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The campaign chairman for Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE carried out a “covert influence campaign” for Ukraine’s ruling political party, according to a new report from The Associated Press.
The outlet cites emails it obtained that reportedly show Paul Manafort, who serves atop the Trump campaign, and his business partner Rick Gates made a covert effort to get positive U.S. media coverage for leaders within the Party of Regions — the political party of ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych.
From 2012 to 2014, Manafort and Gates attempted to create a glowing image of Ukrainian officials with a pro-Russian stance while also challenging the sympathetic narrative surrounding an imprisoned rival of Yanukovych, the AP says.
The emails obtained by the AP also reportedly show Gates directing the Washington lobbying firms on setting up meetings for a "top Ukrainian official" and members on Capitol Hill. They do not talk about Manafort's role, according to the AP, who served as Gates's boss at the firm, DMP International. However, the report says current and former employees of the lobbying firms said that Manafort directed the advocacy.
When American lobbyists are paid by entities funded or influenced by foreign leaders or governments, they must register and disclose those activities with the Justice Department. Manafort’s firm did not, and he has repeatedly said that he has not done any work that required him to register.
It is the latest insight into Manafort’s business dealings with Ukrainian leaders.
Earlier this week, the AP reported that he and Gates introduced two major U.S. lobbying firms to a nonprofit that had strong ties to the Party of Regions, which ultimately resulted in $2.2 million in billings for the Podesta Group and Mercury.
Both firms had assurances that no political party or government was backing the nonprofit, which was based in Brussels. Their work was disclosed under the domestic lobbying law — the Lobbying Disclosure Act — rather than the more stringent Foreign Agents Registration Act overseen by the Justice Department.
The New York Times reported that Manafort’s name was found in a secret ledger in Ukraine, which listed $12.7 million in cash payments to the political operative from 2007 to 2012, which he has since denied receiving.
The report says that Manafort had an office located blocks from Independence Square in Kiev. If he conducted all of his activities from that office, he may have been exempt from disclosure.
A firm that subcontracted with Manafort’s firm registered its activities for the Party of Regions with the Justice Department.
Edelman, a PR giant, subcontracted with Manafort’s firm in 2008 to “develop and execute a media campaign” that pumped up Yanukovych in the U.S., according to its disclosures. Edelman billed $35,000 at the start of the contract and an additional $35,000 per month for its services, according to disclosures.
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