Manafort shared campaign info with Russian intelligence officer, Senate panel finds
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had deep ties to a Russian intelligence officer and secretly shared campaign information, according to a sweeping Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday.
The nearly 1,000-page report offers a detailed portrait of Manafort’s connection to Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the Senate panel identifies as a Russian intelligence officer with potential ties to the hack of Democratic emails during the 2016 election.
“On numerous occasions over the course of his time on the Trump Campaign, Manafort sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik,” the committee wrote.
Kilimnik is a longtime associate of Manafort, and the Senate report notes that they “formed a close and lasting relationship that would endure to the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond.”
Manafort was hired as Trump’s campaign manager in March 2016 and reached out to Kilimnik, in advance, to notify him of the development, according to the report.
“The Committee found that Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for the Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign. The Committee assesses that Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services, and that those services likely sought to exploit Manafort’s access to gain insight [into] the Campaign,” the committee found.
According to the report, Manafort and Kilimnik met twice in person while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, including to discuss “sensitive campaign polling data and the Campaign’s strategy for beating [Hillary] Clinton,” the 2016 Democratic nominee.
“Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services … represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the committee found.
The decision by the Senate Intelligence Committee to identify Kilimnik as a Russian intelligence officer goes a step further than former special counsel Robert Mueller, who identified Kilimnik as an individual the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence but did not call him an intelligence agent.
The relationship between Kilimnik and Manafort was detailed as part of the committee’s fifth and final report on its three-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The report floats that Kilimnik may have been linked to the 2016 hack of Democratic National Committee emails, though much of the intelligence that is based on is redacted from the report. The Senate committee also noted that “two pieces of information raise the possibility” of Manafort’s potential connection to the “hack-and-leak operations,” though the information is redacted.
“Manafort’s involvement with the GRU hack-and-leak operation is largely unknown. Kilimnik was in sustained contact with Manafort before, during, and after the GRU cyber and influence operations, but the Committee did not obtain reliable, direct evidence that Kilimnik and Manafort discussed the GRU hack-and-leak operation,” the committee wrote.
The committee noted that it had “obtained some information” suggesting Kilimnik might have been connected to the hacking and that “information suggests that a channel for coordination on the GRU hack … operation may have existed through Kilimnik,” but they have “limited insight” into his communications.
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 Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
He initially made a plea deal with Mueller but that fell apart when Mueller accused him of lying about various subjects, including his meetings with Kilimnik. A 2019 court filing error resulted in the public disclosure that Mueller had accused Manafort of sharing polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with Kilimnik.
President Trump denied last year knowing that Manafort shared campaign information with Kilimnik.
“I didn’t know anything about that,” he told reporters.
Morgan Chalfant contributed