Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr paul manafort...
Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr

If the Trump Russia investigation hasn’t gotten strange enough for you, Paul Manafort has been advising the Kurds on foreign policy (in opposition to US policy)  — with a man named Peter Griffin, who is based in Kiev — and speculation is taking place whether Manafort intends to go to Erbil for the referendum next Monday. The referendum is to establish Kurdish independence from Iraq. New York Times:

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

While the Kurdish referendum, scheduled for Monday, would not immediately trigger independence, the American government and the international community have expressed serious concerns about it. They fear that, if it passes overwhelmingly, as expected, it could further destabilize Iraq, damage the coalition fighting the Islamic State, and potentially spark violence in disputed areas.

Manafort’s partner in this, Peter Griffin, is a former employee of Manafort’s. He assisted Manafort in his dealings with Viktor Yanukovych. And he ran a program for foreign ambassadors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, through which then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, met with Jeff Sessions.

Last, but emphatically not least, Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni, says that his client “does not discuss his current or future clients.”

Mr. Maloni would not say whether Mr. Manafort intended to disclose his Kurdish work and source of income to the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which would be required if he lobbied the American government on behalf of a foreign client. “If his work requires registration with FARA, Mr. Manafort will comply with the law,” Mr. Maloni said.

Just FYI, Maloni is the same guy who told the Washington Post that Manafort’s cryptic communiques with billionaire Oleg Deripaska about money owed, after his very clear email about “if he needs private briefings, we can accomodate,” was simply normal accounts receivables inquiries by Manafort.

So, is Manafort planning to leave the country and join his colleague in Edril?

Mr. Manafort agreed to assist with the referendum, including a planned push for Western recognition, after he was approached several months ago by an intermediary for Mr. Barzani’s son, Masrour Barzani, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

It’s one way or the other. Either Manafort is merely going to run the referendum he’s been hired to assist with by long distance, or he’s going to join his colleague in Erbil. Of course the next question is, what will Bob Mueller do if and when Paul Manafort attempts to leave the country?

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