Manafort is alleged to have laundered money, to have cheated on taxes and to have lied about his clientele. All of this he did in order to “enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States,” according to the indictment. Among other things it is alleged that he spent $1,319,281 of his money, illegally hidden from the U.S. Treasury, to pay a home lighting and entertainment company in Florida; to purchase $934,350 worth of rugs at a shop in Virginia; and to drop $655,500 on a landscaper in the Hamptons.
.. Some will find it ironic that Manafort did all of this while coaching candidate Donald Trump to run an “anti-elite” election campaign, one directed at “draining the swamp” and cleaning up Washington.
But in fact, this is exactly the kind of tactic that Manafort perfected on behalf of Russia, in Ukraine, where he worked for more than a decade.
.. in 2006, when he brought dozens of American political consultants to Ukraine to assist in an ethnically charged election that pit Russian and Ukrainian speakers against one another, in an attempt to help Russia retain influence over the country.
.. In 2010, he was one of several advisers — the others were mostly Russians — who helped remake the image of Viktor Yanukovych, the ex-con whom the Russian government then supported for president of Ukraine. Yanukovych charged the sitting government with corruption, declared that the election would be “rigged” and finally won.
.. The exploitation of ethnic tension; the dislike of NATO; the constant talk of opponents’ corruption, whether warranted or not; the shouting about falsified elections — these were Trump tactics, too
.. And he sought to undermine Ukraine’s constitution, first subtly and then openly.
.. For a long time now, a part of the U.S. political and business class has been merging, ideologically and aesthetically, with its post-Soviet counterparts. The use of shell companies and Cypriot bank accounts; the over-the-top spending on clothes and houses; the profoundly cynical manipulation of ethnic or racial divides to win elections — these behaviors are now common to a particular set of sleazy operators on two continents. If this indictment is correct, Manafort is the living embodiment of this Russian-American convergence.