Donald Trump campaign manager quits amid Ukraine funding controversy

Donald Trump campaign manager quits amid Ukraine funding controversy
Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has resigned after coming under fire over ties to Russian interests and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
3 min read
20 August, 2016
Trump shocked many on Thursday by expressing regret for past mistakes [Corbis News]
Donald Trump sought to reboot his flagging presidential bid on Friday, dismissing his tainted campaign chairman, and seeking to broaden his shrinking support base by appealing to black voters.

The resignation of the seasoned Republican strategist Paul Manafort - under fire for his alleged pro-Kremlin ties and role in a Ukrainian corruption scandal - represents the Republican nominee's latest effort to get back on track after weeks of crisis.

"This morning, Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign," Trump said in a statement, thanking him for "his great work" and proclaiming him a "true professional."

Earlier this week, Trump appointed Steve Bannon, a right-wing news executive, as CEO and promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, in what has signaled a marked new tone following a number of missteps.

Trump shocked many on Thursday by expressing "regret" for past mistakes and began airing his first television ads on Friday in a desperate attempt to chip into Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's yawning lead in the polls.

The New York billionaire flew into Michigan on Friday to address a rally, explaining his appearance in an open-necked shirt and trucker hat by saying he had come straight from "a tour of the suffering and devastation in Louisiana," which has been ravaged by floods.

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He then launched into a sustained pitch for African American voters, who have overwhelmingly flocked to Clinton.

"Look how much African American communities have suffered under Democratic control," he said.

"To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?"

Citing disproportionate levels of poverty, unemployment and failing schools, Trump claimed that "no group in America" has been more harmed than blacks by the former secretary of state's policies.

He told the overwhelmingly white crowd that he was asking for the vote of "every single African American citizen" in the country.

His more than year-long, highly controversial campaign has attracted white supremacists, alienated immigrants and done little to win over minorities.

Trump's main opponent, Hillary Clinton, leads in the national polls with 47.2 percent and is ahead in virtually every swing state.

She took to Twitter to dismiss his efforts appealing to black voters as "ignorant."

Ukrainian distraction

Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had sought to turn the brash-talking 70-year-old candidate, who has never previously held elected office, into a figure more palatable to the general electorate while building up a traditional campaign structure.

But Trump "was not a candidate that could be corralled," former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said on MSNBC television.

Trump appeared to sideline Manafort on Wednesday by appointing Bannon, a Breitbart News executive, and Conway.

Manafort's ties to the pro-Kremlin former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom he advised for years, had become a serious distraction to the campaign.

The head of Ukraine's newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Artem Sytnyk, confirmed this week that more than $12 million had been unofficially earmarked for Manafort from 2007 to 2012, although it remains unclear whether he received any payment.

Manafort denied any wrongdoing, saying he had "never received a single 'off-the books cash payment,'" or worked for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.

But the Clinton campaign pounced on his resignation in an attempt to fan accusations of nefarious pro-Kremlin influence on Trump, who has spoken admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin and even sensationally suggested that Moscow should hack Clinton's emails.

"You can get rid of Manafort," campaign manager Robby Mook said, "but that doesn't end the odd bromance Trump has with Putin."

Agencies contributed to this report.