Trump advisers waged covert influence campaign

Associated Press


A firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.

The lobbying included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine’s then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her.

Gates personally directed the work of two prominent Washington lobbying firms in the matter, the emails show. He worked for Manafort’s political consulting firm at the time.

Manafort and Gates’ activities carry outsized importance, since they have steered Trump’s campaign since April.

The new disclosures about their work come as Trump faces criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump, who plans to tour flood-ravaged Louisiana today, said Thursday night that, if elected, he will ask senior officials in his administration not to accept speaking fees, for five years after leaving office, from corporations that lobby “or from any entity tied to a foreign government.” He said it was among his efforts to “restore honor to government.”

For the first time since declaring his presidential run, Trump offered an extended apology to those who may have been hurt by his caustic comments, saying that he regrets some of what he’s said “in the heat of debate.”

“Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that,” the GOP nominee reading from prepared text, said at a rally in Charlotte, N.C. “And believe it or not, I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, says Trump’s statement of regret for causing pain was just him reading words from a teleprompter.

Clinton spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said Trump’s speech only revealed that “his speechwriter and teleprompter knows he has much for which he should apologize, adding that Trump should specify which of his “offensive, bullying and divisive comments he regrets – and change his tune.”

Clinton earlier met with law-enforcement leaders in New York City, joining with chiefs of police days after Republican Donald Trump accused her of being “against the police.”

The Democratic presidential nominee said the nation needs to work together to “repair the bonds of trust and respect” between police officers and communities.

Clinton said Thursday at the start of the meeting that deadly shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Milwaukee show the need for respect between police officers and residents.