Donald Trump Cools To Senior Adviser With Russian Ties

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After reality show star-turned-Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort, an experienced political hand, to guide his campaign to the convention, he displaced campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as the most powerful figure in the Trump campaign.

But ever since he told the RNC spring meeting last week that Trump was “evolving” in a pivot towards the general election, there have been signs that the candidate is resistant to Manifort’s scrubbing and polish, after all.

Manafort isn’t having much success in the state delegate conventions that he was hired to win, either. Now that Trump appears to be winning the nomination outright, his need for those services is declining in proportion, and Lewandowski has reportedly regained a measure of his lost power.

Plus, Trump had somehow not known about some of Manafort’s, um, problematic clients. (Just think how awesome and well-vetted Trump’s cabinet will be!)

In particular, multiple sources said Trump was bothered by news stories about Manafort’s representation of Saudi Arabia and for a group accused of being a front for Pakistani intelligence.

“I don’t think he was aware of the extent of the work that Paul has done in foreign countries that have not always been friendly to the United States,” said a Washington operative with close relationships to the campaign.

A craven political operator who bears special responsibility for the public transformation and political resurrection of crony-capitalist Victor Yanukovych, Manafort was an important catalyst for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

But he also knows how to organize and run the Republican National Convention — or reinvent a boorish candidate with high unfavorable ratings.

Manafort knows how to bullwhip and wheedle delegates at a contested convention. He’s done it before, assisting Gerald Ford in stifling Ronald Reagan’s insurgency at the GOP’s summer classic of 1976. In the conventions that followed, the Republican Party often handed Manafort control of the program and instructed him to stage-manage the show. He produced the morning-in-America convention of 1984 and the Bob Dole nostalgia-thon of 1996.

[…] When the consultant first arrived in Kiev, Yanukovych was the subject of near universal derision. But his years of grooming Yanukovych, and perfecting his political machinery, carried him to victory—a narrow win rooted in the missteps of his opponents, but one that would have never happened without skilled reinvention.

Thanks to his talent for making people love them, Manafort is quite cozy with dictators and kleptocrats all around the world, including many in Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

Trump, by the way, is a YUGE fan of Putin, who has returned the favor by way of his state propaganda machine.

In December, when Trump called Putin’s compliments a “great honor,” the MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked the candidate if he had concerns about praise from “a person that kills journalists and political opponents and invades countries.” Trump was unfazed. “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader. You know, unlike what we have in this country,” he said. And when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed him on the point a few days later, Trump stood firm. “It’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody. So, you know, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Trump said. RT appeared to delight in the exchange. “Putin Killed Reporters? Prove It!—Trump to ABC Show Host,” declared a headline on the network’s website.

[…] It’s not just personal: The substance of Trump’s views suggest a drastic shift in U.S. policy toward Russia that would enormously benefit Moscow’s strategic and economic position on the world stage.

As Paul Manafort is learning, his client does not take directions well. Whether he’s plotting to swindle customers or planning to disrupt the international order, Donald Trump will do as he likes. Nobody ever says no to him.

Image: Screengrab.

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