More Russian scandal envelops the Trump administration, whether fake or real. This latest one is about Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. It appears he may have been blackmailed by the Ukrainian government while he worked on the campaign last summer.
Politico reports that a number of texts were hacked from Manafort’s daughter iPhone, allegedly from a Ukrainian parliament member named Serhiy Leshchenko. The texts, intended for Manafort, read like a bad Craigslist ad:
“I need to get in touch with Paul i need to share some important information with him regarding ukraine investigation,” one said. “As soon as he comes back to me i will pass you documents. If I don’t get any reply from you iam gonaa pass it on to the fbi and ukrainian authorities inducing media.”
The series of texts hint at Manafort taking money from the Ukrainian government, and refer to a meeting in 2012 between Trump and then Ukrainian presidential aid, Serhiy Tulub. The texts threaten to pass the information to the FBI, unless Manafort responds. Other texts read:
“Considering all the facts and evidence that are in my possession, and before possible decision whether to pass this to [National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine] or FBI I would like to get your opinion on this and maybe your way to work things out that will persuade me to do otherwise.”
What the texter wanted Manafort to do is unclear. Manafort acknowledges that the texts exists, and said he received some himself, but did not respond. He simply sent them to his lawyer. Both he and Leshchenko deny any such meeting or financial arrangement exist and claim the entire incident is a hoax. Besides, the texts reference a 2012 meeting, and Manafort wasn’t even working with Trump then.
The Ukranian official told Politico, “I’ve never written any emails or messages to … Manafort or his family. I don’t know their contact details.”
However, hoax or not, the texts have made their way around the governments of both countries, raising suspicions. The timing of the scenario couldn’t be worse. Or, better, depending on the perspective. The FBI and other intelligence communities are already looking into links between the Trump campaign and cyberattacks on Democratic officials during Clinton’s campaign.
But, doubt shadows Manafort’s claim to innocence. Last August, the New York Times reported that the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine had documents showing that Manafort received $12.7 million from the foreign government. The documents claim that Manafort helped the Ukranian president Yanukovych get elected—twice. Manafort similarly claimed these were fake as well, but he resigned his position in response to the incident.
The text harassment began shortly after the story came out. Although Manafort is unsure of the originator of the texts, he thinks Leshchenko may be somehow behind them. The Ukrainian official was once an investigative journalist and is a hardcore defender against government corruption. Now the incriminating documents are being investigated by the Ukranian Anti-Corruption Bureau. Leshchenko, however, urged the American government to investigate him.
“I believe and understand the basis of these payments are totally against the law — we have the proof from these books,” he said in a press conference with international coverage. “If Mr. Manafort denies any allegations, I think he has to be interrogated into this case and prove his position that he was not involved in any misconduct on the territory of Ukraine.”
While the Anti-Corruption Bureau has no jurisdiction over Manafort personally, the documents are “generally being investigated.”
Some Ukranian political officials believe the entire thing may have been manufactured to discredit Trump. Much of their government was against Trump in the first place, and reports claim that some of them helped on the Clinton campaign.
This is the latest in a series of ongoing political scandals unveiled by the intelligence community to allege political ties between Russia and President Trump. Much of the intelligence community believes that Vladimir Putin used Russian operatives to help Trump get elected; that there were continuous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence; and that Trump has had numerous business dealings with the aristocracy in that part of the world creating a conflict of interest in diplomacy, national security and American business interests.
That subset of the intelligence community, sometimes referred to as the Deep State, will continue to release information in an effort to undermine and eventually depose the administration. The texts come from anonymous e-mail accounts that were eventually traced back to a hacker collective, hinting at an attempt to create tension.
Russia is distancing itself from the United States after the numerous allegations. The Russian media is backing off on Trump coverage, as it was reported Russians are tired of following the Trump presidency. It also appears that Trump may not be as pro-Russia as originally thought. After Flynn’s resignation, the country has engaged in handful of passive acts against the U.S., and Trump tweeted, “Was Obama too soft on Russia?”