Partisans of the theory that Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election believe that they have found their smoking gun. On Tuesday, defense attorneys inadvertently revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller has claimed that former Trump-campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about sharing polling data with a Russian associate. Now we’re being told that the revelation “is the closest thing we have seento collusion,” (former FBI agent Clint Watts), “makes the no-collusion scenario even more remote,” (New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait), and, “effectively end[s] the debate about whether there was ‘collusion.’” (Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall). But like prior developments in the Mueller probethat sparked similar declarations, the latest information about Manafort is hardly proof of collusion.
According to an accidentally unredacted passage, Mueller believes that Manafort “lied about sharing polling data…related to the 2016 presidential campaign,” with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who worked as Manafort’s fixer and translator in Ukraine. Manafort’s employment of Kilimnik has fueled speculation because Mueller has stated that Kilimnik has “ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”
Yet Mueller’s only references that Kilmnik has Kremlin “ties” came in two court filings in 2017 and 2018, and it’s not clear what Mueller meant in either case. In April 2018, Manafort’s attorneys told a Virginia judge that they have made “multiple discovery requests” seeking any contacts between Manafort and “Russian intelligence officials,” but that the special counsel informed them that “there are no materials responsive to [those] requests.”
Kilimnik insists that he has “no relation to the Russian or any other intelligence service.” According to a lengthy profile in The Atlantic, “insinuations” that Kilimnik has worked for Russian intelligence during his years in Ukraine “were never backed by more than a smattering of circumstantial evidence.” All of this has been lost on US media outlets, who routinely portray Kilimnik as a “Russian operative” or an “alleged Russian spy.”
That same creative license that makes Kilimnik part of the Russian-intelligence apparatus is now being applied to the claim that Manafort shared polling data with Kilimnik. The New York Times initially reportedthat Manafort instructed Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 to forward the polling data to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon to whom Manafort owed a reported $20 million. The Times also reported that “[m]ost of the data was public,” but that didn’t stop pundits from letting their imaginations run wild.
“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,” wrote TPM’s Josh Marshall. “There is only on reason I can think of: to help direct the covert social-media propaganda campaign that Russian intelligence was running on Trump’s behalf,” declared The Washington Post’s Max Boot.
The fervent speculation suffered a setback when it was revealed that the polling data was not intended to be passed to Deripaska or any other wealthy Russian. The New York Times corrected its story to inform us that Manafort actually wanted the polling data sent to two Ukrainian tycoons, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov. That correction came long after viral tweets and articles from liberal outlets amplified the Times’ initial false claim about Deripaska. Most egregiously, New York magazine’s Chait doubled down on the initial error by incorrectly claiming that the Timeswas now reporting that Manafort’s intended recipient was “different Russian oligarchs.” For his part, Akhmetov says he “never requested nor received any polling data or any other information about the 2016 US elections” from Manafort or Kilimnik.
That two Ukrainian tycoons were confused with a Russian one reflects a broader error that has transmuted Manafort’s business dealings in Ukraine into grounds for a Trump-Russia conspiracy. Because Manafort worked for Ukraine’s Russia-aligned Party of Regions, it is widely presumed that he was doing the Kremlin’s bidding. But internal documents and court testimony underscore that Manafort tried to push his client, then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, to enter the European Union and turn away from Russia. As Manafort’s former partner and current special-counsel witness Rick Gates testified in August, Manafort crafted “the strategy for helping Ukraine enter the European Union,” in the lead-up to the 2013-2014 Euromaidan crisis. The aims, Manafort explained in several memos, were to “[encourage] EU integration with Ukraine” so that the latter does not “fall to Russia,” and “reinforce the key geopolitical messaging of how ‘Europe and the U.S. should not risk losing Ukraine to Russia.’” As his strategy got underway, Manafort stressed to colleagues—including Kilimnik—the importance of promoting the “constant actions taken by the Govt of Ukraine to comply with Western demands” and “the changes made to comply with the EU Association Agreement,” the very agreement that Russia opposed.
Rather than imagining it as part of some grand Trump-Russia conspiracy, there’s a more plausible explanation for why Manafort wanted public polling data to be forwarded to Ukrainian oligarchs. Manafort was heavily in debt when he joined Trump’s team. Being able to show former Ukrainian clients “that he was managing a winning candidate,” the Times noted, “would help [Manafort] collect money he claimed to be owed for his work on behalf of the Ukrainian parties.”
All of this highlights another inconvenient fact about Mueller’s case against Manafort: It is not about Russia, but about tax, bank, and lobbying violations stemming from his time in Ukraine.
But all the names sound sorta Russian and if you shorten them and change some of the letters of Konstantin Kilimnik its for sure Putin.
Yeah. Oops. Mueller runs a tight ship; he never leaks stuff that makes it look like he’s accomplishing something.
