“The technical term for what we do and what law firms, associations and professional groups do is lobbying. For purposes of today, I will admit that in a narrow sense, some people might term it influence peddling,” Paul Manafort admitted in 1989, when he testified regarding his role in a Reagan-era scandal at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Throughout his long career as a Republican Party fixer and influence peddler on behalf of what the Center for Public Integrity termed “the torture lobby”—a global cadre of dictators and strongmen who wanted to make sure the United States did not hold them to account—Manafort has been one of most troublesome creatures in the Washington “swamp” that Donald Trump decried as a presidential contender. Yet Manafort has also worked, from the 1980s on, for his client “Donald”—the New York billionaire who relied on Manafort to help clear hurdles for gambling and real-estate endeavors.
When “Donald” ran for the Republican presidential nomination, he needed influence peddlers to help him close the deal and organize a functional party convention in Cleveland. So he brought in the torture lobbyist and his associate Rick Gates to manage the campaign.
Manafort managed things for several months, while Gates remained on the Trump team as a key figure in the campaign, the transition process, and the planning of the new president’s inauguration. Manafort also maintained a relationship with “Donald,” reportedly continuing to talk with his longtime associate through the remainder of the campaign and into the transition process.
Now that Manafort and Gates have been indicted on 12 counts of money laundering involving at least $18 million, setting up secret overseas bank accounts through which $75 million flowed, lying to federal authorities, and operating as unregistered foreign agents for the government of a Ukrainian leader who is linked with the Russians, and now that it has been revealed that George Papadopoulos (a foreign-policy adviser to Trump who urged the candidate meet with Russian officials) has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, the word from the White House is that Trump barely knows these guys and that the indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller have focused on figures who had only “limited” contact with the Trump team.