Before he worked for the Donald Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire to help promote Russian president Vladimir Putin's agenda in the United States.
The Associated Press reports that Manafort's plan promised to "greatly benefit the Putin Government."
The White House and Manafort blew off AP's report on Wednesday, but the stench of corruption in the air just keeps getting stronger.
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin's government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.
"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
Trump spokesliar Sean Spicer said today Trump wasn't aware of Manafort's work on behalf of Deripaska.
"To suggest that the president knew who his clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane," Spicer said.
He noted the AP's reporting "has started to catch a lot of buzz" but said Manafort's work occurred long before he became Trump's campaign chairman. "I don't know what he got paid to do," Spicer said, adding, "There's no suggestion he did anything improper."
Manafort's plans were laid out in detailed documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.
Manafort confirmed again Wednesday in a statement that he had worked for Deripaska but denied his work had been pro-Russian in nature. He added, "I look forward to meeting with those conducting serious investigations of these issues."
PHOTO: Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway (L) and Paul Manafort, staff of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speak during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower New York, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri