Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed evidence that he colluded with a Russian intelligence-linked operative during the 2016 campaign after failing to redact a court filing, CNN reports.
According to a court filing that was meant to be redacted by Manafort’s legal team but was not before it was made public, special counsel Bob Mueller believes that Manafort shared internal campaign data and discussed Russian-Ukrainian policy with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is reported to have ties to Russian intelligence.
In the filing, Manafort’s lawyers admitted that he discussed a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik and provided him with internal Trump campaign polling data. Manafort had two known meetings during the campaign with Kilimnik.
Manafort’s lawyers also acknowledged that he later traveled to Madrid to meet Kilimnik after the 2016 campaign.
According to emails obtained by The Washington Post, Manafort told Kilimnik during the campaign that he could provide campaign “briefings” to Putin-linked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was millions in debt.
Evidence points to collusion:
Manafort has not been charged with any crimes related to the Trump campaign and Kilimnik has only been charged with helping Manafort tamper with witnesses after his arrest. But CNN notes that the “details accidentally released Tuesday are the closest public assertion yet in the Mueller cases of coordination between a Trump campaign official and the Russian government, as Kilimnik is believed to be linked to Russian military intelligence.”
“Kilimnik has long been suspected to be central to Mueller's investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election,” CNN reported. “Prosecutors have previously said they believe Kilimnik has ties to the military intelligence unit the GRU, which allegedly hacked the Democratic Party and leaked damaging emails while Manafort ran Trump's campaign operation. Manafort and Kilimnik have been close colleagues for years.”
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him and is denying that he intentionally lied to Mueller’s team.
Republican shrugs off new revelations:
Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford shrugged off the revelations pointing to collusion in an appearance on CNN Wednesday.
“This is an ongoing relationship that Paul Manafort had with Ukraine—he was a representative of Ukraine, worked for the Ukrainian government, and was trying to work for a peace proposal—which, by the way, I didn’t support what he was doing and don’t support what he was doing was appropriate,” Lankford said. “But he had Ukrainian clients, this was a Ukranian client.”
“This person also previously worked for the Russian military, so did most everybody in that, so I don’t see this as a deliberate contact with the Russian government, this is a person that he’d worked with for a decade and a half at that point, in Ukraine,” he continued.
“We need to get the whole story on it because it makes it seem like it was some secret backchannel communication,” he added. “If it was, this was someone that Paul Manafort had known for a very long time and trusted.”