Paul Manafort has just resigned from his position as campaign chairman.

  • According to sources within the campaign, Manafort met with Trump earlier this month to create a succession plan in the event of his departure.
  • Manafort told Trump that Clinton’s campaign was coordinating controversial stories, and they wouldn’t stop as long as he was still with the campaign.
  • Manafort reportedly said, “This is going to be a distraction, and I don’t want to be a distraction for the campaign.”
  • Internal discussions after this meeting between Trump and Manafort pointed to moving pollster Kellyanne Conway up into a more senior role, and hiring Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon, which eventually happened.

We found out earlier this week that secret ledgers which detailed transactions supposedly used to influence election officials in Ukraine show $12.7 million in cash payments to Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort, from his client former President of Ukraine Viktor F. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party.

Manafort has since denied these allegations, but emails obtained by the Associated Press show that a firm run by Manafort covertly tried to influence the American public’s opinion, to sway people to favor Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. 

  • The firm attempted to gain positive press coverage in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and others.
  • They also tried to drum up negative public sentiment for the rival of Yanukovych, the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko, who European and American leaders were trying to get Ukraine to set free at the time.
  • Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, was also involved, and neither disclosed their work on behalf of the Party of Regions to the Justice Department, as required by the 1938 federal law, the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. Under the Act, people who lobby for foreign political parties have to provide reports to the counterespionage division, or face a penalty of 5 years in prison and up to $250,000.
  • Manafort and Gates claim they didn’t need to report to the Justice Department because they didn’t oversee the lobbying directly, the nonprofit European Center for a Modern Ukraine did.
  • The emails contradict this, and make it clear that two firms associated Gates while he worked for Manafort’s consulting firm, Mercury and Podesta Group, worked on behalf of the Ukrainian party and were paid $2.2 million for their work.

The significance of these revelations lies in Manafort and Gates’ major roles in steering the Trump campaign.

This week, Trump announced a new campaign organization, but the two hadn’t lost their influence much as a result of the revelations about their involvement with pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, despite recent criticisms in the media over Trump’s unusual relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now, Paul Manafort has resigned from his position in the campaign. Whether it is over his failure to tone Trump down, or because of his involvement in this particular scandal, is unknown.

Trump released a statement saying, “This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”