Senate report finds Manafort passed campaign data to Russian intelligence officer
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released the fifth and final volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which details "counterintelligence threats and vulnerabilities."
Why it matters: The bipartisan, 966-page report goes further than the Mueller report in showing the extent of Russia's connections to members of the Trump campaign, and how the Kremlin was able to take advantage of the transition team's inexperience to gain access to sensitive information.
Paul Manafort: The report found that the former Trump campaign chairman began working on influence operations for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and other pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarchs in 2004.
- Manafort hired and worked closely with Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee definitively calls a "Russian intelligence officer" that served as a liaison between him and Deripaska.
- On numerous occasions, Manafort sought to pass sensitive internal polling data and campaign strategy to Kilimnik. The committee was unable to determine why or what Kilimnik did with that information, in part due to the pair's use of encrypted messaging apps.
- The committee did, however, obtain "some information" suggesting Kilimnik "may have been connected" to Russia's hacking and leaking of Democratic emails. The section detailing these findings is largely redacted.
- The bottom line: "Taken as a whole, Manafort's high level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat," the committee wrote.
Roger Stone/WikiLeaks: The committee found that then-candidate Trump and senior campaign officials attempted to obtain advance information about WikiLeaks' release of damaging emails from Roger Stone, who they believed had inside information.
- It also assessed that Trump spoke with Stone about WikiLeaks on "multiple occasions," despite the fact that the president said he did not recall doing so in written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller.
- In July 2016, Stone drafted tweets for Trump — at his request — that "attacked Clinton for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with Putin."
- The committee also found "significant evidence" to suggest that WikiLeaks was "knowingly collaborating with Russian government officials." WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has long denied that the source of the hacked emails was Russia.
2016 Trump Tower meeting: The committee found that Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive "derogatory information" that would benefit the campaign from a person he knew was connected to the Russian government, but that no information was ultimately transmitted.
- Two participants at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, had far more "extensive and concerning" ties to the the Russian government, including to Russian intelligence, than publicly known.
Michael Cohen/Russia business deal: The report found that by the end of 2015, Trump’s former personal lawyer had “reached out to the Kremlin directly to solicit the Russian government's assistance” about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.
- “Cohen kept Trump updated on the progress of the deal. While these negotiations were ongoing, Trump made positive public comments about Putin in connection with his presidential campaign.” The report found Cohen and Felix Sater, a longtime business associate of Trump, “sought to leverage Trump's comments, and subsequent comments about Trump by Putin, to advance the deal.”
- Cohen made contact in January 2016 with a Russian aide to Putin spokesman Dmitri Peskov and reported to Trump that he had done so. Attempts to advance the deal stopped in the summer of 2016.
Trump transition: Russia "took advantage" of members of the Trump transition team’s "relative inexperience in government, opposition to Obama administration policies, and Trump’s desire to deepen ties with Russia to pursue unofficial channels through which Russia could conduct diplomacy," the committee determined.
- The transition team "repeatedly took actions that had the potential, and sometimes the effect," of interfering with the Obama administration's diplomatic efforts, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversations with the former Russian ambassador.
FBI investigation: The report concluded that "certain FBI procedures and actions in response to the Russian threat to the 2016 elections were flawed," specifically with respect to the bureau's interactions with the DNC about the email hacks and its treatment of the Steele Dossier.
Methodology: Together, the five volumes of the report represent "three years of investigative activity, hundreds of witness interviews and engagements, millions of pages of document review, and open and closed hearings."
- The committee conducted "follow-up interviews" with Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., John Podesta, and State Department official Jonathan Winer — which were necessary after the committee "developed additional information since the initial interview that required clarification from the witnesses."
- The committee said it was limited in some aspects of its investigation by assertions of executive privilege, including by members of the Trump transition team. "The committee was surprised by these assertions because they were made inconsistently and because they have no basis in law," the report claims.
What they're saying:
- Senate Intelligence acting chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election."
- Senate Intelligence ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.): “At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date – a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections. ... This cannot happen again."
Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect that the report is 966 pages (not 996).