Trump campaign chairman helped
pro-Russians in Ukraine move money to U.S. firms: AP
Send a link to a friend
[August 18, 2016]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul
Manafort, helped a Ukrainian political party with close ties to Russia
secretly move at least $2.2 million to two major Washington lobbying
firms, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
The AP, citing sources with direct knowledge of the effort, said the
transfers were set up in ways to obscure the Ukrainian party's attempts
to sway U.S. policies, using a nonprofit organization to distance funds
from Ukrainian politicians.
U.S. law requires American lobbyists to register and report in detail
any ties to foreign political parties or leaders to the U.S. Justice
The heads of both firms - Podesta Group Inc and Mercury LLC - told the
AP they had concluded their work did not merit disclosure to the
department, according to the report.
Representatives for Trump and Mercury did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
Podesta Group Chief Executive Officer Kimberley Fritts said its lawyers
worked with those at Mercury to determine that registering under the
Foreign Agent Registration Act was unnecessary. It also obtained a
statement from the nonprofit in question saying it was not directly or
indirectly involved with a foreign entity, she said in an emailed
The Podesta Group was founded in 1987 by Tony Podesta and his brother
John, who now is campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate
Hillary Clinton. John Podesta has not been with the firm for several
years, but his brother is its chairman.
The AP report comes less than three months before the Nov. 8 election
and as polls show Trump slipping behind Clinton.
Trump's campaign on Wednesday announced a staff shake-up replacing
Manafort as campaign manager after just two months. He will remain
chairman and chief strategist.
The New York Times this week reported Manafort's name was found on
secret ledgers showing cash payments designated to him of more than $12
million from a Ukrainian party with Russian ties. Manafort has denied
Ukrainian officials confirmed Manafort's name appeared on a ledger and
that more than $12 million had been allocated as an expenditure but said
the presence of his name did not mean he received the funds.
[to top of second column]
Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort
at the Republican Convention in Cleveland. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Clinton's campaign has said Manafort's associations are a troubling
sign of ties between Trump's campaign team and pro-Kremlin elements
According to the AP, in 2012 Manafort and associate Rick Gates
worked on behalf of Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, and
helped steer the efforts of European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, an
advocacy group that once included members of Yanukovych's party.
The group paid at least $2.2 million to the Washington firms to push
positions favorable to the party from 2012 until 2014, when
Yanukovych was ousted and fled to Russia, the AP said, citing
sources. That work included efforts to counter a potential
congressional resolution pressuring Yanukovych to release a
political rival from prison, the AP reported.
Gates, who also works for the Trump campaign, told the AP his
actions were lawful. He said he and Manafort had introduced the
advocacy group to the firms and sometimes consulted with the firms
on Ukrainian politics, the report said.
Podesta's Fritts said her firm was unaware that Gates was a
consultant to the Ukrainian party when he introduced the advocacy
group: "Our assumption was that he was working for the Centre, as we
were hired to do."
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.