Trump/Russia/Wikileaks: Paul Manafort

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Manafort is a lobbyist and political consultant who is best known for working on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych (who was removed from power due to corruption and lives in exile in Russia).  Other clients include Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi.  He served as adviser to a number of Republican presidential campaigns including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole.

Along with Roger Stone, he was a principal with the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. Sergey Yatsenko, a high level executive with Gazprom,  was an official adviser with Manafort’s firm.  Rick Gates is a former business partner in eastern Europe.  Gates has been seen inside the White House on occasions and has helped to plan Trump’s inauguration.  He now runs a nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to promote Trump’s agenda.

The New York Times published an expose that revealed that Manafort had cash budgeted to him by the pro-Russian party Party of Regions.  This system of payments was part of an illegal and previously undisclosed system.  A Ukrainian lawmaker has published a document that alleges ties Manafort to attempts to hide a $750,000 payment to the Party of Regions.  The money came a Belize registered offshore company.  Manafort denies the basis of this allegation. However, there is evidence that contradicts this denial.  There are also reports that Manafort was behind a pro-Russia protest that turned violent against American soldiers in the Ukraine.

Manafort is wanted in Ukraine for questioning in an investigation into corruption concerning former Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych.  The Ukrainian government has made several requests to the US for assistance since December 2014. The prosecutors say that Manafort advised Yanukovych to hire someone to review the case of Yulia Tymoshenko to find ways to justify her being jailed.  Tymoshenko was jailed by the pro-Russian government for allegedly interfering with negotiations with Russia.

In 2011, a lawyer representing Tymoshenko alleged in a lawsuit that Manafort engaged in racketeering and money laundering to hide $3.5 billion in stolen funds. Most of this money was used to buy US real estate.  Manafort’s co-defendants have been identified by the Justice Department as heads of a transnational criminal organization and pose a threat to US national security.  This lawsuit was dismissed in 2015.

Around June 2005, Manafort was working for a Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, to advance the interests of Putin.  In documents obtained by the Associated Press, he proposed a strategy to influence business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe, and the formers Soviet republics.  These activities were meant to benefit the Putin government as US/Russia relations were growing worse.  Deripaska made money transfers totalling over $10 million through at least 2009.

Manafort did not report the details of his lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period in which he was working for Deripaska.  Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, he was required and willfully failing to register is a felony.

Manafort was the national chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign until from March to August 2016, a position in the campaign he sought when he reached out to Trump in February 2016. He is currently under active investigation by a number of intelligence agencies.

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