It’s been a year since Paul Manafort led President Donald Trump’s quest for the White House and even longer since he worked for a controversial Ukrainian politician.
But Manafort, at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s involvement with the election, had his house raided last month by F.B.I. agents searching for financial documents.
Manafort, 68, has been the subject of a longstanding investigation due to his past dealings in Ukraine several years ago – for which he didn’t file as a foreign agent until June 2017. But Mueller has incorporated that investigation into his own probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates.
Read on for a look at just how connected Manafort is to the Russia investigation.
What kind of foreign work did Manafort do?
A GOP operative who worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Manafort reportedly began his work with Republican politics in the 1970s.
Eventually, Manafort was hired by controversial former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russia politician who was ousted from power twice. After Yanukovych was eventually elected president in 2010, Manafort reportedly stayed on as an adviser and worked with other projects in Eastern Europe, including the Party of Regions political party.
Manafort also worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In 2005, Manafort came up with a plan to influence U.S. politics, business dealings and the media in order to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according to the Associated Press.
Deripaska, 49, is a close Putin ally and signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006. They maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, the Associated Press reported.
Financial records obtained by the New York Times indicated that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests by up to $17 million prior to joining Trump’s campaign.
How was Manafort involved with Trump's campaign?
Manafort joined then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign in March 2016 to help wrangle delegates ahead of the Republican National Convention in Ohio.
Just two months later, Manafort became campaign chairman.
Manafort’s resignation from the campaign was announced on August 19, 2016, after the New York Times reported that he received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party between 2007 and 2012.
Along with Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s eldest son, Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay in June 2016. She was said to have damaging information on Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."
Could he help investigators discover if Trump associates colluded with Russia?
Mueller took over the criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings as he looks into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the White House.
In recent months, Manafort has turned over documents to congressional committees investigating election interference. Judiciary committee leaders have been in talks with Manafort regarding private interviews.
At the end of July 2017, F.B.I. agents executed a search warrant and searched Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Va., seeking information pertaining to his tax and banking records.
The use of a search warrant indicates that law enforcement officials have convinced a judge there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed. A house raid can be seen as an aggressive tactic given that Manafort has been cooperating with congressional investigators and has turned over hundreds of pages of documents. It could indicate law enforcement was looking for records beyond what Manafort provided.
After the raid – as the investigation continues – Manafort changed his legal counsel.
“Mr. Manafort is in the process is in the process of retaining his former counsel, Miller & Chevalier, to represent him in the office of special counsel investigation,” Jason Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman, told the Weekly Standard. “As of today, WilmerHale no longer represents Mr. Manafort.”
Mueller’s investigators have also sent subpoenas to global banks seeking information and records of certain transactions pertaining to Manafort and his business dealings, Bloomberg reported.
The information gathered from the subpoenas – and from some of Manafort’s associates – could be used to “squeeze” information out of Manafort and “force him to be more helpful to prosecutors,” according to Bloomberg.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.