It wasn’t just Republicans.
When Paul Manafort needed a powerful D.C. law firm to bless an alarming act by his clients in Kiev’s pro-Kremlin regime in Kiev, Donald Trump’s future campaign chairman turned to attorneys with significant ties to Barack Obama’s administration.
In exchange, a team led by Obama’s former White House counsel Greg Craig at the firm of Skadden Arps produced a report that whitewashed the pro-Putin government of Viktor Yanukovych for jailing Yanukovych’s anti-Kremlin predecessor. Manafort consulted for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. And they did it all for roughly $13,000—a conspicuously small amount for top lawyers at a prestigious law firm. (Prosecutors in Ukraine have reportedly alleged a million dollars more in secret payments.)
It’s an episode indicating Manafort, who now faces criminal investigation in the Trump-Russia saga, made sure to try to spread the wealth to the Democratic Party before assisting in Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. And it underscores that a truly independent investigation into Russian election interference would likely implicate Democratic figures as well as Republicans—something already emerging, as work that PR firms with ties to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats did for Vladimir Putin’s allies become increasingly conspicuous.
Asked at the time if Yanukovych—and by extension, Manafort—had succeeded in “buying” a former White House counsel, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland let the implication hang in the air. “I can’t speak to the relationship that the Ukrainian Government has with a private law firm in the United States,” she said.