Spicer: Trump was not aware of Manafort's secret work with Russian billionaire to benefit Putin

White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied on Wednesday that President Donald Trump had been aware that his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, lobbied on behalf of a Russian oligarch in the mid-2000s.

"The president was not aware of Paul's clients from the last decade," Spicer told reporters.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Manafort was paid $10 million between 2006-2009 to lobby on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally, using a "model" that would "greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success."

Manafort's name has been connected to Deripaska's before the AP reported on their lucrative contract. The two were involved in a partnership that went south, and wound up with Deripaska accusing accusing Manafort of "disappearing" with nearly $19 million intended for investments. Deripaska filed a lawsuit against Manafort in the Cayman Islands in 2014, and was still trying to get his money back in August 2015, according to documents obtained by Politico.

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Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
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Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort speaks at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, smiles as he talks with other Trump campaign staff after Trump spoke to supporters following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's senior campaign adviser Paul Manafort (L) walks into a reception with former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort listens to Ivanka Trump speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: A man with a security credential takes a selfie at the podium as Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Paul Manafort, advisor to Donald Trump, is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Paul Manafort., Convention Manager, Trump Campaign, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday April 10, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NA.R.DoleMicCk1.081596.RG.Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole looks up from podium at balloons and television cameras as convention center manager Paul Manafort, at right, points out preparations for tonight's acceptance speech in San Diego, 08/15/96. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, young Republicans political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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When asked if Trump would have hired Manafort if he had known of his relationship with Deripaska, Spicer replied, "I don't know," adding that Manafort filed all of the appropriate paperwork that was required to work on the campaign.

Manafort, who advised Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted in 2014, has been at the center of a media firestorm this week. A Ukrainian member of parliament has accused Manafort of accepting nearly $1 million from Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions, and then laundering it via a company that claims to sell computers. Ukrainian lawyers also want to question Manafort about what role he played, if any, in the 2014 police killings in central Kiev.

Additionally, Ukrainian prosecutors want to know if Manafort played a role in misappropriating government funds by trying to cover up a huge payment to American law firm Skadden, which was allegedly paid millions of dollars to draft a legal justification for jailing Yanukovych's predecessor. The cap on such work, by Ukrainian law, is $12,000.

Manafort has denied all of the allegations against him.

The revelations about Manafort's direct involvement with a Russian oligarch comes a few weeks after Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for his lobbying work that he said could have benefited the Turkish government. Flynn, one of Trump's top surrogates during the campaign, was also paid $35,000 to speak at a gala celebrating state-sponsored news agency Russia Today in December 2015.

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