USA probe of ex-Trump aide extends to Cyprus

Senate investigators want to bring Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, in for questioning about his ties to Russia, following a new report Wednesday that says Manafort's previous work had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Washington Post reported that the White House has distanced itself from the 67-year-old GOP lobbyist, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer claiming in a Wednesday press briefing that President Trump didn't know of Manafort's clients from the past decade.

Citing a strategy memo from 2005, they say Manafort told Deripaska that he would advocate a pro-Russian agenda both in former republics and "at the highest levels of the US government - the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department".

Manafort wrote a 2005 strategy plan that he said 'can greatly benefit the Putin government.' At the time, US-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush were growing worse.

The report of Manafort's pro-Russian work comes days after FBI Director James Comey "confirmed that his agency is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia" in last year's US election, as the Two-Way reported.

Manafort's arrangement was with Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally.

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.

Manafort confirmed to the AP that he worked for Deripaska but said the work was being unfairly cast as inappropriate.

The new revelations appear to contradict Manafort's repeated denials that he had ever worked on behalf of the Russian government.

Discussing Deripaska's ties to Putin, Day cites WikiLeaks cables that showed US officials referring to Deripaska as "one of the top two or three oligarchs that are very close to him". The new allegations arise months after Manafort resigned from the campaign amid concerns over his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

"My work for Mr Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests".

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

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

Manafort has an apartment at Trump Tower in NY and is a veteran of politics and lobbying; his career stretches back to Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. "This is not a drip, drip, drip", said Rep Jackie Speier of California.

The newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to Putin's interests in the region. According to those records and people with direct knowledge of Manafort's work for Deripaska, Manafort made plans to open an office in Moscow, and at least some of Manafort's work in Ukraine was directed by Deripaska, not local political interests there. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the committee, told CNN's Erin Burnett Tuesday that "we're going to need to bring (Manafort) in" to discuss connections between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

FBI Director James Comey, in confirming to Congress the federal intelligence investigation this week, declined to say whether Manafort was a target. In addition to Marcos and Seko, Manafort's firm has also retained Angolan political and military leader Jonas Savimbi, who wanted USA financial support for his brutal guerilla army, UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola).

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen.

Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager who served on Trump's national finance committee during Manafort's tenure at the helm, said he has "a lot of respect" for Manafort and said he believed Manafort's denial. Manafort's former business partner in eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions, helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a non-profit organisation, America First Policies.

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