Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for Donald Trump’s presidential run, is a big part of the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
For good reason.
The man just has a lot of uncomfortable ties to the Kremlin, whether directly or indirectly.
In a new report, it is revealed that Manafort was involved in advancing Vladimir Putin’s interests, although it was a decade ago.
Manafort partnered with a Russian billionaire and crafted a political strategy for undermining anti-Russian sentiment across former Soviet republics, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reported that Manafort proposed the strategy as early as June 2005, ultimately signing a $10 million annual contract with Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska in 2006.
Manafort is solidly in the crosshairs of U.S. intelligence, as FBI Director James Comey testified Monday that Trump’s campaign and some of his associates are part of the overall probe of Russian activities in the election.
In records obtained by the AP, 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,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. “[The effort] will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
Manafort insists that there was nothing inappropriate about his activities.
“My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests,” he said, adding suggestions otherwise are part of a “smear campaign” against him.
Meanwhile, news broke yesterday that Manafort has hired a crisis management team.
Where it stands now, this is not a smoking gun, but it can be the smoke from that smoking gun, so stay tuned.