President Trump’s former campaign chairman on Monday denied any ties to or contact with the Russian government after the FBI confirmed it is investigating Trump allies’ alleged links to Moscow.
Paul Manafort said he “had no involvement” in Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential elections, including its email hacking of prominent Democratic groups and figures, and never spoke to Russian officials who claimed to be involved.
“The suggestion that I ever worked in concert with anyone to release hacked emails or sought to undermine the interests of the United States is false,” he said in a statement.
Fmr. Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort releases statement following House Intel Committee hearing on possible Trump team-Russia ties. pic.twitter.com/zDLuBt739S— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 20, 2017
The former top Trump campaign aide broke a period of silence after FBI James Comey made the explosive revelation about the Russia inquiry earlier Monday while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee.
The bureau is trying to determine whether Trump allies colluded with Russia in its election meddling. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was attempting boost Trump’s campaign and damage Clinton, but thus far have said there is no proof of collusion.
"Despite the constant scrutiny and innuendo, there are no facts or evidence supporting these allegations, nor will there be," Manafort said, calling the story a "blatant attempt to discredit me and the legitimacy of the election of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: I was 'psyched to terminate' NAFTA Trump: 'Major, major' conflict with North Korea possible Cohn: People 'wasting time' calling for Trump's tax returns MORE."
Manafort has long been at the center of allegations surrounding the Trump team’s ties to Russia, in large part because of his work for Ukraine’s former government that was close to Moscow.
The operative has previously denied reports that he is under FBI investigation for his connections to Russia. He has also said the Trump campaign had no involvement with the government of Vladimir Putin and that he did not play a role in softening platform language about Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine during last summer’s Republican National Convention.
After the investigation was made public, the White House sought to distance itself from Manafort and other Trump associates who reportedly had contact with Russians with ties to the government.
Press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday described Manafort as someone who “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Manafort was initially hired by Trump in March to run his delegate-counting effort at the party convention. He was promoted in May to campaign chairman and was viewed as the person running the operation after Trump fired Corey Lewandowski in June.
In August, he resigned after it was reported that he was set to receive millions of dollars in secret cash payments from the pro-Russian party in Ukraine, claims he has also denied.
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