Elections

AP: Trump Campaign Chair Helped Pro-Russian Ukraine Secretly Influence US Policy

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Republican nominee Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort helped a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine secretly funnel millions of dollars to Washington, D.C., lobbyists, reports The Associated Press in another spotlight on Manafort’s shady dealings abroad.

Manafort and top Trump strategist Rick Gates helped the ruling party route at least $2.2 million to two D.C. lobbying firms in 2012. They did it in a way that hid the party’s effort to influence U.S. policy, the AP reports, based on multiple sources with direct knowledge of the work. U.S. law requires lobbyists to publicly disclose work on behalf of foreign leaders or political parties, and to report on the work in detail to the Department of Justice.

The report comes on the heels of another story on Manafort’s work consulting for the pro-Russian ruling party from The New York Times, which recently reported Manafort is listed in a secret ledger of the party to receive $12.5 million in undisclosed cash payments. The news, along with declining poll numbers for Trump in key battleground states and a series of comments deemed gaffes, has led to what has been called a crisis point for the Trump campaign.

In a shakeup viewed as a demotion of Manafort, Trump hired Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon as his campaign CEO Wednesday. He promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager.

Manafort has also lobbied on behalf of an organization in the 1990s that was later found to be a spy front for Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI. He was a registered lobbyist for the Kashmiri American Council — a group operating as an independent lobbying effort by U.S. citizens to advocate on behalf of the Kashmiri people that the Justice Department found was illegally financed by the ISI.

Patrick Poole reported extensively on the spy front in 2012 at PJ Media. The story has obviously taken on new relevance as Manafort’s business ties come under the microscope in his prominent role working for Trump.

Gates told the AP the work was lawful, and neither he nor Manafort tried to get around U.S. lobbying laws. Manafort did not comment, but approved Gates’ answer, according to the AP.

Trump is under increasing scrutiny for perceived overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin and accusations of support for Russia. In response, the Trump campaign sent an email to reporters Monday night outlining Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ties with Russia, including her work fighting for American investment in a Russian city from which companies had donated money to the Clinton Foundation.

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