Paul Manafort, manager of Donald Trump’s increasingly chaotic campaign, may become just the sort of distraction that Trump, for all his vaunted loyalty, refuses to tolerate. Manafort’s close relationship with former Ukrainian president and Russian ally Viktor Yanukovych only underscores how many pro-Russia flacks have embedded themselves in Trump’s campaign and reminds voters that Trump’s own finances are entirely opaque despite previous promises to release his tax returns, which might disclose his own involvement with Russian oligarchs.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Manafort was representing a guy who was up to his eyeballs in corruption and has blood on his hands,” said David Kramer, senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute and a former U.S. assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush.
Mr. Manafort’s Ukraine work has become an issue for him and the Trump campaign, for which he serves as chairman. Following a report in the New York Times, Ukraine’s top anticorruption prosecutor said Monday that Mr. Manafort’s name was in secret records of off-the-books payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions from 2007 to 2012, and that Ukrainian investigators are looking into the ledger. The prosecutor, Artem Sytnyk, said that didn’t mean that Mr. Manafort necessarily received any money.
Trump was getting it from all sides yesterday. The Democratic National Committee demanded that Trump “disclose any and all ties, financial or otherwise, that he or his campaign aides have to the Russian government.” The DNC was happy to point to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who refuses to endorse Trump. Kinzinger ripped the idea of allying ourselves with Russia and demanded that Trump investigate the Manafort connection and the Trump campaign’s efforts to remove support for sending defensive arms to Ukraine from the RNC platform:
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign put out a list of Trump advisers with Russian connections, including Manafort, Carter Page, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Michael Caputo, Richard Burt, Howard Lorber, Boris Epshteyn and Rick Gates. The sheer number of such characters raises the question as to whether they are leading their candidate, repeatedly revealed to be a foreign policy ignoramus, around by the nose to adopt a pro-Russia policy dramatically at odds with conservative principles and our national-security interests, according to both Democrats and Republicans, at least those who are not beholden to Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
To sum up then, Manafort is becoming one more distraction for Trump at a time he’s under siege with questions about his extreme views, his lack of a ground game, his desire to win and even his personal stability. Republicans are no longer so much criticizing the Manafort-led campaign as concluding that there is no presidential campaign, just a series of rallies in front of true believers. Maybe it would help Trump to fire Manafort and silence some of the worries about the Kremlin connection. Then again, it might open the floodgates for demands that Trump fire the rest of his pro-Russia clique, open his own finances to scrutiny and revise his pro-Russia foreign-policy stance.
Trump’s in a lose-lose situation with Manafort. Come to think of it, the same could be said about virtually every aspect of his failing campaign.