Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manfort used a collection of letters, memos, and contacts with Trump’s closest acquaintances to move himself into a position of power in the president’s campaign, reported The New York Times on Saturday.
The very traits that placed Manafort in such a position of power such as his disdain for the establishment, his focus, and global ties, could be just the things that landed him in hot water at the center of a U.S. intelligence investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
What’s more, although Manafort has denied any allegations, the list of suspicious ties enjoyed by Trump’s former campaign manager keeps growing. As recently as last month, Associated Press reported that he had worked with a Russian billionaire to advance the country’s interests only a decade ago. The story of how he became a major player in the Trump campaign could become a major part of the impending Senate hearings on collusion with the Russian government.
It all began when real estate investor Thomas Barrack, a friend of both Trump and Manafort, sent the former a letter, calling Manafort “the most experienced and lethal of managers,” “a killer,” and adding that Manafort would be willing to work on the campaign in “an unpaid capacity.”
A few other factors played well into Manafort’s appointment to his fateful post, most notably his broad ties across the globe and lack of allegiances to established Washington politicians. In an early letter to Trump, he allegedly wrote:
‘I have managed Presidential campaigns around the world. I have had no client relationships dealing with Washington since around 2005. I have avoided the political establishment in Washington since 2005.’
Manafort had told Trump exactly what he needed to hear. His self-promoting communications were first filtered through Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner before meeting the approval of Trump himself. Both Ivanka and her husband are official White House employees as of this writing.
When interviewed personally, Manafort downplayed his ambition. He said in an email forwarded by a spokesman:
‘Donald Trump and I had some business in the 1980s but we had no relationship until the Trump campaign called me A role at the convention was all I was ever interested in; the fact that this role expanded was quite unexpected.’
In preparation for the Republican National Convention in July of 2016, Manafort was appointed in March of that year by Trump and his subordinates to coordinate the operations of delegates. In June, Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager, a position he maintained until his resignation in August.
Understandably, given the media firestorm surrounding him, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer downplayed Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign, distancing the president from the embattled former campaign manager.
‘There is a fine line between people who want to be part of something that they never had an official role in, and people who actually played a role in either the campaign or transition. Obviously there has been discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.’
He also noted that the president had been unaware of his more suspicious dealings with powerful members of the Russian oligarchy.
Image via Getty/Chip Somodevilla