For like the thirtieth time, yes the Russian collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was real, yes it affected the outcome of the election, and yes Trump's margin of victory in five states that gave him the electoral college win was less than the thrid party vtes stripped from Hillary Clinton, in 2016, Jesus hell.
In an interview with Insider, Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump's campaign chairman, made his first public admission that in 2016 he shared polling data from the Trump campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence.
Kilimnik then passed the data on to Russian spies, according to the US Treasury Department, which has characterized the data as "sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy."
Manafort's acknowledgment contradicts his earlier denials, during the investigation into election interference conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, that he had anything to do with the transfer of sensitive campaign data. It also differs from the account he gives in his forthcoming memoir, "Political Prisoner," in which he concedes only that he presented Kilimnik with "talking points" on polling data that was already public.
In his interview with Insider, Manafort reiterated that at least some of the data was public. "The data that I shared with him," he said, "was a combination of public information and stuff for the spring that was — it was old." It's one of Manafort's primary lines of defense — that the data he funneled to Kilimnik was essentially worthless.
In fact, in an email seized by Mueller, Manafort ordered his deputy Rick Gates, just a few hours before the two men met with Kilimnik in person, to print out four pages of internal campaign polling data showing Trump's city-by-city strength in 18 swing states. Contrary to Manafort's claim, that data was not from the spring. It was collected by the campaign in mid-July — two weeks before the meeting with Kilimnik.
Manafort denied to Insider that the printouts were given to Kilimnik. But he said he directed Gates to feed Kilimnik polling data via email, to "keep Konstantin informed." He also worked hard to keep his dealings with Kilimnik a secret. In its report on Russian interference in the election, the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote that it "had limited insight into Kilimnik's communications with Manafort" because the men relied on "sophisticated communications security practices." These included encryption, burner phones, and "foldering" — writing emails as drafts in a shared account.
Gates told the FBI that, at Manafort's direction, he began sending Kilimnik internal polling data in the spring of 2016 over WhatsApp and continued updating it periodically. He deleted his messages to Kilimnik daily. All told, according to court filings, he sent 75 pages of polling data to Kilimnik. Other than the four pages from August 2, the data itself has never been made public.
Manafort told Insider the purpose of sending the polling data to Kilimnik was not to help elect Trump by aiding the Russians in their attempts to undermine the election but rather to lay the groundwork for future business deals. "It was meant to show how Clinton was vulnerable," he said. By his account, he was trying to use his influence with the future US president to extract money from pro-Russia oligarchs.
Yes, Manafort and Gates broke the law, yes they were convicted, yes Donald Trump pardoned them for it, yes Manafort is openly bragging about breaking the law, no, nobody can do anything about that because it would be double jeopardy.
That's where we are.
Manafort and Gates got away with it.