I guess they just accidentally let this slip through their careful fact-checking process.
What did they do, pour another $100 into their vast campaign?
Well, they had funny-sounding names, so it was an understandable mistake.
One wonders why none of the information showing Manafort was actually working in the interests of the US got “accidentally” unredacted.
Golly, sorry, liberals. Too bad. You came SOOO close to making your collusion fantasy real.
And these low life reptiles did not raise a finger while Obama was abusing his power and turning the IRS loose on Conservatives and it was a feeding freinzie the M.S. Media were washing Obama’s feet and kissing his rings and with Trump the Vultures and Sharks have been circling
The ineffective redaction was done by Manafort’s own legal team, not by anyone with Mueller. Mueller is running a very tight ship.
@Greg: Still turns out to be pretty damn weak Russia case dont you think? The redaction why? Cause polling data is Public? Something anyone on the Planet could just google themselves and that is the premise of the case Mueller has?
@Greg: Manafort’s team has the authority to unredact and release court documents? Really? Yeah, Greg. Your credibility has finally be restored. Sheesh.
@kitt: The Russia case exists only in the minds of Democrats hoping for a miracle to remove Trump and drop Hillary into the White House. It is all based on imagination and speculation. We’ve seen the release of the fact that the FBI investigated Trump for Russian collusion (didn’t we already know that? If only Flopping Aces was a network, others would have known as well) and, obviously since Trump is not impeached or in jail, they cleared him.
@Deplorable Me: If there was an FBI investigation there has to be a reason to open one feeling are not enough, conflicting political viewpoints insufficient. I would like to see he justification for starting such a probe, the President firing Comey is not justification as he is head of the executive branch and simply exercising his authority.
I would like a full investigation of Paul Ryan, his back stabbing as he exited speaks of collusion ie co-conspirator in a coup attempt.
@kitt: Indeed, we know the FBI had plants and spies within and around Trump’s campaign prior to the investigation. If they found something, why wasn’t it presented to prevent him from taking office or remove him from office? Just ADMIT nothing can be found because nothing is there! Even if that is done liberals can still hate him for trying to make the country better against all liberal desires.
What it means depends on what the polling data was.
If it was highly localized, privately funded and collected survey data that was passed on to, and then used by the Russians to refine their social media and email targeting, it could mean a great deal. It could effectively make the case for collusion. (Which, Donald has assured us, wouldn’t be a crime, if it happened, which it didn’t.)
If it was only a printout of Real Clear Politics poll pages, or something else readily available online or in print, it would mean nothing at all.
@Deplorable Me, #6:
It isn’t a question of having authority or not. The failed redaction was apparently a result of carelessness or ineptitude by Manafort’s people, not Mueller’s.
@Deplorable Me: Spies, illegal use of the NSA data base then finally the warrants for additional spying.
Trump drops clues for us that are shots across the bow of others. Dangling declassification is a psychological game. The recycle of Russia in the media all that has been debunked and exposed as gaslighting, still presented as BOMBSHELL, to those that were not told of the connections.
@Greg: Let’s see, which should be more worrisome giving the Russians access to…. public polling data or uranuim…. public polling data or uranium? Gosh, that’s a tough one.
@Deplorable Me: The uranium is a small thing. this is bigger, our defense systems are full of technology manufactured in China, that technology then taken and utilized into their industrial war complex.
The technology was not hacked out of our defense computers, it was contracted by our government. It didnt need to be reverse engineered the contracts demanded the development and final use to be detailed. The same committees that authorized the uranium deal also had to authorize the tech deals.
@kitt: We’ve been transferring our technology to China ever since the Clinton’s figured out they weren’t going to be able to fight all his court battles over sexual assault on his pension. we have them mostly to thank for the threat to our security China poses.
@Deplorable Me, #11:
The Uranium One conspiracy theory is about as nonsensical as they come. The problem is that a number of the underlying assumptions don’t stand up to close examination.
As Secretary of State, Clinton didn’t simply didn’t have control over the decision made by The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. Nor did she have control over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which also had to approve the deal. I don’t see much point in bribing someone who doesn’t have the power to provide you with what you’re hoping to get.
Uranium One is responsible for less that 6 percent of total U.S. domestic uranium production. Add to that the fact that the deal didn’t include an export export license, and there’s not much theory left. The right is just very attached to it because it allows Clinton and Russia to be mentioned in the same context, forming the basis of a spurious tu quoque argument. The right has a serious Clinton and Obama fixation, every bit as troublesome as their blindness to possible Trump improprieties. No matter that the Clintons have been the subject of endless microscopic investigations, all of have all come up empty. There’s a veritable library of books cranked out by profiteering political hack writers to keep the controversies going.
Oh. But the Trump collusion conspiracy theory is based on fact?
Let’s see… an FBI investigation, provided to all parties, shows that Russia has control of Uranium One. Holder, Hillary and everyone else that have approval power for the sale has access to it.
