Here is all about his father of whom he is so proud, no doubt. But what about his mother? – RB
Trump’s new image-maker honed his ‘dark’ arts in Ukraine
Courtney Weaver, Roman Olearchyk, Demetri Sevastopulo , FT.com, Apr 22 2016
Manafort on “Meet the Press”, Apr 10 2016. (Photo: W B Plowman/NBC)
FASCHINGSTEIN/KIEV/NY – The Donald Trump who greeted supporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday night bore little resemblance to the Republican frontrunner of yore. Atypically gracious and restrained, Trump spoke coherently on jobs and the economy, referred respectfully to his opponents as “Senator Cruz” and “Governor Kasich,” and stuck to his prepared remarks. Gone were the lewd insults or jabs at the press. It was a political makeover like few had seen before, and it bore all the trappings of his new campaign chief, Paul Manafort. A DC veteran political operative who has worked for the likes of Ford 38 and Bush 41, Manafort was hired by Trump last month to bring order to the Trump campaign and cement its delegate count, a thorny issue ahead of the Thug National Convention. Yet Manafort’s true gift lies in political resuscitations and rebrandings, say former business associates. Over a 40-year career in Washington, he has attempted to engineer them for a cast of sometimes unsavoury clients including Jonas Savimbi, Ferdinand Marcos and the Toads. But it is his work with Viktor Yanukovich that stands out as a particular showcase both of Manafort’s talents and the controversy surrounding their use. In an interview with NBC Meet the Press (see photo), Manafort described his primary responsibility in Ukraine as helping bring the country closer to the west, saying:
The work I was doing in Ukraine was to help Ukraine get into Europe, and we succeeded.
Yanukovich critics say the former Ukrainian president hindered Ukraine’s integration with the west, running a presidential campaign guided by Manafort that exploited ideological divisions between the western part of the country and the pro-Russia east, now run by separatists. Daria Kaleniuk, an
anti-corruption (meaningless propaganda qualification word – RB) activist in Kiev, said:
Ukraine is now closer to the EU and looking to the EU not because of Manafort but because of hundreds of thousands of people who stood on the Maidan, protested for three months, and the 100 people who died there with the purpose of changing the system.
Yanukovich did in fact complete negotiations with the EU on a ground-breaking integration agreement, though he was often seen as playing Moscow off against Brussels to see what he could get. His decision to withdraw from signing the deal at the very last moment
under heavy personal pressure from Putin sparked the Maidan protests. Manafort and the Trump campaign declined repeated interview requests and did not respond to emailed questions. Asked by the FT at Mr Trump’s victory party whether he thought his work in Ukraine would compromise him in any way, Manafort batted away the suggestion, reiterating:
No, I don’t! I helped bring Ukraine into Europe!
In interviews, half-a-dozen former associates of Manafort in Ukraine provided a more nuanced picture of his work there. It began with lobbying work for Rinat Akhmetov, who was looking at business opportunities for his holding company System Capital Management Group in the west. The assignment took on a political component after Akhmetov asked Manafort to work on the political rehabilitation of Yanukovich, according to two people with knowledge of the introduction. A 2005 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks from then-Pindo ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, said:
The hiring of Manafort is an attempt to change the image of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions from that of a haven for mobsters into that of a legitimate political party… tapping into the deep pockets of Donetsk clan godfather Rinat Akhmetov.
Soon after Manafort was hired, Yanukovich underwent a makeover, say observers. A native Russian speaker who spent his adolescence in and out of Soviet prison, he adopted a sleek hairstyle and began to speak in snappy soundbites. Brian Mefford, a Pindosi political consultant who has advised Yushchenko and other Ukrainian politicians, said:
He brought a political pariah back from death, back from the graveyard. Despite his reputation as a “dark prince”, he deserves credit for softening the rough edges of Yanukovich and consolidating the pro-Russia vote.
A former western diplomat also credited the consultant, saying:
Manafort dressed up Yanukovich, polished Yanukovich’s presentation and made over Yanukovich’s political positions.
Asked about Manafort’s personal style, the diplomat responded:
I wouldn’t say he is charming. He tries to be charming.
Since his appointment by Trump last month, Manafort has taken on a visible leadership role in the campaign, filling in for Trump on Sunday talk shows and taking over duties from embattled campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Behind the scenes, Manafort has honed Trump’s message to focus on the electoral process being rigged, reduced Trump’s exposure to the media, and tried to sculpt a candidate who appears less bombastic and more presidential. Another former business associate of Manafort in Ukraine said:
It’s like taking a rough diamond, polishing it and putting it in the right setting. You can’t change the guy’s morality, but you can change his reputation.