Paul Manafort Dealings With Russia

Former Trump Aides Tied With Firm That Wanted To Help Putin Spy On Russian Citizens

Two former aides of Donald Trump have been linked to a firm that tried to help the Russian government spy on its own citizens, the NY Post is reporting.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates had connections to New York-based firm EyeLock, a self-acclaimed leader in biometric technology and provider of iris-based identity products and solutions. According to the company, their services are ideal for high traffic environments like stadiums, theme parks, transportation routes and border control points.

Both men were part of the team that made a pitch to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin after he expressed an interest in expanding the nation’s spying program. According to a source, the Russians wanted to use “iris-reading” technology in their subway stations to scan riders’ eyes and smoke out anyone on their watch lists. The company would have helped the Russian government set up the iris-scanning machines in all metro stations.

EyeLock did not win the contract, but the ties of Trump’s former aides to Putin have raised troubling questions about the Republican Party presidential candidate and how deep his business goes with the former Soviet Union. A former official to the White House said a business relationship like that could only prove harmful to the interests of the United States.

“This is quite an unusual business relationship for senior presidential campaign staff members to have with a foreign government…it raises a lot of questions about national security and what should have been publicly disclosed to get a better handle on ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

Donald Trump’s attempt to pivot and downplay any dealings his business might have with the Russian government have fallen short, after he showed open admiration for Putin alleging that he was a better leader than President Obama.

Trump also came under criticism in July when he encouraged Russia to locate the 30,000 emails that had been deleted by his political rival, Hillary Clinton. He later claimed that he was joking around and was never serious about what he said.

In 2006, Manafort invested over $1 million in the company and had about a 10 percent stake in the business. His stake reduced to one percent after EyeLock was acquired by Voxx International.
Gates was hired by the company as an independent contractor to help expand the frontiers of the business into the Middle East, particularly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

A source said that Gates worked for Manafort’s consulting company, David Manafort & Freeman in Ukraine; both men were instrumental in the election of Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Putin president. There are reports that alleged that they were also involved in clandestine lobbying efforts in the United States involving millions of dollars.

Both men were active in the Trump campaign camp and could not distance themselves from the controversy of having ties to Ukraine’s pro-Putin government. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August, Gates stepped down from his post in September. Presently, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating if Manafort’s consulting company illicitly assisted Yanukovich’s regime, using assets from the U.S. financial system.

Experts have said it makes sense that Russia’s Federal Security Service was accepting bids to infiltrate Moscow’s metro system. Steve Hall, a former C.I.A. agent, revealed that other countries were already using the technology and Russia was looking at having that capability as well. He said the covert iris-technology would have made it possible to track everyone through metro custom checkpoints including U.S. diplomats and journalists.

“If the Russian metro officials suspected anything difficult or problematic, they would call the FSB…it was more surveillance, hit a black-list database.”

Gates has said he was only involved to help sanction contracts with the American government and had no dealings with Russia. Manafort has also denied delving deep into any dealings with Russia, revealing through a spokesman he was only a minority stakeholder with no operational role in the company’s business.

“Mr. Manafort has a .03% indirect interest in EyeLock LLC…the notion that small, indirect interest would give Mr. Manafort a financial incentive to attempt to act on behalf of EyeLock is preposterous.”

[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]