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Trump’s Manafort Problem

Under normal circumstances, an American politician would be in trouble for having employed a figure as compromised as Paul Manafort, whose role in US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign ranks with some of the country’s most famous scandals. But these are not normal circumstances.

WASHINGTON, DC – As the first criminal trial of a major figure in US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign got under way in Virginia last week, observers have wondered to what extent not only Paul Manafort, his campaign manager for a crucial period, but also Trump himself is in the dock.

Manafort has been charged for his own alleged financial crimes – tax fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to investigators. Having earned many millions of dollars working for dictators and thugs around the world, including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Jonas Savimbi in Angola, in recent decades he made much of his fortune working for Russian oligarchs and the Russian-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

After Manafort and his minions helped Yanukovych defeat former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election, Yanukovych had her imprisoned on trumped-up charges, with help from a legal brief prepared – at Manafort’s bidding – by the prominent American law firm Skadden Arps. The case was handled by one of the firm’s partners, Gregory B. Craig, who had briefly served as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel. US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has referred Craig’s role to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York for further investigation. Yanukovych was overthrown by a popular revolt in 2014 and fled to Russia.

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