Did Trump’s Campaign Chairman Accept Cash Payments from Ukraine?
In early 2014, protestors in Ukraine ransacked and overran the headquarters of the ruling government, the Party of Regions. Ukraine’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Russia, and his former residence has since been turned into a museum. On the third floor of that palace, a 400-page “black ledger” was found, containing hundreds of cash favors from Yanukovych to election officials and others. A recent New York Times report found Paul Manafort–Donald Trump’s campaign chairman–listed as a recipient 22 times throughout the ledger. Yanukovych, who has deep ties to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, was a client of Manafort’s international political consulting firm.
The investigation into the ledger is spearheaded by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), an arm of the government that was elected after Yanukovych fell from power. Throughout the “black ledger,” the name “Manafort” appears 22 times and is linked to a total of $12.7 million over five years, from 2007 to 2012. In a statement, NABU acknowledged that this fact does not necessarily mean Manafort accepted off-the-books cash payouts from Yanukovych. The statement said: “the presence of P. Manafort’s name in the list does not mean that he actually got the money, because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people.”
— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) August 15, 2016
In March, the Trump campaign hired Manafort to help steer its efforts to court delegates. But the veteran Republican strategist’s ties to Yanukovych–and by proxy, Russia–have been media fodder since Trump hired him. On Monday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign jumped on the possibility that Manafort was in the pockets of Ukraine or Putin. “Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisors’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities,” said a statement by Clinton’s Campaign Manager Robby Mook.
Manafort denied any notion that he accepted cash payments from the Yanukovych government. In a statement, he called the claims “unfounded, silly and nonsensical.” He added that all payments received during his time assisting Yanukovych were disbursed throughout his entire local and international staff, including his polling and research, and election and television advertising teams.
How Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chief, benefited from powerful interests friendly to Vladimir Putin https://t.co/sTnyyIK7Dx
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 15, 2016
According to The New York Times’ article, investigators from NABU–a U.S. and European Union funded investigative unit that shares its findings with the FBI–said the “black ledger” payments were part of an illegal off-the-books system. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption,” a former senior official with Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office told the Times.
It remains to be seen whether these revelations are enough for Trump to cut ties with Manafort. But Manafort’s prominence in the ledger is reason for concern, especially in light of Trump’s soft–and at times reverent–attitude toward Russia.