In response to a predawn FBI raid at the house of Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, President Trump talked about a distant acquaintance, not the man who largely sewed up the Republican presidential nomination for him.
“I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him,” Trump said in response to a reporter's question on Thursday. Just before 4am on July 26, a dozen FBI agents raided one of Manafort’s four homes, carrying off tax documents and banking records. “That’s pretty tough stuff,” Trump said.
Trump's team has repeatedly downplayed the administration's connection to Manafort, describing his association as "a very short period of time." But the Daily Beast reports that Manafort was integral to securing Republican delegates for Trump's nomination, that he'd stayed in touch with the White House as late as April this year, and that he helped craft the early response to allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Some close to Trump blame Manafort for special counsel Robert Mueller's divergence from Russian collusion into Trump's financial matters, saying Manafort's deals in Russia and Ukraine set off Mueller's alarm bells.
Manafort “was brought on because he can count votes. But when you’ve counted votes for some of the people he has, there’ll be plenty of material for a Bob Mueller to work with,” a former Trump campaign official told the Daily Beast.
“There is no trust between the president and Paul [Manafort],” another West Wing official said. “There never really was any to begin with, to tell you the truth.”
A secret ledger in the Ukraine shows that Manafort receiving $12.7 million from the country’s former leader, a Putin ally, from 2007 to 2012. During that time, Manafort spent millions of dollars on New York City real estate, which he paid for in cash. Shortly after the 2016 election, Manafort borrowed millions of dollars against those fully-paid-for properties.
The Trump team became deeply suspicious that Manafort leaked the story about Donald Trump Jr.'s secret meeting with a Russian lawyer who proffered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Daily Beast reports. Manafort was in attendance that day. A Manafort spokesman said Manafort voluntarily disclosed the meeting to Senate investigators.