Paul Manafort Shared Trump Campaign Data With Russians, Manafort Pleading Reveals

Paul Manafort's attorneys reveal in a pleading that their client provided insider campaign data to Russian intelligence sources, something that seems an awful lot like collusion.

In a new filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a filing by attorneys for Paul Manafort revealed that Manafort revealed internal polling data and other information from the Trump campaign with people connected to the Russian government and its effort to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election:

WASHINGTON — As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers made the disclosure by accident, through a formatting error in a document filed to respond to charges that he had lied to prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation into Russian interference in the election.

The document also revealed that during the campaign, Mr. Manafort and his Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, discussed a plan for peace in Ukraine. Throughout the campaign and the early days of the Trump administration, Russia and its allies were pushing various plans for Ukraine in the hope of gaining relief from American-led sanctions imposed after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Prosecutors and the news media have already documented a string of encounters between Russian operatives and Trump campaign associates dating from the early months of Mr. Trump’s bid for the presidency, including the now-famous meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The accidental disclosure appeared to some experts to be perhaps most damning of all.

“This is the closest thing we have seen to collusion,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said of the data-sharing. “The question now is, did the president know about it?”

The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump.

Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

One of the more amusing things about this, of course, is the fact that this information was supposed to have been redacted from the publicly available filing due to the fact that it involves matters still under investigation by the Special Counsel. Apparently, though, Manafort’s attorneys significantly messed up using the redaction tools that are made available for PDF files by the Federal Courts, meaning that it was easy for reporters to discover what was not supposed to be revealed to the public. Given the fact this is something that they are likely to be heavily criticized by the presiding Judge for, it’s unlikely that this was a deliberate act and more likely that this was simple incompetence on their part in not properly redacting the document so that the blacked out portions of the document could be so easily read. Legally, it’s not likely to have much of an impact on either Manafort’s fate, on the attorneys, or on the Mueller investigation.

As for the revelations themselves, it’s easy to see why Robert Mueller and his team would be interested in these contacts between Manafort at a time when he was a highly-placed member of the Trump campaign and Russian officials regarding matters relevant to the 2016 Presidential campaign. This data, which included internal polling data from the campaign and other material, would have been of value to Russian efforts to interfere with the campaign in a way that would benefit the Trump campaign because it would potentially give them data that they could then use to support the cyber and “real world” campaigns that they were mounting to influence the outcome of the elections and stoke the kind of chaos among the electorate that was clearly helping the Trump campaign thrive. If nothing else, this would appear to be the first direct evidence we are aware of regarding collusion between officials linked to Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign, and the links weren’t with some low-ranking adviser like George Papadopoulos or Carter Page, but with the Campaign Director.

The logical question from here, of course, is who else may have known about what Manafort was doing, including not just President Trump but also his son Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom were highly placed in the campaign and who, of course, also took part in the now famous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. If they knew about any of this, then the President’s defense of “no collusion” would fall to dust and the case would instantly become far more serious than it already is. We don’t know the answer to those questions, of course, but the fact of the matter is that the further we have gotten into this the more we’ve learned that the Trump campaign had real ties with Russians and people involved with Russian intelligence in the summer of 2016. How high up that collusion goes is a question that only Robert Mueller may know the answer to.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Lit3Bolt says:

    Cue Glenn Greenwald hysterically shrieking “McCarthyism” in 3…2…

    13
    1
  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    “Polling data” sounds innocuous enough, but of course they don’t mean the Gallup headlines, they mean internal polling, detailed stuff that amounts to targeting data used to allow the Russians to aim their social media weapons.

    Where oh where is @Guarneri with his weekly snark about no collusion? Because this is collusion, it is conspiracy, between Trump’s campaign chairman and a hostile foreign intelligence service.

    27
  3. Gustopher says:

    The logical question from here, of course, is who else may have known about what Manafort was doing, including not just President Trump but also his son Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom were highly placed in the campaign and who, of course, also took part in the now famous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016.

