Things look bleak for both Donald Trump and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
The New York Times, on Sunday, dropped a bombshell on Trump campaign by revealing that its top adviser had ties to a large Ukrainian network that used to “loot assets and influence elections” during former President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s administration.
The Ukrainian investigators recovered handwritten papers, also known as the “black ledger,” from the office of former ruling party. The secret documents, which detail payments doled out by Ukraine’s pro-Russia party before it was deposed, lists $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort between 2007 and 2012.
The ledger, reportedly put together by Yanukovych’s Party of Regions to keep track of off-the-books payouts, mentioned the Republican presidential candidate’s top aide up to 22 times. However, it is not clear if Manafort, who is known to have worked with the Pro-Putin government, actually received the alleged funds.
“He understood what was happening in Ukraine,” Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev, told The New York Times. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.”
He added, “It’s impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, ‘Everything is all right.’”
Manafort has previously served as an adviser for the Republican presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. He has also successfully lobbied on behalf of foreign dictators, such as the Philippine’s Ferdinand Marcos and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko.
While the Times exposé does not actually confirm anything, it is not good news for the Trump campaign because, at the very least, it illustrates how close the campaign chief worked with Ukraine’s Yanukovych. Moreover, it comes at a time when the GOP presidential nominee’s own relationship with Russia is under scrutiny and his poll numbers are plummeting.
“This was our cash,” said former party leader Taras V. Chornovil, adding that it was the sketchy financial dealings that caused him to leave the party. “They had it on the table, stacks of money, and they had lists of who to pay.”
While Manafort has not commented on the matter yet, his lawyer Richard A. Hibey, from Washington law firm Miller & Chevalier, said his client had not received “any such cash payments.”
“These are suspicions, and probably heavily politically tinged ones,” he said. “It is difficult to respect any kind of allegation of the sort being made here to smear someone when there is no proof and we deny there ever could be such proof.”
Interestingly, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandwoski was one of the first people to post about the exposé on his Twitter account.
Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief https://t.co/7bh7iIHHaY— Corey Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) August 15, 2016
This is cold-blooded. pic.twitter.com/UFsAvgo5nf— Philip Bump (@pbump) August 15, 2016
Stay tuned for more recommendations from Corey's summer reading list. https://t.co/jsVXFa9WTH— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) August 15, 2016
Twitterati also had a lot to say about the Trump campaign and the GOP’s hypocrisy.
Paul Ryan: "Even though I am sickened by Paul Manafort 's criminal conduct, I continue to support the Republican nominee" - Tmrw probably— Donald Shrimp (@NeverShrimp) August 15, 2016
Paul Manafort worked for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos & Vladimir Putin. I bet Trump is still his craziest candidate ever.— Sean Kent (@seankent) August 15, 2016
Maybe that $12 million was just a tax refund to #Manafort from H&R Blockov.— Rob Woodyard (@robwoodyard1) August 15, 2016
After the Paul Manafort Ukraine payoff story, everyone watchin' Trump's twitter page like pic.twitter.com/UsQ4LAxUfi— T. Fisher King (@T_FisherKing) August 15, 2016
Then there was this:
Speaking as someone who has a story coming this week: This is just the beginning for Manafort. It gets worse. https://t.co/5KTUsIHbX1— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) August 15, 2016