White House distances itself from Paul Manafort, who reportedly laundered money to himself from a pro-Putin party's "black ledger"

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been downplaying Manafort's role in the Trump campaign

By Matthew Rozsa

Published March 21, 2017 2:38PM (EDT)

Paul Manafort   (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
Paul Manafort (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

A month after it was reported that a Ukrainian parliament member had attempted to blackmail Paul Manafort — the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump — with documents over Manafort's alleged connections to pro-Putin forces in Ukraine, that same parliament member has released documents allegedly showing Manafort laundering money from a pro-Putin party's so-called "black ledger."

"Serhiy Leshchenko, a lawmaker and journalist, released a copy of an invoice on letterhead from Manafort’s Alexandria, Va.-based consulting company from Oct. 14, 2009, to a Belize-based company for $750,000 for the sale of 501 computers," reports The Washington Post. "On the same day, Manafort’s name is listed next to a $750,000 entry in the 'black ledger,' which was viewed as a party slush fund."

Leshchenko is now claiming that Manafort forged the Belize invoice as a way of concealing the true nature of the $750,000 payment to himself. During a news conference, Leshchenko told reporters that Manafort "used offshore jurisdictions and falsified invoices to get money from the corrupt Ukrainian leader," a reference to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, for whom Manafort worked and who is widely viewed as having been a pro-Putin puppet.

Manafort's connection to Yanukovych led to his resignation as Trump's campaign manager in August, specifically due to the revelation that he was connected to secret payments of $12.7 million by Party of Regions, Yanukovych's political party. Manafort denied any wrongdoing.

Despite serving as Trump's campaign chairman for three months (May 19 to Aug. 19), the White House has been trying to downplay Manafort's importance to Trump. During a press conference on Monday, Spicer told reporters, "I believe Paul was brought on sometime in June and by the middle of August he was no longer with the campaign. Meaning that for the entire final stretch of the general election, he was not involved. And so to start to look at some individual who was there for a short period of time, or separately individuals who really didn't play a role in the campaign and suggest those are the basis for anything, is a bit ridiculous." Spicer also shut down reporters who tried to mention their role in the campaign — something they were quick to point out.


It was during Manafort's stint as campaign manager, however, that the Trump campaign insisted that the Republican National Convention soften its language on a plank in their platform criticizing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Manafort was also instrumental in Trump's decision to choose Mike Pence instead of Chris Christie as his vice presidential running mate.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Paul Manafort