these allegations, nor will there be. I am disappointed that anyone would give credence to allegations made by individuals with clear political motives in a blatant attempt to discredit me and the legitimacy of the election of President Trump.”
Beyond the U.S. election, scrutiny surrounding Manafort’s alleged ties to Russia and his work for Yanukovych’s government has once again caused some to examine Skadden’s past work in Ukraine. In early 2014, opposition forces recovered a trove of documents from Yanukovych’s deposed regime as they stormed palaces, residences and other government buildings around Kiev. Some of those papers detailed Skadden’s work for Yanukovych’s government.
Ukrainian prosecutors are currently trying to question Manafort as part of a corruption investigation of Ukraine’s former justice minister, Oleksandr Lavrynovych. Citing documents provided by those prosecutors, CNN recently reported that Lavrynovych authorized the disbursement of more than $1 million in legal fees to Skadden in return for the firm’s work putting together a December 2012 report on the prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Skadden found that while some of the charges against Tymoshenko (pictured right) were procedurally flawed, there was no political motivation behind her seven-year prison sentence. Supporters of Tymoshenko, who was released from prison in February 2014, claimed that her imprisonment was the result of Russian resistance to her policies that could have moved Ukraine closer to the Western sphere of influence.
The New York Times reported last year that Manafort, in his role as an adviser to Yanukovych, helped Skadden draft its 303-page report into the Tymoshenko case. The firm and litigation of counsel Gregory Craig—who joined Skadden in 2010 after serving as White House counsel in the Obama administration—have previously declined to discuss what Skadden was paid for its work. (Ukrainian prosecutors have said that the country’s former justice ministry announced that Skadden would be paid just $12,000 for its work, a relatively paltry sum for a global law firm that led some to question whether the firm was receiving payment elsewhere.)
Former six-term Democratic congressman and Wiley Rein strategic counsel Jim Slattery, who was hired by Tymoshenko’s businessman husband Oleksandar to help advocate for her release from prison, said he strongly disputed the conclusions reached by Skadden in its report.
“Skadden was hired to do a legal analysis and make the best case they could [for Yanukovych],” Slattery said. “I read carefully the Skadden report and disagreed with it. This was a kangaroo court that violated the basics of due process.”
Freedom House, a federal government-funded think tank that supports democracy and human rights in other countries, was also critical of the report, calling it “misguided.”
Skadden has previously defended its work, arguing that it was hired “not to opine about whether the prosecution was politically motivated or driven by an improper political objective.” Instead, the firm cited sections of its report stating that Tymoshenko was “denied basic rights under Western legal standards.”
Skadden’s Ukraine-related work spanned both sides of last year’s U.S. presidential election. The Podesta Group, the lobbying firm co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager John Podesta, whose own personal emails were hacked during the campaign, was caught up in a federal probe last year of Manafort’s Ukraine ties.
Skadden was reportedly hired by Mercury Public Affairs, a government relations firm formed in 2011 that worked with the Podesta Group in representing a Brussels-based group called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), to provide a legal opinion stating that the organization was not backed by a foreign government. (Without financing from a foreign government, U.S. advisers to the ECMU would not have to make detailed disclosures with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.)
The ECMU was founded by members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, whose handwritten ledgers in Ukraine have reportedly identified $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort. Those reports last summer led Manafort to resign as head of Trump’s presidential campaign and the federal probe of Mercury and the Podesta Group—which hired Caplin & Drysdale to look into its ECMU work—disappeared amid the deluge of other election cycle news.
The Podesta Group was paid $820,000 by the ECMU between 2012 and 2013, while Mercury received more than $700,000 from the organization during that timeframe, according to lobbying records on file with the U.S. Senate. The Associated Press reported last year that Manafort worked with Mercury and the Podesta Group to help sway U.S. policy in favor of Yanukovych’s government and scuttle a proposed congressional resolution calling for Tymoshenko’s release.
Manafort was once a name partner at a lobbying firm with Roger Stone Jr., another former Trump adviser whose alleged Russia ties are being probed by the FBI. In early 2014, after Yanukovych’s ouster as leader in Ukraine and pro-Russian forces in Crimea, Politico reported on an email sent by Stone to a small group of friends asking a simple, and wry, question.
“Where is Paul Manafort?”