Manafort working on Kurdish independence referendum: report

Manafort working on Kurdish independence referendum: report
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE's former campaign chairman is working to help promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq, even as his international business dealings have become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's federal investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to a New York Times report.

Manafort is reportedly working for Kurdish groups allied with Iraqi Kurdish Leader Massoud Barzani to advance a nonbinding referendum on Kurdish independence. 

The United States has voiced concern about the referendum, warning that it could further destabilize Iraq and hinder efforts to combat Islamic State militants in the region.

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Manafort, however, agreed to work in favor of the referendum after he was approached by an intermediary for Barzani's son, Masrour Barzani, who serves as the chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council.

That work reportedly entailed a planned effort to win Western recognition, according to the Times.

A spokesman for Masrour Barzani told the Times that Manafort had been chosen for his experience in referendums and international affairs. It is not clear how much the former campaign chairman is being paid or who is paying him.

Manafort has become a central figure in Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

But the investigation is also looking at Manafort's business dealings and possible financial crimes.

Mueller's team has used particularly aggressive tactics on the former campaign chairman in recent months. In July, the FBI conducted an early-morning raid on Manafort's home in northern Virginia. And Mueller has subpoenaed Manafort's personal spokesman and former lawyer.