On December 15, 2017, I spent the day testifying in Washington, D.C., in front of the Mueller Commission grand jury at the United States District Court. As Business Insider first reported, in 2012 I was approached by Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to do Public Relations work for the Ukrainian government, and not to report said work to the Department of Justice as required by FARA laws. They also implied they’d pay me off shore.
Kyle R. Freeny, a Special Investigator in Mr. Mueller’s office strongly urged me to do my patriotic duty, drop all my professional and personal responsibilities even and appear immediately in front of the grand jury (about a short meeting held 5+ years ago which I vaguely remembered). I reluctantly wake up for a 6 a.m. shuttle flight and spent the day in court. Prior to that testimony, I shared the limited details during interviews with government investigators. I verified that I spoke with Manafort and Gates a few times in February and March 2012, and shared the handful of emails I was in possession of and testified under oath they were accurate.
After hours of repeating the same thing again and again, questions then veered into Russian names I’d never before heard (including Konstantin Kilimnik), and questions about previous work I have done for Russian oligarchs, confirming that I know Roger Stone, worked for Eric Trump’s Foundation in 2017, and more. (Yes, my NYC born kids understand Russian as my ex-wife is Russian, and yes they attend the same NYC school that Ivanka and Jared’s kids did.)
After being thanked profusely by Ms. Feeny and a series of stern-looking attorneys, alone, I exited the courtroom, ignored questions from the media outside the courthouse, and took the Acela back to my Park Avenue office. Not surprisingly, Manafort and Gates have been indicted, yet nothing has connected this matter to President Trump.
This investigation feels like a witch-hunt, even more so after reading yesterday’s CNN news report that, "Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators have questioned Russian oligarchs travelling in the U.S. about whether they donated to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. One oligarch was questioned and his electronic devices searched when his private jet landed in the U.S., and a second Russian oligarch was also questioned during a recent trip to the U.S. An informal interview request has been made to a third oligarch who has not recently been to the U.S."
If in fact foreign money came into the United States and impacted elections then it must be uncovered — yet is the American way now questioning the most powerful people of a vaunted foreign foe as they enter this country? What would our government say if billionaire GOP Donor Sheldon Adelson was questioned and detained when visiting Russia? How would we feel, say, if George Soros’ private plane was searched upon arrival in Moscow and he was questioned? Our government would rightfully be in an uproar — and Russian President Putin is right to raise hell if these reports are accurate. (And will surely order American billionaires to be questioned in Russia).
It is a dangerous, slippery slope — and one which has nothing to do with the mission of the Special Counsel investigation, which is supposedly to explore links or coordination between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. By now, the cost of this government investigation is tens of millions of dollars (including an $86.52 reimbursement check I cashed for travel), and finally, this week there was the first sentencing of someone indicted by Mueller. Stop the presses — a 34-year-old attorney of Skadden Arps was sentenced to 30 days in prison, and fined $20,000 for lying to the FBI about not reporting work he did for a Ukrainian oligarch (who he’s related to). He should be charged and punished. Yet, is this the most important task for the Department of Justice?
Yesterday, media reported that my client Felix Sater was questioned about “Russian election meddling.” Sater — a real estate entrepreneur and former partner of Donald Trump — sent an email in 2016 to his childhood friend, Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, about his desire to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The deal went nowhere — and Sater, now having spent who knows how much in legal fees is being dragged repeatedly to Washington, D.C., to speak about his desire to build a building. What in the world does this have to do with Russians meddling in the election? Sater — a former high level U.S. Government intelligence asset who provided vital security to the government for years — came to the United States at the age of 8, is an American citizen, American educated — and while he is in fact well connected, he’s about as connected to meddling in the election as I am to life on Mars.
In February, the House Intelligence Committee memo revealed that a dossier funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign led to the creation of the Mueller commission. It’s time for this witch-hunt to end. There are plenty of things not to like about President Trump, but if the American people seek to remove him from office the place to remove him is at the ballot box. Enough is enough.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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