Politics

Former Trump Aides Connected To Russian Spy Firm

| by Lauren Briggs

Two former high-ranking aides to the Trump campaign have links to a company that tried to sell the Russian government technology to spy on its citizens.

The New York Post reported that Trump's former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and top aide Rick Gates have financial connections to EyeLock, a firm that lobbied the Russian government to use surveillance technology in subway systems to scan riders' irises to keep tabs on them and search for those on government watch lists.

Four sources confirmed that Manafort was an early major investor for EyeLock LLC, while Gates worked as an independent contractor increasing their business in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries.

Each hidden scanner would have been able to collect data from up to 50 people per minute, had the company won its bid. Though neither Manafort nor Gates were directly involved in EyeLock's daily activities, some critics say that this points to a conflict of interest in Trump's campaign.

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"This is quite an unusual business relationship for senior presidential campaign staff members to have with a foreign government," a former White House official told The Post. "It raises a lot of questions about national security and what should have been publicly disclosed to get a better handle on ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government."

Manafort invested up to $1 million in the company and owned nearly 10 percent of it, as of 2006, though his stake dropped to below 1 percent after Voxx International bought the company.

"There is an entity which holds a minority interest in EyeLock LLC," said EyeLock's spokesman, John Dillard. "The Company understands that Mr. Manafort has (or had) a .03% indirect interest in EyeLock LLC through that entity. The notion that small, indirect interest would give Mr. Manafort a financial incentive to attempt to act on behalf of EyeLock is preposterous."

The Trump campaign asked Manafort to resign in August after it was revealed that he and Gates helped elect Ukraine's pro-Putin president, Victor Yanukovich, notes the Hill. Manafort quickly stepped down, and Gates followed suit in September.

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The Trump campaign also commented on the ties between the former Trump campaign workers and EyeLock.

"Mr. Trump and the campaign have absolutely no knowledge of this, and these individuals are no longer with the campaign," Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the Post.

Sources: New York Post, The Hill / Photo Credit: TBIT/Pixabay

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