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“”What did surprise me is that he [Manafort] didn't cover his tracks a little bit better. These guys [Manafort and associates] are experts at jumping back and forth in the gray area of what's legal and what's illegal, and they've had a hand in moving the laws so far that you can get away with a great deal of legal chicanery.
|—Dylan Bank, director of the film Get Me Roger Stone|
Paul John Manafort Jr. (1949–) is an American lobbyist, political consultant and lawyer. He began his political career in 1976, working for President Gerald Ford against then-Governor Ronald Reagan on the floor of the Republican National Convention. He has since worked on nearly every Republican candidate for President, including George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
Mercenary lobbyist for dictators
By 1980, Manafort was working for Reagan, and after Reagan's victory he opened the lobbying firm "Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly" (BMSK) with principles Peter G. Kelly, Roger Stone, and Charles R. Black Jr. The firm merged in 1996 to become BKSH & Associates Worldwide. According to Stone, the firm "lined up most of the dictators in the world that we could find. Pro-western dictators, of course. Dictators are in the eye of the beholder." The firm was regarded as one of the "Torturer's Lobbies" by The Center for Public Integrity in 1992. The firm was reported to have been paid by a variety of dictators or organizations associated with dictators: $1 million by Nigeria in 1991 (Sani Abacha), $600,00 from Kenya (Daniel arap Moi), and $600,000 from UNITA (Jonas Savimbi) in 1991-1992. Other brutal dictators that the firm took money from included Zaïre's Mobutu Sese Seko, the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos. The firm also attempted but failed to obtain $1 million from Somalia's dictator Siad Barre due to his being overthrown just before the agreement was to be signed.
In Ukraine, Paul Manafort had a shadow government (a.k.a. deep state) that included a person in every ministry during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort advised the Party of Regions, a Ukrainian pro-Russian political party, whose secret ledger had designated 22 payments totalling $12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort. Manafort claimed that he never received the money. Manafort reportedly played a decisive role in getting Viktor Yanukovych of the Party of Regions elected President in 2010; Yanukovych was later driven from power after a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to Russia.
Manafort likely met Trump as early as 1980, but Stone, his partner at BMSK, did meet Trump and Roy Cohn in 1979. Trump was BMSK's first client in 1980. During 5 months of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Manafort was campaign chairman for Donald Trump, allegedly as a volunteer. It's hard to believe that after courting millions from dictators that Manafort would work for free for anyone. He in fact became furious when an employee volunteered to monitor the Nicaraguan elections on her own time.
On October 27, 2017 Manafort was indicted along with Richard W. Gates III by a federal grand jury under the direction of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller. The charges against Manafort are:
- Conspiracy Against the United States
- Conspiracy to Launder Money
- Failure To File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (4 counts)
- Failure to File as an Agent of A Foreign Principal
- False and Misleading FARA[note 1] Statements
- False Statements[note 2]
The indictment alleges among other things that under his firm Davis Manafort International (DMI), Manafort illegally lobbied for and received laundered money from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Vladimir Putin. DMI began working with Yanukovych beginning in 2004.
On February 22, 2018, additional charges were filed against Manafort and Gates. The new charges against Manafort included:
- Subscribing to False United States Individual Income Tax Returns (5 counts)
- Failure To File Reports Of Foreign Bank And Financial Accounts (4 counts)
- Bank Fraud Conspiracy (5 counts)
- Bank Fraud (4 counts)
Additional details of Manafort's alleged financial misdeeds were also filed on the same day in a separate court. On August 2018, Manafort was found guilty of eight of these charges while a mistrial was declared on the remaining ten.
On June 8, 2018, Manafort was additionally charged with two counts of obstruction of justice over accusations of witness tampering while he was out on bail for the other charges. On June 15, Manafort's bail was revoked and he was taken to jail.
In July 2018, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III presented over 500 pieces of evidence against Manafort and 300 charges against him, none of which involve collusion or conspiring with Russia to hack emails so far.
Manafort was convicted in his first trial on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud charges with mistrials on 10 other charges in August 2018.
As part of a plea agreement to avoid a second trial, on September 14, 2018, Manafort plead guilty to two criminal charges, that he cheated the IRS and that he violated foreign lobbying laws. As part of the agreement, Manafort also agreed to fully cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
Hacked and leaked texts
In 2017 a hacker released a trove of phone texts that were allegedly from his daughter, Andrea Manafort Shand. Manafort confirmed that he had been blackmailed over the texts before they were released. Manafort also confirmed that his daughter had been hacked and the authenticity of at least some of the texts. The texts, if authentic, include some highly incriminating statements:
“”Don't fool yourself. That money we have is blood money. You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly. As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people out and get them slaughtered.
|—From Andrea Manafort Shand to her sister Jessica Manafort|
“”He [Paul Manafort] is cash poor right now. And now Ukraine is late in paying him.
|—Andrea Manafort Shand to a friend|
“”He is a sick fucking tyrant. And we keep showing up and dancing for him. … We just keep showing up and eating the lobster. Nothing changes.
|—Andrea Manafort Shand to Collin Bond, her cousin and former-employee of Paul Manafort|
“”My dad loves challenges and this is like a chess game. He got a mistress because he was bored. Trump is his new mistress.
|—Andrea Manafort Shand to a friend|
Check… and mate!
