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Manafort's Ties To Russia Raise Legitimate Questions

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Paul Manafort's ties to Russia have raised new questions about President Donald Trump's involvement with Russia and the extent of that involvement. 

On March 22, The Associated Press released a report which outlined Manafort's ties to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Manafort proposed plans to Deripaska in 2005 that were meant to advance the political interests of current Russian President Vladimir Putin. This resulted in a $10 million contract between Manafort and Deripaska, which began in 2006 and resulted in a business relationship that continued until -- at the very earliest -- 2009. 

What makes all of this concerning is Manafort's connections to Trump. Manafort worked as the chairman of the Trump campaign from March 2016 until August of that same year. Trump asked him to resign after Manafort's ties to Ukraine's ruling pro-Russian political party were reported by the AP. 

The Trump administration tried to brush all of this very relevant and concerning information under the rug.

"To suggest that the president knew who his clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane," said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in response to questions about Manafort, according to the AP. He also said that Trump has had ''no personal financial dealings with Russia,'' according to Reuters. 

If this was the first time that Trump or members of his administration had been linked to Russia, one might be able to agree with Spacer's assertions and conclude that Trump knew nothing about Manafort's involvement. After all, 10 years is indeed a long time. 

However, the list of occurrences that suggest that Trump has -- or has had -- ties with Russia is long and ongoing and implies that he might have known more about Manafort's involvement with the country than the Trump administration is letting on.  

In August of 2016, Time reported that Trump had sought financing from several non-traditional institutions with direct ties to Russia. In addition, at that time, there had already been four instances of Russian intelligence agencies hacking into organizations with ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. 

In January, CNN reported that there had undoubtedly been Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. According to a declassified intelligence report, there was "high confidence" that Russian interference had helped Trump to win the election. 

It is also important to note that news of Manafort's involvement with Russia and other controversial countries is not new. In April of 2016, The Guardian released an article about Manafort's work in other countries, calling him a "consultant to or lobbyist for controversial foreign leaders and oligarchs with unsavory reputations." It is also important to realize that this article was published four months before Manafort's resignation. 

All of this information brings to light several questions about Trump. Did he possess prior knowledge about Manafort's involvement with Russia? If so, did he allow Manafort to work on his campaign in spite of or because of this involvement? Either answer would be extremely troubling. 

It is likely that in the coming weeks, even more information about Trump's involvement with Russia will undoubtedly come out. As Rep. Jackie Speier of California said, according to the AP, "This is now dam-breaking with water flushing out with all kinds of entanglements."

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Sources: AP, Reuters, Time, CNN, The Guardian / Photo credit: ABC News

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