Trump Team Rushes to Defend and Cover Paul Manafort From Scrutiny

Donald Trump strategist Paul J. Manafort, left, chats with former presidential candidate Ben Carson as they head to a Trump for president reception at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Because the crooked stick together.

Snitches get stitches, ya’ll.

Donald Trump’s campaign defended its embattled chairman, Paul Manafort, on Tuesday, pushing back against reports that the former consultant had received secret cash payments from a deposed Ukrainian leader with close ties to the Kremlin — while being careful to distance Manafort from any possible wrongdoing by the candidate himself.

Manafort’s connections to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine, won’t hurt Trump’s campaign, vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said Tuesday, because “he’s not running for president.”

No, Manafort isn’t running for president. He’s just the shadowy figure behind the candidate, who’s pulling the strings.

To the point: If those who are in the inner circle of a presidential campaign have no influence on the candidate, then there’s no reason for them to be there. What we know, however, is that that’s not how it works. As undisciplined as Trump is, those he has chosen to work the closest with, like Manafort, do have an influence on him.

The question now becomes, who has an influence on Manafort?

A New York Times report published on Sunday detailed secret ledgers discovered in Ukraine showing more than $12 million earmarked for Manafort, who was a consultant for the Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party before joining the Manhattan billionaire’s campaign. Manafort denied that he ever received the cash payments outlined in the ledger and attacked the story as part of the newspaper’s “political agenda.”

The Times report raised new questions about Trump’s foreign policy rhetoric toward Moscow, which often departs sharply from Republican orthodoxy and from that of previous GOP presidential nominees. Trump has lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin and said that he might be willing to officially recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea; his critics have also alleged that the Trump campaign softened a portion of the GOP platform that originally called for arming the Ukrainian government with lethal weaponry.

Trump has also broached the subject of pulling out of NATO – something that has caused a bit of a stir among traditional Republican thinkers.

All of this could likely be just Trump’s vast well of inexperience talking, but when you add what we know about Manafort and his connections to the mix, it becomes a bit more complicated, in terms of extricating those ties from the equation.

Pence went on to point out Hillary Clinton’s latest revelations of crooked dealings:

“What’s hard for me to understand is how, a week ago, documented information came out to demonstrate that wealthy foreign donors who made major contributions to the Clinton Foundation, who were apparently then gained access to the State Department has gotten such little attention,” he said. “I think it would be very important that the public have the ability to know and understand the extent to which this ultimately was a pay-to-play arrangement.”

And Hillary is corrupt beyond measure. Nobody is denying that. However, Trump is not content to sit back and let Clinton hang herself. Whenever there is something that could potentially sink his opponent, he rushes to save her, by saying or doing something outrageous and inappropriate.

I hope someone is keeping a running tally on how many incidents of corruption or gaffes can be revealed from either side, so we can compare them in generations to come. Maybe our grandchildren can figure out what went wrong in 2016.