Some of Manafort's employees now say they predicted that greed would be his downfall. Blessed with exceptional political instincts and his Georgetown Law School degree, Mr. Manafort built his political consulting firm into a powerhouse in Reagan-Washington, where the name Black, Manafort, and Stone became synonymous with string-pull, insider access, and electoral success
But on the way, many say, he became a mercenary, ready to serve brutal dictators and corrupt industrialists, as long as they paid well. Rita Levinson, an international lobbyist who worked for Mr. Manafort from 1985 to 1995, said she initially accepted his statement that he served strong men to bring them closer to Western democratic ideals. But "over time," she said in an interview, "it seemed to me he was all about money, big money."
"Paul never believed that the rules apply to him," said Ms. Levinson, who described him in her 2016 memoir as "brilliant". "They were for others who could not outsmart the system."
A Power Player
Paul John Manafort Jr. was born in New Britain, Connecticut, about 12 miles from Hartford. He caught the political mistake of his father, the mayor of the city, when P. J., as Paul was then called, was in high school. His father was indicted in 1981 in a municipal corruption scandal for alleged perjury, but never convicted.
As a student and later a law student at Georgetown University, Mr. Manafort moved toward Republican politics. When he married Kathleen Bond, a graduate of George Washington University, in 1978, he had already worked on Gerald Ford's presidential campaign, and soon he would be hired by Ronald Reagans.
Tall, good-looking, with an authoritarian expression, Mr. Manafort thrived in political boiler rooms. But he distinguished himself even more as a lobbyist. He and two colleagues from his time with the Young Republicans and the Reagan campaign created two interconnected consulting firms that blew up form in Washington and made legendary achievements. Mr. Manafort, Charlie Black, and Roger J. Stone cleverly and aggressively helped to elect politicians, and then obtained contracts to praise the same politicians in the interests of business and foreign interests.