Manafort's financial troubles raise questions about why he offered to work as an unpaid volunteer to the Trump campaign

  • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's lobbying activities were more recent than previously known.
  • Manafort's last pro-Russia lobbying assignment was in October 2015, less than six months before he joined the campaign.
  • Manafort's financial troubles were also more extensive than have been reported, and the revelation raises new questions about why Manafort's offer to work as an unpaid volunteer on the Trump campaign while mired in debt.

Paul Manafort was in deeper financial trouble than previously known when he joined then-Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign as an unpaid volunteer in early 2016.

Manafort approached the Trump campaign in February 2016, touting himself to the billionaire and political neophyte as an outsider with few connections to the Washington establishment. He also offered to work without pay.

In March, the campaign tapped Manafort to be the point person in charge of securing delegate support for Trump at the upcoming Republican National Convention. Two months later, he was promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist. His influence grew when Corey Lewandowski was booted out as campaign manager that June following a string of public controversies.

But as his role expanded, Manafort was buckling under increased financial strain. A new report from Bloomberg on Wednesday highlighted the extent of Manafort's previous lobbying work and financial troubles when he was helming the Trump campaign, some of which was previously unreported.

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U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Kevin Downing (C), attorney for President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a hearing in the first charges stemming from a special counsel investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Former Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort (L) leaves U.S. Federal Court after being arraigned on twelve federal charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, U.S. October 30, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
Former Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort (L) leaves U.S. Federal Court after being arraigned on twelve federal charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, U.S. October 30, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, one focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, hides behind his car visor as he leaves his home in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a hearing in the first charges stemming from a special counsel investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort uses a sun visor to block the view of photographers as departs U.S. District Court after a hearing in the first charges stemming from a special counsel investigation of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in Washington, U.S., October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 2: Ex Trump campaign official Paul Manafort, center, departs U.S. District Court with his attorney Kevin Downing, left, on November, 02, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, walks out of the U.S. Courthouse after a bond hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Manafort, 68, an international political consultant, was accused along with his right-hand man, Rick Gates, of lying to U.S. authorities about their work in Ukraine, laundering millions of dollars, and hiding offshore accounts. Both pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Former Donald Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on Thursday November 02, 2017 in Washington, DC. Manafort faces several charges. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his wife Kathleen arrive at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a bail hearing November 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: Kevin Downing, attorney of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, arrives at a U.S. District Court House November 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. Manafort and his associate Rick Gates are scheduled to be back in court for a bond hearing this morning after they pleaded not guilty on October 30 to charges in a 12-count indictment, ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, right, arrives to the U.S. Courthouse for a bond hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Manafort, 68, an international political consultant, was accused along with his right-hand man, Rick Gates, of lying to U.S. authorities about their work in Ukraine, laundering millions of dollars, and hiding offshore accounts. Both pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 6: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse after a court hearing on the terms of his bail and house arrest on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Court Building for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Kevin Downing, who is an attorney for Paul Manafort exits the William B. Bryant Annex United States Courthouse after Manfort was indicted on several charges on Monday October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort gets into his car after leaving federal court, October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for US President Donald Trump, leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House after being charged October 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of conspiracy and money laundering after the Justice Department unveiled the first indictments in the probe into Russian election interference. Manafort, 68, and business partner Rick Gates, 45, both entered not guilty pleas in a Washington court after being read charges that they hid millions of dollars they earned working for former Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow political party. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, right, exits the U.S. Courthouse in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The federal investigation into whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russia took a major turn Monday as authorities charged three people a former campaign chief, his business associate and an ex-policy adviser -- with crimes including money laundering, lying to the FBI and conspiracy. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In particular, the report said, Manafort made 17 trips to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 to do lobbying work for the Opposition Bloc, the successor to Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions.

Manafort's ties to the Party of Regions stretch back over a decade. When Trump first hired him in March 2016, Manafort was known for having worked as a top consultant to Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and strongman who was a prominent figure in the party. Manafort is widely credited with helping Yanukovych win the election in 2010.

Yanukovych was ousted from the presidency in 2014 amid widespread protests against his Russia-friendly positions, such as his decision to back out of a deal that would have promoted closer ties between Ukraine and the West, and distanced it from Russia. Yanukovych fled to Russia at the peak of the protests, and he is now living under the protection of the Kremlin.

Deeper into debt

Following Yanukovych's ouster, Manafort's cash flow began to stutter.

In one project, the Opposition Bloc paid Manafort $1 million in October 2014 for his consulting work prior to Ukraine's parliamentary election.

His last lobbying assignment for the group ended in October 2015 — less than six months before he joined the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

He received only part of the money he was supposed to, and the group still owed him over $2 million, according to an allegedly fraudulent document he submitted as part of an effort to secure a bank loan in 2016.

When he joined the Trump campaign, Manafort's financial records showed he was $17 million in debt to pro-Russian interests, The New York Times reported. Shell companies connected to Manafort during his time working for the Party of Regions bought the debt.

At the time, he also owed the wealthy Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Oleg Deripaska close to $20 million, per legal complaints Deripaska's representatives filed in the Cayman Islands in 2014 and in New York in January.

The alleged dispute drew additional scrutiny last year, after The Atlantic published several emails appearing to show Manafort using his elevated role in the Trump campaign to resolve the situation with Deripaska.

Manafort reportedly wrote an email to his associate, Russian-Ukrainian operative Konstantin Kilimnik, offering to give Deripaska "private briefings" about the campaign.

"I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?" Manafort reportedly wrote to Kilimnik, who has suspected ties to Russian intelligence.

"Absolutely," replied Kilimnik. "Every article."

"How do we use to get whole," Manafort responded. "Has OVD operation seen?"

Former intelligence officials told Business Insider that Manafort was likely offering the briefings in an effort to repay his debt to Deripaska, who is closely allied with the Kremlin. Investigators have concluded that "OVD" was a reference to his full name: Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska.

Kilimnik reportedly told Manafort in a later email that he had been "sending everything to Victor, who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD." Victor was a senior aide to Deripaska, according to The Atlantic.

Under the special counsel's scrutiny

Manafort's spokesperson declined to comment on-the-record when asked why Manafort offered to work for the Trump campaign for free when he was under mounting financial strain, and whether Manafort asked to become a paid employee at any point during his transition from delegate wrangler to campaign chairman.

Manafort resigned from the campaign in August 2016, three days after The Times reported that the Party of Regions had earmarked $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for his work consulting for the party between 2007 and 2012.

Manafort and his longtime associate, Rick Gates, were charged last October with a dozen counts related to money laundering, failure to register as foreign agents when they were working for the Ukrainian government, and conspiracy against the US.

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Richard Gates, business associate of Paul Manafort
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Richard Gates, business associate of Paul Manafort
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse following a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Richard Gates (C) leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were indicted on charges that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse after a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Richard Gates (C) arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner Paul Manafort were indicted on charges that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Court Building for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Court Building for a hearing November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and former business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing December 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. Gates and his former business partner former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort both pleaded not guilty Monday to a 12-charge indictment that included money laundering and conspiracy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Last week, special counsel Robert Mueller's office filed a 32-count superseding indictment against Manafort and Gates in Virginia, charging them with tax and bank fraud stemming from their lobbying work. Mueller is leading the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's election interference, and the Trump campaign's possible involvement.

Gates pleaded guilty to two counts related to conspiracy against the US and making a false statement to investigators shortly after Mueller's team lodged the superseding indictment. He's now a key cooperating witness in the Russia investigation.

Manafort maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the latest charges during a court appearance in Washington, DC on Wednesday.

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