As Congress continues to pursue allegations that Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign had ties to Russian interests, Democratic senators are seeking to question the former Trump employee who has the most glaring connections.
Today, the Associated Press published an investigation into possibly even more damning ties to Russia. In 2006, Manafort had a contract with a Russian billionaire for $10 million annually to push pro-Putin propaganda in former Soviet republics.
The AP unearthed a contract and memos between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch in the aluminum business. According to the AP, the arrangement lasted for approximately three years, until 2009. While under contract, Manafort reportedly proposed strategy plans for eastern European and central Asian nations that would prop up pro-Putin politicians and attack campaigns of opposition candidates.
Manafort has maintained that he never worked to advance Russian interests.
Last night, before the story broke, Mark Warner—the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the administration’s ties to Russia—told CNN that he believed the Senate needed to hear from Manafort.
“We have to talk to Mr. Manafort. We’re going to need to bring him in,” Warner told Erin Burnett of OutFront.
When reached by the Associated Press for comment, Manafort confirmed he had a contract with Deripaska, but that the work he did was not relating to messaging for Russian interests.
“I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.”
In a press conference earlier this week, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer downplayed Manafort’s participation with the Trump campaign, saying he played a limited role for a limited amount of time. Manafort worked as campaign chair for six months.
In response today, Spicer said he could not comment on people who did not work in the White House.
Deripaska has been described previously by the U.S. as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and someone who regularly accompanies the Russian president on trips, according to the AP report.