Paul Manafort, the chairman of former president Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, has admitted sharing confidential campaign polling data with a suspected Russian intelligence officer at the same time Moscow was interfering in the 2016 election on Mr Trump’s behalf.
In an interview with Insider, Mr Manafort — who was later convicted of tax evasion but received a pardon from the ex-president — said he shared the data, which the Department of the Treasury described as “sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy”, with suspected Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik in hopes of financial gain for himself, not to aid Russia’s efforts to help Mr Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
"The data that I shared with him was a combination of public information and stuff for the spring that was — it was old,” said Mr Manafort, whose claim is at odds with what he told his former deputy, Rick Gates, in an email seized by federal investigators during the Justice Department’s probe into whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia’s pro-Trump interference efforts.
The email, which was seized by investigators working for then-special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, said Mr Manafort ordered Gates — who was also convicted of multiple federal crimes discovered during Mr Mueller’s probe — to provide Mr Kilimnik with internal data from just two weeks before a meeting with the alleged Russian agent.
According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr Manafort and Mr Kilimnik took great pains to keep their dealings a secret to the point where the panel reported that it had “limited insight into Kilimnik's communications with Manafort” because both men employed "sophisticated communications security practices”.
The former GOP consultant and lobbyist sat down with Insider ahead of the publication of his memoir, in which he reportedly offered yet another explanation of his dealings with Mr Kilimnik.
According to Insider, Mr Manafort claims in his book that he merely offered the suspected spy “talking points” on public polling, not the sensitive raw internal polling data he has now admitted to sharing. But the Treasury Department sanctioned Mr Kilimnik in 2021 for feeding the data Mr Manafort provided him to the Russian intelligence services, which used the polling data to target US voters with information operations meant to boost Mr Trump and denigrate Ms Clinton.