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Manafort stands between Donald and Ivanka Trump at a RNC walk-through. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

When Paul Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016, his history of consulting work for strongmen in Ukraine and elsewhere was well known. So chaotic was the Trump operation, though, that Manafort was widely viewed as the adult in the room, arriving to provide structure ahead of a possible convention fight.

By the following March, the White House had begun attempting to downplay any and all links between President Trump and his former campaign chairman. Then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer went so far as to say Manafort had "played a very limited role for a very limited period of time." And on Monday, current Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the charges against Manafort have "nothing to do with us," adding that most alleged activities took place before the 2016 campaign.

As reports emerged in March of Manafort's ties to a Russian billionaire in Putin's inner circle, Spicer was asked repeatedly about what Trump knew and when. He said it was "insane" to think Trump would be aware of Manafort's consulting activities.

"What else don't we know? I mean, where he went to school, what grades he got, who he played with in the sandbox?" — Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, on March 22

After the FBI raided Manafort's home, and it became increasingly clear that he was a central focus of the investigation, Trump was asked in August about Manafort:

"I know Mr. Manafort – I haven't spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time,'" he said.

Reality check: Manafort was on the campaign for nearly five months, three of those in a managerial role as campaign chairman. Follow the timeline here.

Where things stand: Manafort and Trump reportedly stayed in touch through November's election and beyond, but the president has been advised to sever ties with Manafort and there has been no known contact between them in many months. Expect that fact to feature prominently in White House responses to today's news.

Editor's Note: Sign up for Axios newsletters to get our smart brevity delivered to your inbox every morning.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.