Paul Manafort surrenders before FBI: Trump's former campaign chief has long history of working with seedy foreign leaders

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman who was indicted on Monday, had always worked behind the scenes in lucrative consultant deals before the 2016 US presidential race.

The veteran strategist advised Gerald Ford in the 1970s and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, before taking his talents abroad to help often seedy foreign leaders like Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, Jonas Savimbi of Angola and former Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych.

It was that work, and not his links to Moscow, that led to him being the first to be charged by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating suspected collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Manafort was charged only with crimes related to the millions of dollars he earned for his work for Yanukovych: 12 counts of money laundering, tax evasion, and failing to register as a foreign agent.

Manafort, 68, turned himself in at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington field office early Monday.

Republican strategist

Manafort established himself as an important political strategist for Republicans in the 1970s when he set up a lobbying shop in the US capital, eventually known as Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. The "Stone" in the name referred to Roger Stone, the consummate Washington political fixer who would eventually recruit him to the Trump operation.

After advising Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Manafort turned his focus to foreign governments abroad who would pay millions to boost their profiles in Washington.

 Paul Manafort surrenders before FBI: Trumps former campaign chief has long history of working with seedy foreign leaders

File image of former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort. AP

In 1995, Manafort set up a new lobbying firm with Rick Davis, who later helped Manafort establish his political contacts in former Soviet states, including Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Ahkmetov. Manafort's work in Eastern Europe came at a lucky time, as struggled in his domestic lobbying business and his spending on an ill-fated career as a movie producer left him nearly broke in the early 2000s.

He eventually ended up working for Yanukovych in the mid-2000s, where the Ukrainian politician and billionaire was building a party that eventually took him to the presidency, but also allegedly raked hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers.

As an adviser to Ukraine's pro-Russian Party of Regions, Manafort helped the party turn around its reputation as corrupt and under Russian influence, getting Ukraine's president elected in 2006. Manafort remained an adviser to the Party of Regions until 2014, when it was ousted amid popular protests.

After Yanukovych fled Kiev for Moscow in 2014, Manafort turned his attention back to the United States, where Stone was advising the early stages of Trump's presidential machine.

At first Manafort was helping to organise the all-important battle to win over delegates to the Republicans' national convention. But in June 2016 Trump fired campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski and put Manafort in charge, his first time running a presidential campaign.

Ukraine probe forces resignation

Two months later Manafort himself was in trouble, when investigators for the new Ukraine government released files showing secret cash payments from Yanukovych to Manafort companies worth $12.7 million.

He resigned on 19 August, 2016, with compliments from Trump. "Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success," Trump said.

Months later, though, the White House was downplaying his contribution. Manafort "played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in March.

While Monday's indictment did not connect Manafort to any alleged election collusion with Moscow, he still draws suspicions. He was one of several people who attended a 9 June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who was offering the campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

He also has business links to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally whom Manafort offered private meetings to discuss the US election in the middle of 2016, according to a Washington Post report.

Updated Date: Oct 31, 2017 09:52:38 IST

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