Manafort's plan to 'greatly benefit the Putin Government'

US President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort did not encourage or pressure the campaign to side with Russian Federation on any problems, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing on Wednesday.

Later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer played down Manafort's role in the campaign.

The report of Manafort's pro-Russian work comes days after FBI Director James Comey "confirmed that his agency is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia" in last year's USA election, as the Two-Way reported.

At minimum, it would have been wise for the White House to scrutinize Manafort's client roll before Trump stuck his neck out and said that his former aide "was a consultant over in that part of the world for a while but not for Russian Federation".

Spicer said Manafort had a "limited" role with the Trump campaign, but even Spicer admitted himself that characterization wasn't correct.

But, he insisted, "my work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests".

"To insist that the president should know who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit... insane". "Who he played with in the sandbox?" he said.

That comment generated pushback even from allies of the president. "Paul is a well-respected expert in this regard and we are pleased to have him join the efforts to Make America Great Again". He made multiple media appearances on behalf of Trump and worked alongside Trump's closest advisers.

All this came as House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told reporters that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under US government surveillance following November's presidential election.

It's unclear how it happened, but Manafort's daughter's iPhone was hacked a while ago, Jezebel reports. "Clearly, I should have been more precise with respect to Paul's role", he said.

"Despite the constant scrutiny and innuendo, there are no facts or evidence supporting these allegations, nor will there be", Manafort said, calling the issue a "blatant attempt to discredit me and the legitimacy of the election of Donald Trump". "Paul's in charge", Spicer, who was then communications director of the Republican National Committee, told Reuters at the time.

The date of the invoice and the $750,000 listed on it match the details logged in an off-the-books ledger, first reported on by the New York Times, which purports to be from Yanukovych's party, listing the series of secret payments now under investigation. Manafort is facing allegations that he was paid millions of dollars as part of the arrangement. "You know Trump and his administration needs to prove that they would be capable to change [the] economic reality in the U.S.", Deripaska told CNBC. Serhiy Leshchenko, that politician, said the 2009 invoice is an attempt to hide the payment for work Manafort did for the pro-Russia political party.

The new revelations appear to contradict Manafort's repeated denials that he had ever worked on behalf of the Russian government. Not by Manafort' hiring, nor his history nor the denial of our government officials.

Flynn was hired for the top security job even though he informed lawyers on the Trump transition that he meant to register as a foreign agent for work he did on behalf of a businessman aligned with the Turkish government. But anti-corruption investigators in Ukraine continue to ask questions about how, when and what amount Manafort and his associates were paid for their work in Kiev.

Spicer later clarified: "Just so we're clear, I'm not dismissing Paul Manafort as a hanger-on".

With headlines mounting over Trump's links to Russian Federation, the White House has also worked furiously to change the subject.

Manafort helped Donald Trump secure the Republican nomination but resigned in August as his ties with Russian Federation came under scrutiny. Nunes also stressed the surveillance was "unrelated to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election".

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what's the White House response been to this?

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