After a weekend on the attack, Donald Trump and his top campaign aides are back on the defensive after a new report from the New York Times alleges direct cash payments to Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort from pro-Putin political actors in Ukraine:
Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.
While reports of Manafort's past dealings in Ukraine are hardly new, the latest allegations received swift and hefty push-back from the Trump campaign over the weekend.
On Monday, Manafort issued a statement denying the Times' report.
“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.”
“My work in Ukraine ceased following the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2014,” he said in the statement. “In addition, as the article points out hesitantly, every government official interviewed states I have done nothing wrong.”
Oddly, however, Manafort's predecessor, Corey Lewandowski tweeted a link to the Times story Sunday night, sans a line of defense:
Asked about that seemingly shady move on CNN Monday morning, Lewandowski claimed he was simply drawing attention to the Times' biased reporting.
“Why did you decide to tweet that little tidbit?” asked host Alisyn Camerota.
“The media is now focusing on a private person who had a private business model, which no one says is anything illegal about what he did– and as a matter of fact, he’s saying he didn’t receive the money. But Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to the State Department, doesn’t make the front page ofThe New York Times, when she’s doing personal favors… so she can interview people for the Clinton Foundation?”
“It wasn’t meant to somehow denigrate Paul Manafort?” asked Camerota.
“No, of course not,” Lewandowski claimed.
— New Day (@NewDay) August 15, 2016