AP findings on Trump associate’s work for Russian oligarch
WASHINGTON (AP) — Here are findings from The Associated Press’ reporting on U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s work for a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
WHAT DID THE AP FIND?
Manafort secretly worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2005 and proposed an ambitious plan to promote the interests of “the Putin Government” and undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics. The plan was to mirror lobbying and political consulting work that Manafort was already conducting in Ukraine at the time.
“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, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
After Manafort proposed the work, he signed a $10 million contract with Deripaska beginning in 2006. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009. How much work Manafort performed under the contract is unclear.
Deripaska became one of Russia’s wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit Kremlin interests. U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.”
WHAT SUPPORTS THE FINDINGS?
The AP’s reporting was based on interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and confidential business records it obtained that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars.
WHAT MANAFORT SAYS
In statements to the AP, Manafort confirmed he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as “inappropriate or nefarious” as part of a “smear campaign.” He said he had not sought to hide the work.
“My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests,” he wrote, pledging to defend the propriety of his work.
“I look forward to meeting with those conducting serious investigations of these issues to discuss the actual facts,” he wrote.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS
When asked Wednesday about Manafort’s work for Deripaska, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed that Manafort’s work for Deripaska long-preceded his stint as Trump’s campaign chairman.
“The report is entirely focused on actions that Paul took a decade ago,” Spicer said. He said the AP’s story did not demonstrate that Manafort had done anything improper, but that “the president was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade.”
Spicer also objected to the attention Manafort is receiving, citing alleged links between the family of Hillary Clinton and Russian interests.
“The Clintons have much more extensive ties,” he said.
WHAT THE DEMOCRATS SAY
Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees said the new revelations will feature in the congressional investigations. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said on MSNBC on Wednesday that Manafort should appear before the committee, and he raised the specter of a subpoena should Manafort not appear on his own.
“The dots continue to connect around Paul Manafort and his ties to Russia. And we are seeing that it’s not just the deep personal/political financial ties that Donald Trump and his team has with Russia,” Swalwell said. “We want to now know, did these ties extend to helping Russia during the interference campaign?”
Another member of the intelligence committee, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said the disclosure “undermines the groundless assertions that the administration has been making that there are no ties between President Trump and Russia. This is not a drip, drip, drip” situation, she said. “This is now dam-breaking with water flushing out with all kinds of entanglements.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who serves on the Senate intelligence committee, said, “Any financial connections between Russia and Trump associates need to be thoroughly investigated.”
WHAT REPUBLICANS SAY
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a frequent Trump critic, called the disclosures about payments to Manafort from the Russian billionaire “very disturbing if true.”
“That’s basically taking money to stop the spread of democracy, and that would be very disturbing to me,” he said Wednesday on Capitol Hill.