Manafort registers as foreign agent for Ukraine work

Manafort registers as foreign agent for Ukraine work
© Greg Nash

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Tuesday formally acknowledged his lobbying work for Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin Party of Regions, retroactively registering with the Justice Department as a foreign agent.

The filings were submitted to the Justice Department on Tuesday, and say Manafort's firm — DMP International — was paid a total of $17.15 million, according to a tally by The Hill.

The Washington Post was the first to report on the forms on Tuesday prior to them becoming public on Wednesday.

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The report covers work done between 2012 and 2014, when Manafort and his associate Rick Gates led an effort to improve the image of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was eventually expelled from office by protests in the country.

It was Manafort’s work during this time — involving Russia and the Party of Regions — that became an underlying reason for his ouster from the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.

Manafort is one of several Trump campaign associates reportedly under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible ties to Russia during the 2016 election.

A spokesman for Manafort told The Hill that the filing Tuesday was unrelated to the ongoing Russia investigation.

“Paul's primary focus was always directed at domestic Ukrainian political campaign work, and that is reflected in today's filing. Paul has appreciated the professionalism and guidance of the FARA unit throughout this process,” Jason Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The spokesman claimed Manafort began preparing the documents in September “before the outcome of the election and well before any formal investigation of election interference began."

The forms reveal details about the work Manafort and his firm completed for the Party of Regions and a Brussels-based group with ties to that party.

He coached party leaders on how to talk to U.S. officials, helped the campaign efforts of Ukrainian politicians within the party during the 2012 elections, and had talks with the U.S. embassy in Kiev "regarding developing events in Ukraine."

Disclosures also show that he engaged other firms and individuals to reach out to the media and politicians, conduct surveys and polls, and analyze election data from the 2012 elections in Ukraine. DMB International also paid a company called Clear Dialogue more than $21,000 for "election integrity consulting services."

Manafort's firm also lists sending an email to John Tefft, who then served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, about the State Department's statement following Ukraine's 2012 elections. The statement charged they were "a step backward" from democratic progress the country had made.

The State Department cited allegations of the harassment of opposition candidates, the alleged use of government resources to tip the scale in the Party of Regions' favor and "fraud and falsification in the voting process and tabulation."

There are no additional details about the email.

In the two-year stretch of the contract, Manafort's firm also charged nearly $2.2 million in travel expenses.

Manafort's forms fall under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which covers any lobbying, consulting and public relations work intended to influence U.S. foreign policy on behalf of a sovereign foreign nation, political party or foreign government official.

Individuals must register under FARA if they represent a client either influenced by or funded by a foreign government or official. The World War II-era law was enacted to stem the tide of propaganda coming to the United States from Nazi Germany, and reports required under the law are much more detailed than those of domestic lobbying reports.

The Manafort contract "focused on electing Party of Regions' candidates at the national and regional levels in the Ukraine by implementing pro-democratic campaign activities, engaging in party building activities, developing a party platform and political agenda, and implementing election planning, election integrity, and international election monitoring programs," the disclosures say.

The consulting, the firm says, was aimed to "advance the goal of greater political and economic integration between the Ukraine and the West."

Last fall, the Associated Press began reporting about an influence campaign that Manafort and Gates had been running through two K Street firms for the European Centre for Modern Ukraine. 

Podesta Group and Mercury, other Washington firms that represented the group, also retroactively registered under FARA for their work earlier this year. They had previously only registered working for the client with the House and Senate, under domestic lobbying laws.

It had been known, based on the AP reports, that Manafort introduced the group to K Street and provided advice on Ukranian politics.

In Mercury’s filing, sent to the Justice Department in April, Manafort appeared as having worked with lobbyists from the firm. 

Manafort never worked for Mercury.

Vin Weber, a partner at Mercury and former Republican congressman, brought Manafort to meetings with members of Congress, including one with former GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, a board member at the International Republican Institute, in December 2012. He also brought Manafort to a meeting with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) in March 2013.

Manafort also attended meetings with Paula Dobriansky, a former State Department official during the Bush administration, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Nadia Diuk, a vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Manafort's filings also list these meetings.

At the time, Maloni had pushed back against the notion that Manafort had acted as a lobbyist in need of registration.

“One meeting with one lawmaker connected to this topic in a two year period looks like incidental contact to fair-minded Americans,” Maloni told The Hill in an email in April.

All the meetings, which also included former senior government officials at non-profits, happened in December 2012 or within March and April 2013.

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, also retroactively registered under FARA for work he did that may have benefitted Turkey.

- John Bowden contributed.