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Manafort registers as foreign agent

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, made more than $17 million working as a foreign agent of a Ukrainian political party, according to newly filed disclosure reports.

Trump forced Manafort to step down from his campaign last year after The Associated Press reported that Manafort and another Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, had secretly helped the Ukrainian Party of Regions steer money to two Washington lobbying firms through a nonprofit.

Neither Manafort nor the lobbying firms registered with the Justice Department as foreign agents working on behalf of the party at the time. The lobbying firms belatedly filed reports in April detailed their lobbying on behalf of the nonprofit, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, back in 2012. A Manafort spokesman said at the time that Manafort planned to file similar paperwork.

Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman, did not say directly why Manafort didn’t file disclose his activities at the time. Failing to report under the Foreign Agent Registration Act is a felony, but the Justice Department rarely prosecutes violations.

Manafort “started this process in concert with FARA’s unit in September, before the outcome of the election and well before any formal investigation of election interference began,” Maloni said in a statement.

“Paul’s primary focus was always directed at domestic Ukrainian political campaign work, and that is reflected in today’s filing.”

In the new documents, Manafort says that he gave “strategic counsel and advice to members of the Party of Regions regarding their interaction with U.S. government officials and other Western influential persons to advance the goal of greater political and economic integration between the Ukraine and the West” while working for party from 2012 to 2014. He also advised the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, “which was also working for the same purpose.”

While Manafort described the Party of Regions as seeking closer ties with the West, the party is widely viewed as pro-Russian. Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president while Manafort was working in Ukraine and the leader of that party, fled the country in 2014 amid protests against his government’s close ties to Russian.

Manafort’s firm received a total of $17.1 million for his work on behalf of the party, including $12.1 million in 2012, $4.5 million in 2013 and $500,000 in early 2014 before Yanukovych fled the country.

Manafort helped elect the party’s candidates in national and regional elections, according to the filing. He was also a “source of information for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev regarding developing events in Ukraine.” In 2012, he emailed John Tefft, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, to advise him on the American statement on the Ukrainian elections.

In 2013, Manafort also met with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who is considered Russia’s most reliable defender in Congress, as well as Paul Dobriansky, a former U.S. diplomat who’s now a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and Nadia Diuk of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The filing leaves open the possibility that Manafort did more in Ukraine that he admits in the document.

“Please Note: The information contained in this filing, including but not limited to descriptions of activities giving rise to the Registrant’s present registration and/or contemporaneous financial receipts or disbursements, reflect only Registrant’s best recollection of relevant events and such records currently available, to the knowledge and belief of the Registrant, for review by the Registrant and his legal counsel,” the filing states. “The Registrant may amend and/or supplement such disclosures should additional, relevant information become available.”

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