Manafort and his consulting firm Davis Manafort & Freeman, Inc. provided political advice to former President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was ousted from power in February 2014, and his now-defunct Party of Regions. The pro-Russian party maintained an off-the-books handwritten ledger of cash provided to advisers and election officials that was uncovered by Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau, according to the Times. The amount earmarked for Manafort was recorded in 22 separate listings between 2007 and 2012.
Ukranian officials cautioned that though there was no proof that Manafort accepted the funds, anti-corruption officials are investigating the payments set aside for him. His lawyer Richard A. Hibey stridently denied to the Times that Manafort received “any such payments,” and Manafort himself released a statement denying having ever worked for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.
“Once again, ‘The New York Times’ has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda, choosing to attack my character and reputation rather than present an honest report. I have never received a single off-the-books cash payment as falsely reported by ‘The New York Times,’ nor have I ever worked for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.”
The Times, Politico, Politifact and other outlets have previously reported on Manafort’s ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine including Yanukovych.
Yanukovych, who was ousted after months of violent street protests, fled to Russia in 2014, where he was granted protection.
According to the Times, members of the former president’s inner circle also took advantage of offshore shell companies to finance their extravagant lifestyles. At least one of them was used to launder public money and assets, the Times reported.
Manafort is not a target in the inquiry into the offshore firms, but prosecutors say that he was likely aware of the rife corruption in Yanukovych’s circle.
“It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption,” Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office, told the Times.
“It’s impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, ‘Everything is all right,’” he added.
In a statement released late Sunday, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary, Robby Mook, called the ties between Trump staffers and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine “troubling.”
“Given the pro-Putin policy stances adopted by Donald Trump and the recent Russian government hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party records, Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them,” Mook said.
U.S. officials have attributed recent cyberattacks on Democratic groups including the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s staffers to Russian intelligence agents.
Trump called on Russia to release any emails it has obtained from Clinton’s personal server before saying he was being “sarcastic.” Members of his senior staff said he meant that Russia should turn the emails over to the FBI.