U.S. says Manafort associate passed sensitive polling data to Russian intelligence
The U.S. government has sanctioned Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant indicted in the Mueller investigation in 2018, for carrying out election influence operations on behalf of Russian intelligence services.
The big picture: The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on 2016 Russian election interference assessed that Kilimnik, who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as a lobbyist for the pro-Russia president of Ukraine, is a Russian intelligence officer.
- The investigation found that 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 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, however.
The intrigue: The U.S. government stated for the first time Thursday that Kilimnik provided Russian intelligence "with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy" during the 2016 election — filling a key link that had been left unanswered by both special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
- The Treasury Department also noted that Kilimnik, who is wanted by the FBI on charges of obstruction of justice, sought to promote the false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
- He also sought to orchestrate a plan to return former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to power, according to Treasury. Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014 after being ousted in the Ukrainian Revolution.