The fall of former Trump campaign chair Manafort

A protester holding up a sign as Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington for an arraignment hearing on Friday. The judge later ordered that he await trial in jail, a spectacula
A protester holding up a sign as Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington for an arraignment hearing on Friday. The judge later ordered that he await trial in jail, a spectacular fall for a man who has been counsellor to presidents and an architect of the modern-day influence industry.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON • He owned at least five properties from Manhattan to Palm Beach and bought three Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. He spent millions of dollars on oriental rugs and tailored suits. And he reached new heights of power in 2016, when he gained a top position in US President Donald Trump's campaign.

But on Friday, ordered by a federal judge to await trial in jail, Paul Manafort's once high-flying life sank to a new low.

The image of the grim-faced Manafort, led out of a District of Columbia courtroom by a US marshall, offered a vivid reminder of the precipitous fall of a man who has been counsellor to presidents, an architect of the modern-day influence industry and, for a time, a key engineer of Mr Donald Trump's takeover of the Republican Party.

Named Mr Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, Manafort looked to presidential politics as a way to revive his fortunes after revenue from his main client, Ukraine, had begun to dry up.

But those hopes came crashing down over the past year as special counsel Robert Mueller dug deeper into his past as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort is one of the most senior people in President Trump's political orbit to be indicted as part of the Mueller probe.

In Friday morning remarks to reporters, Mr Trump said "Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign", adding: "You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time... He worked for me for what? For 49 days or something? A very short period."

Manafort worked on Mr Trump's campaign for 144 days, 92 of them as its chairman.

His original lobbying firm - Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly - operated on two tracks: carrying out political consulting domestically during the election season and seeking clients who could benefit from US political connections and media savvy.

A 12-count indictment last year described US$75 million (S$101 million) that Manafort's firm received from the work he did in Ukraine over the previous decade, some of it allegedly laundered through offshore accounts to conceal it from the United States government.

The money from Ukraine flowed primarily from the Party of Regions, which hired Manafort to improve the image of Mr Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine.

Manafort and his attorney Kevin Downing have rebutted the charges of conspiracy, money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'The fall of former Trump campaign chair Manafort'. Print Edition | Subscribe