Billy Bubba Boy goes to Russia, gives a 30 minute speech, meets with Putin and gets $500,000.
Russian interests “donate” $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Hillary votes to approve the sale of 20% or our uranium to Uranium One.
Of course… who could see anything suspicious there? Meanwhile, there never was any evidence of Trump collusion, no collusion has been found, illegal surveillance looked for it, illegal spies in Trump’s campaign looked for it, the FBI looked for it, Mueller looked for it but no one can find anything… but, it’s gotta be there, so let’s just keep looking. Because it’s all so suspicious. Right?
Add to THAT the fact that it has left the country… gone. What happened to it? Golly, but they promised!
You can peddle that somewhere else; no one’s buying that crap here.
@Greg: Did you notice who else sat on those boards? How did it shrink from 20 % to less than 6%? US Steel manufacturing not allowed to be purchased by Japan, and even ball bearings used in military equipment were controlled.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is
an interagency body comprised of nine Cabinet members, two ex officio members, and other members as appointed by the President, that assists the President in overseeing the national security aspects of foreign direct investment in the U.S. economy.
. 1988 a statute grants the President the authority to block proposed or pending foreign mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers of persons engaged in interstate commerce in the United States” that threaten to impair the
So its really Barry that sold us out, both with uranium 1 and China technology transfers.
We’ re suppose to impeach a guy trying putting the Kabosh on all this.
@Deplorable Me, #15:
That’s what Special Counsel Robert Mueller was tasked with finding out. He hasn’t yet reported his findings. When he does so, he’ll either enumerate the evidence supporting the likelihood of collusion and conspiracy, or note that none has been found.
The reason there’s an investigation to begin with is because there are too many things suggestive of collusion to be ignored. When there’s that much smoke in the air, it would be totally irresponsible not to check for a possible fire. I instinctively distrust anyone who keeps loudly insisting that a search simply shouldn’t be allowed, or who repeatedly attempts to block the effort.
The Uranium One tale actually makes very little sense. Multiple verifiable facts must be ignored to believe that the story is credible.
This is not the case with the subject of Mueller’s investigation. There’s a pattern of an increasing number of known facts suggesting the possibility of a coordinated effort with the Russians, and no known facts that rule such a possibility out.
@Greg: We have already determined it was Barry that allowed the uranium deal such the tresaonous lil bastid he was.
Not 1 Iota of public evidence against Trump so another article today in the NYT where they admit it. No Proof.
I’ll accept “no proof” when Mueller announces that there is none. Until then, we don’t know what he has—other than numerous multi-count indictments against a lot of involved people, and assorted guilty pleas and guilty verdicts.
None that ties anyone with Russian collusion with our election. Not a single charge.
No you wont the media wont you just will not no matter how it is debunked or the proof that there was an international effort led by the CIA and FBI to frame members of the Trump team and thus frame Trump. Yes the head of Brittish intelligence was roped in. You will never ever accept it.
Mueller isn’t running random. He’s zeroing in. If something is there at the center, he’ll find it. If nothing is, we’ll know there was a methodical search made. Collusion is still an open question; a serious attack by Russia on our nation’s democratic process is not. I know for a fact that we have a President who denied this until he was forced to grudgingly admit it, because that’s what happened.
@Greg: The most serious attack came from inside that is something even if everything is disclosed you wont accept.
They opened an investigation on a sitting President, with no evidence, it isnt their job to do that just because they dont like his politics, do you get that? Did your banana republic education not teach you policing and intelligence agencies that are under the President dont create coups over political differences?
And after two years and $30 million he still doesn’t know what a fact is. This is because he can’t find the “facts” he is specifically looking for. He is not seeking the truth; he is seeking something he can USE. He will, apparently, KEEP looking until he finds it or can simply use an “investigation” as a sign of implied guilt.
Like what? A salacious dossier no one will even bother to try and verify because they all know it is totally false? A meeting with a Russian Democrats let into the country, briefed and debriefed before and after the meeting and was invited by Democrats to sit with them at Congressional hearings? What was the “suggestive” evidence other than what Democrats themselves created? Here, let me answer that… NOTHING. Nothing at all.
There has been NOTHING to indicate we should have worried about Trump colluding with Russians yet that has been the rage. Meanwhile, the Uranium One scandal is SMEARED with suspicious actions with LOTS of money changing hands in the most suspicious ways and suspicious times. Blowing that off as if it is a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory is absurd. All that reveals is how little interest you have in protecting this country, discovering facts or seeking justice.
I’m going to roll the dice here and say, No, you won’t.
While it is absolutely true that Obama is just as culpable for supporting the sale of our uranium to a company known to be controlled by Russia, we don’t have the evidence of millions of dollars coming from Russia to Obama as we do with Hillary.