AUSTIN, Texas — Although the Clinton campaign accuses Donald Trump of maintaining ties with the Russian government, another key figure on the Republican candidate’s team may have an agenda of his own in Eastern Europe.
Diplomatic cables from the WikiLeaks archive and a mainstream media investigation suggest that Trump’s current campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, had previously collaborated with U.S. intelligence agencies and served as a key advisor to the Ukrainian government, including its president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who fled the country after a right-wing coup in 2014.
Even after the fall of the government, the Times reported that Manafort continued to work to rebuild Yanukovych’s power. “Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government,” Myers and Kramer wrote, adding:
“With Mr. Putin’s Russia, and its interference in Ukraine, becoming a focus of the United States presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine has come under scrutiny — along with his business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.”
Manafort, who has decades of experience as an advisor to successful Republican campaigns, became Trump’s campaign manager after Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, and has himself been tasked with denying claims of favoritism toward Russia in the media.
But information contained in the WikiLeaks database of U.S. diplomatic cables suggests Manafort also maintained close ties with U.S. ambassadors and intelligence agencies while advocating for Yanukovych. For example, in a March 2006 cable, Manafort shared polling data suggesting Ukrainians were eager for political change, “although the definition of change varied among the population.”
He was still at it years later, appearing in a 2010 cable on the Ukrainian presidential election: “Manafort told us that [Yanukovych’s opponent, Yulia] Tymoshenko knows she is losing and is now moving to discredit the election process as the only means of stopping Yanukovych. “
And one 2012 email hosted by WikiLeaks, among the millions stolen by Anonymous hacktivists from private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, suggests Manafort was intimately involved in sowing the unrest that contributed to the 2014 coup:
“You should know by now that not only is russian money pouring in these past 18 months to USA law-firm lobbyists, think-tanks like the Nixon Center, PR communications firms, media agents, reporters, etc, BUT the Donetsk cartel here has retained multiple Washington law firms, lobbyists, former Democrat Congressmen and McCain’s campaign chairman’s firm Davis-Manafort for running their Regions Party campaigns and political strategy. Phillip Griffen, Paul Manafort’s man on the ground here these past 30 months is helping Yanukovych-Regions block the Parliament from functioning while attempting to capsize the orange majority in Parliament….using The anti-Nato issue (which you reported on today) as the wedge for Physically blocking the rostum and controlling the PR escalation….All designed to collapse the Cabinet of Ministers/government whose most important, intelligent members come out of the Timoshenko party.”
The Times’ report on Manafort’s Ukrainian ties notes ominously:
“It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended with his work with Mr. Trump’s campaign. A communications aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retainer or how much he had been paid.”
“Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, did not respond immediately to questions about whether Manafort is currently involved in any work related to Ukrainian politics,” noted Pema Levy, a writer for Mother Jones, on Monday.
However, the WikiLeaks cables and emails also suggest Manafort has strong ties to U.S. interests in the region, or at least a reason to work with U.S. intelligence agencies. And, as Levy noted:
“If Manafort does have active ties to Lyovochkin or other Ukrainian politicians, this would raise conflict-of-interest questions and fuel the controversy surrounding Trump’s foreign policy stance on Russia and his relationship with Putin.”