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Firm Lobbying on Saudi Nuclear Exports Tied to Pro-Russia Party in Ukraine

Former lobbyist and Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort at a June 2018 court hearing.


(Image: Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images.)

The Trump administration’s efforts to fast track transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia enjoyed the assistance of a lobbying firm that represented Ukraine’s then pro-Russian government, TYT has found.

The firm, Prime Policy Group (PPG), represented Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions, the same political party that President Trump’s disgraced campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, spent nearly a decade consulting for. Manafort is now facing prison time over some of those dealings, due to the Special Counsel investigation.

Nor is this the only overlap between PPG and Manafort: Manafort is a former business partner of PPG’s chairman, Charlie Black. But PPG’s role in the Saudi quest for nuclear technology has not been reported until now, despite the attention PPG’s client drew thanks to a recent congressional report.

Last month, a House Oversight Committee report cited whistleblower concerns over President Trump’s attempts, as they saw it, to rush through approval of a plan to send nuclear-power technology to Saudi Arabia.

“Experts worry that transferring sensitive U.S. nuclear technology could allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable Middle East,” the report states.

The report details the nuclear technology company IP3 International’s efforts to win the right to export nuclear materials to Saudi Arabia. What the report didn’t say is that IP3 got help from PPG, run by Black, a former business partner of Manafort and Roger Stone.

IP3 paid PPG a total of $70,000 in 2018 to “explore partnerships with and sales to other countries and USG [US government] support for...nuclear power manufacturing,” according to lobbying disclosure records reviewed by TYT.

In 2013, PPG was paid $500,000 to represent the Ukrainian government from July 23 to March 15, according to a report in The Hill. This coincided with Ukraine’s violent crackdown on pro-Western protesters. By March, 2014, Russia had annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

According to Justice Department Foreign Agent Registration records first reported on by The Hill, PPG’s client was Serhiy Arbuzov, at the time Ukraine’s acting prime minister. Arbuzov was a member of Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions and had been appointed first vice prime minister by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Ukraine has issued warrants for the arrest of both men.

PPG is a successor to Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, a lobbying firm founded in 1980 by Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Black, and Peter Kelly. In 1996, it became BKSH & Associates before becoming Prime Policy Group in 2010.

Manafort, prior to becoming chairman of the Trump campaign, spent nearly a decade as a consultant to Ukraine’s Party of Regions and its leader, Yanukovych. In 2005, Manafort opened an office in Ukraine’s capital and began making millions as a consultant to the Russia-aligned party.

Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort received at least $12.7 million in secret payments from Yanukovych’s party.

In September, Manafort pleaded guilty to a number of crimes related to his consulting work in Ukraine, including money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and violating rules requiring registration of foreign agents.

Although Manafort’s ties to Ukraine coincided with those of PPG, its chairman, Charlie Black, denies that there was any connection.

“Prime Policy was created through a merger of firms in 2009. Neither [Manafort nor Stone] ever worked for Prime Policy. They both worked for one of the predecessor firms, but not since 1995,” Black told TYT.

“Our work centered around assisting IP3 officials with briefing policy makers on Capitol Hill, on both sides of the aisle, about the importance of maintaining and growing U.S. engagement in the international nuclear arena.”

“U.S. engagement in this arena is the best way to ensure that U.S. values are shared and U.S. national security goals and objectives are met. Robust U.S. engagement also ensures that a void is not left for countries like Russia and China to fill the vacuum.”

While it appears Trump is keen on sending Saudi Arabia nuclear material, key members of his own party disagree. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill that would require congressional approval of any nuclear deal between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

A similar bill was also introduced by bipartisan members of the House led by Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

“A government that cannot be trusted with a bone saw, should not be trusted with a nuclear weapon,” said Yoho, alluding to the bone saw allegedly used by Saudi operatives to mutilate the body of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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