paul manafort
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort acknowledged he had a long-running relationship with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Above, Manafort at a Trump Tower roundtable in New York City, Aug. 17, 2016. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

As the White House attempts to distance itself from former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, details of his ties to Russia keep piling up.

The Associated Press reported Manafort worked secretly in 2005 to advance Putin’s interests and undermine anti-Russian movements in the former Soviet republics, proposing a media strategy in the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics, as well as trying to influence politics and business deals.

He also tried to win a U.S. visa for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with mob ties and one of Russia’s wealthiest men. Deripaska owns Basic Element Co., employing 200,000 people worldwide in everything from agriculture to manufacturing, including aluminum giant UC Rusal. Forbes estimated he is worth $5.2 billion.

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The revelations come as the FBI and congressional committees investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, as well as Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. During a hearing Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign in late July, while Manafort was still running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The AP reported Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract in 2006 with Deripaska, and the two retained business contacts until at least 2009, a source told the AP. The work was performed under the company name LOAV Ltd., not Manafort’s better known Davis Manafort, and its address was listed as his former home in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort and Deripaska had a falling out in 2014 over a $19 million investment in Ukrainian TV, the AP said.

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Years before the 2006 contract, Deripaska asked Manafort to help him obtain a U.S. visa after the U.S. State Department refused to issue one.

Manafort Wednesday confirmed he worked for Deripaska but denied his work was pro-Russian in nature.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters the president was unaware of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska.

"To suggest that the president knew who his [Manafort’s] clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane," Spicer said, calling AP's report " a lot of buzz" and noted Manafort's work occurred long before he joined Trump's campaign. "I don't know what he got paid to do. There's no suggestion he did anything improper."’

Spicer also noted Manafort worked on the George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole campaigns. He also worked on the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Among foreign leaders, Manafort played a role in Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos 1986 election, which was rife with voter fraud. In 2010, he helped Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency.

Spicer Monday tried to say Manafort played only a minor role in last-year’s Trump campaign although he was chairman from March through August before being forced to resign amid reports he had masterminded a covert Washington lobbying effort in 2014 for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Even after leaving the campaign, Manafort and Trump remained in contact through the November election, Politico noted.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump confidant, told Politico the smartest thing the White House could do is distance itself from Manafort by claiming ignorance of his past dealings.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the revelations serious and said he expects “other shoes will drop.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent Trump critic said he doubts Trump knew about Manafort’s relationship but he wants the issue fully investigated.

U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 describe Deripaska as one of two or three oligarchs Putin relies on.

Manafort also is the focus of a broad investigation into stolen Ukrainian assets taken when Yanukovich was ousted in 2014.