The connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia have raised far more questions than have been answered. From Trump’s evasive rhetoric about his relationship with the autocratic leader, to the Trump campaign’s efforts to change his party’s platform to boost Putin’s position, to Trump’s antipathy towards the NATO alliance, the Republicans’ 2016 nominee is the most pro-Russia candidate Americans have seen in generations.
But perhaps most striking of all is the degree to which Trump has surrounded himself with a team of advisers, led by lobbyist Paul Manafort, whose alliances with Putin’s regime create the basis for an ongoing controversy. The latest New York Times report about Trump’s campaign chairman is a doozy.
…Mr. Manafort’s presence remains elsewhere here in the [Ukranian] capital, where government investigators examining secret records have found his name, as well as companies he sought business with, as they try to untangle a corrupt network they say was used to loot Ukrainian assets and influence elections during the administration of Mr. Manafort’s main client, former President Viktor F. Yanukovych.Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.
Manafort insisted this morning that the Times’ reporting is inaccurate.
While the questions linger, let’s note that these new allegations don’t exactly come out of the blue: Manafort’s lobbying record is well documented, including his pro-Putin work.
Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time in responding to the news. Campaign Manager Robby Mook said in a statement, “On the eve of what the Trump campaign has billed as a major foreign policy speech, we have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine. Given the pro-Putin policy stances adopted by Donald Trump and the recent Russian government hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party records, Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.”
New York magazine added, “Manafort never had to disclose exactly what he earned for his work with the Party of Regions, as he never registered with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent seeking to influence U.S. policy. It’s unclear if he should have registered; if he only helped reelect Yanukovych, it would not be necessary, but he did work to improve the president’s image in the West as well.”