Trump-connected lobbyist working for Ukrainian opposition leader

Trump-connected lobbyist working for Ukrainian opposition leader
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Yulia Tymoshenko, a party leader in Ukraine who has announced she would be running for president in 2019, has hired a former Trump campaign aide to help with her outreach in the United States.

Avenue Strategies, a firm run by Barry Bennett, filed disclosures with the Justice Department this week showing that Tymoshenko, through a Delaware LLC called Two Paths, will be paying them $65,000 per month.

The firm “will provide research, government relations, public relations and strategic consulting services on behalf of the foreign principal within the United States,” in addition to helping connect Tymoshenko and others with lawmakers and federal officials and responding to “inquiries and requests from the U.S. Government.”

In an email, Bennett said the work is “just for her personally, to arrange some visits here.”

“Obviously she is pro-Western and leading the legal reform movement there,” he said. “Happily helping out.”  

Tymoshenko visited the United States last month and attended the National Prayer Breakfast, where Trump spoke, and held other meetings, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

She played a key role in the Orange Revolution, a yearlong set of protests against government corruption that began in 2004, and then served as Ukraine’s first female prime minister.

In 2010, she ran for president against pro-Kremlin Viktor Yanukovych, who had also served as prime minister, and lost by about 3 percentage points. After the election, her continued fiery rhetoric drew the ire of Yanukovych. 

Tymoshenko was prosecuted and imprisoned, from 2011 to 2014, on what human rights groups and many Western countries denounced as politically motivated charges. 

During that time, Tymoshenko’s husband hired the law and lobby firm Wiley Rein to get U.S. policymakers to back a campaign to secure her release from prison, paying the firm upwards of $1 million. 

Last year, Tymoshenko declared that she will again run for the presidency in Ukraine in the 2019 election, telling a Ukrainian news outlet that she is making the bid “to lift Ukraine from its knees.”  

Her name has also resurfaced recently in connection with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. 

A Dutch lawyer working in law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom’s London office pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI about his relationship with two former Trump campaign aides, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report MORE and Richard Gates. 

Years prior to the campaign, the lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, was among those at Skadden who worked on a 2012 report aimed at justifying the Ukrainian government’s imprisonment of Tymoshenko. 

Yanukovych, Tymoshenko’s chief political rival and a client of Manafort and Gates, commissioned the paper. Two years after the report was produced, Yanukovych fled to Russia after revolts pushed him out of office. 

In October, Manafort and Gates were indicted on, among other things, money laundering and fraud charges and are accused of covertly sending $4 million from an offshore account to pay for the report. (Gates reached a plea deal with Mueller and is cooperating with the investigation; Manafort has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.) 

Skadden’s recorded fee for the report on Tymoshenko, prosecutors say, was $12,000. The next year, Ukraine allegedly wired the firm $1 million, although they had done nothing else for them.  

In February, van der Zwaan admitted to making false statements about his contacts to Gates and an unnamed person, only identified by prosecutors as “Person A.” 

Last November, Tymoshenko, who had previously filed a money laundering case against Manafort in New York, said she trusts Mueller’s team. (Her case was dismissed in 2015.) 

“As a result of the work of Yanukovich and his circle, I ended up in prison,” she said, according to Reuters. “That is why I believe that U.S. justice will deal with the details, including our claims, and we will get a ruling from one of the most effective legal systems in the world — the U.S. system.”

Avenue Strategies was formed by Bennett and another former Trump campaign aide, Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Facing major hurricane, Trump is tested Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film GOP destroyed oversight — Dems obligated to clean up mess if elected MORE. Lewandowski left the firm last year over concerns about being considered a lobbyist.