President Trump distanced himself from Paul Manafort on Monday morning, insisting that his former campaign chairman had allegedly committed misdeeds “years ago.”
But Trump, who has a history of trying distance himself from controversial figures, may have a harder time doing so with Manafort, someone deeply tied to Trump’s world.
Manafort was indicted Monday morning along with former business partner Rick Gates on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to launder money. These were the first charges announced by special counsel Robert Mueller, who in May took control of a federal investigation into Russia’s multifaceted campaign to influence last year’s presidential election.
After Manafort and Gates surrendered to the FBI, Trump tweeted that the charges stem from alleged actions years before his presidential campaign. The commander in chief also questioned why his former rival Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party have not been the focus of the Russia probe — reiterating that his team did not collude with Moscow.
Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2017
Here is a brief history of Manafort’s ties with Trump and his world.
Manafort buys property in Trump Tower
In 2006, Manafort purchased a condominium — through an LCC called John Hannah — in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. He transferred the deed to the apartment to Paul and Kathleen Manafort in 2015.
NBC News reported that Manafort’s middle name is John, and his then-business partner Rick Davis’s middle name is Hannah.
Business dealings with Roger Stone
Manafort and political strategist and informal Trump adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. co-founded the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly in the early 1980s. The firm lobbied Congress on behalf of foreign governments and worked closely with former presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Stone, who has been denounced for promoting conspiracy theories and falsehoods over the course of his career, briefly served as an adviser on Trump’s presidential campaign and continues to talk to Trump. He reportedly recommended Manafort to Trump.
Manafort joined Trump’s campaign as the convention manager in March 2016. He was responsible for transitioning the campaign’s activities toward the Republican National Committee in Cleveland. There was concern at the time about whether Republican delegates would support Trump, who ran a scorched-earth campaign during the primary.
Manafort has a wealth of experience working on U.S. presidential campaigns that spans decades. He contributed to the campaign for presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.
At the time, Trump that Manafort was “a great asset and an important addition” as the campaign consolidated its support from the primaries and caucuses.
“Paul Manafort, and the team I am building, bring the needed skill sets to ensure that the will of the Republican voters, not the Washington political establishment, determines who will be the nominee for the Republican Party,” Trump said in a statement. “I look forward to winning the nomination, and ultimately the presidency in order to make America great again.”
Manafort was promoted to campaign manager on May 19, replacing Corey Lewandowski. With Manafort at the helm, Trump secured enough delegates for the party’s nomination, chose Mike Pence as his running mate and accepted the party’s nomination at the convention.
Infamous meeting with Russian lawyer
Manafort joined Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for the highly publicized and controversial meeting on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who promised to provide damaging information about Clinton.
The younger Trump repeatedly shifted his story about the meeting, which he initially said was about Russian adoption policy.
But in July of this year, Trump Jr. released a series of emails with music publicist Rob Goldstone coordinating the meeting, which was advertised as being about Kremlin dirt on Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote in one email.
Manafort served on Trump’s campaign until he resigned in August of last year. In a since-deleted statement, Trump said, “This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”
The days leading to Manafort’s resignation were riddled with questions about his ties to Ukraine, where he provided consulting service for former President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian ally. The New York Times reported Aug. 14, 2016, that the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau was investigating ledgers that appeared to show Manafort receiving $12.7 million in “off-the-book cash” payments from 2007 to 2012. Yahoo News reported Aug. 17, 2016, that Manafort had recruited a prominent lobbyist to help change U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
On the day of his resignation, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News pundit Sean Hannity that Manafort’s contributions to Trump’s political success should not be underestimated.
.@newtgingrich: "Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help get this [Trump] campaign to where it is right now."
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) August 20, 2016
Unofficial adviser for Cabinet picks
A former campaign official who worked with Manafort told the Daily Beast — in an article published Nov. 30, 2016 — that Trump and Pence continued to consult with Manafort after his resignation.
“When they’re picking a Cabinet, unless he contacts me, I don’t bother him,” the former official said. “It’s a heady time for everyone.”
“I think he’s weighing in on everything,” the source continued. “I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly.”
Gates helped plan inauguration
Four Republican sources told Yahoo News in November that Gates was serving as the chief deputy to private equity investor Thomas Barrack, a close friend of Trump’s who was his inaugural chairman. Gates had not been named in the public announcement of Trump’s transition team on Nov. 15, 2016. Another source, a top Republican fundraiser, said Gates was playing a critical role in planning and overseeing inaugural events.
“And when Barrack stops by to meet Trump in the West Wing, he has brought Gates with him,” the Daily Beast reported this June.
Spicer downplays Manfort’s importance
Trump’s tweets on Monday morning are only the White House’s most recent attempt to distance itself from Manafort. On March 20, 2017, for instance, then White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Trump surprised by FBI raid of Manfort’s home
The FBI raided Manafort’s home in Virginia on July 26, 2017.
On Aug. 10, 2017, Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., that he had not spoken to Manafort in a long time, and downplayed his role in his campaign.
When asked whether the raid was appropriate, Trump responded, “I thought it was a very, very strong signal or whatever. I know Mr. Manafort. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time — relatively short period of time. But I’ve always known him to be a good man,” according to pool reports.
Manafort, Gates, the White House and the Trump campaign have not responded to requests from Yahoo News for comment.
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