U.S. has new intel that Manafort friend Kilimnik gave Trump campaign data to Russia

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Tom Winter and Monica Alba
·3 min read
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The U.S. intelligence community has developed new information about Konstantin Kilimnik, whom they call a Russian spy, that leads them to believe the associate of ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort passed internal Trump campaign polling and strategy information to Russian intelligence services, two U.S. officials say.

On Thursday the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Kilimnik and for the first time said he passed along the data to Russian intelligence services.

That new detail, part of a factsheet released by Treasury, was not included in the 2019 report by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Image: KONSTANTIN VIKTOROVICH KILIMNIK (FBI)
Image: KONSTANTIN VIKTOROVICH KILIMNIK (FBI)

Mueller's team said in its report that Kilimnik was believed to “have ties to Russian intelligence,” and that Kilimnik had received the Trump campaign information from Manafort, but did not say what he did with it after receiving it.

A bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2020 said coordination between the Trump campaign and a Russian operation to hack and leak Democratic emails may have existed through Kilimnik but could not be established with certainty. The report drew no conclusions about what the Russians ultimately did with the data.

The officials did not disclose when or how the U.S. came into possession of the new intelligence about Kilimnik, including whether or not the information was developed during the Trump or Biden administrations. The officials did not identify the source or type of intelligence that had been developed.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury declined to comment.

Image: Paul Manafort (Jose Luis Magana / AP file)
Image: Paul Manafort (Jose Luis Magana / AP file)

In 2019, Mueller’s team authored a report that detailed the connection between Kilimnik and his former employer in Ukraine, Paul Manafort. Manafort was the Trump campaign chairman from the spring of 2016 until August 2016, when multiple press reports about his work in Ukraine and money he received there led to him stepping down. Manafort was working for the Trump campaign without pay.

Manafort was indicted by Mueller’s team and pleaded guilty in federal court to obstruction of justice and conspiracy. A judge found he had broken his plea agreement by lying to investigators on several issues, including his contacts with Kilimnik. He was convicted of additional charges in a separate case. He later received a presidential pardon from Trump.

According to Mueller, Manafort met with Kilimnik in New York on Aug. 2, 2016 and “months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.”

Court documents show that some of that information was shared through former Manafort business partner and member of the Trump campaign, Rick Gates.

Ultimately, the Mueller report concluded, “because of questions about Manafort's credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it.”

The Senate report released last August said Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer who may have had links to the hack-and-leak operation of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, which hacked the emails of prominent Democrats and provided them to WikiLeaks in 2016.

The report includes three bulleted items that were redacted before release. The report says the redacted information "suggests that a channel for coordination on the GRU hack-and-leak operation may have existed through Kilimnik, [but] the Committee had limited insight into Kilimnik's communications with Manafort and [REDACTED], all of whom used sophisticated communications security practices."

So far, U.S. officials have not said publicly — or said if they know — what Russian intelligence services did with the data they received, or if the information provided had any impact on Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Monica Alba reported from Washington, D.C.