Dictators, antique rugs, and an ostrich coat: Paul Manafort’s life in the swamp – Washington Examiner
Before joining President Trump’s campaign to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption, Paul Manafort perfected a revolving door between respectable Republican politics and dictators who gave him millions of dollars.
Now, the former Trump campaign manager, 69, will trade six homes and an ostrich coat for a federal prison cell and a monochrome uniform, with a judge awarding him Thursday what could be a de facto life sentence.
Manafort has been held in jail since June after trying to influence witness testimony, and sentencing guidelines call for 19 to 24 years in prison. In a separate federal case, he could get an additional 10 years next week.
The veteran political adviser and lobbyist is the biggest fish caught by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was assigned to look for possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia but instead has charged many Trump aides with unrelated crimes or with lying to investigators.
From the start of Mueller’s probe, Manafort looked like a potential missing link that could show Trump worked with Russia to release hacked Democratic emails in 2016. Manafort’s financial records turned up other crimes centered on his work for pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians, from whom prosecutors said he earned about $60 million from 2006 to 2014.
A richly detailed indictment accused him of using un-taxed income held in bank accounts in Cyprus and the Caribbean to buy $934,350 worth of rugs from a store in Alexandria, Va., where he owned a home, and $849,215 in clothes from a store in New York, where he owned a Trump Tower condo and a mansion in the Hamptons.
At trial, jurors were told about and shown images of a $15,000 ostrich skin jacket, a $9,500 ostrich vest, and a $18,500 python skin jacket.
Before coming to epitomize the “swamp” that Trump pledged to drain, Manafort got his national political start working in President Gerald Ford’s White House and on his unsuccessful 1976 campaign. After working on President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, he co-founded a lobbying firm with longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who was indicted in January for allegedly lying about efforts to contact WikiLeaks, and witness tampering.
Beginning in the ’80s, Manafort took controversial clients, including Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and the ruthless anti-communist Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi. Despite the toxicity of many clients, Manafort went on to advise President George H.W. Bush in 1988 and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996.
In 2016, he pitched his services to Trump as the billionaire shocked the political establishment by nearly clinching the GOP nomination in late March 2016.
“I’m always careful what clients I take,” Manafort insisted on “Meet the Press” weeks after joining the Trump campaign to oversee Republican convention strategy.
In May 2016, Manafort was named the Trump campaign’s chairman, a position he held until August, when he was forced out and replaced by Steve Bannon. A month after he became campaign chairman, Manafort won a power struggle with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was fired, allowing Manafort to fill that role, too.
Manafort was fired by Trump in August 2016 after news reports revealed a “black ledger” for ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that indicated Manafort was paid $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from 2007 to 2012.
In August, a jury in Virginia found he committed eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. He then pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering in Washington, D.C., but a plea deal was scrapped when he allegedly misled investigators, potentially adding a decade to his time in prison.
Despite Manafort’s trouble, Trump has not shut the door on a potential pardon, often saying he feels bad for Manafort and suggesting a double standard benefiting Democrats. A top Democratic lobbyist, Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, also performed unregistered lobbying work for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.
“You know this flipping stuff is terrible,” Trump told the New York Post in November, calling the refusal of Manafort, Stone, and one other person to cooperate “actually very brave.”
Regarding a pardon, Trump said, “I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”