Paul Manafort resigned his post as Donald Trump's campaign chairman and chief strategist on Friday. His departure comes days after a second major staff shake-up on the campaign. Photo by Bryan R. Smith/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican political strategist who was first hired by Donald Trump to oversee a potentially protracted delegate fight during the primary but quickly rose to run his entire campaign, resigned Friday, the candidate said in a statement.
Manafort's departure comes days after a second major shake-up in the campaign's hierarchy as Trump steadily trails Hillary Clinton in polls nationally and in key battleground states.
"This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success," Trump said in a statement.
Manafort had faced questions about his ties to the now-disgraced Russian-backed former president of Ukraine after The New York Times publicized documents related to a government corruption investigation. The documents were hand-written ledgers of so-called "black accounts" a Ukrainian lawmaker and journalist said are evidence of illegal, off-the-books payments by former President Viktor Yanukovych. The ledgers, which were seized by protesters who stormed party offices during the chaotic uprising that booted Yanukovych from power in 2014, list Manafort's name personally and show total payments of $12.7 million beginning in 2007.
Manafort denied receiving untaxed, under-the-table payments from Yanukovych or his allies but did say his political consulting firm has done work for overseas clients in the past.
Trump has not commented on the allegations in the Times article, however his son, Eric Trump, told Fox News that Manafort, while and "amazing" strategist, had become a "distraction."
"I think my father didn't want to be, you know, distracted by, you know, whatever things Paul was dealing with," Eric Trump said. "My father just didn't want to have the distraction looming over the campaign and quite frankly looming over all the issues that Hillary's facing right now."
Manafort, a veteran of Republican presidential campaigns dating back to Gerald Ford's failed 1976 race, was seen as a potentially steadying figure when he took the reins of Trump's often free-wheeling campaign in May. Manafort worked to smooth over clashes between Trump and the Republican National Committee that had grown problematic under Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
Trump fired Lewandowski, in favor of Manafort after the two engaged in a protracted internal power struggle. Lewandowski's often combative style and unorthodox strategies worked wonders during the primary, but the campaign struggled to transition into the much larger, more complex general election stage after Trump effectively secured the nomination. Lewandowski's problems dealing with outside groups like the RNC had prevented the two organizations from working together to create a joint fundraising apparatus and a robust voter turnout program, two key elements of a campaign that Trump eschewed during the primary.
Earlier this week, Trump hired former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon, a brash, anti-establishment conservative who has never run a presidential campaign, to be his chief executive. Trump also promoted veteran pollster and personal confidant Kellyanne Conway to a senior position.
Some described the shake-up as a demotion for Manafort, though the campaign said he would remain in his role as chairman and chief strategist.
The campaign did not offer Manafort's explanation for resigning.