Treasury Department links Paul Manafort to Kilimnik to Russian intelligence

Russian and Ukrainian political consultant

A Treasury Department statement Thursday asserted that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and associate of former President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, shared sensitive campaign and polling information with Russian intelligence services.

Kilimnik worked closely with Trump’s 2016 campaign chief Paul Manafort, even managing his firm’s office in Kyiv. Kilimnik has long been alleged by U.S. officials to have ties to Russian intelligence. But the statement in a broader Treasury Department sanctions announcement was perhaps the most direct link the U.S. government has ever drawn between the Trump campaign’s inner workings and the Kremlin’s intelligence services.

The revelation was all the more startling because it went beyond any allegation made in either special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report or in an even more damning and detailed document released last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Both those investigations were unable to determine what Kilimnik did with internal polling data he received from Manafort and whether he shared it further.

The issue resurfaced Thursday because Kilimnik was one of 32 people and entities sanctioned by the U.S. government for attempting to influence the 2020 election. Officials said Kilimnik sought to promote the bogus narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election.

Kilimnik was a key but mysterious figure in Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Kilimnik is mentioned by name more than 150 times in the Mueller report.

He was indicted alongside Manafort on obstruction of justice allegations, but has not appeared in the U.S. to face those charges. The FBI has offered a reward of up to $250,000 for information leading to his arrest.

A key episode examined by Mueller involved Manafort’s decision to share campaign polling data with Kilimnik — something prosecutors say Manafort lied about when questioned. Investigators scrutinized a series of secretive encounters between the men, including in August 2016 at the Grand Havana Room in New York City.

There, according to statements provided by Mueller, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on internal campaign data and messaging, and they discussed battleground states.

The sharing of polling data was an eye-catching data point, especially since it left open the possibility that Russia could have exploited such inside information to target influence campaigns aimed at boosting Trump’s election bid in 2016.

But Mueller’s team said it couldn’t “reliably determine” Manafort’s purpose in sharing it, nor assess what Kilimnik may have done with it — in part due to questions over Manafort’s credibility. The Senate committee also could not resolve that question, though its report drew attention for its characterization of Kilimnik as a Russian intelligence officer. Kilimnik has denied that.

It was not clear what new information, if any, led to the Treasury Department’s assessment that Kilimnik had “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.”

In a far-reaching account of Russia’s efforts to compromise the 2016 presidential election, the Senate Intelligence Committee offered new details Tuesday on the roles played by Donald Trump’s campaign advisers and their willingness to take advantage of a Kremlin-directed attempt to undermine the candidacy of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Across nearly 1,000 pages, the Republican-led Senate panel not only documented the interactions of Trump campaign officials with Russian contacts but faulted the FBI, in part, for providing a “veneer of credibility” to an uncorroborated dossier that sought to disparage Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election. \

Trump’s former campaign chairman was singled out for some of the harshest criticism by the committee, which cast the high-flying political consultant as “a grave counterintelligence threat.”

For the first time, the committee unequivocally identified Manafort business associate Konstantin Kilimnik as “a Russian intelligence officer.” The committee’s assessment of Kilimnik went further than an investigation of Russian election interference prepared by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, Manafort “directly and indirectly” communicated with Kilimnik, according to the Senate report, and “on numerous occasions, Manafort sought to secretly share internal campaign information” with the Russian operative.

After dual convictions on financial fraud charges in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, arising from the Mueller investigation, Manafort was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. In May, he was released to home confinement because of the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic in federal prison.

Stone, the self-described political dirty-trickster, gets his share of attention in the Senate report, but it is not likely to please Trump, his longtime friend.

The Senate report found that Trump spoke with Stone about back-channel efforts to communicate with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks about the release of emails stolen by Russian hackers that were damaging to Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

Trump told Mueller’s team, in written responses to investigators’ questions, that he did not recall discussing WikiLeaks with Stone.

“Despite Trump’s recollection, the committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his campaign about Stone’s access (to the group) on multiple occasions,” the report said.

Stone was convicted of lying to Congress about his interactions with the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. He was set to begin serving his 40-month sentence when Trump granted him clemency.