Paul Manafort made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom. Getting Donald Trump elected will be a cinch.
Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s palace, is impressive by the standards of Palm Beach—less so when judged against the abodes of the world’s autocrats. It doesn’t, for instance, quite compare with Mezhyhirya, the gilded estate of deposed Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Trump may have 33 bathrooms and three bomb shelters, but his mansion lacks a herd of ostrich, a galleon parked in a pond, and a set of golden golf clubs. Yet the two properties are linked, not just in ostentatious spirit, but by the presence of one man. Trump and Yanukovych have shared the same political brain, an operative named Paul Manafort.
.. “Manafort is a person who doesn’t necessarily show himself. There’s nothing egotistical about him,”
.. The late Washington Post columnist Mary McGrorydescribed him as having a “smooth, noncommittal manner, ” though she also noted his “aggrieved brown eyes.” Despite his decades of amassing influence in Washington and other global capitals, he’s never been the subject of a full magazine profile.
.. As Roger Stone has boasted about their now-disbanded firm: “Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, lined up most of the dictators of the world we could find. … Dictators are in the eye of the beholder.” Manafort had a special gift for changing how dictators are beheld by American eyes. He would recast them as noble heroes—venerated by Washington think tanks, deluged with money from Congress.
.. he remade Ukrainian politics and helped shift the country into Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence.It
.. The genesis of Donald Trump’s relationship with Paul Manafort begins with Roy Cohn. That Roy Cohn: Joe McCarthy’s heavy-lidded henchman, lawyer to the Genovese family.
.. It was Roy Cohn who introduced Stone and Manafort to Trump.
.. Dirty tricks came naturally to Stone. He assumed a pseudonym and made contributions on behalf of the Young Socialist Alliance to one of Nixon’s potential challengers. He hired spies to infiltrate the McGovern campaign.
.. Manafort had a very different mentor. He studied under the future secretary of state, James A. Baker III, who wielded his knife with the discipline of a Marine and the polish of a Princetonian.
.. “Paul modeled himself after Baker,”
.. Despite his Yankee stock, Manafort ran Reagan’s Southern operation, the racially tinged appeal that infamously began in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the hamlet where civil rights activists were murdered in 1964.
.. Manafort and Stone pioneered a new style of firm, what K Street would come to call a double-breasted operation. One wing of the shop managed campaigns, electing a generation of Republicans, from Phil Gramm to Arlen Spector. The other wing lobbied the officials they helped to victory on behalf of its corporate clients.
.. he began with his rote protestations of friendship. “Nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump.” He then proceeded to worry that the tribes would prove unable to fend off gangsters. “There is no way Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob … It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone … An Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation? It’s unbelievable to me.”
.. Trump poured money into a shell group called the New York Institute for Law and Society. The group existed solely to publish ads smearing his potential Indian competition. Under dark photos of needles and other junkie paraphernalia, the group asserted, “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” (It wasn’t.) “Are these the new neighbors we want?”
.. Later, they lured Lee Atwater, the evil genius who would devise the Willie Horton gambit for George H.W. Bush.
.. Black would later boast that the firm had schemed to gain cartel-like control of the 1988 Republican presidential primary. They managed all of the major campaigns.
- Atwater took Bush;
- Black ran Dole;
- Stone handled Jack Kemp.
A congressional staffer joked to a reporter from Time, “Why have primaries for the nomination? Why not have the candidates go over to Black, Manafort and Stone and argue it out?”
.. He took on clients and causes that even most of his colleagues on K Street considered outside the usual bounds. Black, Manafort, and Stone hired alumni of the Department of Housing and Urban Development then used those connections to win $43 million in “moderate rehabilitation funds” for a renovation project in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey.
.. Local officials had no interest in the grants, as they considered the shamble of cinder blocks long past the point of repair.
.. Two years later, rents doubled without any sign of improvement. Conditions remained, in Mary McGrory’s words, “strictly Third World.” It was such an outrageous scam that congressmen flocked to make a spectacle of it. Manafort calmly took his flaying. “You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying,” he explained in one hearing. “That’s a definitional debate.”.. Strangely, the HUD scandal proved a marketing boon for the firm. An aide to Mobutu Sese Seko told the journalist Art Levine, “That only shows how important they are!”.. Indeed, Manafort enticed the African dictator to hire the firm. Many of the world’s dictators eventually became his clients. “Name a dictator and Black, Manafort will name the account,.. The client list included
- Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos (with a $900,000 yearly contract) and the despots of the
- Dominican Republic,
- Equatorial Guinea, and
- Somalia.When the Center for Public Integrity detailed the firm’s work, it titled the report “The Torturers’ Lobby.”.. Manafort understood the mindset of the dictator wasn’t so different from his corporate clients.. Despite his client’s Maoist background, Manafort reinvented him as a freedom fighter. He knew all the tricks for manipulating right-wing opinion. Savimbi was sent to a seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, hosted by the anticommunist stalwart Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a reception thrown by the Heritage Foundation, and another confab at Freedom House. (Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi, who conscripted soldiers, burned enemies, and indiscriminately laid land mines, as a “linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior … one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”).. His lobbying helped convince Congress to send Savimbi hundreds of millions in covert aid. Indeed, every time Angola stood on the precipice of peace talks, Manafort, Black worked to generate a fresh round of arms—shipments that many experts believe extended the conflict... “So the war lasted another two more years and claimed a few thousand more lives! So what? What counts to a Washington lobbyist is the ability to deliver a tangible victory and spruce up his client’s image.”.. Like Henry Kissinger, Manafort can claim that he merely “consults” with foreign governments, relieving him of the legal burden of announcing his benefactors.