Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, secretly worked a decade ago to help Russian President Vladmir Putin at the behest of a Russian billionaire, The Associated Press reported Friday.
The Trump administration and Manafort himself have denied that he previously worked for Russian interests, but documents and interviews obtained by the AP appeared to contradict that claim.
Manafort, a lobbyist and political consultant, worked for the Trump campaign from March to August 2016. He resigned after an AP report revealed he had coordinated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russia political party until 2014.
Here are five things to know about the latest allegations:
In a confidential strategy plan obtained by the AP, Manafort pitched a plan to Russian aluminum magnate and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska aimed at influencing “politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.”
The plan existed as early as June 2005, the wire service reported.
"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 obtained by the AP. Manafort wrote that the effort "will be offering a great service that can refocus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska in 2006, but it was unclear how much work he did under that contact, according to the AP.
A person familiar with the work that Manafort did for Deripaska told the AP that the two maintained a business relationship until at least 2009.
A spokesman for Deripaska declined to answer questions from the AP.
Manafort denied that his work for Deripaska was “inappropriate or nefarious” in a statement released 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 wire service. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.”
The report comes as the Trump administration deals with increased scrutiny of its ties with Russia. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday, FBI director James Comey confirmed that authorities are investigating whether Trump associates and Russian officials worked together to influence the November presidential election in Trump’s favor.
“The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey said, according to The New York Times.
Comey declined to say whether Manafort was a target of the investigation.
The situation could prove criminal if authorities determine that Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The act requires lobbyists who work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments and leaders to report to the Justice Department about their actions.
Manafort did not disclose his pro-Putin work to the Justice Department, according to the AP.
Failure to register as a foreign agent is a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
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