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Former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort, Secretly Worked For Russian Government

Former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort, Secretly Worked For Russian Government

The Associated Press reported Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chair, 'worked in secret for a Russian billionaire' in order to 'advance the interests of Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.' According to the report, Manafort suggested various ways he could advance Russian interests including the following: "influencing politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet Republics"

For these services, Manafort signed a $10 million per year contract with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to begin in 2006. Records indicate the business relationship between Deripaska and Manafort persisted until at least 2009.

In a 2005 memo to his oligarchic employer, Manafort wrote, "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." 

Pictured: Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In an attempt to shield Trump from additional reports linking him to the Kremlin, press secretary Sean Spicer denied Trump was aware of Manafort's dealings with the Russian government. Feigning ignorance will only last so long for this White House. Trump will not be able to forever claim he is unaware of any nefarious activity between his closest associates and the Russians. 

The fact Trump's former campaign chair worked in this capacity for at least three years stands alone as sufficient cause to launch an independent investigation into the Trump campaign. Determining whether the chief executive sits atop the American political throne as a result of collusion with a foreign adversary should be the highest priority for every lawmaker and intelligence professional in the country. 

When Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s knowledge of Manafort’s dealings, Spicer asserted, “To suggest that the president knew who his clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane.” This Spicer reaction is a nonsensical denial of reality.

First, when seeking the office of President of the United States, fully vetting includes knowing the work history of senior officials, and that is not optional. Next, there is no correlation to the straw man business deal example and Trump hiring the employee of a foreign adversary. Lastly, any person who has worked in the public sector understands that extensive background checks must be completed before individuals may commence working for the institution. Contrary to the mistaken belief of White House officials, work history often extends beyond ten years. Presidential candidates owe a duty to the public to thoroughly research and investigate any potential campaign official. 

Presidential candidates do not select campaign chairs without knowing their backgrounds. Individuals chosen to head a campaign must have the candidate’s undying trust and confidence. Thus, Trump was either cognizant or should have been, of Manafort's previous dealings with the Russians. 

As mentioned abaove, Manafort entered a contractual agreement with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Manafort received tens of millions of dollars in payments from Deripaska, per this arrangement. Despite having received several payments exceeding the tens of millions, Manafort never disclosed this financial arrangement. When operating on behalf of a foreign government, citizens are required to register such work with the United States Department of Justice. As noted in the Associated Press article, Manafort's 'willful refusal to disclose is a felony' in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) enacted in 1938. 

When referencing Manafort's violation of FARA or the countless other reports of Trump and Trump officials' Russia connections, the phrase "where there's smoke there's fire," does not apply. In this situation, 'where there's fire, something's burning.' At the moment, Trump's White House and the credibility of his entire administration is ablaze. 

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Associated Press contributing writers: 
Jack Gillum, Eric Tucker, Julie Pace, Ted Bridis, Stephen Braun, Julie Bykowicz and Monika Mathur contributed to this report in Washington; Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed from Moscow and Kiev, Ukraine; and Jake Pearson contributed from New York.
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