Questions Grow About Former Trump Ally Paul Manafort's Ties To Russia

Paul Manafort, who chaired Donald Trump's presidential campaign for five months, pitched a Russian oligarch on a proposal to "greatly benefit the Putin government" in 2005, according to a strategy memo obtained by the Associated Press.

Manafort has said he never worked for Russian interests, and he repeated that assertion to AP, saying his work for Deripaska is being mischaracterized as "inappropriate or nefarious" as part of a "smear campaign".

It said the proposed plan was aimed at influencing politics, business dealings, and news coverage across the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet Union in ways that would favor Putin.

Manafort's name was mentioned multiple times when Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey spoke at a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday where he revealed that the agency is investigating Russian interference into the USA presidential election and possible involvement of Trump associates. But Horwitz said Deripaska is "extremely close" to Putin and traveled regularly with him.

He got a $10 million annual contract from 2006 to at least 2009, AP reported, citing a person familiar with the work and business records.

Manafort's plans were laid out in documents that included strategy memoranda and records showing worldwide wire transfers for millions of dollars. Manafort, who worked for Yanukovych's Party of Regions for almost a decade, resigned from Trump's campaign in August after his name surfaced in connection with secret payments totaling $12.7 million by Yanukovych's party.

Before he was brought aboard the Trump campaign, Manafort was well known for having served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was close to Putin and fled to Russian Federation after he was ousted in the 2014 political crisis.

Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday that Manafort had a "limited role" in the campaign, while the White House said the new reporting is only on older work done by Manafort. The hearing that also touched on Manafort's work for Yanukovych's party in Ukraine.

Manafort's connections to Russia faced fresh scrutiny last month after current and former USA officials told CNN that high-level Trump campaign advisers, including Manafort, regularly communicated with Russians known to USA intelligence.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the disclosures "serious stuff" and more evidence that an independent congressional committee should investigate the Trump administration. AP is the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information. "Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?" According to an unnamed former campaign official who talked to The Daily Beast, Manafort was in regular contact during the transition with Vice President Mike Pence, whom the former official implied was Manafort's pick for the spot.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, spelled out at the hearing several links between Trump aides and Russian Federation both before and after the election, asking whether they all were a mere coincidence. "It does not mean I had anything to do with the memo described", Davis said.