Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigns over revelations about Ukraine work
Paul Manafort, the embattled chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who has been under fire in connection with a Ukrainian corruption investigation, tendered his resignation on Friday.
“This morning, Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign,” the Republican nominee said in a statement. “I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success,” he added.
The shock move came just hours after calls by lawmakers in Kiev for Manafort to be questioned by Ukrainian investigators over almost US$13 million he allegedly received from a secret account for working on behalf of toppled former President Viktor Yanukovych, a lawmaker said.
“We state that Mr. Manafort received US$12,774,869 from November 20, 2007, until October 5, 2012, from a shadow account of the Party of Regions, which was filled in a non-transparent, corrupt way,” legislator Serhiy Leshchenko told a news conference in Kiev on Friday. Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau and prosecutors “should question Manafort by sending a request to the US”.
A former member of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, Vitaliy Kalyuzhny, allegedly received most of the funds on behalf of Manafort, Leshchenko said. Kalyuzhny, a former chairman of Ukraine’s parliamentary international relations committee, was a board member of a non-governmental organization in Brussels that hired a Washington lobbying firm to promote ideas favourable to Yanukovych’s party.
Manafort, who’s denied getting cash payments, worked for pro-Russian Yanukovych in 2010 and helped him to win Ukraine’s presidential elections that year.
Ukrainian anti-corruption bureau head Artem Sytnyk said on Monday there’s no direct proof so far that Manafort received the money, which included repayment for expenses and payments for exit polls and foreign observers, and that the investigation is continuing. Yanukovych fled to Russia from Ukraine in February 2014 amid deadly street protests.
Manafort’s lobbying firm directly orchestrated a covert campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling party to try to sway US public opinion in favour of the country’s pro-Russian government, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press. He and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents between 2012 and 2014 as required under federal law, AP said.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators were examining ledgers containing references to US$12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort over a five-year period linked to his work for the Party of Regions.
Manafort has been relying on a former interpreter for Russian military intelligence to collect unpaid fees in Ukraine owed to his company by the Opposition Bloc, a political party founded by former Party of Regions legislators, Politico reported Friday. The aide, Konstantin Kilimnik, began working for Manafort in 2005 and continued to lead his office in Ukraine after Yanukovych fled the country in 2014, it said, citing business records and political operatives that it did not identify.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse