Treasury: Manafort associate passed ‘sensitive’ campaign data to Russian intelligence
The Treasury Department on Thursday for the first time said an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s passed “sensitive” campaign polling information to Russian intelligence in 2016.
The revelation came as the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on Russia, including Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik, in response to both the SolarWinds hack and the Kremlin’s efforts to influence U.S. elections.
“During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” the Treasury Department wrote in announcing the sanctions.
“Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Kilimnik, a Russian national who used to run the offshoot of Manafort’s former consulting business in Ukraine, was a key figure in the federal investigation into Manafort during the Trump administration.
Manafort was convicted on eight different charges in connection with the Mueller probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election. He was later pardoned by former President Trump during his final days in office.
Manafort and Kilimnik met twice in the U.S. during the campaign, where Manafort shared information.
U.S. prosecutors working for former special counsel Robert Mueller in 2019 accused Manafort of sharing polling data with Kilimnik in court filings. However, Mueller identified Kilimnik only as a person the FBI suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence.
A Senate Intelligence Committee investigation report released in August went a step further by identifying him as a Russian intelligence officer.
“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 Senate panel wrote in its report.
The Treasury announcement on Thursday also draws a closer connection between the Trump campaign, Kilimnik and Moscow than the Mueller investigation did.
The Mueller report outlined the role another Trump campaign associate, Richard Gates, played in relaying information to Kilimnik. The two said they expected the information to be shared with Ukraine — a detail where the report expressed doubt.
“Manafort instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the Campaign and a longtime employee, to provide Kilimnik with updates on the Trump Campaign—including internal polling data, although Manafort claims not to recall that specific instruction. Manafort expected Kilimnik to share that information with others in Ukraine,” the Mueller report stated.
“The Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign period.”
Morgan Chalfant contributed.
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