We’re about to find out how loyal Donald Trump is to Paul Manafort, the man running his campaign.

“Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Trump Aide” is the headline on the front page of Monday’s New York Times.

“Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from (Viktor) 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,” Andrew E. Kramer, Mike McIntire and Barry Meier report from Kiev. “In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles . . . Among the hundreds of murky transactions these companies engaged in was an $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable television assets to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.”

“Before he fled to Russia two years ago, Mr. Yanukovych and his Party of Regions relied heavily on the advice of Mr. Manafort and his firm, who helped them win several elections,” the story notes. “During that period, Mr. Manafort never registered as a foreign agent with the United States Justice Department – as required of those seeking to influence American policy on behalf of foreign clients – although one of his subcontractors did.”

In the 400-page ledger kept at party headquarters, inside a room which contained two safes full of $100 bills, Manafort’s name appeared 22 times over five years, according to Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which obtained the document and has an evidence-sharing agreement with the FBI. The Times says the purpose of the payments is not specified. Manafort lawyer Richard Hibey said his client never received the cash in question and did nothing illegal or corrupt.

In any conventional campaign, someone in Manafort’s position would not be able to survive a story like this. But this is not a conventional campaign. . .

An editor at Fusion, the site owned by Univision, teased that more damaging stories will come soon: Adam Weinstein tweeted, “Speaking as someone who has a story coming this week: This is just the beginning for Manafort. It gets worse.”

A Fox News contributor, Julie Roginsky, tweeted, “The fact that Trump has started receiving security briefings and that Manafort may have access to them is not a joke.”

A Republican strategist in Texas, Matt Mackowiak, tweeted, “If Manafort truly cares about Trump, he resigns by 8am tomorrow (Monday). Staff can’t be a distraction. And this is a massive distraction.”

David Frum, a former speechwriter to George W. Bush tweeted, “Assuming it is Trump to whom Manafort ultimately answers. But that’s a question now, isn’t it?”

The former director of the Richard Nixon presidential library (now a distinguished historian at NYU), Tim Naftali, tweeted, “How demonstrably Putanist does Manafort have to be for the RNC to insist Trump dump him?”

The imbroglio over Manafort is likely to overshadow the much-ballyhooed foreign policy speech that Trump will deliver later Monday. In Ohio, aides say Trump will promise an end to nation building (just like George W. Bush did!), describe himself as “a foreign policy realist” and promise to focus first and foremost on destroying the Islamic State. “He’ll argue the country needs to work with anyone that shares that mission, regardless of other disagreements,” the AP previews. (Notably, this would include Russia.) “Trump is also expected to propose a new immigration policy under which the U.S. would stop issuing visas in cases where adequate screenings can’t be performed. And he’s expected to propose creating a new, ideological test for admission to the country that would assess a candidate’s stances on issues like religious freedom.”

The story, of course, is just the latest example of Trump and his campaign’s friendliness with Putin and his regime, which it should go without saying is an adversary of the United States.

“During his administration, Trump will be friendly with Putin,” Trump, speaking in the third person, told CNBC last Thursday. (Don’t forget when he declared last month, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing!”)

Bigger picture, there is growing evidence that Putin is trying to sway the outcome of the U.S. election. On Friday, the personal cell phone numbers and email addresses for every Democratic member of the House were posted online by a hacker group that the U.S. intelligence community believes is linked with the Russians. This led to harassing calls and headaches for leaders like Nancy Pelosi and will force many top lawmakers to change their numbers. The disclosure came just one day after Pelosi likened the hack of the DNC and the DCCC to “an electronic Watergate.”

