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Paul Manafort Quits Trump Campaign

Image: Paul Manafort Quits Trump Campaign

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 19 Aug 2016 10:10 AM

Veteran political operative Paul Manafort resigned as Donald Trump's campaign chairman Friday morning, just days after he was pushed aside at the top of the campaign amid damaging reports about his ties with Ukranian leaders and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign," Trump said in a statement Friday morning.  "I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."

The move comes afters Trump announced Tuesday that Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News was becoming chief executive officer and that he was promoting Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and senior adviser, to campaign manager, effectively replacing Manafort at the top of the team.

Conway insisted, however, that the shakeup was designed to add to the team rather than demote Manafort, and insisted Manafort would retain his role as campaign chairman.

The change was necessary, she said, because there is a "busy homestretch" ahead and the campaign's senior roles need to be beefed up so "we are dividing and conquering. There is a great deal to do."

Manafort was initially brought into the Trump campaign in the weeks before the Republican National Convention as an adviser amid concern that Trump could face a showdown for the GOP nomination at the convention. However, as Manafort's role grew in the campaign, Trump fired controversial campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Manafort's resignation comes a day after The Associated Press reported that confidential emails from Manafort's firm contradicted his claims that he had never lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian political figures in the U.S.

Emails between Manafort's deputy, Rick Gates, also a top Trump adviser, and the lobbying firm Mercury LLC showed that Manafort's firm directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine's then-ruling political party.

The effort included not just legislative outreach but also attempts to sway American public opinion and gather political intelligence on competing lobbying efforts in the U.S.

Manafort and Gates never registered as foreign agents for their work as required under federal law.

Also Friday, Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators released copies of handwritten ledgers detailing possible cash payments from Ukrainian political figures to Manafort totaling more than $12 million.

Details of the payments described in the ledger were first reported by The New York Times. Manafort denies receiving those payments.

Meanwhile, NBC News reported on Thursday that Manafort's connections included one person with alleged ties to organized crime, a connection foreign policy experts said raised questions about statements Trump has made praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "leader" in his campaign speeches.

"The relationships that Trump's advisers have had with pro-Russian forces are deeply disturbing," David Kramer, a former senior State Department official in the George W. Bush administration and a former adviser to Marco Rubio's presidential campaign told NBC. "Trump's attitude on Russia is not in line with most Republican foreign-policy thinking. Trump has staked out views that are really on the fringe."

According to court records, Manafort's firm was involved with Ukrainian Dmytro Firtash in a plan for redeveloping The Drake, a notable New York hotel. Firtash's company had planned to invest more than $100 million of the $850 million project, according to records. Firtash, though, has admitted getting his start through his connections with a Russian crime lord. The deal eventually fell through, and Manafort has denied having a "business relationship" with Firtash.

This tie, and several others detailed in records, lead to an "extraordinary" situation, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told NBC, with Trump taking an unusual stance on Putin.

"This is not a Republican or Democratic thing," said McFaul. "Almost nobody agrees with Trump on this stuff."

Manafort's days may have been numbered, though, since last weekend after Trump attended a fundraiser in Southampton, New York, Fox News' America's Newsroom" host Bill Hemmer commented Friday.

Reports have indicated that Trump decided to bring in Bannon and Conway after supporters came to him at the fundraiser came to him and told him he was being a "puppet of Paul Manafort."

"It's being reported that really ticked him off, and during the day Sunday that's
when he started to think there had to be a change," Hemmer said.

"There's truth to all of this stuff," Fox News' John Roberts told him. "There's truth to the campaign reboot, the intervention, there's truth to all of that. And now the campaign is just kind of leaking this out now, that they have come to a realization that the Trump campaign was going the wrong direction."

A person described as a close confidante of Manafort told The Washington Post that Manafort is leaving on good terms and plans to continue supporting Trump.

Some people within the campaign, though, believed that Manafort might have stayed in the campaign, even with his lessened role, the Post reports.

The resignation also comes while Manafort had signaled that he and Trump were working together for a "pivot" that would cast the unconventional nominee in a more presidential light.

Conway this week told CNN that the campaign would focus more on its message while allowing Trump to be "comfortable being in his own skin," a stance the New York businessman has embraced while vowing that he doesn't plan to change a strategy that led to his primary election win over a large field of veteran Republican politicians.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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Veteran political operative Paul Manafort resigned as Donald Trump's campaign chairman Friday morning, just days after he was pushed aside at the top of the campaign amid damaging reports about his ties with Ukranian leaders and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin....
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Friday, 19 Aug 2016 10:10 AM
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