WASHINGTON – A spokesman for Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman met for more than two hours Friday with a federal grand jury exploring possible coordination between the president’s campaign and the Russian government.
Jason Maloni has served as a spokesman for Paul Manafort, the international political consultant who steered Trump’s campaign for about five months prior to the 2016 election.
It is not clear why prosecutors subpoenaed Maloni to appear. He began working for Manafort only after the campaign, helping Manafort respond to questions about his work on behalf of Trump, as well as his consulting work for a Russia-friendly politician in Ukraine.
The grand jury being used by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been seeking documents and hearing testimony from witnesses. But the grand jury process is secret, and Maloni is one of the first witnesses whose appearance before the grand jury has become public.
Maloni exited the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia shortly before noon on Friday, accompanied by an attorney, Erik Bolog. He spoke to reporters outside but declined to answer any questions.
“My name is Jason Maloni. I’m president of JadeRoq,” he said, referring to his public relations firm. “I was ordered to appear today before the grand jury. I answered questions, and I’ve been dismissed. That’s all I have to say.”
Public attention focused on Manafort’s foreign ties began when he joined Trump in the spring of 2016 to help professionalize the campaign of the outsider candidate. He resigned from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following reports by the New York Times that his name had appeared in a ledger found in Kiev detailing millions of dollars in under-the-table payments from a Ukrainian political party. Manafort has consistently denied wrongdoing and said reports alleging that he received funds improperly from Ukrainian interests are false.
The longtime lawyer and GOP strategist faced more scrutiny this year when it was revealed that he had joined Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Before working for the Ukrainian president, Manafort had consulted for other controversial foreign political leaders, including former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and Angolan insurgent leader Jonas Savimbi.
The foreign work could be lucrative. In June, Manafort filed new foreign agent registration forms showing that his firm received a total of $17.1 million over two years from Ukraine’s Party of Regions.
Manafort disclosed the total payments his firm received between 2012 and 2014 in a new Foreign Agents Registration Act filing. That disclosure made Manafort the second former senior Trump adviser to acknowledge the need to disclose work for foreign interests.
The other is retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as national security adviser to the president. Like Manafort, Flynn is also under investigation by the special counsel. Flynn has reported receiving remuneration from RT, the Russian television network, in 2015, along with payments from other foreign sources.
During the expanding inquiry, Maloni became increasingly visible as a Manafort spokesman. For example, in June, he explained that Manafort’s foreign agent filing amendments were being prepared a year ago “before the outcome of the election and well before any formal investigation of election interference began.” He emphasized then that Manafort’s “primary focus was always directed at domestic Ukrainian political campaign work” and that Manafort was cooperating with investigators.