Less than five months after taking the job as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort has formally resigned.
In a statement on Friday, Trump said he had accepted Manafort’s resignation. “I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success,” Trump said.
Who is Paul Manafort?
Manafort, a political consultant who worked for Ronald Reagan during his first presidential run and later served as a member of his White House staff, joined the Trump campaign in late March on a mission to decimate primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz. In recent years, Manafort served as senior advisor to former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, who was ousted in 2014 after rejecting a treaty with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
“Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”
Handwritten ledgers, unearthed late last week by Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau, revealed previously undisclosed cash payments of $12.7 million apparently intended for Manafort. Yanukovych, presently living in exile in Russia, and his closest advisors are now being investigated by criminal prosecutors in Ukraine, according to the New York Times, which broke the story internationally on Sunday.
Trump’s new ringleader
The Trump campaign announced on Wednesday that Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the pro-Trump website Breitbart News, would take over as campaign CEO, a move that startled rank-and-file Republicans long targeted politically by Bannon.
Trump also promoted Republican strategist and pollster Kellyanne Conway to the position of campaign manager, previously held by Corey Lewandowski, who was fired in June at the behest of Trump’s children. Lewandowski is now a CNN political commentator.
Lewandowski and Manafort reportedly had clashing visions for the campaign, the latter of the two apparently hoping to tone down the off-color rhetoric for which Trump is infamous. The hiring of Bannon, however, is widely perceived as a leap in the opposite direction; Trump is effectively embracing the persona that has left him trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in nearly every national poll since late July.
Prior to his departure, Manafort sought to paint the Trump campaign’s shake up—its second in as many months—as an expansion of its “top tier” staff. “Steve and Kellyanne are respected professionals,” he said in a statement, “who believe in Mr. Trump and his message and will undoubtedly help take the campaign to new levels of success.”