Sean Spicer retreats on Manafort: 'Inappropriate to comment on a person who is not a White House employee'
Paul Manafort (YouTube)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to comment on Wednesday after news broke that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had once pushed a plan that was meant to "greatly benefit the Putin Government."

The Associated Press reported this week that Manafort had secretly signed a $10 million contract with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to advance Putin's agenda beginning in 2006.

"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 a 2005 memo to Deripaska, adding that the plan would "re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."

The new report contradicts claims made by Trump that Manafort had not worked on behalf of Russian interests.

NBC's Peter Alexander found that the White House was unusually tight-lipped when he asked Spicer for a comment on Wednesday.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment on a person who is not a White House employee," the press secretary insisted.

Earlier this week, Spicer downplayed the five months Manafort spent running Trump's campaign, calling him someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time."