    I prefer the time honored phrasing: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

    And this, I think, is going to hinge on the meaning of the word “know”, with some Clintonian levels of parsing definitions suggesting that Donald Trump may not actually know anything, either because he keeps an open mind about information and its likely truthfulness, or he’s a blithering idiot living in a fantasy world. I expect the President’s defense team to use the phrase “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘know’ is”

    This will lead to people saying “know means know”, because how can it not?

  4. Franklin says:

    I suppose Trump’s denials up to this point are quite innocent. The man doesn’t know how to spell, and he thought his campaign was being accused of a collision with the Russians. There was no collision at all, they worked together very nicely.

  5. Kathy says:

    It’s possible, I suppose, Gospodin Trump may not have known about this.

    It’s also entirely possible he did, and further that it may have been the agreed-upon price for help, financing, and/or permissions for the Dennison Tower in Moscow he was negotiating for through 2016.

    Considering the shrill denials and rabid attacks he’s engaged in against anyone and everyone investigating the matter, be they the FBI, the special counsel, the CIA, the NSA, or the press, not to mention the obsequious deference to Putin and his denials, all signs points to “he was in on it up to his eyebrows.”

    2
    1
  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Tell me…has there been one shred of exculpatory evidence that has come out? Anything that the sycophants can hang their hat on? I think not.
    The drip, drip, drip has been constant, and now the POTUS can no longer say “no collusion”.
    Guiliani, ruined by his association with Individual-1, has been silent.
    As I have always said; Mueller knows way more than we do.

    1
    1
  7. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Look for the following attempts at a defense:

    “We just gave them what they could have read in the failing New York Times.”

    “It’s not a crime because the data was ours.”

    “We were teaching the Russians how to read a poll, and that data was handy.”

    5
    1
  8. Jen says:

    As I noted in the other thread, I’ve tried to come up with any viable reason why a campaign would turn this information over to *anyone* outside of the campaign structure. As Mr. Reynolds notes, internal polling is not the Gallup/Rasmussen stuff, it is highly detailed information that is used to guide campaign direction.

    During my time working on campaigns, this information was typically shared with only a limited number of people, even within a campaign. This is the type of data that can show you not just where you might be weak or strong, but can parse out which demographic you are resonating with on issue X, why they aren’t with you on issue Y, and how the word choice in an advertisement or direct mail piece (I’m old, so no social media) is moving the needle.

    Internal polling is sort of the keys to the kingdom. Short of handing over the entire campaign strategy and plan, I can’t think of anything more sensitive. There is no reason that a GRU operative should have that information.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    There has been way too much of a lawyerly view of Trump, his campaign and the Russians, with various pundits mouthing the “innocent until proven guilty” line. Yes, in a criminal or civil case anyone is free to stonewall and obfuscate in order to make it as difficult as possible to be convicted, and the court is obligated to not read anything into these actions. But if we set aside legal convictions, those in position of responsibility have significantly more obligations if they wish to retain those positions. The fact is that Trump is the President and retaining that position requires more openness and invites much more legitimate questioning than merely not being convicted of criminal or civil infractions. I’ve said it all along – the way Trump has behaved with respect to the various investigations requires that he be relieved of his position. Rather than actively seek to prove his innocence, he has attempted to stop the investigation and slander those who are doing the investigating. That alone should be enough to impeach and convict.

    I’m going to repeat my bus driver analogy because I think it is a good one: If a principal is informed that a school bus driver has been spending their lunch at the local bar drinking the principal is obligated to confront the bus driver about it. You would expect an innocent driver to do everything to prove that they weren’t there and to cooperate fully with the investigation. If, instead, they repeatedly lie and change their story, and maliciously attack all those who accused them, the principal is obligated to bench them and put in a substitute. It doesn’t mean that the driver has been convicted of a DUI. It doesn’t mean they have been found to be breaking the (non-criminal) rules of employment. But it does mean they have made it impossible to trust them with the safety and lives of their charges.

    Trump should have been impeached and removed from office two years ago, when it became apparent he was not cooperating with the investigation, but rather was obstructing it in every way possible. He may eventually turn out to be criminally guilty. But right now, at this very moment, he has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted with the power of the Presidency.

