Manafort accidentally reveals an important contact between Russia and Trump campaign

No, it's not 'The Smoking Gun' — because there have been nearly 100 documented contacts between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court on June 15, 2018, in Washington, DC. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court on June 15, 2018, in Washington, DC. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

A court filing Tuesday in a case against former Trump campaign chair Paul J. Manafort Jr. accidentally revealed previously unknown contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The revelation came in a filing by Manafort’s legal team in response to allegations by prosecutors in November that he breached his plea deal in the D.C. case by lying to investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Several paragraphs of that filing were redacted, but a Guardian reporter quickly realized Manafort’s team redacted the document in a way that can be easily reversed:

One of the improperly redacted sections revealed that Manafort shared 2016 presidential election polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate of Manafort’s. Kilimnik is a Russian-Ukrainian businessman and political operative, and prosecutors have said in U.S. court he has ties to Russian intelligence.


The filing gave no detail on what data Manafort passed to Kilimnik, but The New York Times reported that it was both public and internal campaign polling data, citing “a person knowledgeable about the situation.”

Manafort and his business partner, campaign aide Richard Gates, asked Kilimnik to pass the data onto pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarchs Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, who funded the political parties Manafort and Gates worked for together in Ukraine.

In a separate 2016 email to Kilimnik that was obtained by The Washington Post, Manafort also suggested giving briefings on the presidential campaign to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote.

Deripaska sued Manafort in the Cayman Islands in 2014 over a $19 million business venture the two had together, alleging the money he’d entrusted to Manafort had just disappeared. It’s not clear whether or how that case was resolved.


The emails obtained by The Post show that Manafort sought to use his position in the Trump campaign to collect on unpaid debts and improve his foundering finances.

“How can we use this to get whole?” Manafort asked Kilimnik in one email from April 2016, referencing a news report that he would be joining the Trump campaign.

A spokesperson for Manafort, Jason Maloni, told The Post that comment was “innocuous” and denied that Manafort ever briefed Deripaska. That might be literally true, but Kilimnik and Manafort exchanged a series of messages about Deripaska, according to the Post’s report, raising the possibility that Kilimnik passed the campaign data from Manafort to Deripaska.

The Manafort-Kilimnik contacts are the latest in over 97 documented interactions between the Trump campaign and people linked with the Kremlin between September 2015 and Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.

We’ve known since 2017 that Mueller and Congress have the emails between Kilimnik and Manafort about Deripaska; now we know the Special Counsel’s Office is still looking into Manafort and Kilimnik’s communications.

UPDATE (1/9/2019, 1:59 p.m.): This post was updated to reflect additional reporting by The New York Times.