Paul Manafort, the man who took the reins of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign following Corey Lewandowski’s ousting, is having a tough time. Between attacking the media and leaking campaign announcements, you’d think the full-time political consultant was a novice. You’d be wrong, for Manafort’s been at this game for quite some time, and not just in American politics. Before trying to lead the Republican nominee to victory, his firm advised former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, whose corrupt, pro-Russian government fell in 2014. What’s more, the New York Times has seen the juicy, handwritten “secret ledger” that links Manafort to a significant amount of undisclosed money.
Manafort’s connections to the Ukraine (and Russia) aren’t new. However, considering his boss’ frequent positive references to Vladimir Putin, and whether or not Russia’s intelligence agencies had a hand in the DNC email leaks, these ties beg further scrutiny. Especially since a page from the so-called “black ledger” reveals Manafort’s name at least 22 times, with cash payments ascribed to him (or his firm) totaling $12.7 million.
In a statement by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, investigators stressed that Manafort’s name popping up in the documents wasn’t concrete:
“Paul Manafort is among those names on the list of so-called ‘black accounts of the Party of Regions,’ which the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine are investigating,” the statement said. “We emphasize that the presence of P. Manafort’s name in the list does not mean that he actually got the money, because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people.”
Unsurprisingly, Manafort didn’t respond to the paper’s request for comment. Instead his lawyer, Richard Hibey, provided the NYT with a series of denials that, like his client’s recent sit-down with CNN, suggested the ledger story was “politically tinged”:
“These are suspicions, and probably heavily politically tinged ones,” said Mr. Hibey, a member of the Washington law firm Miller & Chevalier. “It is difficult to respect any kind of allegation of the sort being made here to smear someone when there is no proof and we deny there ever could be such proof.”
What was surprising, however, was Lewandowski’s decision to tweet out a link to the NYT article Sunday night:
Since his firing, the Trump surrogate took the rather surprising step of joining CNN’s ranks as a regular contributor. His spirited defense of his former boss is never without controversy, but tweeting criticism of his successor? That’s new.
For Manifort’s part, he has classified this report as “unfounded, silly, and nonsensical.” He said, “Once again The New York Times has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda, choosing to attack my character and reputation rather than present an honest report.”