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Via FBI

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.

Go deeper: U.S. imposes sweeping sanctions targeting Russian economy

Go deeper

Biden: "Israel has a right to defend itself"

President Biden during a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden told reporters Wednesday it's his "expectation and hope" that there will soon be an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas, which has killed scores of Palestinians and several Israelis.

Details: Biden, after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he hoped the conflict would be "closing down sooner than later," despite Israel's government announcing plans to scale up its military offensive.

The states ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early

Protesters demand senators support the continuation of unemployment benefits on July 16, 2020 in Miami Springs, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At least 13 Republican-led states have announced they are terminating their involvement in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs early.

Driving the news: Many of the states' governors cited worker shortages. But some experts say it's the job climate, including pandemic-era factors, and not unemployment benefits that is determining when and how people return to work.

Elon Musk suspends Tesla purchases with bitcoin

Elon Musk. Photo: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Consumers can no longer buy Tesla vehicles with bitcoin, CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter Wednesday.

What he's saying: Musk cited the environmental concerns associated with bitcoin — the cryptocurrency has a massive carbon footprint — as his reasoning behind Wednesday's decision.