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National
Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?
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Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?

What You Need to Know: Paul Manafort

Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?

On Monday, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered at the FBI field office in Washington, D.C. after being indicted by a grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The grand jury approved the 12-count, 31-page indictment on Friday, and a federal judge ordered it sealed. It was unsealed Monday morning. Manafort and a business partner, Rick Gates, surrendered at the FBI Washington field office. 

What do we know about Paul Manafort:

  • Manafort was born in 1949. He grew up in Connecticut. He earned a law degree from Georgetown University.
  • Manafort worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
  • He was the chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign but resigned in August 2016 after revelations surfaced about his work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
  • According to The Associated Press, Manafort “helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.” All U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent any foreign leaders or political parties. 
  • The New York Times reported that Manafort spoke to Russian intelligence officials last year via telephone calls that were monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. Manafort has denied that he spoke with the Russians. 
  • Manafort has also been linked to handwritten ledgers that list cash payments of $12.7 million in Manafort’s name. 
  • According to Politico, legal complaints filed by representatives of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in the Cayman Islands in 2014 claimed Deripaska gave Manafort $19 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV company. After the venture failed, Manafort took the money, the complaint claims, and did not pay Deripaska back. 
  • Trump hired Manafort's lobbying firm to help the Trump Organization. 
  • CNN reported that federal investigators wiretapped Manafort both before and after the 2016 election.
  • Federal investigators executed a “no-knock warrant” at Manafort's home in northern Virginia on July 26, 2017. Manafort had met with the Senate intelligence committee the day before. 

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Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?

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  • First it was Pizzagate. The completely bogus 2016 election conspiracy theory that almost resulted in tragedy at my neighborhood pizza joint, spurred by the ridiculous assertion that supporters of Hillary Clinton were running a child sex ring out of Comet Ping Pong Pizza in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood. A year later in December of 2017, the conspiracy theorists are back on my doorstep. This time, instead of my family’s favorite pizza parlor, they’re after my long time hobby, convinced that a woman with ties to Fusion GPS got a ham radio license in order to hide communications to help a bid to undermine President Donald Trump’s campaign. The focus is on a woman named Nellie Ohr, who is married to a top Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Why she was working with the group Fusion GPS – which was paying a former British intelligence agent to put together the Trump Dossier – is certainly something of note. But the idea that Ohr was using ham radio for secret communications with Steele on the dossier, or items related to the Trump campaign – is somewhat laughable to me and many in the amateur radio community. RT ARmastrangelo: Now we're learning that they were communicating by ham radio. Robert Ohr's wife even applied for a ham radio license so that nobody could monitor them during their Trump investigation, while they prepared the dossier. Real cute. — Ex-GOP Ronin! (@ShawDeuce) December 15, 2017 And just like with Pizzagate, there are no actual facts to back up claims like that one on Twitter about the ham radio link – but that hasn’t stopped it from making the quick jump from social media to talk radio. “Now we find out that Robert Ohr’s wife applied for a ham radio license?” said Rush Limbaugh as he opened his show on December 14, not even three full days after it surfaced on Twitter. “They were communicating by ham radio,” Limbaugh declared with authority, adding that it was an effort to get around monitoring efforts of the National Security Agency, evidently to facilitate contacts by Orr and former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. Sigh. Let’s start with this question – could Nellie Orr use ham radio to be in contact with Steele in England, or others on the European continent? Take it from me – a few weeks ago, I was furiously trying to make as many contacts as possible with European ham radio operators – it wouldn’t be easy for someone with a new license like hers. And I could come up with a lot better choices. @jamiedupree Can't quit laughing about this talk of KM4UDZ using her 'ham radio' to write a campaign document. idiots know nothing about subject OR who she was communicating with or which band (& it's limitation) – ridiculous. — Jim Bowman (@W4DFS) December 14, 2017 “It would be one of the least efficient communication methods one could choose,” said David Isgur, the Communication Manager for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for ham radio in the U.S. As Isgur pointed out to me in an email from ARRL HQ, not only would you need good antennas, and some good knowledge about when signals are the best between the United States and Europe, but Ohr’s license grade is a “Technician,” which is the lowest level license issued by the FCC. Hams who are “Technicians” have the smallest amount of privileges on the various amateur radio frequencies. Most of her frequencies would support very local communication, not even out of state, let alone across the country, or across the ocean  to Europe. And with her license, class, the best way she could communicate with someone in Europe would be in Morse Code – and that’s not easy for a beginner (it isn’t part of the license requirement any longer in the United States). But like Pizzagate, those kind of facts don’t matter to those who want to spread this story. The ham radio angle seems to have originated with a Twitter user who goes by the handle @TruthinGov2016, who found that Nellie Ohr had applied for an amateur radio license, and been granted the call sign KM4UDZ. Why is Nellie Ohr communicating via amateur HAM radio and with who? Here’s her call sign. You can listen in. https://t.co/NEYPPj1dIq pic.twitter.com/TmS2rGLzmm — TruthInGovernment (@TruthinGov2016) December 12, 2017 That tweet on December 11, would quickly gain attention on social media, and end up on talk radio just a few days later. Ham radio operators who have been in touch with me were trying not to laugh too much. “If you wanted to have secret, encrypted communications, why would you even bother getting a ham radio license,” said one amateur radio operator on my Facebook page. As for the idea that Ohr would be using ham radio to get around the National Security Agency, “this is 100% totally, completely, wrong,” said another ham, who noted that the NSA records the entire radio spectrum 24/7/365. “That you think ham radio has anything to do with this is hysterical,” one ham wrote to @TruthinGov2016 about the supposed Chris Steele link. “Absolutely hysterical.” But even with comments like that from people who know the limits of the hobby, it didn’t stop the conspiracy theory from spreading fast over the internet. Nellie Ohr gets a HAM radio license so she can communicate with Steele or MI6 or the Russians or whoever! Tom Clancy couldn't make this stuff up on his best day! — Tom Joad (@blakemankansas) December 12, 2017 I got my ham radio license when I was a freshman in college back in 1981, so I’ve seen a few things in the hobby. If Nellie Ohr were trying to get in touch with England or Russia via ham radio, it’s more difficult than normal, as we’re in a time period where radio signals aren’t bouncing around the globe as easily as they can – all of that is related to the low number of sunspots, and how it impacts radio signals here on Earth. But just like when I told people that there weren’t sadistic paintings on the walls at Comet Ping Pong – and they accused me of protecting a child sex ring – people are going to believe conspiracy theories, because they want to believe conspiracy theories, not because there are facts behind them. Amateur radio could always use a little good publicity. But not a conspiracy theory like this one. Pizza and ham radio go together. Pizzagate and ham radio do not. 73.