Team Trump Shivs Paul Manafort: There’s ‘Plenty for Mueller to Work With’

As the Russia probe widens, White House aides are pointing fingers at Trump’s former campaign chair: ‘There is no trust… There never really was any to begin with.’

President Donald Trump would have you believe that Paul Manafort wasn’t all that involved with his campaign, and for good reason: Behind the scenes, Trump’s aides fume that the former campaign chairman is at least partially responsible for the president’s deepening legal woes.
“I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him,” Trump said of his former top campaign aide on Thursday. The president was reacting to news that a dozen FBI agents had raided one of Manafort’s four homes late last month and carried off tax documents and banking records, as The New York Times reported on Wednesday. “That’s pretty tough stuff,” Trump told reporters.
The president and his White House staff have for months minimized Manafort’s role and time on the 2016 presidential campaign, repeatedly describing it as a “very short period of time.”
Trump’s attempt to downplay his relationship with Manafort left out some pertinent facts, however.
Manafort was integral to the Trump campaign’s efforts to secure Republican delegates at last year’s convention. He reportedly remained in touch with the White House as late as April of this year, and helped craft the administration’s early strategy to counter allegations that it colluded with agents of the Russian government during last year’s election.
According to sources close to the president, many on Team Trump blame Manafort for special counsel Robert Mueller’s divergence from election interference and foray into the private finances of the president’s family, and political and business associates.
Though Trump himself has engaged in a number of opaque foreign business deals, his aides believe it was Manafort’s work in Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere that set off the special counsel’s alarm bells—and got him digging into issues only tangentially related to alleged Russian election shenanigans.
The terms “shady” and “sketchy” come up most frequently when senior veterans of Trump’s campaign discuss the earlier work done by Manafort, the campaign’s former chairman. (This is the kind of work that has in decades past included Manafort’s lobbying for some of the worst human rights abusers, killers, and dictators of the Cold War era—work Manafort did with longtime Trump consigliere Roger Stone at their well-connected K Street lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.)
What they don’t know is whether Mueller has “turned” Manafort or simply obtained information during his investigation that has led to pertinent election-meddling developments, and what—if anything—Manafort would have to offer or interest Mueller and his team.
‘There Is No Trust Between the President and Paul’
As a former senior Trump campaign aide put it, Manafort “was brought on because he can count votes. But when you’ve counted votes for some of the people he has, there’ll be plenty of material for a Bob Mueller to work with.” Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about sensitive matters.
As for the view of Manafort from within the West Wing and President Trump’s inner circle, little love has been lost in recent weeks. According to multiple Trump confidants working in and outside the White House, the president doesn’t trust Manafort, and that stems from the former chairman’s time on the campaign when Trump never felt that Manafort grew to become a trusted ally or one of his committed “true believers,” as one White House adviser noted.
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