Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Resigns

(CN) – Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned Friday morning, days after losing almost all of his authority in a staff shake-up and amid continuing controversy over alleged payments he received from pro-Russia partisans in the Ukraine.
     In a statement, Trump praised Manafort as a “true professional” and lauded 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.”
     Manafort’s resignation was announced just as Trump was arriving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to tour flood-damaged neighborhoods.
     Trump landed Friday morning at the Baton Rouge airport and was met on the tarmac by Republicans Rep. Steve Scalise, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry.
     His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also met Trump at the airport and planned to join on the tour, a sign that the campaign hoped to present a unified front in putting the recent day’s controversies behind them.
     On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Manafort’s firm orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s then-ruling political party.
     According to the AP, Manafort helped Ukraine’s Party of Regions secretly route at least $2.2 million to two Washington lobbying firms. The story also said Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.
     Manafort responded by telling Yahoo News that the AP story was wrong.
     On Friday, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which was set up in 2014 to deal with high-profile corruption cases, released 19 pages of the so-called black ledgers which investigators believe are essentially logs of under-the-table cash payments that the party made to various individuals.
     The pages were published in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper Friday morning.
     They contain 22 line-item entries where Manafort is listed as the ultimate recipient of funds totaling $12.7 million. The bureau stressed, however, that it cannot prove that Manafort actually received the money because other people including a prominent Party of the Regions deputy signed for him in those entries.
     Handwritten notes in a column reportedly describe what the payments were used for with entries such as: “Payment for Manafort’s services,” ”contract payment to Manafort” dated between November 2011 and October 2012.
     Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump’s campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.
     People with direct knowledge of Gates’ work told the AP that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms.
     The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych’s party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych’s government.
     Two co-founders of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, Yevhen Geller and Vitaly Kolyuzhny, both former members of parliament, are listed in the released documents as recipients of funds on Manafort’s behalf, the AP said.
     The Associated Press contributed to this report.
     Photo caption:
     FILE – In this July 18, 2016, file photo, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort walks around the convention floor before the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Manafort resigned in wake of campaign shakeup and revelations about Ukraine work. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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