Paul John Manafort Jr. (born April 1, 1949) is an American lawyer, lobbyist and political consultant. He served as campaign manager for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump in 2016. He was previously an adviser to the U.S. presidential campaigns of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole. He was a senior partner in the firm Davis, Manafort, and Freedman.
Manafort often lobbied on behalf of controversial foreign leaders such as Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, dictators Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko, and guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi. Under US law, lobbying for foreign agents requires registration with the Justice Department, however Manafort has not done so contrary to some common belief. Manafort is reportedly under active criminal and counterintelligence investigation by multiple federal agencies for issues related to the Trump campaign as well as financial transactions.
Manafort was born April 1, 1949, in New Britain, Connecticut, the son of Antoinette Marie (née Cifalu) and Paul J. Manafort, Sr. (1923–2013). His grandfather was an Italian who immigrated to the U.S. He graduated from Georgetown University in 1971 with Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and from Georgetown University Law School in 1974 with a Juris Doctor degree. His grandfather James Manafort migrated to the United States from Italy in 1919 and founded construction company Manafort Brothers. His father served with the US Army combat engineers in World War II and was mayor of New Britain from 1965 to 1971.
Between 1977 and 1980 Manafort practiced law with the firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Washington, D.C.
In 1976, Manafort was the delegate-hunt coordinator for eight states for the President Ford Committee; the overall Ford delegate operation was run by James A. Baker III. Between 1978 and 1980, Manafort was the southern coordinator for Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, and the deputy political director at the Republican National Committee. After Reagan's election in November 1980, he was appointed Associate Director of the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House. In 1981 he was nominated to the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
In March 2016, he joined the presidential campaign of Donald Trump to lead Trump's "delegate-corralling" efforts. In April 2016, Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and promoted Manafort to the position. Manafort gained control of the daily operations of the campaign as well as an expanded $20 million budget, hiring decisions, advertising, and media strategy.
In August 2016, Manafort's connections to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions drew national attention in the USA, where it was reported that Manafort may have illegally received $12.7 million in off-the-books funds from the Party of Regions. On August 17, 2016, Donald Trump received his first security briefing. Also, on August 17, 2016, the New York Times reported on an internal staff memorandum from Manafort stating that Manafort would "remain the campaign chairman and chief strategist, providing the big-picture, long-range campaign vision". However, two days later, Trump announced his acceptance of Manafort's resignation from the campaign after Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway took on senior leadership roles within that campaign.
In 1980 Manafort was a founding partner of Washington, DC-based lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly.
Manafort left BMSK in 1996 to join Richard H. Davis in forming Davis, Manafort, and Freedman.
In 1985, Manafort's firm, BMSK, signed a $600,000 contract with Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the Angolan rebel group UNITA, to refurbish Savimbi's image in Washington and secure financial support on the basis of his anti-communism. BMSK arranged for Savimbi to attend events at the American Enterprise Institute (where Jeane Kirkpatrick gave him a laudatory introduction), The Heritage Foundation, and Freedom House; in the wake of the campaign Congress approved hundreds of millions of dollars in covert American aid to Savimbi's group. Allegedly, Manafort's continuing lobbying efforts helped preserve the flow of money to Savimbi several years after the Soviet Union ceased its involvement in the Angolan conflict, forestalling peace talks.
Manafort's firm, BMSK, accepted $950,000 yearly to lobby for Ferdinand Marcos. He was also involved in lobbying for Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre, securing a 1 million dollar annual contract in 1989, and attempted to recruit Siad Barre of Somalia as a client. His firm also lobbied on behalf of the governments of the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya (earning between $660,000 and $750,000 each year between 1991 and 1993), and Nigeria ($1 million in 1991). These activities led Manafort's firm to be listed amongst the top five lobbying firms receiving money from human-rights abusing regimes in the Center for Public Integrity report "The Torturer's Lobby".
Manafort wrote the campaign strategy for Edouard Balladur in the 1995 French elections, and was paid indirectly. The money, at least $200,000, was transferred to him through his friend, Lebanese arms-dealer Abdul Rahman al-Assir, from middle-men fees paid for arranging the sale of three French Agosta-class submarines to Pakistan, in a scandal known as the Karachi Affair.
Manafort received $700,000 from the Kashmiri American Council between 1990 and 1994, supposedly to promote the plight of the Kashmiri people. However, an FBI investigation revealed the money was actually from Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency as part of a disinformation operation to divert attention from terrorism. A former Pakistani ISI official claimed Manafort was aware of the nature of the operation. While producing a documentary as part of the deal, Manafort interviewed several Indian officials while pretending to be a CNN reporter.
In the late 1980s, Manafort was criticized for using his connections at HUD to ensure funding for a $43 million rehabilitation of dilapidated housing in Seabrook, N.J. Manafort's firm received a $326,000 fee for its work in getting HUD approval of the grant largely through personal influence with Deborah Gore Dean, an executive assistant to former HUD Secretary Samuel R. Pierce, Jr.