    15
  10. gVOR08 says:

    The next goalpost move should be entertaining. ‘Well, OK, there was collusion, but…’ I expect Doug’s right, it’ll be ‘But Trump didn’t know.’ And yes, without documents or email it might be hard to prove. On the one hand, if you were committing a felony, would you tell someone with Trump’s self control? On the other hand, it seems like these days there’s always email. IIRC Manafort’s lawyers claimed Mueller only had hearsay that this sharing of data occurred. (And further that Manafort innocently forgot about the sharing that didn’t occur.) Remember that Mueller inherited a national security investigation. He knows things he can’t tell Manafort’s lawyers he knows.

    Way back when this started the Intelligence community seemed awfully pissed about something. Mueller knows what the Intelligence community knew. The Russians and Trump seem to be constantly probing hoping to find out what Mueller knows. It smells like there is something specific they desperately want to know if Mueller knows. And I don’t think this is it.

    And whatever it is, I hope Cambridge Analytica and the Mercers are found to have been up to their eyebrows in it.

    10
  11. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    “It’s not a crime because the data was ours.”

    They may actually use this one.

  12. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Polling data” sounds innocuous enough…

    @Kathy:

    “We just gave them what they could have read in the failing New York Times.”

    This, all so much, this.

    Prepare for it: There will begin an avalanche of talking heads that will beg the question “Where is the crime!!???!!”

    Of course, they will not pay attention to the people answering (and answering clearly) of why and how it is a crime.

    Their job will only be to be a non-stop cacophony of “Where is the crime????” with the hope of the next Trump-self-created crisis to put all this on the back burner.

    Which would have worked with a GOP controlled Senate and House. Now, not so much.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    “We just gave them what they could have read in the failing New York Times.”

    Saw that one in a POLITICO comment over breakfast. ‘He just shared publicly available info.’ Didn’t take long for others to reply that, no, internal polling is tightly held.

  14. Tyrell says:

    The name of that“mystery company” that is involved in a legal battle with Director Mueller has been revealed. The people will be shocked and surprised. Many may not understand the implications or the thrust of this at first. This could be the development that many have been waiting for, and will mark a turning point. Many will view this as a positive step for progress and technological development. It could also usher in a new era of economic expansion and a modern day “Industrial Revolution”.
    This company is well known and has an outstanding reputation for its products and service. It could very well be described as an American icon of the twentieth century. Its importance to this country cannot be overestimated.
    Director Mueller himself will be so impressed that his investigation could very likely take on an entirely new theme: populist optimism!
    The name of this company is: The Packard Motorcar Company of America.

    1
    22
  15. Kathy says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Prepare for it: There will begin an avalanche of talking heads that will beg the question “Where is the crime!!???!!”

    Of course, they will not pay attention to the people answering (and answering clearly) of why and how it is a crime.

    Spare them some pity. It’s hard to see and hear clearly when their heads are so far up Dennison’s ass. That nasty brown stuff gets into their eyes and ears.

    I don’t know whom they think they will fool. It’s so blatantly obvious what the crime is. But just for the record, this is exactly like giving the enemy a list and map of target locations within your own country when it’s under attack. The classical definition of this crime is treason.

    1
    1
  16. Mikey says:

    @Jen:

    Internal polling is sort of the keys to the kingdom. Short of handing over the entire campaign strategy and plan, I can’t think of anything more sensitive. There is no reason that a GRU operative should have that information.

    Oh, there’s a reason.

    (Can you spell “conspiracy?”

    I knew you could!)

  17. Scott says:

    I’m interested in the mechanics of the transmission of data. Was it a single file, multiple files, a database file? Was it emailed? Put on a thumb drive? Did Manafort have support preparing the data and then transmitting it? What I’m getting at is that Manafort was probably not a lone wolf in this? Who helped him commit this act. Kushner and Parscale were in charge of data operations and both would be intimate on the mechanics of such a transmission.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    NO COLLUSION!!! EVER!!! ANY AT ALL!!!

    and if there was it isn’t a crime….

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    either because he keeps an open mind about information and its likely truthfulness,

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    either because he keeps an open mind about information and its likely truthfulness,

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….

