New Trump Campaign Manager Was a Foreign Agent for Controversial Saudi Prince

This week, Paul J. Manafort became the unquestioned senior staffer on the Donald Trump presidential campaign.  With the dismissal of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Manafort now maintains complete control of Trump's drive to the White House.

The last time Manafort had such a prominent role, he was answering directly to the infamous Saudi royal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.  For several years, Manafort was a loyal lobbyist not only to Bandar, but to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as their most influential foreign agent in America.

A report detailing Manafort's lobbying for the Saudis first resurfaced in the Daily Beast.  However, government documents recently made public now offer more insight into his dealings with the House of Saud, in which he received hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to lobby U.S. lawmakers on behalf of the Wahhabi kingdom.

An issue of primary concern for Riyadh, for which Manafort was paid generous sums, was to eliminate support in Washington, D.C. for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel's capital.

Manafort and his employees traversed the Capitol, making Saudi Arabia's case to American lawmakers as Riyadh's American foreign agents.

Manafort and his staff also lobbied legislators on the status of "Jerusalem in general," according to the newly released documents from the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act office.

The official Saudi position was at the time, and remains to this day, that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state and that Israel has no claim over the holy city.  The government of Saudi Arabia officially, does not recognize the existence or the sovereignty of the State of Israel.

These documents also reveal that Paul Manafort reported directly to Prince Bandar, who at the time was the Saudi ambassador to the United States.  In a 125-page disclosure released by the Foreign Agents Registration office detailing Manafort's Saudi lobbying activities, Bandar is mentioned as his point of contact on five separate forms.

Document: Foreign Agents Registration Act office

Manafort's efforts for Riyadh through Bandar contributed to a 1986 foreign arms sale that was at the time the largest in American history (at $2 billion).  The United States would send to Saudi Arabia – in a move that was widely protested by both the U.S. Congress and the American people – five AWACS aircraft and eight additional jets.

Bandar, who for decades served as Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United States, has been accused of providing family funds to the tune of six-figure support to one of the 9/11 hijackers.  Additionally, a flight certificate belonging to alleged al-Qaeda member and 9/11 accomplice Ghassan al-Sharbi, a current Guantanamo detainee, was found inside the Saudi embassy in Washington while Bandar was its ambassador.  Another Guantanamo detainee, Zacarias Moussaoui, alleged that Bandar was a donor to al-Qaeda.  In his testimony, Moussaoui claimed he discussed plans to shoot down Air Force One with an unnamed staffer in the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Following the terror attacks, Bandar reportedly utilized his diplomatic connections with American officials – acquired through his decades-long stay in Washington coupled with his influential persona – to quash an investigation into Saudi Arabia's alleged state-support for the deadliest terror attacks in American history, according to reports.

The classified 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report deal heavily with Saudi Arabia state involvement in the attacks, according to former Florida senator Bob Graham, who has led the effort to declassify the rest of the report.  Specifically, the Commission Report alleged that the hijackers received backing from members of the Saudi royal family.

Paul Manafort was not a mere foreign agent among a handful of groups and individuals.  In fact, he was once considered the most prominent lobbyist for the Saudi kingdom.  According to a list compiled by the Wall Street Journal in the newspaper's September 6, 1985 issue, Manafort was ranked the most influential lobbyist for Riyadh.

At the time of Manafort's tenure as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi state was (and it continues to be) one of the world's foremost violators of the basic human rights of its citizens.  Riyadh continues to sponsor, export, and promulgate totalitarian Islamic tenets worldwide and to utilize a team of Western lobbyists as foreign agents in the Washington, D.C. area to accomplish its goals.

In creating a successful lobbying enterprise, Manafort leveraged his prior appointed positions in the Reagan administration to get rich by offering his services and connections to foreign nations.

In Agents of Influence, author Pat Choate explains how Manafort's firm leveraged its White House power to obtain big checks in exchange for promoting the interests of foreign nations.

"They used their White House connections to go after high-paying clients. In the process, the firm has become one of the leading lobbyists for American companies and foreign organizations," Choate writes, adding that the lobbying group managed to sign on 20 foreign nations during the 1980s.

These concerns were also relayed in testimony presented during a 1992 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations hearing.  Moreover, The Center for Public Integrity documented that these foreign agreements would regularly secure six- and seven-figure deals for one of his lobbying outfits.

In addition to his work for Saudi Arabia, Manafort conducted business on behalf of Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, an Angolan guerrilla group, and Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines under martial law, according to reports.  Moreover, his firm accepted a large sum to lobby for Mohamed Siad Barre, a Somali military junta leader who ruled the country for over two-decades.  Another dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, whose reign in Zaire lasted decades, paid Manafort's firm $1 million to represent his interests, according to the February 1992 edition of Spy Magazine, which declared that his firm had achieved the highest "Blood-On-The-Hands Rating" of all the lobbying companies in the country.

After a period of quiet, The Trump campaign manager resurfaced, reportedly admitting to French authorities that he took kickbacks from a prominent Lebanese arms dealer in order to use that money for Édouard Balladur's 1995 campaign for president of France, according to AFP.  Abdul Rahman el-Assir, the arms dealer who acted as a middleman to illegally secure military submarines for the Pakistani Navy, directed the arms sales revenues directly Manafort, as part of a back-room deal with the warlord, the report stated.

Jordan Schachtel is a fellow at the Haym Salomon Center and earned his master's degree in statecraft and national security affairs from the Institute of World Politics.