Manafort Unredacted

Yesterday Paul Manafort’s lawyers released the filing they made to contend that Manafort didn’t violate his co-operation agreement with Bob Mueller (it is overall an incredibly weak argument that basically asserts that Manafort didn’t actually lie, he simply said he did not remember).

What makes it significant is that they incompletely redacted the document and with trivial persuasion the complete text was readily available and it reveals that Manafort transferred internal campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, his business partner in Manafort’s Ukrainian political consulting enterprise, with specific instructions that the information be transmitted to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian businessman who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in part payment of a debt Manafort owed. Obviously Manafort thought it had value The utility of the information is hard to discern unless it was used to target the Internet Research Agency’s 2016 disinformation effort to influence the Election.

This. For. That.

Even now Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio (What? You thought I was going to give up on that? In your dreams.) has moved through Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury Department to vacate Oleg Deripaska’s sanctions. Better lawyer up Steve.

Rachel Maddow summarized the current developments last night including the indictment against Natalia Veselnitskaya and the rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court of the motion to stay or remove the fines imposed on Company A of Country A for Contempt of Court in refusing to respond to a Subpoena ($50,000 a day which is nothing really). Most people are sure Country A is Russia but I think it more likely to be The House of Saud, Russia would not receive such deference in the Courts.

One more Russian contact: Here’s why it matters
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
January 9, 2019

The Post reports, “Paul Manafort shared 2016 presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate the FBI has said has ties to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing.” We learned about the confab between Donald Trump’s then-campaign chief Manafort and a Russian intelligence-connected oligarch because Manafort’s attorney apparently does not know how to black out a document. (“The information is in a filing that appears to inadvertently include details not intended to be made public and indicates a pathway by which the Russians could have had access to Trump campaign data.”)

Even more intriguing, the filing by Manafort’s attorneys indicates that Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a Ukrainian peace plan, the first explicit reference to a discussion of Ukraine policy between the Trump campaign and a Russian-linked figure in the special counsel investigation:

You will recall that while Manafort was in charge of the Trump campaign in summer 2016 the Republican National Committee platform was changed to remove support for weapons for Ukraine, a dramatic about-face for Republicans and a position that would please Russia and its Ukrainian puppets.

This is not the first piece of evidence of collusion between the Trump camp and Russian figures, to be sure. The Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton has been known for some time. But here we see Manafort giving something of value (insider polling data) to a Russian. What is not clear is how much Donald Trump knew.

As my colleague Philip Bump put it, “It’s worth asking why Manafort might have passed polling to Kilimnik. If he wanted Kilimnik to share that information with Russia to influence the campaign, it’s hard to see that as anything less than an effort to collude with Russia.” What we cannot say at this stage is how valuable the polling data was and what if anything Kilimnik and/or Russian intelligence did with it.

“The most innocent possible explanation here is that Trump hired an international criminal who was trying to give campaign information to a Russian oligarch in exchange for debt relief, and using a Russian intelligence asset as his go between,” says former Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller. “But it’s hard to see what good polling data would be to a Russian oligarch, so it raises the question of whether Manafort’s actual goal was to get the information to the Russian government itself.” Whether this was all about Manafort and his finances or whether this was part of a larger quid quo pro between Trump and the Russians isn’t yet clear.

“There are important issues of proof, particularly involving intent and of course, you can’t assume Manafort briefed others on his activities in the absence of proof,” cautions former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance. “But, the fact that Mueller believed lies about these matters were so material that they constituted breach of his plea agreement, makes it logical to expect that this is leading into proof of cooperation between at least the campaign manager and the Russian government.”

It is also noteworthy that we have, at the very least, yet another previously undisclosed contact between the Trump campaign and Russians. We’ve come a long way since Trump claimed neither he nor anyone on the campaign had contacts with Russians. Before the latest revelation, the Moscow Project had discovered “97 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 28 meetings. And we know that at least 28 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition.” Furthermore, “None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.”

It’s hard to describe how bizarre this many contacts between a campaign and a hostile foreign government — one trying to influence the campaign to that side’s favor — truly is. Keep in mind that no major party presidential campaign of which we are aware ever had a single contact with the Russians.

Finally, the latest discovery should remind us that we know a fraction of what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III knows. Claims that there is no evidence of collusion or that the investigation is wrapping up are based on nothing but speculation or, in many cases, wishful thinking. The only thing we can say definitively is that there is plenty we don’t yet know.

Well, I think it’s a little more damning than that, but Jennifer Rubin is a Conservative Republican, though staunchly anti-Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio.