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Trump campaign chief linked to Putin interests

White House press secretary Sean Spicer derided the Associated Press report about Paul Manafort’s work for a Russian billionaire in 2005.

The Associated Press reports Wednesday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, had a previously undisclosed lobbying contract meant to benefit the government of President Vladimir Putin. In 2005, Manafort pitched Deripaska on an audacious plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government”.

Mr Manafort, who helped Mr Trump secure the Republican nomination, previously acted as a public relations adviser to Mr Yanukovych – now living in self-imposed exile in Russian Federation – and his Regions Party between 2007 and 2012.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire with close ties to Putin specifically on projects that would improve Putin’s reputation in the United States.

Manafort was known to route financial transactions through Cyprus, according to records of worldwide wire transfers obtained by the AP and public court documents filed in a 2014 legal dispute in the Cayman Islands with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

In a statement, Mr Manafort confirmed that he worked for Mr Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as “inappropriate or nefarious” as part of a “smear campaign”. He added, “The report is entirely focused on actions that Paul took a decade ago”.

He resigned from his role as campaign chairman after it emerged a year ago that he had worked as a covert Washington lobbyist for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

It appears today that the USA government is headed by a team with no regard for the interests of the American people, but with plenty of regard for those of a foreign adversary. Mr Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Mr Trump by telephone.

Before he was brought aboard the Trump campaign, Manafort was well known for having served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was close to Putin and fled to Russian Federation after he was ousted in the 2014 political crisis.

By the time the July convention rolled around, though, Manafort had the title of campaign chairman and a mile-long job description that included strategy, polling, political operations, media, communications strategy, budgeting, scheduling, vice presidential vetting and debate negotiations. Deripaska said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska’s queries about how the funds had been used.

It’s not easy to keep up with the ongoing soap opera of allegations, denials, leaks and that compose the Trump-Russia mess.

AP claims Manafort and Deripaska, “a close Putin ally”, entered into a $10 million annual contract and that their work together continued until at least 2009, according to multiple interviews “and business records obtained by the AP”.

Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.

Highly successful as a lobbyist, Manafort has also had business and film interests.

His name was mentioned 28 times during the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, mostly about his work in Ukraine but no-one mentioned Mr Deripaska. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the committee, told CNN’s Erin Burnett Tuesday that “we’re going to need to bring (Manafort) in” to discuss connections between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

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