AP findings on Trump associate's work for Russian oligarch

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, reportedly worked for a Russian billionaire to push Vladimir Putin's global interests.

Manafort confirmed that he worked for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with close ties to Putin, but rejected an Associated Press report alleging that work was aimed at furthering the political interests of Putin's government.

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".

The AP got its hands on 2005 documents, including a strategy memo outlining how Manafort would influence politics, business and news across America, Europe and former Soviet countries. He's been a leading focus of the USA investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign. Their business relationship lasted through at least 2009, according to Day's story for the AP.

Manafort, in a statement, noted that his work for Oleg Deripaska was one decade ago and "did not involve representing political interests".

If his lobbying work with Deripaska wasn't classified as political but business-related, Manafort would still be subject to the much less stringent Lobbying Disclosure Act, Joseph Sandler, a lawyer specializing in FARA and former general counsel for the Democratic National Committee, told Business Insider.

He added, "The report is entirely focused on actions that Paul took a decade ago". U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis" and "a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin's trips overseas".

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Manafort's connections to Russia faced fresh scrutiny last month after current and former U.S. officials told CNN that high-level Trump campaign advisers, including Manafort, regularly communicated with Russians known to USA intelligence.

The work was described in interviews with people familiar with it and confidential business records obtained by the AP. In response to questions about Manafort's consulting firm, a spokesman for Deripaska in 2008 - at least three years after they began working together - said Deripaska had never hired the firm. 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.

During his work with Deripaska, Manafort allegedly lobbied on behalf of Russian clients with Putin ties to the Justice Department, according to the AP.

Democrats on the House intelligence committee said the new revelations will feature in their investigations. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided and said he never worked for Russian interests.

Even before this AP report, the White House has tried to distance itself from Manafort. The Moscow office never opened. His name was mentioned 28 times during the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, mostly about his work in Ukraine but no-one mentioned Mr Deripaska. However, the Manafort memo represents a special case on multiple levels. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked on Monday about possible campaign contacts with Russian Federation, said Manafort "played a very limited role" in the Trump campaign albeit during the critical run-up period to the Republican National Convention.

Spicer rejected the notion that Trump should have known about the work, asking in return whether Trump should have known who Manafort "played with in the sandbox". Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak to Trump by telephone. Manafort's former business partner in Eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House, helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a nonprofit to back the White House's agenda.

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