Donald Trump’s real opponent, the media, has foiled another pivot attempt — and this time Trump didn’t even get a chance to say something vague yet offensive. Ahead of a major foreign-policy speech on Monday, the New York Times has revealed new details about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s shady dealings in the Ukraine.
Manafort’s previous work for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has been known for some time, and it’s just one example of the campaign’s creepy and mysterious ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Yanukovych was ousted following violent protests in 2014, fled to Russia, and thanked Putin for saving his life.) Now the Times reports that Manafort’s name appears 22 times in handwritten ledgers that list undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russia political party between 2007 and 2012. It’s unclear whether Manafort ever received the payments, which total $12.7 million, but investigators from Ukraine’s new National Anti-Corruption Bureau believe the payments were part of “an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials,” according to the paper.
“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 agency said in a statement. “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.”
Manfort’s attorney said he did not recieve “any such cash payments,” and called the allegations “suspicions, and probably heavily politically tinged ones.”
Manafort never had to disclose exactly what he earned for his work with the Party of Regions, as he never registered with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent seeking to influence U.S. policy. It’s unclear if he should have registered; if he only helped reelect Yanukovych, it would not be necessary, but he did work to improve the president’s image in the West as well.
The Hillary Clinton campaign responded to the story by calling on Trump to disclose all of his employees’ “ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities.”
But the bigger news on Twitter was who promoted the Times report: None other than former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was pushed out by Manafort, but still advises Trump. In yet another interesting twist, Lewandowski tweeted out the Times story right after retweeting his former boss’s comment bashing the paper.
For fans of Trump campaign drama, Fusion’s Adam Weinstein promises this is just the tip of the iceberg:
And the week hasn’t even really started yet.