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When August 2016 began, Paul Manafort was about 11 weeks into his job as chairman of Donald Trump's campaign. But despite the political tumult, Manafort found time that month to meet at a swank Manhattan cigar bar with someone the FBI has suggested has ties to Russian intelligence.The machinations of that August illustrate why Manafort is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. And they show why the probe has deep roots – in evidence already made public, cases filed and plea deals won – that will persist even if Trump moves to fire Mueller.Manafort has pleaded not guilty to tax and bank-fraud charges and making false statements, and his attorneys have argued that Mueller's allegations are outside his jurisdiction in the Russian election-meddling probe.The story begins with Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire real estate financier close to both Manafort and Trump.The Manafort case illustrates how hard it will be for Trump to dispel the allegations that swirl around the Mueller investigation.
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