Paul Manafort, who worked as President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an explosive report by Associated Press, published Wednesday.
In a confidential strategy plan in 2005, AP reports, Manafort proposed to influence politics, business dealings and news coverage in the U.S., Europe and the ex-Soviet republics to advance the interests of the Putin government at a time when the U.S.-Russia relations were deteriorating. The new alleged information contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.
Putin ally and Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska signed Manafort for a contract that paid him $10 million on an annual basis, the AP reports citing “one person familiar with the work.” Allegedly the duo worked together until at least 2009.
“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, according to the AP.
“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort told the AP in a statement. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”
Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August of 2016, days after Trump shook up his campaign staff by naming then-Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon CEO of his campaign. Pollster and GOP campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway was promoted to campaign manager at the time.
Manafort was initially expected to remain campaign chairman and chief strategist, but many political pundits correctly declared Bannon’s arrival as the beginning of the end for Manafort.
The Bannon-Conway led campaign was successful, with Trump going on to upset Hillary Clinton on Election Day.
FBI director James Comey confirmed for the first time on Monday that his bureau is “investigating the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.”
Manafort was the second person to run the Trump campaign, taking over after Corey Lewandowski was fired.