Former Campaign Manager Advising Chinese Contractors On Scoring Slice of Trump Infrastructure Plans

FILE - In this July 17, 2016 file photo, Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland as Rick Gates listens at back left. Emails obtained by The Associated Press shed new light on the activities of a firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. They show it directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government. Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Make America great again – by giving prime contracts to Chinese firms, it appears.

Ok. It’s not a done deal, yet, but we can talk about this.

Former Trump campaign manager and alleged Russian mob fixer, Paul Manafort, is advising a Chinese billionaire on how to win contracts to get a hunk of the $1 trillion infrastructure boondoggle the president is planning.

From the Financial Times:

Mr Manafort met Yan Jiehe, the billionaire founder of Pacific Construction Group, in Shanghai last Tuesday. Ahead of the meeting, Mr Yan told the Financial Times that Mr Manafort — who has represented leaders from the Philippines to Angola to Ukraine — would help him navigate what is expected to eventually be a US infrastructure boom.

Speaking in a conference room decorated with Chinese classical paintings and overlooking Shanghai’s financial district, Mr Yan pointed to a US map, as he outlined his ambition to win infrastructure deals in the world’s largest economy. “The map that we’ve hung up here is for Trump’s special envoy, Paul,” Mr Yan said.

Trump’s special envoy.

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, pretty much gave the runaround in his statements, first denying Manafort was in China on business, then saying it was for business, but not infrastructure business.

So which is it, and how did Mr. Yan get the idea that Manafort was Trump’s envoy?

Said Maloni:

“The Pacific Construction Group was an impromptu meeting added to Mr Manafort’s schedule at their request because the Chinese are interested in US infrastructure,” said Mr Maloni. “However, his work does not involve any current or future infrastructure projects or contracts in the United States. As he has said before, he is not engaged in government affairs or lobbying for corporations, governments or individuals.”

The Pacific Construction Group is apparently quite successful in China, as the largest privately owned conglomerate. In the global Fortune 500 rank, it came in at 156 last year.

“I will not seek out Trump. He will seek me out. In the entire world, I am definitely the most ideal privately owned unit to invest in construction. In the whole world, there’s not another company equal to Pacific Construction,” said Mr Yan.

Mr Yan said Chinese construction workers were “the highest quality in the world” but argued that only his company had a chance of winning projects in the US because it was privately held. “America won’t welcome a state-owned [construction contractor]. It needs to be a private enterprise,” said Mr Yan.

I’m still curious about Manafort’s involvement, however.

Manafort is under investigation now for his connections to Russia, while he was serving as Trump’s campaign manager.

His uncomfortable ties go further back than that, actually.

He left Trump’s campaign after six months, to be replaced by the guy who calls himself a “Leninist,” Steve Bannon.

The White House has gone on to say Manafort had only a minor role in Trump’s campaign.

But back to China…

A guest list for the meeting provided by a Pacific Construction employee identified Mr Manafort as former campaign manager for Mr Trump and “director of the Trump family office”.

Either they’ve got it really wrong, or there’s something we’re not being told about Manafort and his remaining connections to Trump.