Today, the New York Times reports that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, was deep in the pocket of the former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, to the tune of $12.7 million. While the Times cannot confirm whether Manafort actually received the payments, it is clear that the cash was earmarked for him in, “an illegal off-the-books system” that has recently been uncovered by the Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Given Trump’s recent comments in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Yanukovych’s allies, these revelations have prompted many to question how deeply the Trump campaign is intertwined with Russian interests.
The question though, is whether Trump will care enough to cut ties with Manafort? In an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos in late July, the presidential candidate offered an explanation of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea that the Times described as “muddled” and “questionable.” So there is some evidence to suggest that he might not be fully aware of the implications of this revelation.
Manafort, for his part, told NBC News that he never received illegal payment from the Ukraine:
“The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly, and nonsensical… (Payments in his name) were for my entire political team: campaign staff (local and international), polling and research, election integrity and television advertising.”