Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is now advising a Chinese billionaire on how to get a piece of the business if the president successfully launches a $1 trillion U.S. infrastructure plan, the Financial Times reports.
The man booted out of his U.S. campaign slot over close ties to Russian interests reportedly met last week with Yan Jiehe, the founder of China’s Pacific Construction Group. Yan told the Financial Times in advance that the two men planned to discuss how the Chinese billionaire could profit from Trump’s prospective program to use federal funds to launch infrastructure projects.
A spokesman for Manafort initially denied to the newspaper that the meeting had anything to do with business, the Times reported. He then modified his statement, saying the meeting was “impromptu” and was added to Manafort’s China travel schedule because the Chinese “are interested in U.S. infrastructure,” spokesman Jason Maloni told the newspaper. “However, his work does not involve any current or future infrastructure projects or contracts in the United States. As he has said before, he is not engaged in government affairs or lobbying for corporations, governments or individuals.”
A source linked to Yan told the Financial Times that Manafort would return in a month for further talks.
Manafort resigned from the presidential campaign in August after it emerged that he had led lobbying efforts in the U.S. from 2010 to 2014 on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a front group for former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Associated Press later discovered that Manafort had also been paid $10 million between 2006 and 2009 by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to promote Putin and the Russian government. Manafort wrote a memo about his plan in 2005 to obtain the contract, boasting about influencing politics and the media on Russia’s behalf in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Trump often spoke extremely positively about Putin during the campaign in a series of puzzling pronouncements.
In the wake of the Deripaska revelations in March, White House spokesman Sean Spicer attempted to downplay the importance of Manafort’s role as presidential campaign chairman, saying he had a “limited role” for “just under five months” in the campaign — a period that included the Republican National Convention, at which Trump’s GOP nomination was formalized.
Spicer denied that Trump knew anything about the $10 million contract. Manafort’s ties to Deripaska were first in the news in 2008.
Manafort is in the process of registering as a foreign agent operating in the U.S.