The White House is going to great lengths to put distance between President Donald Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as a series of explosive news reports emerge detailing the millions of dollars he received from a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin and a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Manafort, a key member of the Trump campaign for six months, played “a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” By Wednesday morning, Spicer was refusing to even say Manafort’s name, telling NBC News that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a person who is not a White House employee.”
Yet Trump’s ties to Manafort predate the 2016 campaign, and appear to have stretched well into the post-election transition period. FBI Director James Comey confirmed this week that the bureau is investigating ties between Trump’s associates and Russian officials, including whether there was any "cooperation" between the two, casting a cloud over the administration as it tries to shepherd the GOP's long-promised Obamacare repeal bill through Congress. Manafort is reportedly at the heart of this probe.
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