USA probes banking of ex-Trump campaign chief

Paul Manafort laughed off questions about any ties that either he or the Trump campaign had with Russia or Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos almost eight months ago.

Democrats on Capitol Hill who are part of two congressional investigations of Trump associates said the new disclosures about Mr Manafort's work for the Russian billionaire guarantee that he will be sought as a key witness in upcoming hearings.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success", Manafort wrote, according to the AP report.

Miller, the former DOJ spokesman, said that the reports have made it "pretty clear" that Manafort spent years lobbying "to try and benefit Putin's interests". The hearing will explore how Russian Federation tried to influence the US presidential election and its meddling in other elections, too. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10m annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by AP.

The AP's reporting was based on interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and confidential business records it obtained that included strategy memoranda and records showing worldwide wire transfers for millions of dollars.

In response to their report, Day and Horwitz quote a statement from Manafort in which he confirmed that he worked for Deripaska - but he also said that characterizing the work as "inappropriate or nefarious" amounted to a "smear campaign".

A spokesman for Mr Manafort did not immediately respond to questions.

Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing global wire transfers for millions of dollars. The business relationship lasted until 2009, the AP said, citing a source.

"This is why we have to have this investigation, why we have to talk to Mr. Manafort and a series of other individuals who have been affiliated with the Trump campaign", Warner told CNN's Erin Burnett Monday on "OutFront". L ast month, Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned after news about his correspondence with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak came to light.

Federal prosecutors became interested in Manafort's activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukrainian assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014.

FBI Director James Comey, in confirming to Congress the federal intelligence investigation this week, declined to say whether Manafort was a target. 'My work for Mr Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests'. He's been a leading focus of the USA government's investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign.

Discussing Deripaska's ties to Putin, Day cites WikiLeaks cables that showed USA officials referring to Deripaska as "one of the top two or three oligarchs that are very close to him".

A USA treasury department spokesman, Stephen Hudak, declined to answer questions about Mr Manafort's records.

Manafort, who was Trump's unpaid campaign chairman from March until August a year ago, has been a leading focus of the USA government's investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign.

Manafort and his associates remain in Trump's orbit.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says nothing in Wednesday's AP report references any action by the president, the White House or any Trump administration official. Mr Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Mr Trump by telephone. Gates has since helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a non-profit organisation, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.

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