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Manafort Wrote About 'Donations' During Russian Meeting

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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly wrote notes that may have indicated improper political donations during a meeting with Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016. Manafort has been a focal point in congressional and federal probes into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 presidential race.

On Aug. 31, two sources familiar with the congressional investigation into Russia disclosed that Manafort had typed "donations" in close proximity of a reference to the Republican National Committee on his smartphone during a controversial meeting with Russian lobbyists. The notes have allegedly prompted congressional investigators to explore whether the RNC or the Trump campaign accepted foreign donations from Russian officials, NBC News reports.

Manafort spokesperson Jason Maloni blasted the report in a statement.

"It is 100 percent false to suggest this meeting included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party," Maloni said. "Mr. Manafort provided the Senate Intelligence Committee with the facts and his notes so this speculation and conjecture is pointless and wrong."

Manafort had attended the meeting with President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The controversial encounter was not disclosed until July 11, when Trump Jr. released his correspondence with a third party who arranged the meeting.

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On June 2016, entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. to tell him that a Russian oligarch was willing to provide a source with damaging information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports.

"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," Goldstone wrote.

"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Trump Jr. responded.

On June 9, 2016, Trump Jr. and Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin at Trump Tower in New York City. All of the involved parties have since asserted that no damaging information about Clinton was shared during the meeting.

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On July 25, Manafort testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former campaign manager also turned over his notes from the Trump Tower meeting to the committee, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Those notes have reportedly contained the references to both donations and the RNC. It is illegal for a U.S. campaign to accept donations from foreign sources. Manafort's notes were reportedly difficult to understand, with one source briefed on their contents describing them as "cryptic."

Manafort has also been among the most prominent persons of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 election. On Aug. 30, sources familiar with the federal investigation disclosed that Manafort's team was working with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York in investigating Manafort for alleged financial crimes, Politico reports.

Schneiderman's involvement in the probe signals that Manafort could potentially be charged with a state crime if any wrongdoing is uncovered. The former campaign manager would be ineligible for a presidential pardon, which can only affect charges for a federal crime.

Sources: Chicago TribuneNBC News, The New York TimesPolitico / Featured Image: Disney | ABC Television/Flickr / Embedded Images: Disney | ABC Television/Flickr, Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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