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Why Did Paul Manafort Resign From Trump’s Campaign? His Russian Ties Proved Problematic

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On Friday, only a few months after joining the Republican presidential candidate, Paul Manafort resigned from Donald Trump's campaign, becoming the second high-profile campaign change in recent months. Manafort, as Trump's campaign chair, was a top political consultant who was could reportedly turn around Trump's image problem. So what was behind Manafort's sudden decision to leave the Trump challenge?

As it turns out, it was a couple of things. Manafort quit just two days after Trump decided to restructure his campaign team a bit, pulling Stephen K. Bannon, chairman of Breitbart News, and strategist Kellyanne Conway into top positions. It was a move that many saw as sidelining Manafort, who originally wrote that he would "remain the campaign chairman and chief strategist, providing the big-picture, long-range campaign vision," despite the changes, according to The New York Times. (Spoiler alert: he only did so for two more days before quitting.)

Manafort's resignation also came shortly after news emerged linking Manafort to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. With recent talk of Trump's Russian ties in the news (remember when he called for Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton's servers? Yeah, that was weird), Manafort's connections were likely seen as a distraction that Trump's campaign simply can't afford at the moment.

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CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 17: Paul Manafort, campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, is interviewed on the floor of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena July 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Republican National Convention begins tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

So what's up with Manafort's ties to Russia? They're complicated, but they certainly don't look good for the Republican consultant. The New York Times reported on secret ledgers revealing that the political party of Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Manafort used to advise, was to send Manafort $12.7 million in cash payments. (Investigations have yet to reveal if Manafort actually received the money, although Manafort's lawyer says he didn't.)

According to The Atlantic, Manafort also recruited a lobbyist to influence the United States' Ukraine policies, although he never registered as a foreign agent with the American government, meaning he may have broken federal laws. Having Trump's already strangely pro-Russian sentiments associated with his advisor's possibly illegal lobbying efforts definitely wouldn't look good for Trump. With less than three months left until the general election, Trump would do well to avoid any more campaign controversies.

"You know, Paul was amazing," Trump's son Eric told Fox News on Friday. He hinted at the fact that Manafort's resignation may not have been his decision alone, saying, "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."

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian journalist and member of parliament Serhiy Leshchenko holds pages showing allegedly signings of payments to Donald Trump's presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort from an illegal shadow accounting book of the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych during a press conference in Kiev on August 19, 2016. The Ukrainian authorities have released line-item entries of payments worth million of dollars that US presidential campaign hopeful Donald Trump's campaign chief allegedly received from the now-ousted Russian-backed leaders in Kiev. The revelations from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) on August 18, 2016 were followed on August 19 by claims by a top lawmaker that Paul Manafort lobbied in favour of a pro-Kremlin party even after a February 2014 pro-EU revolt had pulled Ukraine out of Russia's orbit. Manafort served as a public relations adviser to Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych -- now living in self-imposed exile in Russia -- and his Regions party in the former republic between 2007 and 2012. / AFP / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

For Democrats, however, removing Manafort doesn't end the troublesome ties Trump has to Russia. According to CNN, Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, said in a statement:

With Trump's semi-apology on Thursday night and Manafort's resignation, it looks like the Trump campaign is really shaking things up. Whether the changes will mean better poll numbers for Trump, though, remains to be seen.