Slowly but surely, we’re unravelling the web of connections that links Trump back to Moscow and the Russian oligarchs. And while nothing connects Trump directly yet, this web appears to have caught Paul Manafort, Trump’s current campaign advisor.
“Everything is all right”
It’s like something out of a spy novel. Somewhere in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, there are handwritten ledgers linking a corrupt, pro-Russian Ukrainian party to the current campaign manager of an American presidential candidate, suggesting foul play.
These ledgers cover from 2007 to 2012, when the campaign manager provided “consulting services” for the pro-Russian party. It sounds like fiction — it sounds like damn exciting fiction in the right hands.
Unfortunately, according to the New York Times, it’s reality. The Ukrainian party in question is the party of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovyich, and the consultant was Paul Manafort, the current campaign manager for the Teflon Don.
There’s a very good reason I’ve called him the Muscovian Candidate for the last month or so; the New York Times already did a report detailing the power Manafort wielded in Ukraine before jumping ship and uniting with the Teflon Don.
The handwritten ledgers — called the “black ledgers” — were recovered from the office of the former ruling party in Ukraine, the Party of Regions. According to Ukrainian officials, the ledger was used to keep track of off-the-books payouts, including cash awards to election officials. Paul Manafort’s name appears on those ledgers 22 times, for a total of $12.7 million.
And while the Ukrainians were careful not to definitively say that the Muscovian Candidate’s campaign manager received the money, it seems interesting all the same to note that he’d appear on the payout list for a pro-Russian (actually, a pro-Putin) party. I’m sure there’s a very good, very logical, and very above-board reason why his name would appear in these 400 pages of chicken-scratch Cyrillic.
I won’t be holding my breath for it, though.
According to the New York Times, anti-corruption officials note that the money was earmarked for Manafort, was previously unreported, and is the current focus of their investigation. Manafort himself, however, isn’t a target in the separate inquiry into offshore activities — but, as prosecutors note, he must have realized the implications of his financial dealings all the same. According to Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev:
He understood what was happening in Ukraine. It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.
Vitaliy added, “It’s impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, ‘Everything is all right.’”
Manafort’s lawyer denies that his client’s received “any such cash payments,” and that Manafort was involved with anyone who broke the laws. His lawyer insinuated that the charges were political.
I can’t stress enough that these are simply implications at this point. My gut instinct — and it’s mine alone, not based on any factual information other than what I have here and my cynicism — is that Manafort has deeper ties than he’s letting onto.
Either way, I can guarantee you one thing: that $12.7 million isn’t sarcasm.
Feature image via CSPAN screen capture