One of the reasons Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, had to resign last August was his work lobbying in the US on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. Now a new report from the Associated Press says he also signed a contract to push an agenda benefiting Russian president Vladimir Putin on US soil. (It’s not clear if he actually carried out any of the work.)
The AP writes:
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort’s contract, worth $10 million a year, wasn’t with the Russian government itself but with Russian billionaire and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska. He signed it in 2006 and “maintained a business relationship” with Deripaska until at least 2009, the AP said.
The revelation raises further questions about Manafort’s own motives when he was Trump’s campaign chief (March-August 2016); about Trump’s frequent pro-Putin statements on the campaign trail and as president; and about the Trump campaign’s vetting standards. The report comes as the FBI and both houses of Congress are investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
If nothing else, Manafort should have disclosed any lobbying work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people who lobby in the US for foreign governments to report their actions. His failure to do that for his Ukraine work was one of the reasons he had to leave the Trump campaign. The difference with the latest report is that it alleges he was working directly on behalf of Russian government interests.
Manafort was brought into the Trump campaign by long-time Trump advisor Roger Stone, who had a lobbying group with Manafort in the 1980s and 1990s. Stone is reportedly under investigation by the FBI, and a Senate committee has asked him to retain all documents that could be related to its investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Stone has denied any wrongdoing, and Manafort said his work with Deripaska did not involve pushing Russian political interests—though that appears to contradict a memo he wrote to Deripaska, obtained by the AP, saying that their work could “greatly benefit the Putin Government” and “re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” A spokeswoman for president Trump said the White House could not comment.