Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort may register as a foreign agent with the US government due to past political work in Ukraine, Manafort's spokesman said on Wednesday (12 April). Jason Maloni said that Manafort consulted with federal authorities about the decision and will now take "appropriate steps in response to the guidance".
Maloni said that Manafort's lobbying work began before he joined the Trump campaign and was not conducted on behalf of the Russian government, reports the Associated Press (AP). The spokesman told NBC News that Manafort began speaking to officials about registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act before the 2016 presidential election and "received formal guidance recently from the authorities".
The statement comes on the heels of an exclusive AP report that confirmed that Manafort's consulting firm received at least $1.2m (£956,000) in payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. The financial records obtained by the AP include payments in 2007 and 2009.
While the payments were received years before Manafort became involved in the Trump campaign, they increase the credibility of a handwritten ledger discovered in Ukraine last August that included Manafort's name. Manafort has questioned the credibility of the ledger, NBC News noted.
When questioned about the payments by the AP, Manafort did not deny that his firm received them. However, he said that "any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a US bank."
Federal prosecutors have been investigating Manafort's work in Ukraine and eastern Europe as part of a wider anti-corruption probe, the AP reports. The FBI is also investigating whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to sway the election in Trump's favour.
Maloni maintained that Manafort's work in Ukraine was not illegal. "Manafort's work in Ukraine was totally open and appropriate and wire transfers for international work are perfectly legal," he said.
Manafort is not the only former member of Trump's campaign who has had to register as a foreign agent. Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who was fired in February, was forced to register as a foreign agent for lobbying work he conducted for Turkey.