Paul Manafort: The Smoking Gun at the Center of the Trump/Russia Conspiracy

The connections between Trump surrogates and Russian interests just keep multiplying. In addition to the lengthy list of Trump/Russia connection laid out by Representative Adam Schiff yesterday, the New York Times reported new allegations of Russia ties involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Manafort was dismissed from Trump’s campaign team last August, after it came to light that he had been paid $12.7 Million by a pro-Russian interest group in Ukraine, out of an illegal slush fund. Now Ukrainian officials have released an invoice showing Manafort received $750,000 more in a payments from pro-Russian interests, which he funneled through offshore accounts and disguised as billing for computers.

Manafort claims he’s being set up, but his dismissal from the Trump campaign suggests that even people close to Trump believe these allegations could be true.

Notably, Manafort was still the campaign chairman during the GOP convention, when the party changed its platform to oppose helping the Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The delegate who proposed that change has said it was directed by the Trump campaign.

This is the closest thing to a smoking gun we’ve seen in these investigations. It’s pretty easy to follow the trail here: Manafort is paid by pro-Russia and anti-Ukraine interests; in exchange, Manafort makes sure the GOP changes its party platform to reflect Russia’s position on the Ukraine.

Of course, Manafort was later dismissed by the Trump team. Was Trump even aware of the Russian game being played out behind the scenes by his campaign team? Is he complicit, or just a useful idiot?

The litany of other people with Russia connections (Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson) surrounding him certainly suggests this is more than just the actions of a rogue campaign chief. But a thorough investigation is needed to confirm any links to Trump. Let’s hope the GOP-controlled congress gives us one.

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