Who’s Paul Manafort?

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Paul ManafortImage copyright
Reuters

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Paul Manafort resigned as chair of President Trump’s election campaign after two months

When Paul Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in March 2016, the 68-year-old political operative was a relatively minor player in Washington.

The former political consultant had worked on Republican presidential campaigns as far back as Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and for clients around the world. It was hoped his 40 years of political experience would help temper some of the chaos and controversy surrounding Mr Trump.

He advocated a more disciplined, conventional campaign, calling for scripted speeches and teleprompters over Mr Trump’s unpredictable, off-the-cuff, approach.

Mr Manafort was soon promoted to chair the campaign and oversaw the period during which Mr Trump clinched the Republican nomination.

However, he ended up falling prey to the controversy his appointment was intended to stifle. He now faces charges as part of a federal inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the campaign.

‘Silly and nonsensical’

Born in New Britain, Connecticut, on 1 April 1949, Paul Manafort took law at Georgetown University.

Other Republicans he worked for include the late President Ronald Reagan, former President George HW Bush and Bob Dole, who lost to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election.

Before he became involved in the former Soviet Union he did work for such figures as the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, the late leader of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Mobutu Sese Seko and the late Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

But on the Trump trail, it was his more recent work in Ukraine that raised questions.

While Mr Manafort was running the campaign, the Republican Party changed the language in its manifesto regarding the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian sentiment, allegedly at the behest of two Trump campaign representatives.

His tenure at the helm ended in August 2016 when he resigned after reports about his consultancy work for Ukraine’s deposed pro-Russian former President, Viktor Yanukovych, when he was in office.

The New York Times reported that the Ukrainian government had uncovered ledgers pledging more than $12m (£9.2m) in cash payments for his work as an adviser to Mr Yanukovych.

He vehemently dismissed the allegations and denied any wrongdoing. “The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly, and nonsensical,” he told NBC News.

Any political payments directed to him he said “were for my entire political team: campaign staff, polling and research, election integrity and television advertising”.

The Trump campaign did not give a reason for his departure, issuing only a standard statement wishing him well.

Since then, the controversy around Mr Manafort’s ties to Russia has continued to grow.

FBI raid

It has also been alleged that he secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to assist President Putin’s political goals in other parts of the former USSR. Mr Manafort denied the allegation.

Image copyright
AFP

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Mr Manafort was an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych (left) but denies working for Vladimir Putin (right)

In June, he retroactively registered as a foreign agent with the US justice department in relation to his consulting work between 2012 and 2014 for Mr Yanukovych’s political party in Ukraine.

He confirmed in a declaration that his firm, DMP International, had received more than $17m from the Party of the Regions.

Then, in July, Donald Trump’s son admitted to having met a Russian lawyer before the election who promised to reveal damaging material on Hillary Clinton. Mr Manafort was reportedly at that meeting.

The following month, Mr Manafort’s spokesman confirmed the FBI had conducted a pre-dawn raid on his Virginia home, seizing files and other material.

It was later reported that Mr Manafort had been wiretapped by the FBI due to concerns about his links with Moscow. The surveillance, granted under a court warrant, is said to have occurred both before and after the election.

The FBI is leading one of several investigations into alleged Russian interference in last year’s US election. Mr Manafort has handed over files to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees for their respective Russia inquiries.