Following the recent alleged infiltration of the Democratic National Committee servers by Russian hackers, as well as the then ensuing though now-redacted statement by Donald Trump that Russian hackers should help find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, has raised questions about the Republican presidential nominee and his relationship with Russia.
Those questions are now further complicated by the revelation of a secret ledger that allegedly connects Mr. Trump's campaign chairman and $12.7 million in undisclosed payments from his previous employer, the deposed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who is currently exiled in Russia.
Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chief spent the years from 2007 to 2012 working as a political consultant for the former ruling Party of Regions in Ukraine, where the party leader and the former President Yanukovych allegedly relied heavily on advice from Mr. Manafort until the president was forced into exile in Russia. He left after a popular uprising in 2014 – an uprising largely assumed to be conducted in opposition to Mr. Yanukovych and his government's close ties to Russia.
According to the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which has obtained the ledgers, the records involve nearly 400 pages of handwritten figures, including some $12.7 million in undisclosed contributions designated for Manafort specifically, paid by the Party of Regions. The Bureau stated that Manafort’s name appeared 22 times over the span of five years, though the nature of the payments were not made clear.
"Paul Manafort is among those names on the list of so-called 'black accounts of the Party of Regions,' which the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine are investigating," the Anti-Corruption Bureau said in a public statement quoted in The New York Times. "We emphasize that the presence of P. Manafort’s name in the list does not mean that he actually got the money, because the signatures that appear in the column of recipients could belong to other people."
Manafort’s lawyer has stated specifically that he did not receive any cash payments. But the Clinton campaign is raising questions about the nature of the payments as well as the consistently complicated and opaque relationship between Manafort’s current employer, Donald Trump, and Vanukovych’s close ally, Russia President Vladimir Putin.
Yanukovych, who initially disappeared following the 2014 uprising, had previously been accused of corruption and cronyism and even served a short stint on an Interpol wanted list for alleged embezzlement and financial wrongdoing. His palatial estate outside of Kiev made international news when, after his flight, protestors discovered the opulence he had been living in while the country was wracked with political turmoil.
While employed by Yanukovych, Manafort never registered as a foreign agent with the United States Justice Department, something that would be required for anyone looking to influence American policy on behalf of a foreign client, something for which one of Manafort’s subcontractors did register. Though it is unclear whether Manafort's actions in Ukraine would have required such registration, doing so would have required he disclose how much he was being paid and by whom during his period abroad – information that may now be available because of the discovery of secret ledgers once held in an office at the former Party of Regions headquarters in Kiev.
On Monday, Trump is expected to declare an end to nation building if he's elected president. In a speech in Ohio, his aides say Trump will outline his approach of "foreign policy realism" – a focus on destroying the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations.
Trump is expected to argue the country needs to work with anyone that shares that mission, regardless of other disagreements.