Flashback: The Russians may have initially targeted the DNC opposition researcher who was responsible for building the dossier on Manafort. From Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff on July 25: “Just weeks after she started preparing opposition research files on Manafort last spring, Democratic National Committee consultant Alexandra Chalupa got an alarming message when she logged into her personal Yahoo email account. ‘Important action required,’ read a pop-up box from a Yahoo security team . . . ‘We strongly suspect that your account has been the target of state-sponsored actors.’ Chalupa – who had been drafting memos and writing emails about Manafort’s connection to pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine – quickly alerted top DNC officials. ‘Since I started digging into Manafort, these messages have been a daily occurrence on my Yahoo account despite changing my password often,’ she wrote in a May 3 email to Luis Miranda, the DNC’s communications director, which included an attached screengrab of the image of the Yahoo security warning.”

In Sunday’s paper, Post Brussels bureau chief Michael Birnbaum explained how Washington is just now getting a taste of the unconventional tactics that have long been employed by the Kremlin to influence politics in neighboring European countries. “European leaders say Russia has been involved in such actions as an April referendum in the Netherlands that rejected a European Union trade deal with Ukraine and the strengthening of cross-border bonds among Euroskeptic parties. Russia has been pressing hard to roll back sanctions imposed after it annexed Crimea in 2014, a task that could succeed with the support of just one of the 28 E.U. nations, which need unanimity to prolong the measures. . . . In Eastern Europe, leaders suspect the Kremlin of funding environmental groups that oppose measures that would make their countries less dependent on Russian energy. . . . In France, the anti-EU National Front party was able to draw on Russian financial resources at a time when it was being refused by French banks.”

The plot thickens: Ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is still actively advising Trump and often speaks by phone with the candidate. Lewandowski, who blames Manafort for his ouster, tweeted out the NYT story just moments after it posted – highlighting the discord in Trump’s orbit and at least somewhat undercutting the inevitable pushback from Trump Tower.

Trump friend and former staffer Roger Stone responded by accusing Corey of working for Clinton, tweeting: “My God! CLewandowski– is working for HillaryClinton now– Clinton Talking point nonsense-“

From the chief strategist on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign: Stuart Stevens tweeted, “You could go to the Bada Bing and yell, ‘Hey, Joey,’ and come up with a more competent, ethical team.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly piled on: Brian Fallon tweeted, “If Corey recommends this story, it’s probably worth the read.” and “In ’05, George W. Bush’s WH called Sen. McCain to say Manafort’s firm was undercutting US foreign policy in Ukraine”

Clinton supporters began retweeting a 2014 picture of the former secretary of State with Russian dissidents (In addition to liking Trump, Putin hates HRC…).

The story will give more heartburn to the GOP foreign policy establishment, which has increasingly embraced Clinton – partly out of fear about Trump’s naiveté when it comes to Moscow. The editor of the Weekly Standard: Bill Kristol tweeted, “Beyond sleazy. Makes Trump look like Better Business Bureau.”

This will also increase pressure on Trump to release his tax returns, which Clinton and Tim Kaine did on Friday.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, in a statement, cited the Times story as evidence of “more troubling connections between Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.”

“Given the pro-Putin policy stances adopted by Donald Trump and the recent Russian government hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party records, Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them,” Mook wrote.

Manafort has really remarkable sway over Trump – much greater than most operatives in the job that he holds. Before he joined the campaign as an unpaid adviser, Trump had criticized Barack Obama for not doing enough to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. Without a coherent explanation, the GOP nominee has dramatically softened his position on Crimea and became more forgiving of Putin’s occupation since the adviser joined his inner circle. (Politico’s Michael Crowley recently tracked how Trump’s position has changed over the past two years.)

The campaign chairman apparently lied about the campaign’s role in watering down the GOP platform vis-à-vis Ukraine. National security experts who were closely involved in the process said Trump campaign staffers weakened language that would have called for U.S. military support of Ukraine. “In the past, that would not be considered a controversial Republican position,” Rachel Hoff, a member of the platform committee, told The Post’s Tom Hamburger after Manafort categorically denied it on “Meet the Press.”

Former acting CIA director Michael Morell’s op-ed endorsing Clinton on Aug. 5 is more relevant now than ever: “Putin was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests – endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States. In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: