Russiagate latest: Manafort is radioactive, Stone tries damage control
A conservative “nonprofit” )read: pressure group) has ousted an executive for being a little too close to Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort:
Rick Gates, the longtime deputy to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was forced to leave his position with a nonprofit supporting Trump this week due to his longstanding relationship with Manafort, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Gates’ exit from America First Policies came after the Associated Press reported this week that Manafort had sought to further Russian government interests in his work for a Russian businessman. Gates did not return CNN’s requests for comment.
One administration source familiar with the matter called the departure “amicable.” A second source told CNN that Gates was asked to leave after his name popped back into the news this week due to his connections to Manafort.
Gates previously served as Manafort’s deputy when he was campaign chairman, and has long worked with him in the private sector, including in consulting work for foreign interests.
America First Policies confirmed the news Thursday on Twitter, tweeting: “Rick Gates is grateful @POTUS is standing up to #fakenews and supports agenda. @americanfirstpol is setup and strong- he’s on to more ventures!”
Gates was one of six former Trump campaign aides who joined forces after the campaign to form the nonprofit after Trump was elected president in November. Gates was one of the group’s top officials alongside the Trump campaign’s digital director Brad Parscale and longtime Mike Pence aide Nick Ayers, both of whom remain at the helm of the nonprofit.
Meanwhile, one of the trails uncovered in the ongoing probr into Manafort’s relationship with Russian agents leads to Cyprus:
… once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires.
Treasury agents in recent months obtained information connected to Manafort’s transactions from Cypriot authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. The request was part of a federal anti-corruption probe into Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe. The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country’s top law enforcement officers, was also aware of the American request. …
Manafort, in a statement to the AP Thursday when asked about the Cyprus transactions, characterized them as a normal practice. “Like many companies doing business internationally, my company was paid via wire transfer, typically using clients’ preferred financial institutions and instructions,” he said.
Federal prosecutors became interested in Manafort’s activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukrainian assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014. No U.S. criminal charges have been filed in the case.
It was not immediately clear what time period of Manafort’s transactions was covered under the request from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Manafort was known to route financial transactions through Cyprus, according to records of international wire transfers obtained by the AP and public court documents filed in a 2014 legal dispute in the Cayman Islands with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
A steady drumbeat of accusations against Stone that had been building for months –– since a Jan. 19 story in The New York Times identified him as one of three associates of President Donald Trump under FBI investigation for links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia –– reached a crescendo this week, when Stone’s name was mentioned 19 times during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
None of the references to Stone were flattering. And most ran along the lines of an attack by Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, who included Stone among a “rogues’ gallery” of Trump operatives “who fall somewhere on that spectrum from mere naivete … to unwitting Russian dupes, to willing blindness, to active coordination.”
Since then, the Senate Intelligence Committee has warned Stone not to destroy any written records that could pertain to the investigation. And it’s scarcely been possible to turn on a TV set without hearing calls for Stone to be politically tarred and feathered, or at least subpoenaed.
He blames his own fame for the scandal:
“Don’t confuse me with the character I sometimes play, Roger Stone,” he said. “Millions of people buy my books and watch me on [right-wing radio and streaming-video show] Info Wars. They like my style, and yeah, there’s a certain element of over-the-top to my style. But in today’s rapid-cycle media universe, if you don’t have some political flamboyance, you’re nowhere, you’re left behind.”
In an episode fraught with many ironies, among the most profound is that Stone, a longtime associate of Trump who has worked for him mainly on the political aspects of the casino business, wasn’t actually employed by Trump’s presidential campaign last year when the seeds of the Russian hacking controversy were planted.
Tony Soprano didn’t actually employ Uncle Junior or Paulie Walnuts either. And that point is not lost on those who have been following the details of the rapidly growing Russiagate scandal, which can no longer be regarded by the public, the media, and the Beltway as a mere distraction, as John Cassidy points out in his summary of the week’s revelations in The New Yorker:
In all of this, there is much that remains murky. One thing shines through, though. The White House’s “marginalia” problem is far from marginal, and it isn’t going away.