The secretive Christian group referred to in the FBI's affidavit about alleged spy Maria Butina also helped facilitate meetings between a member of Congress and Ukrainian clients of Paul Manafort, federal documents show.
Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, is awaiting a verdict in the first of two trials related to allegations that he made millions of dollars secretly lobbying for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his political allies.
The FBI's investigation led to the revelation in February that Rep. Bob Aderholt (R-Ala.) met in June 2013 with a lobbyist and an Austrian politician, both allegedly receiving money funneled from Yanukovych. The lobbying was allegedly part of a scheme with Manafort to shift U.S. public opinion and policy on Ukraine toward Yanukovych, whose party was seen as a Russian ally.
Aderholt is the leading political emissary overseas for the Fellowship Foundation, best known for sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual, bipartisan, Washington ritual. The FBI claims that Butina engaged with sponsors of the breakfast to make back-channel connections with Washington's powerful elites.
TYT previously reported that the Fellowship Foundation paid for trips by Aderholt and other Republicans that involved meetings with controversial European politicians. One politician had been prominently criticized for anti-Semitic statements, while others fit a pattern of bolstering anti-gay policies that could complicate membership in the European Union, which requires liberal LGBTQ policies. The FBI has claimed that Russia "seeks to create wedges that . . . counter efforts to bring Ukraine and other former Soviet states into European institutions."
Federal documents show that Aderholt's 2013 meeting wasn't his last with figures in the Manafort case. In fact, the records show that Aderholt met overseas with the man who allegedly bankrolled Yanukovych's plan.
Rinat Akhmetov, reportedly Ukraine's richest man, put millions of dollars in Manafort's pockets. Akhmetov was also the patron of Yanukovych's political efforts, which included hiring Manafort.
An early, "tentative" itinerary for Aderholt's trip to attend the 2016 Southeast European Gathering—a version of the National Prayer Breakfast—has him departing from Croatia to return home on June 1. The final version, included in the same filing, has an added stop: Ukraine.
The change allowed Aderholt to attend the Ukraine Prayer Breakfast, a collaboration with the Fellowship Foundation. But the itinerary change also added just two one-on-one meetings for Aderholt while he was in Ukraine. The first, a half-hour long, was "with Rinet [sic] Akhmetov at his office in Kiev," the new itinerary says.