Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intended for two Ukrainian oligarchs to receive the campaign polling data he handed off to Konstantin Kilimnik in 2016, according to a source who spoke with CNN on Wednesday.
Those two oligarchs — Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov — had paid Manafort for political work in Ukraine for years, CNN said, and owed the Trump campaign official $2.4 million.
Though his attorneys denied any connection between the polling data and money owed to their client, the timing of Manafort’s gift suggests Lyovochkin and Akhmetov might have demanded the data in order for Manafort to receive his payment.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been circling Lyovochkin and Akhmetov's dealings with Manafort for a while, as they were both key, generous backers of Manafort's Ukrainian lobbying work, prosecutors said at Manafort's financial fraud trial last summer.
Manafort earned millions from his Ukrainian political work over several years. That included wire transfers from Akhmetov and Lyovochkin through offshore bank accounts, prosecutors said at trial.
By 2015, CNN noted, money flowing from Ukraine to Manafort had run dry, and in an August 2016 email to his accountant, Manafort said he anticipated a $2.4 million payment in November.
But Manafort’s spokesman rejected the notion that there was any relationship between the campaign data and the expected payment:
A spokesman for Manafort confirmed Wednesday that Manafort expected to receive the $2.4 million in income from his Ukrainian political backers, including Lyovochkin and Akhmetov. But the money was meant to reimburse old debts that predated the Trump campaign, spokesman Jason Maloni added, and it was not a quid pro quo for the polling data.