Manafort also worked as an adviser on the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych (and his Party of Regions during the same time span) from December 2004 until the February 2010 Ukrainian presidential election even as the U.S. government (and US Senator John McCain) opposed Yanukovych because of his ties to Russia's leader Vladimir Putin. Manafort was hired to advise Yanukovych months after massive street demonstrations known as the Orange Revolution overturned Yanukovych's victory in the 2004 presidential race. Borys Kolesnikov, Yanukovich’s campaign manager, said the party hired Manafort after identifying organizational and other problems in the 2004 elections, in which it was advised by Russian strategists. Manafort rebuffed U.S. Ambassador William Taylor when the latter complained he was undermining U.S. interests in Ukraine. According to a 2008 U.S. Justice Department annual report, Manafort’s company received $63,750 from Yanukovych's Party of Regions over a six-month period ending on March 31, 2008, for consulting services. In 2010, under Manafort's tutelage, the opposition leader put the Orange Revolution on trial, campaigning against its leaders' management of a weak economy. Returns from the presidential election gave Yanukovych a narrow win over Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the 2004 demonstrations. Yanukovych owed his comeback in Ukraine's presidential election to a drastic makeover of his political persona and, people in his party say, that makeover was engineered in part by his American consultant, Manafort.
In 2007 and 2008 Manafort was involved in investment projects with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (the acquisition of a Ukrainian telecoms company) and Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash (redevelopment of the site of the former Drake Hotel in New York City). The Associated Press has reported that Manafort negotiated a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska to promote Russian interests in politics, business, and media coverage in Europe and the United States, starting in 2005.
In 2013 Yanukovych became the main target of the Euromaidan protests. After the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution (the conclusion of Euromaidan) Yanukovych fled to Russia. On 17 March 2014, the day after the Crimean status referendum, Yanukovych became one of the first eleven persons who were placed under executive sanctions on the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) by President Obama, freezing his assets in the US and banning him from entering the United States.
Manafort then returned to Ukraine in September 2014 to become an advisor to Yanukovych’s former head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Serhiy Lyovochkin. In this role he was asked to assist in rebranding Yanukovych's Party of Regions. Instead, he argued to help stabilize Ukraine, Manafort was instrumental in creating a new political party called Opposition Bloc. According to Ukrainian political analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky, "He thought to gather the largest number of people opposed to the current government, you needed to avoid anything concrete, and just become a symbol of being opposed". According to Manafort, he has not worked in Ukraine since the October 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election. However, according to Ukrainian border control entry data, Manafort traveled to Ukraine several times after that election, all the way through late 2015. According to The New York Times, his local office in Ukraine closed in May 2016. According to Politico, by then Opposition Bloc had already stopped payments for Manafort and this local office.
In an April 2016 interview with ABC News Manafort stated that the aim of his activities in Ukraine had been to lead the country "closer to Europe".
Ukrainian government National Anti-Corruption Bureau studying secret documents claimed in August 2016 to have found handwritten records that show $12.7 million in cash payments designated for Manafort, although they had yet to determine if he had received the money. These undisclosed payments were from the pro-Russian political party Party of Regions, of the former president of Ukraine. This payment record spans from 2007 to 2012. Manafort’s lawyer, Richard A. Hibey, said Manafort didn’t receive “any such cash payments” as described by the anti-corruption officials. The Associated Press reported on 17 August 2016 that Manafort secretly routed at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012 on Party of Regions' behalf, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy. Associated Press noted that under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department, which Manafort reportedly did not do. The lobbying firms unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. Congress to reject a resolution condemning the jailing of Yanukovych's main political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.
According to alleged leaked text messages between his daughters Manafort was also one of the proponents of violent removal of the Euromaidan protesters which resulted in police shooting dozens of people during 2014 Hrushevskoho Street riots. In one of the messages his daughter writes that his "strategy that was to cause that, to send those people out and get them slaughtered".
Manafort has rejected questions about whether Russian-Ukrainian operative Konstantin Kilimnik, with whom he consulted regularly, might be in league with Russian intelligence.
Manafort’s work in Ukraine coincided with the purchase of at least four prime pieces of real estate in the United States, worth a combined $11 million, between 2006 and early 2012.
Since 2012, Manafort has taken out seven home equity loans worth approximately $19.2 million on three separate New York-area properties he owns through holding companies registered to him and his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, a real estate investor. In 2016, Yohai declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for LLCs tied to four residential properties; Manafort holds a $2.7 million claim on one of the properties.
As of February 2017, Manafort had about $12 million in home equity loans outstanding. For one home, loans of $6.6 million exceeded the value of that home; the loans are from the Federal Savings Bank, whose CEO was a campaign supporter of Donald Trump and is a member of Trump's Economic Advisory Council.
On January 19, 2017, the eve of the Trump's presidential inauguration, it was reported that Manafort is under active investigation by multiple federal agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Director of National Intelligence and the financial crimes unit of the Treasury Department. Investigations were said to be based on intercepted Russian communications as well as financial transactions.
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