The hasty departure of Donald Trump’s campaign manager comes after weeks of speculation about Manafort and Trump’s shared interest in closer ties to Russia. Manafort worked for five years in Ukraine, succeeding in getting the pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych elected as president, before the Ukrainian people sent Yanukovych running to Russia two years later. Donald Trump’s statements of admiration for Putin didn’t start when he brought Manafort on board, but having the former operative for the now outlawed Party of Regions inside the Trump campaign certainly put a new spin on Trump’s calls to weaken NATO and abandon NATO partners, the campaign’s intervention to drop-language from the RNC platform that objected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the suggestion that a Trump administration would not only work more closely with Russia, but reward them by legitimizing their occupation of Crimea.
However, despite Donald Trump’s insistence that he only hires the “best people” and his promise of “extreme vetting” for immigrants, it appears that he failed to apply the same questions about supporting “American values” when it came to his interviews with his erstwhile campaign manager.
Because if some of the charges now being levied against Paul Manafort turn out to be true, he’s done more than just accept cash under the table. More even than trying to subvert laws against foreign lobbying. Manafort may have stepped over a very bright line.
“We had rocks thrown at us. Rocks hit Marines. Buses were rocked back and forth. We were just trying to get to our base.” …
The Marines ended up hemmed in by angry locals in Feodosia, a Ukrainian resort city on the Black Sea. ... The Americans couldn’t go outside; they couldn’t reach their supply ship in the town’s port. Some protesters wielded what Col. Bill Black, the Marines’ commanding officer, jokingly called “Ukrainian cocktails” — plastic bottles filled with diesel fuel.
The riot that put American Marines in danger and forced cancellation of a NATO military exercise may have been somewhat less than spontaneous. It may have been bought and paid for by Paul Manafort.
A decade later, the aborted exercise is arousing new interest: American diplomatic cables and Ukrainian prosecutors say the anti-US, anti-NATO protests that threatened these Marines were largely partisan plants, organized by politicians who consulted with Paul Manafort, now the prominent campaign aide to presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Manafort’s staged riots did more than force the cancellation of a NATO exercise. They also served as an excuse for Vladimir Putin when his forces invaded Ukraine and captured Crimea in 2014. Similar disturbances were also a key part of how Yanukovych came to win the presidency in a divided, unsettled Ukraine.
But it’s not just his actions in Ukraine that have Manafort in trouble, there’s also his actions in the United States.
Donald Trump's campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires persons acting as agents of foreign governments or political organizations to disclose their relationships and describe their activities and funding. Manafort failed on every point.
… FARA is very lightly enforced. There are various ways to tiptoe around it. Various scenarios are arguably ambiguous. But just based on the evidence before us what Manafort was doing was not ambiguous. It's textbook. And I know from people who've played in the same waters that the fact that he hadn't filed had raised eyebrows long before he had any public association with Trump.
All of this is in addition to the $12.7 million in off-the-books payments to Manafort that showed up on Yanukovych’s shadow ledger, but which Manafort continues to deny.
- Hiding millions in income.
- Secretly acting as an agent for a foreign government and funneling money to US lobbyists.
- Staging riots that put US Marines in peril, interfered with US military activity, and threatened US policy overseas.
If Paul Manafort is planning a trip to Moscow, he better go quickly.