By Kate Murphy
A new report reveals that President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort had a plan to benefit the Russian government more than a decade ago.
The Associated Press learned from documents that Manafort secretly worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2006, Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska, but it was unclear how much work he performed under the pact. The two maintained a business relationship until 2009.
Manafort is pushing back, saying, “I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago, representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “Nothing in this morning’s report references any actions by the president, the White House or any Trump administration official. I think that’s got to be clear from the get-go. The report is entirely focused on actions that Paul took a decade ago.”
This is just the latest round of headlines about Manafort’s alleged ties to Russia, especially in light of FBI Director James Comey’s recent comments that “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
So who exactly is the man behind the headlines?
Manafort is a Republican strategist and longtime lobbyist. He was an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.
Before Manafort joined Trump’s campaign team, he served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was close to Putin and was ousted in 2014.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign last spring to provide his expertise on wrangling Republican delegate votes. He stepped up as Trump’s campaign manager after Corey Lewandowski was fired last June as Trump came under pressure to reset his struggling campaign.
Three months before the election, Manafort resigned, and it was reported that he helped a Ukrainian political party, with close ties to Russia, secretly move more than $2 million to two major Washington lobbying firms.
In February, it was discovered that he was one of the high-level advisers who was in constant communication with Russia during the campaign last summer. The proximity to Trump and frequency of the communications raised red flags with the U.S. Intelligence community. Manafort denied that he ever spoke to Russian officials, especially during the time cited.
So, as questions remain surrounding Paul Manafort and his ties to Russia, at least you can say, “Now I get it.”