A spokesman for Paul Manafort tes­ti­fies on the Rus­sia probe.

He’s among first pub­licly known wit­nesses in Trump-Rus­sia probe

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HAM­BURGER AND SPENCER S. HSU Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A spokesman for Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man met for more than two hours Friday with a fed­eral grand jury ex­plor­ing pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign and the Rus­sian govern­ment.

Ja­son Maloni serves as a spokesman for Paul Manafort, the in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant who steered Trump’s cam­paign for about five months be­fore the 2016 elec­tion.

It is not clear why pros­e­cu­tors sub­poe­naed Maloni to ap­pear. He be­gan work­ing for Manafort af­ter the cam­paign, help­ing Manafort re­spond to ques­tions about his work on be­half of Trump, as well as his con­sult­ing work for a Rus­sia-friendly politi­cian in Ukraine.

The grand jury be­ing used by spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III has been seek­ing doc­u­ments and hear­ing tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses. But the grand jury process is se­cret, and Maloni is one of the first wit­nesses whose ap­pear­ance be­fore the grand jury has be­come pub­lic.

Maloni ex­ited the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia shortly be­fore noon on Friday, ac­com­pa­nied by an at­tor­ney, Erik Bolog. He spoke to re­porters out­side but de­clined to an­swer ques­tions.

“My name is Ja­son Maloni. I’m pres­i­dent of JadeRoq,” he said, re­fer­ring to his pub­lic re­la­tions firm. “I was or­dered to ap­pear to­day be­fore the grand jury. I an­swered ques­tions, and I’ve been dis­missed. That’s all I have to say.”

Pub­lic at­ten­tion fo­cused on Manafort’s for­eign ties be­gan when he joined Trump in the spring of 2016 to help pro­fes­sion­al­ize the cam­paign of the out­sider can­di­date. He re­signed from the Trump cam­paign in Au­gust 2016, fol­low­ing re­ports by the New York Times that his name had ap­peared in a ledger found in Kiev de­tail­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in un­der-the-ta­ble pay­ments from a Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal party. Manafort has de­nied wrong­do­ing and said re­ports al­leg­ing that he re­ceived money im­prop­erly from Ukrainian in­ter­ests are false.

The long­time lawyer and GOP strate­gist faced more scru­tiny this year when it was re­vealed that he had joined Don­ald Trump Jr. and Jared Kush­ner, Pres­i­dent Trump’s se­nior ad­viser and son-in-law, in a June 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tower with a Rus­sian lawyer who promised dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Be­fore work­ing for the Ukrainian pres­i­dent, Manafort had con­sulted for other con­tro­ver­sial for­eign po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Philip­pine pres­i­dent Fer­di­nand Mar­cos and An­golan in­sur­gent leader Jonas Sav­imbi.

The for­eign work could be lu­cra­tive. In June, Manafort filed for­eign agent regis­tra­tion forms show­ing that his firm re­ceived a to­tal of $17.1 mil­lion over two years from Ukraine’s Party of Re­gions.

Manafort dis­closed the to­tal pay­ments his firm re­ceived be­tween 2012 and 2014 in a For­eign Agents Regis­tra­tion Act fil­ing. That dis­clo­sure made Manafort the sec­ond for­mer se­nior Trump ad­viser to ac­knowl­edge the need to dis­close work for for­eign in­ter­ests.

The other is Michael Flynn, who served as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to the pres­i­dent. Like Manafort, Flynn is also un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the spe­cial coun­sel. Flynn has re­ported re­ceiv­ing re­mu­ner­a­tion from RT, the Rus­sian tele­vi­sion net­work, in 2015, along with pay­ments from other for­eign sources.

Dur­ing the ex­pand­ing in­quiry, Maloni be­came in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble as a Manafort spokesman. For ex­am­ple, in June, he said that Manafort’s for­eign-agent fil­ing amend­ments were be­ing pre­pared a year ago, “be­fore the out­come of the elec­tion and well be­fore any for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence be­gan.” He em­pha­sized then that Manafort’s “pri­mary fo­cus was al­ways di­rected at do­mes­tic Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal cam­paign work” and that Manafort was co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

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