The effort by President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden began as something else — a search for a rationale to pardon former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the New York Review of Books reported Wednesday.
The report was based off of records provided by someone who’d participated in Trump and Manafort’s joint defense agreement, according to NYRB. The records include notes of conversations that included Giuliani, who’s led the charge for dirt in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Per the report, Trump and Manafort’s legal teams had at least nine conversations related to the effort, aimed at providing a pretext for a pardon. The conversations ranged from the early days of Trump’s presidency to as recently as May.
While there was no formal agreement that Trump would pardon Manafort, NYRB reported, Manafort was encouraged by Giuliani’s public efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine.
Per the report, Manafort’s team provided Giuliani with information to smear two people:
One of them, Serhiy Leshchenko, is the former parliamentarian, journalist and activist who publicized the secret “black ledger” of off-the-books payments from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s political party that led to Manafort’s ouster from the Trump campaign.
The second, Alexandra Chalupa, is a Ukrainian-born DNC consultant who researched Manafort during the 2016 elections but, contrary to what NYRB reported that Manafort believed, was not involved in the ledger revelation.
“Acting in part on Manafort’s advice,” the report said, then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also pressed reporters to cover “the Democrat National Committee coordinated opposition research directly with the Ukrainian Embassy,” a task conservative outlets took up.