- President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered to the FBI on Monday, three days after reports surfaced that special counsel Robert Mueller had issued the first indictments in the Russia investigation. Manafort’s longtime business associate and protege Rick Gates was also indicted and told to surrender. The two were charged with several federal crimes, including conspiracy against the United States.
Raised in politics and business
Manafort was born in 1949 and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, a largely liberal town where his father served three terms as a popular Republican mayor.
Like Trump, Manafort comes from a real-estate family. Alongside his political work, his father also ran the family construction company, Manafort Brothers Inc., founded by his Italian immigrant father.
Instead of taking over the family business, Manafort decided to pursue his interest in politics and moved to Washington, DC, where he earned both an undergraduate business degree and a law degree at Georgetown University.
A Republican operative and international ‘gun for hire’
While working at a private law firm two years after graduating from law school, Manafort began advising Republican president Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign. Since the 1970s, he has established deep and sometimes murky, connections in Washington and around the world, serving as political lobbyist, adviser, and an international political consultant for leaders around the world, including dictators Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
Manafort’s international work has long raised eyebrows among Democrats in Washington. In 2004, he became a top adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman whom Manafort is widely credited with helping win the presidency in 2010.
Yanukovych was ousted in 2014 after widespread demonstrations again this decision to back out of a deal with the EU that would have distanced Ukraine from Russia and fostered closer ties with the West. On February 20, 2014, Ukrainian riot police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in central Kiev. Fifty-three protesters were killed that day, and dozens more over the next few days.
Ukrainian prosecutors have said Yanukovych ordered the security forces’ attack on protesters, and at least one human-rights lawyer representing the victims is investigating what role, if any, Manafort played in encouraging Yanukovych’s crackdown. Yanukovych fled to Russia amid the protests and is now living under the protection of the Kremlin.
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images
‘A sick f—ing tyrant’
The New York Times reported in July that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests by as much as $17 million by the time he joined the Trump campaign.
Legal complaints filed by representatives of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the Cayman Islands in 2014 claimed Deripaska gave Manafort $19 million that year to invest in a Ukrainian TV company. The project fell through, and Manafort all but disappeared without paying Deripaska back, the filings claimed.
Deripaska and Manafort had worked together before. Deripaska signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006, according to the AP, for a lobbying project in the US that Manafort said would “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”
In another bizarre twist, last March hackers broke into Manafort’s daughter’s iPhone and published four years’ worth of purported text messages – roughly 300,000 messages – on the dark web.
In a series of texts reviewed by Business Insider that appear to have been sent by Andrea to her sister, Jessica, in March 2015, Andrea said their father had “no moral or legal compass.”
“Don’t fool yourself,” Andrea wrote to her sister, according to the texts. “That money we have is blood money.”
“You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,” she continued, according to the reviewed texts. “As a tactic to outrage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remember when there were all those deaths taking place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strategy that was to cause that, to send those people out and get them slaughtered.”
In another text to her cousin, who was also her father’s business partner, Andrea called Manafort “a sick f—ing tyrant.”
A Ukrainian member of parliament has accused Manafort of accepting nearly $1 million from Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions, and then laundering it through a company that claims to sell computers. Ukrainian lawyers also want to question Manafort about what role he played, if any, in the 2014 police killings of protesters in Kiev.
Manafort has denied all the allegations against him. Last February, Manafort said he has “never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration.”
Manafort’s ties to Trump
Manafort and Trump have been connected since the 1980s when Trump hired Manafort’s lobbying firm to help the Trump Organization. Trump became close with Manafort’s business partner at the time, Roger Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who served as an early adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign.
In 2006, Manafort and his wife bought a Trump Tower apartment, which Manafort still owns and resides in when he’s in Manhattan.
In March 2016, Trump hired Manafort to manage the Republican National Convention and wrangle delegates into supporting Trump. Manafort had experience convincing delegates to support Gerald Ford in 1976 – the last time the Republican Party began a convention without having selected its presidential nominee.
In May 2016, Manafort was promoted to the position of campaign chairman and chief strategist. He became the campaign’s de-facto manager after Trump fired Corey Lewandowski in late June.
The New York Times, citing ledgers uncovered by an anticorruption center in Kiev, reported on August 16, 2016 that $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s pro-Russia Party of Regions had been earmarked for Manafort for his work with the party from 2007 to 2012.
Three days later, Manafort resigned from the campaign.
Over the last several months, the White House has attempted to distance itself from Manafort. In March, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” in the campaign, despite having spent five months on the campaign and nearly three of those months as the chairman.
Trump attempted to minimize Manafort’s contributions to the campaign earlier this year.
“I know Mr. Manafort – I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, but I know him – he was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time – for a relatively short period of time,” Trump said.
But last year those close to Trump were quick to attribute the campaign’s success to its former chairman.
“We couldn’t be more happy with the work that he’s doing, the way he’s tackling these things, the way he’s handling the organization of everything going forward,” Donald Trump Jr. told the AP in July 2016.
In August 2016, former House Speaker and Trump loyalist Newt Gingrich told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to get this campaign to where it is right now.”
- Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The FBI investigation heats up
The Justice Department began looking into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine in 2014 and became the subject of a FISA warrant, which allowed the federal government to surveil him.
But since Mueller, the former FBI director, was appointed as special counsel to lead the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Manafort has come under intensifying scrutiny.
In early August 2017, The Washington Post reported that the FBI conducted a predawn raid of Manafort’s home in late July. The agents, acting on a “no knock” search warrant, picked the lock to Manafort’s home, seizing tax documents, foreign banking records, and other materials relevant to the special counsel investigation.
In order to obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must prove to a judge that there is probable cause that a suspect has committed a crime and that that the suspect might attempt to conceal or destroy relevant evidence if asked to turn the information over.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Manafort offered to provide “private briefings” about the Trump campaign to Deripaska.
“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote to his longtime employee Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian operative with suspected ties to Russian intelligence.
This email came roughly 10 days before Trump campaign representatives lobbied to alter the language of an amendment to the GOP’s draft party policy on Ukraine that denounced Russia’s “ongoing military aggression” in Ukraine. Many saw the changes as pro-Russian and some believed Manafort played a role in the policy shift.
CNN reported that US investigators had wiretapped Manafort both before and after the 2016 election, that Mueller’s probe is looking into possible crimes committed over the past 11 years, and that the special counsel’s team had warned Manafort that they are working to indict him on tax and financial charges.
Some legal experts think that Mueller’s intensifying focus on Manafort is an effort to pressure the former campaign chairman into providing damaging information about those close to Trump, and maybe Trump himself.