US Elections 2016

Trump's embattled campaign chairman resigns

Mr Manafort's resignation comes two days after he was effectively demoted in a shake-up of the campaign's leadership.
Mr Manafort's resignation comes two days after he was effectively demoted in a shake-up of the campaign's leadership.

Manafort quits as pressure on him grows over his connection to Ukraine graft probe

WASHINGTON • Mr Paul Manafort, the embattled chairman of Republican candidate Donald Trump's presidential campaign, resigned yesterday, after coming under fire in connection with a Ukrainian corruption investigation.

"This morning, Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign," Mr Trump said in a statement.

"I am very appreciative of his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."

Mr Manafort's resignation comes two days after he was effectively demoted in a shake-up of the campaign's leadership.

He had been recruited in June in an attempt to bring a more professional touch to the campaign but has struggled to rein in Mr Trump's freewheeling ways.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump announced that he has hired Mr Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of conservative website Breitbart News, as campaign chief executive, and promoted leading Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

Mr Manafort has denied allegations - first made in the New York Times on Monday - that he received cash payments worth more than US$12 million (S$16 million) over five years from the political party of the Kremlin-backed former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich.

But a Ukrainian lawmaker yesterday divulged more details of the alleged payments.

MP Serhiy Leshchenko said money was allocated for Mr Manafort to finance services such as carrying out exit polls at elections, buying computers and conducting research.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign has previously said that the allegations against Mr Manafort were evidence of "more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine".

Mr Trump has spoken favourably in the past of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, the Republican candidate has expressed regret for making statements that have "caused personal pain", in a rare display of contrition.

"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," he said at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

"I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it."

The crowd responded by chanting Mr Trump's name, and he gave them a thumbs up.

"And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain," he added.

His statement seemed to be a step towards trying to recover from a number of public quarrels and other episodes that have damaged his campaign, including a dispute with the family of an American Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq.

But he did not specify what he regretted, offer specific apologies or linger on the subject. And in his campaign, he has at times sounded restrained and on-message, only to quickly revert to his more pugilistic nature.

Mrs Clinton had previously warned about the prospect of Mr Trump trying to change his ways, concerned that voters who had been turned off by his inflammatory comments on a variety of subjects might look favourably on signs of contrition.

"There is no other Donald Trump," she said at a Florida event this month about the prospects that he could temper his tone. "What you see is what you get."

She is leading Mr Trump 47.3 per cent to 41.2 per cent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's embattled campaign chairman resigns'. Print Edition | Subscribe