A shocking report from the Associated Press has revealed that Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire in defense of the Kremlin’s interests. He also faces new allegations about his alleged ties to former Ukrainian pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Ukrainian congressman Sergii Leshchenko claims that a document found in a safe in Kiev could be evidence that Manafort tried to hide the payments that Yanukovych’s party made to him, CNN reports. Manafort wrote a strategic plan in 2005 that said “it can greatly benefit the government of (Vladimir) Putin.” At that time, with the Republican President George W. Bush in the White House, the relationship between the United States and Russia was worse.
The AP report stated that Manafort’s plan was to influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage in the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey officially acknowledged for the first time, before Congress, that they were investigating possible cooperation between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials during the last U.S. presidential election. In August of 2016, Manafort resigned after he became the center of debate over his past lobbying work for pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs — which was fundamentally at odds with Trump’s boasts about being free from moneyed interests — and for the sloppy nature of the Republican National Convention, Poltico wrote.
Manafort reportedly also had an agreement with Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, an ally close to Putin. Manafort signed an annual contract of $10 million as of 2006 and maintained the business relationship until at least 2009. The work was described in interviews with people familiar with the matter and in confidential business records obtained by the AP.
“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 in the 2005 report to Deripaska.
The effort, he added, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
Furthermore, CNN claims that Ukrainian lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko showed the publication a six-page document that apparently has Manafort’s signature on a contract and invoice for 501 units of various computer equipment for a payment of $750,000. As of the time of this report, CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the document. Manafort released a statement via a spokesman saying he doesn’t recognize the writing and that the signature that appears there is not his.
“This is a payment of $750,000 that dates from October 14, 2009,” Leschchenko told reporters.
The payment, according to the same source, was made through an account in Kyrgyzstan (Central Asia) on behalf of an offshore company based in Belize (Central America) and officially corresponds, as stipulated in the contract, to the delivery of 501 computers by Manafort.
The date of the invoice and the $750,000 listed therein coincide with the details recorded in the ledgers, which were first reported in the New York Times and attributed to Yanukovych’s party, listing the series of secret payments that are now under investigation.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the Yanukovych government between 2007 and 2012 transferred a total of $12.7 million to Manafort, although it is unknown whether he actually received this amount. Leshchenko alleges that the computer contract created “the legal basis” for Manafort to “dispose of the money.”
Ukrainian President Yanukovych was ousted in February of 2014 during the Maidan revolution and fled to Russia, where he now resides. He is currently in exile in Russia, and the Ukrainian justice accuses him of high treason.
At the time, prosecutors said Manafort must have realized the implications of his financial dealings.
“He understood what was happening in Ukraine,” said Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.”
Mr. Kasko added, “It’s impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, ‘Everything is all right.'”
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]