In a revelation which “appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself,” the AP reports that ten years ago Manafort had a $10 million contract with a Russian billionaire “to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.”
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Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work
Manafort denies that his work represented Russian political interests and called the AP story a “smear campaign” in which his work was being misrepresented as “nefarious” toward the U.S.
Meanwhile, since Comey’s revelation that the FBI is investigating Trump’s links to Russia, the Trump administration has been trying to distance itself from Manafort. Earlier this week Sean Spicer claimed that Manafort only had a “limited role” in the campaign even though he ran it for five full months.