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Trump ‘may recruit Paul Manafort to 2024 campaign’ – despite jail time and alleged ties to Russian spies

Trump ‘may recruit Paul Manafort to 2024 campaign’ – despite jail time and alleged ties to Russian spies

Donald Trump is preparing to welcome his disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort back into the fold despite fears of Russian influence, according to reports.

Manafort, a veteran Republican fixer who helped run Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, was convicted in 2018 of concealing millions of dollars he had made lobbying for pro-Russian politicians.

A bipartisan US Senate committee branded him a “grave counterintelligence threat” and a potential channel for covert Russian influence, but he was pardoned by Mr Trump in the dying days of 2020.

Now The Washington Post reports that Mr Trump is in talks to re-hire Manafort for his 2024 presidential campaign, citing four people familiar with the discussions.

Though no formal decision has been made, those people said that Mr Trump was determined to bring Manafort back into his inner circle, according to the Post.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Calls to a phone number associated with Manafort were not returned.

Manafort has helped elect and re-elect numerous presidents during his decades-long career in American politics, from Richard Nixon through George HW Bush to Mr Trump.

But he has also served as a prolific lobbyist for foreign politicians including Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine.

Paul Manafort is escorted from a New York courtroom in June 2019 (EPA-EFE/Justin Lane)
Paul Manafort is escorted from a New York courtroom in June 2019 (EPA-EFE/Justin Lane)

According to a 2020 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, these two lines of work appeared to cross while Manafort was working as Mr Trump's campaign chair in 2016.

During that time, he shared internal campaign data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political fixer whom the report describes as a “Russian intelligence officer”.

“Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the report concluded.

The various investigations into Manafort's conduct eventually led to criminal charges, and in 2018 he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to tamper with a witness, launder money, and violate foreign lobbyist registration laws.

After being pardoned by Mr Trump, Manafort released a book called Political Prisoner in which he denied any wrongdoing related to Ukraine and Russia and defended his former boss.