According to an explosive report published by The Daily Beast, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, partnered on an $850 million New York real-estate deal with an ally of Vladimir Putin and a Ukrainian operative whom the Justice Department recently described as an “organized-crime member.”
Citing a memo written by Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and fellow alumnus of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the report reveals that Manafort was enthused about finalizing the financing necessary to acquire New York’s louche Drake Hotel.
The Daily Beast also cites two former federal prosecutors who revealed that the hotel deal was likely to be an item of focus for special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin.
Several White House officials, who spoke to the website on condition of anonymity, admitted to The Beast that Manafort may have made President Trump more legally vulnerable through his decades of business deals with foreign governments and shady Eastern European power brokers.
The report continues:
Those deals, these White House aides suspect, led federal investigators down a money trail that threatens to plunge the Trump White House further into legal jeopardy.
Asked whether any Manafort deals seemed particularly troubling in retrospect, a senior administration official replied, “You mean like this one?” and appended a link to a 2016 story on Manafort’s alleged attempts to launder a Ukrainian oil and gas billionaire’s ill-gotten fortune through New York real estate—including the Drake.
The Justice Department is now seeking the extradition of that billionaire, Dmitry Firtash, so he can stand trial for a 2013 racketeering indictment in a Chicago federal court. Two weeks ago, in response to a legal filing from Firtash seeking dismissal of the case, the acting U.S. attorney in Chicago termed Firtash and a deputy as “two organized-crime members” and people “identified by United States law enforcement as two upper-echelon associates of Russian organized crime.” Years before the indictment, Firtash was a major moneyman for the Party of Regions in Ukraine, the pro-Kremlin political faction for which Manafort consulted.
Manafort, who served for several months as Trump’s campaign chairman before being ousted over his ties to Kremlin-backed political figures in Ukraine, is seen as a key figure in the ongoing investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign. Manafort’s home was raided last month by the FBI according to multiple reports.