Paul Manafort — campaign manager for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — strenuously denied a report from the New York Times that he received millions of dollars in cash from Putin-loyal political actors in Ukraine.
On Monday, Politico said that Manafort called the reports of his ties to the now-deposed regime “unfounded, silly and nonsensical.”
“Once again, the New York Times has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda, choosing to attack my character and reputation rather than present an honest report,” Manafort said in a statement. “The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly and nonsensical.”
The Times reported on Sunday that an anti-corruption investigation in Ukraine found that Manafort had extensive financial and personal ties to the regime of pro-Russian Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovych.
Ukraine has struggled to maintain its independence from Russia since the fall of the Soviet Empire. Last year, Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, a Ukraine territory, setting off alarm bells around the world.
Under Yanukovch’s Party of Regions, the Ukraine treasury was drained into the bank accounts of the Putin-supporting president and his cronies, who ran the country from 2005 to 2012. The Times article detailed the elaborate constellation of shell companies and money laundering operations the Yanukovych regime used to hide the pilfered funds.
Ukraine founded its National Anti-Corruption Bureau in the wake of the Yanukovych regime and found that his political party worked like a crime syndicate with a special room at party headquarters in Kiev with “two safes stuffed with $100 bills.” This room was where party allies were given “wads of cash,” transactions which are reportedly detailed in off-the-books “black ledgers.” Manafort’s name appears in the ledgers a number of times, which list him as a recipient of cash payments totaling $12.7 million.
The Times also noted that while working as a consultant for Yanukovych, Manafort should have registered with the U.S. government as an agent working to influence American policy on behalf of foreign clients. He did not.
“My work in Ukraine ceased following the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2014,” Manafort said, according to Politico. “In addition, as the article points out hesitantly, every government official interviewed states I have done nothing wrong.”
Robby Mook, campaign manager to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said in a statement, “Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them.”
Ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski retweeted the New York Times story on Sunday, prompting internet watchers to speculate that Lewandowski is trying to undermine his successor at the helm of the embattled campaign.
Questions about Trump’s ties to Russia and Putin have dogged the campaign since Russian hackers attacked servers at the Democratic National Committee and released the information online. Since then, some have speculated that the reason Trump will not release his tax returns is that he would be exposed as owing large amounts of money to Russian oligarchs and other foreign lenders.
After his multiple bankruptcies and loan defaults, Trump has been blackballed by every major bank operating in the U.S. except Deutsche Bank. This has led to speculation by many that he is not only able to fund his projects through lavish loans by Russian oligarchs and other foreign sources of capital.
Mother Jones said earlier this summer that this would place Trump in a unique position as a president, should he win the election. The amounts he owes to foreign powers could sway his policy decisions regarding those lenders’ countries, a situation never previously faced by a U.S. president.