President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort had a big day Wednesday.Manafort, who resigned from the Trump campaign under a cloud of suspicion surrounding his lobbying work in Ukraine, has reportedly decided to register with the government as a foreign agent. Manafort said through a spokesperson that he decided to file following “formal guidance” from federal authorities.Manafort had previously denied doing any work that would qualify him as a foreign agent.
And the Podesta Group, a Washington lobbying firm that worked with Manafort, filed paperwork Wednesday to register as a foreign agent, acknowledging that work Manafort reportedly oversaw could have benefitted the Ukrainian government.From 2012 to 2014, the Podesta Group worked on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, believing its mission was to “foster closer ties between Ukraine and the West,” according to the Podesta Group’s paperwork. The group decided to retroactively disclose its work to the Justice Department based on “information brought to light in recent months” that led the group to understand the principal beneficiary of its work might have been a foreign government or political party.Tony Podesta, brother of Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta, heads the Podesta Group.That filing signals bad news for Manafort, who directed a lobbying campaign to sway American politicians in favor of Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian political party with former Trump campaign advisor Rick Gates during that same time period, the Associated Press reported. They reportedly orchestrated the campaign through the Centre, working with the Podesta Group and another firm to set up meetings with senators and congresspeople.The Podesta Group had already disclosed its work with the Centre to Congress, according to its paperwork. Manafort never disclosed his association to the lobbying campaign to the Justice Department but said he’s now “taking appropriate steps” to remedy that, his spokesperson Jason Maloni told Politico.
Both Manafort and Gates previously claimed that they did not do work that needed them to register as foreign agents, and Manafort said in an August statement that he had not performed any work for the Ukrainian or Russian governments.“Since before the 2016 election, Mr. Manafort has been in discussions with federal authorities about the advisability of registering under FARA for some of his past political work. Mr. Manafort received formal guidance recently from the authorities and he is taking appropriate steps in response to the guidance,” Maloni told CNN. “The work in question was widely known, concluded before Mr. Manafort began working with the Trump campaign and was not conducted on behalf of the Russian government.”Manafort quit the campaign in August, shortly after a shadowy ledger emerged in Ukraine that appeared to show that Manafort had received payments from Yanukovych’s political party. On Wednesday, the Associated Press also confirmed that some $1.2 million of the payments listed in that ledger actually did end up in Manafort’s consulting company’s bank account.The New York Times also revealed Wednesday that the day Manafort left the Trump campaign, he signed papers creating a shell company that soon received about $13 million worth of loans from two Trump-connected businesses.Michael Flynn, the Trump administration’s former national security advisor who resigned in February, also retroactively registered as a foreign agent last month after it emerged that Flynn had been paid more than $500,000 to advocate for Turkey’s interests.