Paul Manafort’s longtime lobbying partner told Business Insider on Monday that it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” for Donald Trump’s campaign chair to have received cash payments from a political party in Ukraine because
it would have been more sensible for Manafort to receive the money from straight from powerful oligarchs.
A Sunday New York Times story showed that a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine designated $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for Manafort between 2007-2012, according to secret ledgers uncovered by an anti-corruption center in Kiev that were provided to the Times.
However, there was no direct evidence that Manafort received the cash payments earmarked for him. But, he is on the list of so-called “black accounts of the Party of Regions,” which Ukrainian anti-corruption agents are investigating, per the Times. That political party was led by ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of power in 2014. Manafort was a longtime adviser to Yanukovych.
Charlie Black, a powerful Washington lobbyist who used to work the firm “Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly” with Manafort, told Business Insider he believes his former partner when the Trump campaign chair said Monday that cash payments were not made to him by any Ukrainian official, adding that he’s never spoken “to Paul about any of this stuff and I have no idea what went on.”
“Well, you know, I would be concerned about it if I did it and it was true,” he said. “He says it’s not and I believe him. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Here’s the other thing I know about Ukraine: There are a lot of very wealthy oligarchs funding Yanukovych’s political activity,” he continued. “It would have made a whole lot more sense to be getting money from them than from the government. But that’s all I know. I’ve never discussed any of this from Paul. Over the last few years I see him socially once or twice a year and I just don’t talk business with him.”
He said he was aware that Manafort was “very involved” with Yanukovych for roughly a decade.
“Somebody’s got to give some proof” the money was received by Manafort, he said. “And even the Ukrainians said they did not know if somebody was paid out. I think it’s inside baseball stuff that only guys like us care about unless somebody comes up with proof. And then, Donald will have to answer it.”
Manafort addressed the story in a Monday morning statement, saying “All of the political payments directed toward me were for my entire political team. … There is no evidence of ‘cash payments’ made to me by any official in Ukraine.”
The bombshell story came amid increased scrutiny of Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia, which followed a hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email accounts that was tied to Russia in addition to the Trump campaigns decision to alter the Republican Party’s platform on Ukraine, which previously called for arming Ukrainian soldiers against pro-Russian separatists. Trump’s also professed admiration toward Russian President Vladimir Putin along the campaign trail.
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump told MSNBC in December.
Late Sunday night, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook released a statement in response to the Times story.
He called for Trump to disclose all of his advisers and campaign employees ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities.
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