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How about 'I resign?' No reason, just checking.
How about ‘I resign?’ No reason, just checking.

Big rumblings in the Trump campaign today in reaction to a New York Times exposé of possible connections between Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and corruption in the government of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Unfortunately, this is the boring old “dirty money” kind of scandal that has worrisome implications for security and integrity, not the far more exciting sexxytimes scandal that doesn’t really mean anything but is a lot more fun to talk about, so it remains to be seen whether Manafort’s job is really at risk. Hell, he works for Donald Trump, so a track record involving secret cash payments, hidden bookkeeping, offshore financial dealings, and a bunch of dubious shell companies may actually be a feather in Manafort’s cap, not a big black eye. Also, the details involve a foreign country, foreign politics that are hard to follow, a bunch of foreigners with their funny foreign names, and a web of connections that are difficult to follow, so it’s a lot easier for the Trump campaign to yell “Big Media Lies!!” and insist there’s nothing to worry about. Not a single sexxy photo in the whole mess.

So, here’s a quick-n-dirty summary from the Times:

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials […]

Mr. Manafort’s involvement with moneyed interests in Russia and Ukraine had previously come to light. But as American relationships there become a rising issue in the presidential campaign — from Mr. Trump’s favorable statements about Mr. Putin and his annexation of Crimea to the suspected Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails — an examination of Mr. Manafort’s activities offers new details of how he mixed politics and business out of public view and benefited from powerful interests now under scrutiny by the new government in Kiev.

The investigators say it’s unclear whether Manafort actually received any of the cash listed in the “black ledgers” kept in the offices of Yanukovych’s party, and that he is not yet the target of a criminal investigation, although the payments listed in those ledgers are. Ukranian officials do say Manafort would have had to know that Yanukovych wasn’t exactly an on-the-books kind of guy when it came to money:

“He understood what was happening in Ukraine,” said Vitaliy Kasko, a former senior official with the general prosecutor’s office in Kiev. “It would have to be clear to any reasonable person that the Yanukovych clan, when it came to power, was engaged in corruption.”

Mr. Kasko added, “It’s impossible to imagine a person would look at this and think, ‘Everything is all right.’”

Yr. Wonkette will not take you down all the very interesting rabbit holes of offshore money fiddling and political intrigue, because the Times story does a fine job of that, and also it isn’t especially good comedy material. But it’s definitely worth noting that since Paul Manafort got aboard the Trump Train, the candidate has suddenly become a lot more forgiving of the Russian takeover of Crimea. Probably simply because he now has a reliable advisor who could explain it to him. And then there’s the interesting little detail that the only item in the Republican party platform that the Trump campaign really wanted to change was a line calling for providing Ukraine with defensive arms. Not to mention Trump’s fascinating suggestion that NATO countries will need to pay protection money if they want the USA to actually meet its treaty obligations. Anyone who thinks any of that might be a little worrisome is, of course, a warmongering Hillary shill who dreams of reviving the Cold War and McCarthyism.

Not surprisingly, Manafort is already in the Angry Denials And Denunciations phase of responding to the Times story, issuing a statement explaining the dishonest media is out to destroy him and Donald Trump, who is of course the only person able to save America in this dangerous world:

Once again, the New York Times has chosen to purposefully ignore facts and professional journalism to fit their political agenda, choosing to attack my character and reputation rather than present an honest report. […]

The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly and nonsensical.

In one of the more creatively phrased parts of the statement, Manafort griped that the Times “points out hesitantly, every government official interviewed states I have done nothing wrong.” Not exactly — those officials said the “black ledger” showed multiple cash payments earmarked for Manafort, but that they hadn’t yet determined whether he received them. Not a single Ukrainian official said Paul Manafort is the most honest, decent, honest, uncriming — and did we mention honest? — human being they’d ever had the privilege of investigating.

Besides, Manafort whined, why wasn’t the New York Times reporting on all the times Hillary Clinton did corruption using the Clinton Foundation? Yup, sure would have been nice if they’d done at least one story on those allegations.

Besides the allegations in the Times story and Manafort’s denials, vast quantities of popcorn were consumed after former Trump campaign honcho Corey Lewandowski tweeted the NYT story Monday, leading to speculation that Lewandowski was firing a revenge-seeking missile at Manafort’s back. Not so! insisted Lewandowski after a few hours — he’d simply tweeted the Times story — without additional comment — to shame the New York Times for being so horribly unfair to his esteemed former colleague who totally replaced him, and for whom he has the greatest respect, mrowrl:

“Why did you decide to tweet that little tidbit?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked.

“You know what it does? It goes exactly to the point I just made,” Lewandowski said, arguing that the Times reports negatively on Trump but ignores coverage of unflattering stories on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“The media is now focusing on a private person who had a private business model,” Lewandowski argued. “No one says there’s anything illegal about what he did. He’s saying he didn’t receive the money.”

Well, certainly. That’s the only possible interpretation, you genius, you.

It remains to be seen whether Manafort will be able to ride out the scandal; our money is on his continued survival, since it’s only Monday and Donald Trump still has tons of time so say some stupid shit that will completely drown out a story that requires readers to pay attention for more than five minutes and doesn’t involve any boobs other than Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, and Corey Lewandowski. If only the fuckery had involved sex instead of money.

[NYT / Politico / MSNBC / Politico again / RawStory / TPM]

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