: Trump aides covertly fought freeing of Ukraine prisoner - AP

11:06 Aug. 24, 2016

Trump aides covertly fought freeing of Ukraine prisoner - AP

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and candidate for the upcoming presidential elections Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 26, 2014

Manafort's firm directed a multimillion dollar lobbying effort between 2012 and 2014 to undercut public support for imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko

For more than three years, lobbyist Jim Slattery worked in Washington to secure the release in Ukraine of the imprisoned political rival of the country's then-president. He said the work was sometimes harder than expected.

"I had a sense that there were people working on the other side," he said, "but they were doing it pretty secretively."

Slattery's hunch was right. His unknown opponent: The consulting firm run by Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy Rick Gates, now the campaign's liaison to the Republican National Committee.

Manafort resigned last week, shortly after disclosures by The Associated Press about his firm's covert lobbying on behalf of Ukraine's pro-Russian government at the time.

The U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people working on behalf of foreign political leaders to disclose their efforts to the Justice Department, but neither Manafort and Gates nor U.S. lobbyists they directed did. Working on the other side, Slattery filled out the required paperwork describing contacts with Congress and State Department officials including specific phone calls and emails and the topics of their discussions.

"I damn sure didn't want to get in trouble violating foreign agent laws," said Slattery, a former Democratic congressman from Kansas.

Manafort and Gates were working for Ukraine's Party of Regions but said they did not represent Ukrainian political interests in the U.S. But emails and insider accounts obtained by the AP showed Manafort's firm directed a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort between 2012 and 2014 that appeared to undercut public support for imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko, who was considered a political prisoner by U.S. and European governments.

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