I told Manafort it didn’t seem like a promising strategy to march into a murderous dictator’s office and point out to him and his lieutenants that he has a public relations problem. “Are we sure we want this guy as a client?” I asked, in a garish display of naivete. Manafort sounded annoyed, as if I had asked the right question at the wrong time. He waved off my concerns as he settled into his large leather armchair in his spacious corner office overlooking the Potomac River, the walls adorned with photos of past presidents, U.S. senators, congressmen and other notables. It was intimidating, and meant to be. Manafort was regarded by my colleagues and me as a master geopolitical strategist. He was one of those rare individuals who could cut through the noise, get to the heart of a problem and hit on a solution. And he didn’t care about the collateral damage. I eventually learned that the hard way.
As he showed John and me out the door, he said, “We all know Barre is a bad guy, Riva. We just have to make sure he’s our bad guy. Have a great trip!”