    10,000 unemployed comedians, and here you are giving it away for free.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: every time I think I get your posts, you surprise me with one that comes out of left field. The whole “mysterious corporation” angle that has been playing out for a week or so is pretty inside baseball type of stuff….

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:

    And yes, without documents or email it might be hard to prove.

    C’mon, this is trump and sons, of course there will be documents and emails.

  23. Jen says:

    @Scott: You raise a very important question! After all, Manafort needed Gates’ help to convert a Word doc to PDF, which was one of the early trails uncovered.

    Did he have help is indeed a salient question.

  24. Kathy says:

    @Scott:

    good question. It’s also possible, well, plausible, that Manafort stole the data. That would be a good defense, if true. I’d bet it’s not even close to true.

  25. Hal_10000 says:

    I’ve been saying for a while that we’re not that far from the pravda shifting from “No Collusion!” to “Of course he colluded! That was because he loves America! Hillary had to be stopped!”

  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Resistance Ron:
    Ukrainian oligarchs working with Putin. No difference.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Trump should have been impeached and removed from office two years ago, when it became apparent he was not cooperating with the investigation, but rather was obstructing it in every way possible.

    And such would have been possible except that it had also become apparent that the Republican-majority Congress was also obstructing in every way possible. And continues to obstruct to this day,

    And yet Republicans will go to the polls and reelect these same people the next time they run. The party is broken. It needs to be destroyed. And it’s members don’t care.

  28. Leslie Smith says:

    For all of this “it is obvious what the crime is” talk , what is the crime? Who committed it? Giving information – even ‘internal polling’ data to Russians is not a crime. Is this the much hoped for “collusion”? More information is needed before that can be known. And if it is collusion, is it criminal collusion – that is, a conspiracy to commit a felony? Manafort possibly lying about giving information to Russians is not a criminal conspiracy. Recall that Martha Stewart went to jail for lying about something that was not a crime.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Leslie Smith:
    The Dennison campaign sought out Russia’s help in winning the election in exchange for help on sanctions. That’s what the Dennison Tower meeting was about; lifting sanctions. That’s why Manafort was delivering data; Russians needed to target their election interference.
    923. 18 U.S.C. § 371—CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES
    https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-923-18-usc-371-conspiracy-defraud-us

  30. Jen says:

    @Leslie Smith: I am not a lawyer, but I have worked on campaigns.

    Even asking for foreign help on a federal campaign is a crime. You cannot solicit money or other contributions. So, yes, technically, it does matter *why* Manafort handed over internal campaign polling information. If it was for campaign assistance, of any kind, from money to help from the Russian troll farm, that is the violation of law.

  31. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Knew all along that Manafort was guilty of something. When asked if he’d had dealings with Russian agents he denied it. When pressed that maybe some of the Ukrainians he worked with might be Russian agents he made a non-denial denial that he couldn’t know, they don’t wear name tags. An operative of his experience couldn’t possibly not know a pro-Russian party in Ukraine would be chock full of Russian agents, and Russian money. So the question was what contacts he was hiding, not whether. And our friend One American’s (sic) objection he colluded with Ukrainians, even if true, is a distinction without a difference. (And is he Leslie Smith now?)

  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:
    Manafort didn’t have to guess who the oligarchs were, they were paying him to advance Russian propaganda against the Ukrainian government. He was leveraging his Trump campaign job to get various oligarchs to let him off the hook for his debts. The quid pro quo was clear, they wanted sanctions taken down, and since then Trump has done everything he can to obey, stopped only by Congress.

  33. Teve says:

    I just saw on Kevin drum’s site that the White House has hired 17 new lawyers. So they certainly think there’s some shit that’s about to drop.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Wait a second. Wasn’t one of the actual executive orders that Trump made on his first day in office one that was to freeze hiring for new personnel in the executive branch? I can’t remember the details fully and am too lazy to look them up, but I seem to remember a lot of cheering about “someone who finally understands and wants to *drain the swamp* as much a we do.”

    I can’t remember. Maybe Guarneri, Leslie, or Jenos/Ron/One/Tsar/Prince Albert in a can/whatever he going by now can help.