Politics: Manafort’s 2016 Gambit: A Back Channel From Trump Camp to Labor - - PressFrom - US
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Politics Manafort’s 2016 Gambit: A Back Channel From Trump Camp to Labor

04:45  14 november  2019
04:45  14 november  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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In the summer of 2016, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, proclaimed Midwestern states like Michigan and Wisconsin to be critical to the campaign’s strategy.

Stickers ready for voters on Election Day in Flint, Mich. The state was considered critical to the Trump campaign’s efforts.© Brittany Greeson for The New York Times Stickers ready for voters on Election Day in Flint, Mich. The state was considered critical to the Trump campaign’s efforts.

Behind the scenes, he was actively trying to execute that strategy — sometimes in highly unorthodox ways.

According to three people close to the 2016 Trump campaign, Mr. Manafort sought to open a back channel to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s pre-eminent labor federation, which typically backs Democrats for president and had endorsed Hillary Clinton.

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Manafort ' s camp released a strongly-worded denial, calling the allegations "totally false and deliberately libelous." But the Assange connection would help answer one of the mysteries of the 2016 election: Why was Paul Manafort ever put in charge of Trump 's campaign in the first place?

Manafort pitched his campaign services to Trump in February 2016 via a mutual friend, Thomas J. Barrack Jr. Trump reportedly wanted someone tougher in charge and resented Manafort ' s efforts to rein him in. Manafort was also driven out by reports that surfaced about his ties to pro-Russian

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These people said the Trump campaign had hoped the federation would scale back get-out-the-vote activity intended to help Mrs. Clinton win Michigan and Wisconsin. To that end, they said, Mr. Manafort enlisted an intermediary friendly with officials at the A.F.L.-C.I.O. to suggest a mutually beneficial relationship.

Mr. Manafort wanted to convey that Mr. Trump was open to softening his support for right-to-work laws that unions oppose, and which the candidate had supported during the campaign, according to one of the people briefed on what took place.

While there is no evidence that the two sides negotiated a deal, much less executed one, the episode illustrates the unusual tactics that sometimes emerged in the often-chaotic Trump campaign as it sought to upend the electoral map.

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Under Mr. Manafort ’ s direction, Mr. Trump secured the nomination, rallied much of the Republican Party establishment behind him and set the strategy For his part, Mr. Manafort relished being back in the white-hot center of American politics, according to his associates. But it was not long before he

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Mr. Manafort told allies that he was working through Steven Brown, who worked with Mr. Manafort in Ukraine in 2013 and who had a relationship with at least two senior A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials, according to three people with knowledge of what took place.

Mr. Brown was in touch with at least one of those officials during the campaign, an A.F.L.-C.I.O. field operative named Don Slaiman, and pressed for an in-person meeting.

Mr. Slaiman, who was working for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in Pennsylvania in the months before the 2016 election, initially denied through an A.F.L.-C.I.O. spokesman, Josh Goldstein, that he had any contact with Mr. Brown during the campaign. He later acknowledged through Mr. Goldstein that he had communicated repeatedly with Mr. Brown during that time.

a chair sitting in front of a window: Some labor and political officials say organized labor’s election efforts in Michigan appeared less assertive than usual in 2016. An A.F.L.-C.I.O. official disputed that assertion.© Brittany Greeson for The New York Times Some labor and political officials say organized labor’s election efforts in Michigan appeared less assertive than usual in 2016. An A.F.L.-C.I.O. official disputed that assertion.

When contacted directly, Mr. Slaiman denied discussing any deal about the 2016 campaign with Mr. Brown, but he shared two emails in which Mr. Brown asked to meet in person and another asking to speak by phone.

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Donald Trump likes to improvise his way out of a mess, but three past improvisations came to a head with Paul Manafort ' s indictment. When he is backed into a corner, Donald Trump reflexively tries to improvise his way out of the mess.

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The correspondence touched on political subjects, like an endorsement of Mr. Trump by a police organization and a Senate race in Nevada. But it did not include a discussion of any campaign details, like the role of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in key battleground states. Mr. Slaiman said he had spoken to Mr. Brown only once, by phone.

“He wanted to meet with me,” Mr. Slaiman said. “I never did. I responded to him because we regularly communicated with both Democrats and Republicans — our focus is on pro-labor issues not party identification.”

He added, “These con artists were delusional if they believed that the labor movement would enter into any kind of deal.”

Mr. Brown, now in prison for a scheme to defraud investors in film productions, could not be reached; his two most recent lawyers said they could not speak for him.

Mr. Goldstein insisted that the interactions between the federation and the Trump campaign did not go beyond Mr. Slaiman and said there had been no agreement to stand down in any state.

Officials working for the White House and the Trump re-election campaign did not respond to an email seeking comment, nor did a lawyer for Mr. Manafort.

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Manafort ’ s remarks conflicted with comments made by the Trump family as well as Cruz. Donald Trump Jr. said there’s been some “ back and forth” between both camps about an endorsement from Cruz, who dropped out of the presidential race in early May.

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The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and its state and local affiliates have long been a powerful force in turning out voters on behalf of Democratic candidates.

A number of labor and political officials have said that organized labor appears to have played a more modest role than usual in the 2016 presidential election in Michigan, although it appears to have been more active in Wisconsin.

There are a number of possible reasons. Not least is the fact that the Clinton campaign itself does not appear to have taken Michigan as seriously as it should have in retrospect. The campaign’s polling showed the candidate winning the state comfortably, and according to a report in Politico, Mrs. Clinton’s aides rejected a plan by the Service Employees International Union to send a busload of volunteers to the state less than two weeks before Election Day.

A national A.F.L.-C.I.O. official involved in the 2016 campaign said that while the federation had considered Michigan a battleground state, it had not been a top priority. The official said the calculation may have been that if Mrs. Clinton faced a close race in Michigan, she was probably going to lose the election, and that devoting more resources to the state wasn’t likely to save her.

Mike Podhorzer, who was then the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political director, disputed that assertion, saying that Michigan had been deemed a key battleground and that the federation had devoted considerable resources to turning out voters there.

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How did Manafort initially address these financial problems? It was thanks to loans from entities with ties to Trump that channeled the money into a As Manafort began juggling to pay off his debts in August 2016 , he also started crafting a public-relations strategy to explain his Ukrainian connections.

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“There was no discussion of doing less in Michigan, let alone a diminution of efforts in Michigan,” he said, though he acknowledged that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. devoted more resources to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which unlike Michigan featured contested Senate races.

Mr. Trump won all three states, and support from union households was crucial.

Mr. Manafort left the campaign in August 2016 after questions arose about his business ties to Ukraine. He is in prison for his conviction last year on counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

Mr. Brown’s involvement as an intermediary continued after the campaign. In January 2017, Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, met with Mr. Trump, then president-elect, in New York. Mr. Brown helped set up the meeting, according to officials on both sides, and escorted Mr. Trumka upstairs from the Trump Tower lobby.

Mr. Trumka later described the meeting as an ultimately futile attempt to engage with the incoming president.

“After the election, I traveled up to New York to meet with Trump at his tower,” Mr. Trumka recalled in a speech last month in Alabama. “I was hopeful we could work together on the few issues where we actually agreed.”

“Well, it’s been nearly three years, and I can tell you one thing for certain,” he continued. “Donald Trump is one of the most anti-worker presidents in American history.”

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