When news started leaking out that members of the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, were tied to the Russian Putin, there were a couple of Republicans who were not “stunned” like many Americans. In fact, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been stalwarts in warning that at the rate Putin had already been interfering in Western democracies in Europe to undermine confidence in government, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he was intricately involved in attacking America’s democracy.
However, according to a report from the Associated Press, one of Donald Trump’s trusted campaign advisors, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, had been hard at work for Putin before he worked for Trump and “crafted a plan to influence American politics for a Russian oligarch aligned with Vladimir Putin in 2005. “
The AP report stated that Trump’s Putin connection and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, proposed a confidential strategy plan to a Putin ally in early June 2005 that he promised would “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.”
In a 2005 memo to Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, Manafort wrote:
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success. [The model] will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
According to Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) the most recent disclosure “undermines the groundless assertions that the administration has been making that there are no ties between President Trump and Russia. This is not a drip, drip, drip. This is now dam-breaking with water flushing out with all kinds of entanglements.”
“Entanglements” may be a bit of an understatement. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman last year from March until August, including through the RNC nominating convention. It is doubtful Trump would have “asked” Manafort to resign in August except for an Associated Press revelation that Manafort “orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party.” The latest business records are even more damning because they provide a “more direct link between Manafort and Putin’s interests” in Ukraine and in America.
It is noteworthy that even as it looks like Manafort is going to testify before the “seemingly corrupt” House Intelligence Committee, he and his associates are still close to the Trump’s White House. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Trump by telephone, and that one of his former business partners in Eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions, helped plan Trump’s inauguration and now runs a pro-Trump nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda. Mr. Gates said he was aware of Manafort’s close ties to Russian oligarch Deripaska and Vladimir Putin, but that he knew nothing about the “plan” to assert Putin’s influence in Washington politics. There is no way of knowing if Gates is telling the truth, but these are people closely aligned with Trump, so it is not outrageous to assume Gates is lying.
It is difficult to believe that everyone, including Trump’s close circle of advisors, didn’t know about the strategy to influence Washington on Putin’s behalf regardless of when it started. It was, after all, Donald Trump himself who pressured the RNC to include a “hands off” approach to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.
Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, especially the U.S., to allow the Russian oligarchs to keep possession of “former” Ukrainian state-owned assets. He proposed building “long term relationships” with Western journalists and other measures to “improve recruitment, communications and financial planning by pro-Russian parties.” He also pledged to “bolster the legitimacy of governments friendly to Putin and undercut anti-Russian figures through political campaigns, non-profit front groups and media operations.”
No matter how one parses this latest revelation, it is another sign that Trump’s people were closely aligned with the Russians for the sole purpose of benefitting Putin’s interests including influencing American foreign policy. It is not surprising that the effort goes back to 2005 because enough foreign policy experts have been aware, and warning, that Putin has been, and still is, working diligently to undermine Western governments; a task that achieved results in America probably a lot sooner than either Putin or Manafort imagined.