In what is a conformation of some of the worst fears about the Trump campaign’s allegiance to foreign powers, the Associated Press reported today that President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the agenda of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.
A confidential strategy plan from 2005 proposed Manafort influence media, business and politics in the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government as relations between Putin and a George W. Bush-led America deteriorated. AP reports that Manafort and aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska maintained a $10 Million annual contract from at least 2006 to 2009.
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote to his Russian benefactor in 2005, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
This is not the first case of Manafort receiving substantial funds from pro-Russian sources. The reason he left Trump’s campaign last August was his appearance in a “black ledger” obtained by the New York Times indicating he was paid $12.7 Million by the party of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The Washington Post reports that these Putin-supporting connections in Ukraine are under increased scrutiny given the FBI’s probe into connections between the Trump and Putin presidencies.
The latest discoveries, however, link Manafort far more directly and substantially to Putin.
According to AP sources, Manafort’s work in Ukraine was directed at least in part by Deripaska and nor by local political interests. Though it never opened, Manafort also intended to open a Moscow office, the sources allege.
Manafort’s work lobbying for pro-Russian interests without informing the Justice Department might leave him open to prosecution under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his willful failure to register as a lobbyist for a foreign power. Though the government rarely files such charges, conviction comes with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Despite this resignation from Trump’s campaign over these ties in August, AP reports that Manafort remains solidly in Trump’s inner circle, communicating with him regularly by telephone.
“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort told the Associated Press. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.”
All the same, Manafort remains a focal point in the investigations into any relationship between the Trump and Putin administrations.
“We have to talk to Mr. Manafort,” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “We’re going to need to bring him in.”
In light of the revelations of this morning, the need for Manafort’s testimony is only more important, but he remains only one of many being investigated as part of the probe into a Trump-Putin connection. Warner said the investigation was already well underway.
“We’re already starting to interview individuals,” Warner said.