More evidence has surfaced about Paul Manafort’s Russian ties. Trump had Manafort to resign because of his foreign ties. At best it was a conflict of interest and at worst Manafort was playing both sides of the fence.

Before deciding that Manafort is guilty know this: Manafort has been fully cooperative and surrendered himself without being asked to. Paul’s decision to resign was because he felt he had become a distraction to real issues.

Watch.

As Reported By Peter Stone, Greg Gordon, and Mcclatchydcbureau.com

Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties.

Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, “100 percent.”

It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.

Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought.

What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

  “He’s at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin’s bidding,” said Fried, now a fellow with the Atlantic Council.

A central question for Justice Department Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and several congressional committees is whether Manafort, in trying to boost Trump’s underdog campaign, in any way collaborated with Russia’s cyber meddling aimed at improving Trump’s electoral prospects.

His lucrative consulting relationships have already led a grand jury convened by Mueller to charge him and an associate with conspiracy, money laundering and other felonies – charges that legal experts say are likely meant to pressure them to cooperate with the wider probe into possible collusion.

Government investigators are examining information they’ve received regarding “talks between Russians about using Manafort as part of their broad influence operations during the elections,” a source familiar with the inquiry told McClatchy.

Suspicions about Manafort have been fueled by a former British spy’s opposition research on Trump. In a now-famous dossier, former MI6 officer Christopher Steele quoted an ethnic Russian close to Trump as saying that Manafort had managed “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the campaign and the Kremlin.

YOU CAN MAKE A CASE THAT HE …WAS EITHER WORKING PRINCIPALLY FOR MOSCOW, OR HE WAS TRYING TO PLAY BOTH SIDES AGAINST EACH OTHER JUST TO MAXIMIZE HIS PROFITS.

Daniel Fried, an assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, called that allegation “false,” saying that Manafort “never – ever – worked for the Russian government.” He also denied that Manafort ever recommended Ukrainian opposition to NATO, saying he “was a strong advocate” of closer relations with the western military alliance while advising political parties there.

“Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election,” Maloni said. “No amount of wishing and hoping by his political opponents will make this spurious allegation true.”

Maloni declined to say whether, while in Moscow, Manafort met with any Russian government officials.

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