White House downplays Manafort’s Russia links

The White House on Wednesday downplayed a new report that President Trump’s former campaign chairman secretly worked for a Russian oligarch to advance that country’s political interests.
“Noting in this morning’s report references any actions by the president, the White House or any Trump administration official,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
Spicer noted the story focused on actions former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “took a decade ago” but insisted that Trump had no knowledge of Manafort’s contract with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. 
“To suggest the president knew who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit insane,” the spokesman said.
{mosads}Manafort’s $10 million annual contract with Russian businessman Deripaska, which was revealed Wednesday by The Associated Press, appeared to contradict the Trump administration and Manafort’s claim that he did not work for Russian interests. 
The former Trump aide wrote in a memo the work would “greatly benefit the Putin government.”
The White House has repeatedly tried to distance itself from Manafort, who resigned as the top aide on the Trump campaign last August amid a swirling controversy around his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. 
The former adviser is facing allegations that he was paid millions as part of the arrangement. 
The latest disclosure came after the FBI confirmed it is investigating whether Trump associates cooperated with Moscow in its effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. 
Manafort is reportedly a central figure in that investigation. But he has repeatedly insisted he has not worked on behalf of the Russian government and dismissed the probe as a smear campaign. 
While Manafort eventually became the de facto manager of Trump’s campaign this summer, Spicer told reporters Monday that Manafort played a “limited role” in the operation.
He backtracked on those comments Wednesday. 
“Clearly, I should have been more precise with respect to Paul’s role, so let me clarify this and go through the facts,” the spokesman said. 
Spicer sought to frame the story as proof of media bias, floating ties between Trump’s former presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Russian interests.
“An individual who worked for the campaign for less than five months of the president’s two-year-long campaign, who worked with a Russian entity a decade ago, is the subject of rampant media speculation all day long even though the Clintons had much more expansive and extensive ties,” he said. 
Spicer specifically noted lobbying work done by Tony Podesta, the brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, against Russian sanctions, as well as a deal to sell significant American uranium deposits to a Russian company, which occurred during the Obama administration while Clinton served as secretary of State. 
Tags Hillary Clinton

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