For a campaign with the slogan “America First,” Donald Trump’s entourage of shady political and business buddies sure are big fans of other countries. There are a lot of close seconds—or 1As really—in the Trump crowd. First, there was Mike Flynn ever so reluctantly registering retroactively as a foreign agent with the Justice Department for work he did on behalf of Turkey during the presidential campaign. Now, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort appears to be on the verge of taking a similar step to square his work with Ukrainian elements between 2012 and 2014.
Manafort, like Flynn, is registering with the DOJ to get in compliance with The Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires that American citizens lobbying on behalf of foreign governments disclose these activities. Foreign governments, like any interest, often solicit help from Washington lobbying firms to help push their agenda on Capitol Hill. Manafort, for years, has existed out on the global political fringes—advising strongmen and dictators, in Ukraine, the Philippines, and beyond. In Ukraine, Manafort aligned himself with former President Viktor Yanukovych, who came to power in 2010, but then was ousted in 2014 when demonstrations gripped the country. Yanukovych—a Kremlin ally—fled to Moscow. Manafort is now set to declare his work for Yanukovych three years after the fact.
“Manafort’s acknowledgment of the foreign registration issue came Wednesday afternoon, hours after a detailed statement was issued by the Podesta Group, which, along with another firm, helped Manafort with a campaign to improve Ukraine’s image in the United States between 2012 and 2014,” the Washington Post reports. “The Podesta Group is led by Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign adviser, John Podesta.”
Questions about Manafort’s murky finances come under further scrutiny Wednesday with a New York Times report that the day he resigned from the Trump campaign, Manafort created a shell company “that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser [and] … were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.”