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From ‘the Count’ to inmate: The fall of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort


By Tom Hamburger, The Washington Post

He owned at least five properties from Manhattan to Palm Beach and drove three Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. He spent millions of dollars on oriental rugs and tailored suits. And he reached new heights of power in 2016 when he gained a top position in Donald Trump’s campaign.

But on Friday, a federal judge ordered former lobbyist Paul Manafort to jail pending trial following allegations from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Manafort tampered with a witness in the pending case against him.

The moment marked a new low for an impeccably dressed, well-spoken man who until recently was a highflier in the world of Washington lobbying, international consulting and Republican presidential politics.

Before he was named Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, Manafort was a widely recognized political tactician with a luxurious international lifestyle. He had earned a fortune from an international political career that, among other things, revolutionized the lobbying business in Washington and the nature of politics in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Manafort is among the most senior people in President Trump’s political orbit to be indicted. He is connected not only to the top levels of the Trump campaign but also to influential business and political figures in the former Soviet Union.

The 12-count October 2017 indictment described $75 million in income Manafort’s firm received from just the work he did in Ukraine over the previous decade, some of it allegedly laundered through offshore accounts to conceal it from the U.S. government. The offshore funds, the indictment said, were used to pay for Manafort’s “lavish lifestyle,” including rugs, cars and other items.

Manafort and his attorney Kevin Downing have rebutted the charges and vowed to fight them.

When the indictment was filed against Manafort and his partner, Rick Gates, last year, a former Manafort associate said the news was crushing.

“This indictment is tragic for Paul and his family,” said Manafort’s former business partner Charles Black, who has maintained contact with Manafort even though the two have not worked together for two decades. “I just pray that they are innocent.”

Manafort grew up in New Britain, Conn., the son of a local real estate entrepreneur who served three terms as the town’s mayor.

His national political career was launched in 1975 when he was named associate director for personnel for President Gerald Ford.

His reputation rose in 1976, when he helped Ford win the Republican nomination during a contested convention. He worked later as a convention adviser to the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and led convention operations in 1996 for GOP presidential nominee Robert J. Dole.

Manafort parlayed his political relationships into several successful lobbying and consulting firms and into complex financial transactions with billionaire oligarchs and other controversial investors.

His original lobbying firm — Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly — developed a specialty in rehabilitating the reputation of some of the world’s autocratic leaders, including former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. One of his partners in that firm, Roger Stone, would also become an adviser to Trump.

While together, the firm did some lobbying and consulting for Trump on tax and political issues, recalled Black, the firm’s founder.

His former partners recall Manafort, unlike Stone, as tight-lipped and serious as he put together high-dollar international deals. His air of mystery earned him the nickname “the Count,” after the Count of Monte Cristo, the fictional character known for international adventure and intrigue.

After the firm split up, Manafort continued his career in domestic and international consulting in partnership with another prominent GOP strategist, Rick Davis. It is work in this era that has become the focus of federal prosecutors.

In 2006, the Manafort-Davis firm began doing business with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who was drawn to the firm’s experience in “international and domestic business, politics, government and public policy development,” according to a legal petition filed on behalf of Deripaska in the Cayman Islands.

Davis, Manafort and a new associate, Gates, told Deripaska their goal was to set up a $200 million fund to make private-equity investments and acquisitions, primarily in Russia and Ukraine, according to the petition.

At the time, Deripaska was interested in building contacts in the United States, in part because that year his visa had been revoked amid concerns that he might be linked to organized crime, something he has denied. Deripaska later received visas to travel to the United States but has still faced restrictions.

The petition said that Deripaska-controlled companies paid $7.5 million in management fees to an entity controlled by Davis, Gates and Manafort.

Deripaska, squeezed by the 2008 credit crunch, asked for the partnership to be liquidated and his money returned, according to Deripaska’s petition. But court filings said that Manafort had been impossible to find.

This led Manafort’s friend and former partner Stone to jokingly speculate about his former partner’s whereabouts.

He sent an email in 2014, first reported by Politico, to a group of friends asking, “Where is Paul Manafort?”

The choices were:

● “Was seen chauffeuring [former Ukrainian president Viktor] Yanukovych around Moscow.”

● “Was seen loading gold bullion on an Army Transport plane from a remote airstrip outside Kiev and taking off seconds before a mob arrived at the site.”

● “Is playing Golf in Palm Beach.”

Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska has become a topic of interest for federal investigators who have seen that Manafort, through a Kiev-based aide, was in touch with the Russian oligarch during the campaign.

Just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings.

“If he needs private briefings, we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote to his longtime aide in Kiev, Konstantin Kilimnik, in a July 7, 2016, email turned over to Mueller and congressional investigators.

Manafort worked in Ukraine with Kilimnik and Gates for their other major client, the Party of Regions, which hired the firm to improve the image of Yanukovych, who was ousted as Ukraine’s president in 2014 and fled to Moscow.

That business relationship lies at the heart of the federal case against Manafort and was central to the allegation that prompted Friday’s decision to send Manafort to jail.

Among other charges, Manafort was alleged to have failed to disclose his lobbying work in Washington on behalf of Yanukovych and his political allies in Kiev, who were facing criticism in the United States and in Europe for putting a Ukrainian political opponent in jail.

Earlier this month, Mueller claimed Manafort sent a potential witness an encrypted message urging the witness to agree with his story that the lobbying group “worked in Europe” and not in the United States and therefore did not have to register as representatives of a foreign political party, as legally required.


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Politics - U.S. Daily News: From ‘the Count’ to inmate: The fall of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort
From ‘the Count’ to inmate: The fall of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort
Politics - U.S. Daily News
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