Paul Manafort: Who is he, why has he been arrested, and what links does he have to Russia?

He has lobbied for foreign agents, and worked on several top Republican campaigns

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 30 October 2017 16:04 GMT
Mr Manafort had spent decades lobbying for foreign actors with ties to Russia
Mr Manafort had spent decades lobbying for foreign actors with ties to Russia (AP)

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has turned himself into FBI headquarters on a variety of federal charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Mr Manafort was indicted under seal Friday — alongside his longtime business associate, Rick Gates, who served as his deputy during the campaign — on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Both Mr Manafort and Mr Gates, who were longtime business associates at Mr Manafort’s lobbying firm before joining the campaign, have denied financial wrongdoing in the past.

Mr Manafort started corresponding with the Donald Trump campaign in early 2016, when he reached out to Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, offering to work for free. He officially joined the campaign in March of last year, with the goal of helping the campaign to count delegates for the Republican National Committee.

He was soon promoted to campaign chairman, and was later promoted once again to the top official for the campaign after then-manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June.

He was forced to resign from that post just months later in August when Ukrainian investigators found Mr Manafort’s name listed in an off-the-books, handwritten ledger that detailed secret payments to Mr Manafort, including an alleged $12.7 million sent by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s political party Party of Regions.

Mr Manafort at the time denied wrongdoing, and said that the ledger was a forgery.

Before joining the Trump campaign, Mr Manafort had worked on several US presidential campaigns. That includes working as an adviser for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and Bob Dole.

He started a lobbyist group in the 1980s, alongside another adviser to Mr Trump, Roger Stone.

Over the next several decades, Mr Manafort took on several controversial foreign leaders as clients, including Mr Yanukovych, the former dictator of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, the then-dictator of the former Democratic Republic of the Congo Mobutu Sese Seko, and the Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi.

Of particular interest for federal investigators is Mr Manafort’s dealings with Mr Yanukovych, a politician whom the US government opposed at the time because of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. That relationship extended from 2004 until 2010.

Financial records from December 2015, certified in Cyprus, showed that Mr Manafort was approximately $17 million in debt to interests connected to Mr Putin and Mr Yanukovych just months before he joined the Trump campaign in March. That included million-dollar debts to Russian oligarchs. Mr Manafort’s spokesman has claimed that he was not indebted to those foreign actors at the time of his joining the Trump campaign.

Mr Manafort first became the subject of a federal investigation in 2014, years before joining the Trump campaign. At that time, federal investigators were looking into Mr Manafort’s work for Mr Yanukovych, and whether he had failed to register as a foreign agent in the United States during that time.

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