The unredacted court document filed by Paul Manafort’s attorneys, along with a Tuesday evening New York Times story providing additional details, reveal President Donald Trump’s insistence that special counsel Robert Mueller is operating a “witch hunt” to be undeniably untrue.
As Josh Marshall of TPM delineated in a Wednesday article, there is no doubt that “collusion” took place between the Trump campaign and Russia, and it transpired at the highest levels.
The court filing in question shows that Mueller’s office accused Manafort of lying about sharing “polling data” from the 2016 campaign with his former Ukrainian employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, who U.S. intelligence officials believe to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Following this revelation, reporting by the Times confirmed that Kilimnik was instructed to share that data with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — an individual to whom Manafort owed $19 million.
Here are the two crucial paragraphs (emphasis added).
Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.
Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.
Deripaska is close to Putin and he has zero use for campaign data about a US election, other than to use it for the then on-going Russian campaign to elect Donald Trump. Remember too that Manafort was in dire financial straits and Deripaska was hunting him down to collect a $19 million debt. Just last week Time tracked down the man Deripaska tasked with getting his money from Manafort. “He owed us a lot of money,” Victor Boyarkin told Time. “And he was offering ways to pay it back … I came down on him hard.”
All of this information fits nicely with a 2017 CNN report indicating that signals intercepts from mid-2016 regarding Manafort’s alleged cooperation with Russian intelligence was one of the factors that sparked the investigation.
Here’s a key paragraph from an August 2017 report from CNN.
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.
The question is no longer, “Was there collusion?”
The question has become to what extent and did the president know about it.
How much collusion there was, how deeply Donald Trump was knowingly a part of it, remains to be seen. The fact of collusion is established. Not through some marginal member of the operation but by the man Trump chose to run his campaign.