Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been hit with a slew of charges in the wake of Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In fairness to Trump, the Manafort charges have nothing to do with the campaign, predating Manafort’s service.
Rather, they stem from a decade-long period where Manafort engaged in shadowy lobbying efforts on behalf of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was deposed in 2014 in the wake of the Maidan Revolution, and currently is in exile in Russia, under the protection of the Russian government.
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He remains an unpopular figure in Ukraine, and built up a reputation for ruthlessness and massive corruption. The PanAm Post recently spoke with Mariia Chaplia of Ukrainian Students for Liberty, who is currently participating in the Charles Koch Institute internship program.
Chaplia notes that originally Yanukovych had proposed to head in a more EU-oriented direction, and the catalyst for the Maidan Revolution, which led to over a hundred deaths, and pitted a pro-European Western faction of the country against a pro-Russian Eastern faction of Ukrainians, was Yanukovych’s decision to reverse course, and pursue closer commercial, economic, and geopolitical ties with Russia.
While Trump can’t be blamed for Manafort’s actions, he can be blamed for displaying extremely poor judgment in hiring someone such as Manafort in the first place. Manafort is alleged to have earned around USD $75 million from his lobbying activities on behalf of the unscrupulous Yanukovych regime, setting up an offshore bank account in Cyprus to launder the money. He then made wire tranfsers of USD $18 million to the United States but failed to pay taxes on any of the income.
Manafort has been charged with wire fraud and tax evasion, along with associate Richard Gates. The charges are an unwelcome distraction for the Trump administration, which is also dealing with fallout from a guilty plea from low-ranking foreign policy campaign aid George Papadopoulos, who lied to FBI investigators about the timing of his conversations with Russian foreign nationals.