Paul Manfort Working on ‘Netflix-Like’ Service for China: Report

Paul Manafort, a top Trump associate who pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice before being pardoned by the 45th president in 2020, is back in the news with the Washington Post reporting he’s revived his international consultancy business. But there’s one fact in the new story that really sticks out. Apparently, Manafort has been working on a project to help launch a new streaming service in China, America’s most feared New Cold War adversary, and Trump’s favorite geopolitical punching bag.

To be clear, the wording in this new Washington Post article is very careful and deliberate, claiming Manafort is “assisting an effort to launch a Netflix-like mobile streaming and entertainment platform in China.” The service is called Doorways, the Post reported, which notes that “according to corporate documents,” this new service “has the endorsement of the Chinese government.”

The phrase “assisting an effort to launch” doesn’t sound like Manafort was out there physically building the servers so that viewers in China could watch exciting new streaming entertainment. But that’s also not what politically connected consultants do in efforts like this. They typically help connect parties to help make things run more smoothly. And based on Manafort’s non-denial denial to the Post, he was making plenty of connections happen.

From the Washington Post:

In an email to The Post, Manafort said he was “not involved with China” and has “had nothing to do with China, including Chinese businesses, government, individuals, or anything else,” but acknowledged that he “was asked to make introductions to U.S. studios and potential U.S. partners in the venture.”

The newspaper cites documents from 2022 about the Doorways streaming platform that claims the Chinese military was somehow involved, which Manafort reportedly denies. The documents also note state-owned telecom company China Mobile would help sell subscriptions to Doorways. China Mobile, if you’ll recall, was denied a license to provide phone service in the U.S. back in 2019 over national security concerns.

The Post quotes Manafort insisting that nothing he was working on had to do with politics, which would only make sense if you don’t understand that everything happening in international business inherently involves politics.

“There is nothing about my limited role of introductions to U.S. business people that involves anything to do with the politics of U.S.-China relations,” Manafort told the Post.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because Manafort is still a player in GOP circles and is reportedly going to be working on the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, slated for July 15-18. And his old boss, one Donald J. Trump, is supposedly a hawk when it comes to relations with China. Trump, of course, has shown to be very malleable on the topic, recently deciding that Chinese-owned TikTok shouldn’t be banned in the U.S., a 180 compared to what he said when he was in office. But that’s no surprise at this point. Trump would change his slogan to Make America Shitty Again if he thought it could help him personally.

Manafort isn’t just helping Chinese business efforts get off the ground. Apparently, he has “sought to advise” politicians in Japan and South Korea, according to the Post, efforts that would presumably be less scandalous given the fact that both countries are U.S. allies. But just because a country is an ally doesn’t mean there’s no potential for scandal. You might recall that Michael Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Advisor for less than a month in 2017, was undone over his private consultancy work for Turkey, a U.S. ally.

Gizmodo received a bounceback email from a known address for Manafort but hasn’t been able to uncover a working email. If you’re reading this, Mr. Manafort, please do drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

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