Yet the jaw-dropping revelations were just beginning. Two days after the House hearing, on March 22, The Associated Press revealed that in 2005, Paul Manafort, Trump’s erstwhile campaign manager, had signed a $10 million-a-year contract with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.” This comes on top of Manafort’s already disclosed work on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed Ukrainian leader who is a close Kremlin ally. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s clumsy attempts to distance the president from Manafort — he claimed that Trump’s former campaign manager played only a “very limited role for a very limited amount of time” — simply served to signal how serious this revelation actually is.
And, of course, Manafort is hardly the only current or former Trump associate with suspiciously close ties to Moscow. We have only recently learned that Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, made $68,000 while serving as a consultant to Russian firms in 2015. Campaign foreign-policy advisor Carter Page maintained close ties with the Kremlin and its state-owned oil companies. Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has admitted to communicating with “Guccifer 2.0,” the moniker used by Russian intelligence to leak damaging information about Hillary Clinton, and with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, another Russian front organization. “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” Stone tweeted on Aug. 21, 2016, weeks before WikiLeaks began leaking emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Even Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, it now emerges, met before the inauguration not just with Russia’s ambassador to Washington but also with Sergey Gorkov, who is close to Putin, was trained by Russian intelligence, and runs a state-owned bank that has been placed on a U.S. sanctions list. No one knows what they discussed, but it’s possible that Kushner, whose family real estate firm is desperate for foreign financing, was hoping to get an investment from this Russian bank to supplement the hundreds of millions of dollars it has sought from Chinese companies closely connected to the leadership in Beijing. (One wonders how Kushner has time to not only deal with Russia policy — but also to broker peace in the Middle East; advise on relations with China, Mexico, and Canada; and reorganize the whole U.S. government. Clearly Ivanka Trump married a man of prodigious and hitherto unsuspected talents.)