The headline here may turn out to be much hotter than the substance (more on that below), but since it involves Donald Trump’s campaign chairman it’s bound to suck up the news cycle. By the time Paul Manafort’s name bubbled to the top of the ongoing Trump media circus, reporters had already dusted off their files on The Donald’s new campaign chairman and were well aware of his previous professional history. One aspect of that was his work in Ukraine for pro-Putin Ukrainian former President Viktor Yanukovych. All of this was previously known, but now Ukrainian officials are trying to sort through all of the corruption and shady dealings which surrounded Russia’s meddling in the nation’s affairs and what is being referred to as the looting of Ukrainian assets by the Russians.
As part of that investigation, Manafort’s name has popped up yet again, allegedly appearing in a secret ledger detailing millions of dollars in payments to him from Yanukovych’s administration. (New York Times)
Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.
In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles, including a palatial presidential residence with a private zoo, golf course and tennis court. Among the hundreds of murky transactions these companies engaged in was an $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable television assets to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.
As I said, that makes for a splashy headline. Trump campaign chair got millions in stolen Ukrainian cash! But you need read down considerably further in the article before you find out that Manafort may not have had the chance to purchase a fleet of Jaguars with his ill gotten gain. (Emphasis added)
Anti-corruption officials there say the payments earmarked for Mr. Manafort, previously unreported, are a focus of their investigation, though they have yet to determine if he actually received the cash. While Mr. Manafort is not a target in the separate inquiry of offshore activities, prosecutors say he must have realized the implications of his financial dealings.
Sure, the fact that his name was allegedly in a hand written ledger is of interest and worth investigating, but they haven’t been able to determine if he actually received the money? Unless somebody can come up with bank records or an admission from Manafort, this remains fully in the alleged column for the time being. It’s obviously possible, given all the unpleasant business which went on in Ukraine, but jumping ahead of things tends to get journalists in trouble.
Perhaps more interesting is the way which many social media users initially found out about the story. As IJR reports, the man who Manafort replaced (and who is now a regular fixture on CNN) seemed to be a bit eager to pull the trigger on getting this story out there.
In his new role as a CNN contributor, Lewandowski is on the airwaves defending Trump, and even making some anti-Trump types very mad.
So check out what he just tweeted:
Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief https://t.co/7bh7iIHHaY
— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) August 15, 2016
On the surface it’s not at all unusual that someone who is now working as a political commentator for a major cable news outlet would tweet out some breaking news which is pertinent to the election, but given the history the two players share it’s easy so see how some could view this as a “throw him under the bus” moment. Manafort and Lewandowski made a big show of being all one big, happy family when the transition took place and Paul has obviously been a vocal proponent of Trump on CNN, but that’s still darned odd. We can’t see inside Corey’s brain here, but there does seem to be a bit of glee on display when he rushes a story like this out into the social media sphere.
So will anything come of this? Given his track record, I seriously doubt that Donald Trump would give Manafort the boot over one story with some as yet unproven allegations. If there’s an admission from Paul or some paper trail shows up, Trump might dump him, but I’m guessing it would be a move of last resort.