- Documents detailing Paul Manafort's work in Ukraine — evidence submitted at Manafort's July 2018 trial
- "Get Me Roger Stone" filmmakers surprised Paul Manafort didn't cover his tracks better (Oct 31, 2017 1:17 PM EDT) CBS News.
- Paul Manafort: how decades of serving dictators led to role as Trump's go-to guy: A multimillion-dollar spending spree, allegedly using funds from the former Soviet bloc, appears to have caught up with Trump’s one-time campaign chief by Tom McCarthy (30 October 2017 14.29 EDT) The Guardian.
- The Torturers' Lobby: How Human Rights-Abusing Nations Are Represented in Washington by Pamela Brogan (1992) Center for Public Integrity. ISBN Center for Public Integrity.
- I worked for Paul Manafort. He always lacked a moral compass. by K. Riva Levinson (November 1, 2017). The Washington Post.
- Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff & David Corn (2018) Twelve. ISBN 1538728753.
- The Plot Against America: Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington. by Franklin Foer (March 2018) The Atlantic.
- Ledger reveals Trump's campaign chief was earmarked $12.7M from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine by Natasha Bertrand (Aug. 15, 2016, 7:08 AM) Business Insider.
- John McCain Reportedly Knew About Paul Manafort’s Russia Ties In 2008, Refused To Let Him Manage RNC. Inquisitr. August 26, 2018.
- A Timeline of Paul Manafort’s Relationship with Donald Trump: They've known each other since the 1980s. by Kate Brannen (Oct. 30 2017 1:54 PM) Slate.
- The charges against Paul Manafort – full text of indictment: Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and his ex-business associate Rick Gates have been charges with a number of offences including money laundering (30 October 2017 10.05 EDT) The Guardian.
- United States of Amercia v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates III (October 27, 2017) United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
- United States of Amercia v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates III Crim. No. 17-201 (ABJ/DAR) (October 31, 2017) United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
- The Law of Lying: Perjury, False Statements, and Obstruction (The Russia Connection) by Helen Klein Murillo (March 22, 2017, 9:30 AM) Lawfare.
- Manafort's 'lavish lifestyle' laundered illicit cash through property loans – and Airbnb: The indictment unsealed on Monday details a scheme to turn ill-gotten Ukrainian money into American property that was then mortgaged for millions by Dominic Rushe (30 October 2017 13.04 EDT) The Guardian.
- United States of America v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates III Criminal No 1:18 Cr. 83 (TSE)(S-1). In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division
- United States of America v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. Defendant CRIMINAL NO. 17-201 (ABJ)(S-3) (18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 371, 981( a) (1)(C), 982, 1001(a), 1956(h), and 3551 et seq.; 22 U.S.C. §§ 612,618(a)(1), and 618(a)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 2461(c)). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
- Manafort Found Guilty on Eight Counts. Politico. August 21, 2018.
- Defendant Paul J. Manafort, Jr.'s Opposition To The Special Counsel's Motion to Revoke or Revise the Current Order Of Pretrial Release United States Of America V. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., And Konstantin Kilimnik, defendants. Case 1:17-cr-00201-ABJ Document 319 Filed 06/08/18.
- Judge Orders Paul Manafort Jailed Before Trial, Citing New Obstruction Charges by Sharon LaFraniere (June 15, 2018) The New York Times.
- "Mueller releases list of more than 500 pieces of evidence against Manafort," John Bowden, The Hill.
- Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others by Matt Zapotosky et al. (August 21, 2018 at 7:48 PM) The Washington Post.
- Manafort will cooperate with Mueller as part of guilty plea, prosecutor says by Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett & Justin Jouvenal (September 14 at 12:53 PM) The Washington Post.
- Manafort faced blackmail attempt, hacks suggest: Stolen texts appear to show threats to expose relations among Russia-friendly forces, Trump and his former campaign chairman. by Kenneth P. Vogel, David Stern & Josh Meyer (02/23/2017 05:09 AM EST) Politico.
- Paul Manafort's Daughter Texted Friends About How Tight Her Dad Was With Trump: "Him and Trump are perfect allies." by Ashley Feinberg (0/31/2017 01:41 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2017) Huffington Post.
- Manafort's Ukrainian ‘blood money’ caused qualms, hack suggests: Trump, Yanukovych work concerned the family of Trump’s former campaign chairman, texts appear to show. by Kenneth P. Vogel, David Stern & Josh Meyer (02/28/2017 05:27 AM EST) Politico.
- Hacked text messages allegedly sent by Paul Manafort's daughter discuss 'blood money' and killings, and a Ukrainian lawyer wants him to explain by Natasha Bertrand (Mar. 21, 2017, 3:58 PM) Business Insider.