Trump denies knowing Manafort shared polling data with Russian associate
President Trump on Thursday denied knowing that his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data with a Russian associate linked to Kremlin intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I didn’t know anything about that,” Trump told reporters Thursday morning before departing on a trip to the southern border.
A bungled court filing earlier this week revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller has accused Manafort of sharing polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national and former business associate of Manafort who is suspected to have ties to the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence agency.
In the filing, Manafort’s defense attorneys challenged Mueller’s accusations that he lied to investigators on various topics, including his contacts and meetings with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. They argued that Manafort did not intentionally tell lies and later corrected the record when he was reminded of information he had not offered up, noting his memory and physical health have been impacted by his months in federal prison.
The complete filing was made under seal and portions of the public version redacted, but a major error resulted in excerpts that were meant to be concealed becoming public.
In one portion, Manafort’s attorneys quoted a previous sealed filing from Mueller’s team that described Manafort as “conceding” that he may have discussed a “Ukrainian peace plan” with Kilimnik more than once and that he “acknowledged” meeting Kilimnik in Madrid.
Manafort’s attorneys seemed to acknowledge that the contacts occurred, writing in a faultily redacted section that he was “unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed.”
“The same is true with regard to the Government’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” they wrote.
His lawyers have since filed a new response to Mueller’s allegations of lying that is properly redacted.
Trump has diminished Manafort’s case as having nothing to do with him or his campaign, but the revelations have raised fresh questions about whether the campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. Trump has also denied that the campaign colluded with Russia and consistently attacked Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Manafort began working for the Trump campaign in March 2016 before he was forced to resign that August following revelations about his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
Mueller charged Manafort with a series of crimes related to that lobbying activity back in October. Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud by a jury in Alexandria, Va., over the summer before agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller’s investigation to avert a second federal trial in D.C.
Manafort was viewed as a significant cooperating witness for Mueller as he investigates whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the election. But his plea deal collapsed dramatically in November, and he is expected to be sentenced in D.C. in March.
Jordan Fabian contributed.