A flurry of headlines are out about Paul Manafort, who temporarily served as President Trump's campaign manager, and Manafort's Russian business dealings. The latest one, from the AP, asserts that Manafort "secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago," and it's drawing attention given the FBI's confirmation of an investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Moscow. A look at coverage:
- The AP says it obtained a memo in which Manafort promised aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska that he could influence news stories and politics in the US and around the world to "greatly benefit the Putin Government." This, says the AP, "appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests." Read the story in full.
- Manafort's response: This is a "smear campaign," he says. "I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia's political interests."
- Two takes: "This is not a smoking gun, but it can be the smoke from that smoking gun, so stay tuned," per a post at RedState. But another at the pro-Trump Gateway Pundit is unimpressed. A Russian billionaire had close ties to Putin—"is that a surprise?"
- The other story: A second Manafort story making headlines is that Manafort allegedly hid hefty payments for his work on behalf of the pro-Putin leader of Ukraine, who is now out of office. Manafort calls the allegations, which stem from a corruption investigation, "baseless." (He resigned as campaign chairman in August amid scrutiny over his Ukraine work.)
- Phone calls? Last month, the New York Times reported that US intelligence officials intercepted calls between members of the Trump campaign, including Manafort, and "senior Russian intelligence officials." The calls came to light around the same time the intel services discovered evidence of Russian hacking of Democratic officials. Manafort called the report "absurd," adding, "I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers."
- Comey: FBI chief James Comey didn't mention any names in regard to the agency's investigation, but Manafort released a public statement in the wake of his testimony, saying that he "had no role or involvement in the cyberattack on the DNC or the subsequent release of information gained from the attack," per the Hill.
- Testimony coming? Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, tells CNN, "We have to talk to Mr. Manafort. We're going to need to bring him in."
- Distance: White House spokesman Sean Spicer said this week that Manafort, who was campaign chief for about six months, "played a very limited role in the campaign," per Politico. And in the wake of the AP report, he said, "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on a person who is not a White House employee," per NBC News.
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