Amid Scrutiny, Paul Manafort Leaves Republican Convention Role

Amid Scrutiny, Paul Manafort Leaves Republican Convention Role

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Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican strategist and chairman of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign, who had assumed an unpaid role advising party officials on the nominating convention, stepped aside on Saturday after questions arose about his involvement in the planning process.

Mr. Manafort’s move came after The New York Times reported that he had been on the ground in Milwaukee last week for planning meetings for the convention, as well as a Washington Post story that said he was involved in work connected to foreign officials and businesses.

“As a longtime, staunch supporter of President Trump and given my nearly 50 years experience in managing presidential conventions, I was offering my advice and suggestions to the Trump campaign on the upcoming convention in a volunteer capacity,” Mr. Manafort told The Times, in a statement provided by the Trump campaign.

“However, it is clear that the media wants to use me as a distraction to try and harm President Trump and his campaign by recycling old news,” he said.

“And I won’t let the media do that. So, I will stick to the sidelines and support President Trump every other way I can” to help defeat President Biden, the statement said.

Trump campaign officials declined to comment.

Mr. Manafort, who helped stave off efforts to thwart Mr. Trump’s nomination at the 2016 convention, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for various financial crimes, including tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering — unrelated to the 2016 campaign — before being pardoned by Mr. Trump before he left office.

His role advising the convention planners had been in the works for weeks. Mr. Manafort has extensive experience with conventions, and the Trump team was looking for a seasoned official to help in July.

Mr. Manafort, 75, was an adviser for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996 and managed the Republican convention that year. He was brought on to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign in the spring as the candidate was facing an effort to deprive him of the delegates necessary to become the nominee at the convention.

Mr. Manafort’s work with Mr. Trump’s campaign that year was relatively short-lived. In August 2016, he was ousted in part over headlines about his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Later, Mr. Manafort was ensnared in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

Mr. Manafort was one of only a few Trump advisers who were sentenced to prison, for crimes unrelated to the campaign. Mr. Trump praised him for not cooperating with the government investigation and pardoned Mr. Manafort at the end of his presidential term. The Washington Post reported this week that Mr. Manafort has re-engaged with work for foreign interests and political figures, including a Chinese entertainment streaming service. He denied working for the service, but told the paper he had made introductions to potential U.S. partners.

Mr. Manafort was never expected to be in a management role over the convention this time. But he was expected to be involved with advising the staffing structure of the platform committee, although not the substance of the platform itself, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The platform debate will be especially significant for the party this year. In 2020, the Republican Party did not adopt a new platform amid a series of changes to the convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, and simply reverted to the platform from 2016.

And in a controversy that received little attention at the time, language was inserted into the platform watering down language supporting Ukraine with military aid against Russian incursions. That language change was among the issues Mr. Mueller sought information about during his investigation.

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