National Security

Senate report describes closer ties between 2016 Trump campaign, Russia

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday detailed significant ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, particularly with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The fifth volume of the panel’s much anticipated report, which is more than 950 pages long, examined “Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities” during the high-profile election race and marks the end to a sprawling investigation that began in January 2017.

Among the probe’s newest revelations is that Konstantin V. Kilimnik, an associate of Manafort’s, was a “Russian intelligence officer.” Manafort’s contacts also posed a “grave counterintelligence threat,” according to the report.

“Manafort hired and worked increasingly closely with a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer,” reads the report.

The Senate committee said it also obtained information that suggested Kilimnik was possibly connected to the Russian intelligence service’s 2016 hack and leak operation.

“Manafort worked with Kilimnik starting in 2016 on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” the report added.

Manafort was sentenced to a total of 7 1/2 years in prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges and being convicted on charges related to his foreign lobbying efforts that were uncovered in the course of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The Senate Intelligence Committee said it interviewed more than 200 witnesses and reviewed more than 1 million pages of documents to examine the questions of Russia’s efforts to sow discord, the U.S. government’s response to Moscow, the intelligence community’s handling of the threat and counterintelligence threats.

“No probe into this matter has been more exhaustive,” said acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a statement Tuesday.

“At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date — a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s vice chairman, added in a statement.

The committee’s findings are a more in-depth look at the interference than Mueller’s investigation, but the findings run parallel to the conclusions of Mueller’s probe, which found overwhelming evidence of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election through disinformation and cyber campaigns but a lack of sufficient evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to impact the outcome of the 2016 election.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Warner, the top Republican and Democrat on the committee, respectively, spearheaded the probe until one day before the committee made its classification announcement of the final volume, when Burr announced that he was temporarily stepping aside as chairman of the Senate panel amid a federal investigation into stock trades that he made at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rubio was tapped to take the chairman role in the interim.

The conclusion of the Senate committee’s probe comes as security officials and experts are warning that Russia will likely seek to interfere in the upcoming presidential election — as well as other countries. And the panel says these reports provide guidance on how to protect campaigns and elections heading into 2020.

“Now, as we head towards the 2020 elections, China and Iran have joined Russia in attempts to disrupt our democracy, exacerbate societal divisions, and sow doubts about the legitimacy and integrity of our institutions, our electoral process and our republic,” Rubio said. “The Committee’s five reports detail the signs and symptoms of that interference and show us how to protect campaigns, state and local entities, our public discourse, and our democratic institutions.”

Updated at 11:28 a.m.

Tags 2016 election Konstantin Kilimnik Marco Rubio Mark Warner Mueller investigation Paul Manafort Richard Burr Robert Mueller Russia Russia interference Senate Intelligence Committee
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