WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort pushed back Wednesday on a report that he allegedly earned millions of dollars by helping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government push its interests around the world.
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.
“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests,” Manafort said in a statement.
A spokesman for Deripaska said Manafort provided “investment consulting services” but declined to provide any additional details.
“There was an agreement between Mr. Deripaska and Mr. Manafort to provide investment consulting services related to business interests of Mr. Deripaska which now is a subject to legal claims,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The Associated Press reported Manafort pitched a plan to Deripaska to “greatly benefit the Putin government” and was subsequently paid millions of dollars, according to business records obtained by the AP and interviews the news outlet conducted with sources familiar with the matter.
It is just the latest report pointing to a link between Manafort and Russian interests.
Before he was brought aboard the Trump campaign, Manafort was well known for having served as an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was close to Putin and fled to Russia after he was ousted in the 2014 political crisis.
Manafort was later named in a Ukrainian government investigation last summer after a ledger detailed millions of dollars in secret payments to Manafort, which he denied.
Manafort’s connections to Russia faced fresh scrutiny last month after current and former U.S. said that high-level Trump campaign advisers, including Manafort, regularly communicated with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
Manafort called the allegation “100 [ercemt not true” and said he didn’t “remember talking to any Russian officials, ever.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on the latest report, saying, “We don’t comment on non-White House employees.”
That came two days after Spicer sought to diminish Manafort’s role in the campaign, claiming he played a “limited role” even though Manafort was campaign chairman and effectively took over as campaign manager after the firing of Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
Manafort worked on the campaign from March until August.
“To start to look at some individual that was there for a short period of time, or, separately, individuals who really didn’t play any role in the campaign, and to suggest that those are the basis for anything is a bit ridiculous,” Spicer said Monday during a White House briefing.
The Associated Press report comes days after FBI Director James Comey confirmed in testimony to Congress that his agency is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and potential ties between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
A cloud of suspicion has hung over Trump since the U.S. government confirmed that the Russian government interfered in the presidential election with the aim of hurting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping Trump.
During the campaign, Trump called for a friendlier relationship with Russia, defended Putin from human rights abuse allegations and repeatedly cast doubt on U.S. government conclusions of Russian interference during the campaign and after his election.