Breaking Down the Mueller Report: Konstantin Kilimnik’s Campaign Work


Breaking Down the Mueller Report
Konstantin Kilimnik’s Campaign Work
(Mueller Report Pages 132-134, 138-141)

Toplines:

  • According to the Mueller Report, the Trump campaign chairman and the deputy campaign chairman knowingly met with Konstantin Kilimnik, a suspected Russian agent, and shared confidential internal polling data.
  • In addition to sensitive opinion data, they informed Kilimnik of the states the campaign was targeting, including Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump had surprise victories.

Key Facts from the Report

  • Konstantin Kilimnik was “a longtime Manafort employee” who facilitated Manafort’s contacts in Ukraine and, according to the FBI, had “ties to Russian intelligence.” The FBI also assessed Kilimnik “had such ties in 2016.” The report says that Rick Gates “suspected that Kilimnik was a ‘spy,’ a view that he shared with Manafort.”
  • The Trump campaign continuously shared confidential polling data with a suspected Russian agent, though Manafort told Mueller “he did not believe Kilimnik was working as a Russian ‘spy.’”. Manafort instructed Gates to pass confidential polling data to Kilimnik, and Gates did so several times throughout the campaign.
  • They shared the data on the expectation it would get back to figures close to Putin. Manafort expected Kilimnik to share the polling data “with others in Ukraine and with [Oleg] Deripaska,” a sanctioned Russian oligarch close to Putin. Kilimnik routinely passed information from Manafort to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.
  • Kilimnik was in constant contact with Manafort and Gates throughout the campaign, including meeting twice. They had a combined total of over 20 contacts over the course of the campaign and transition. These contacts include two Manafort-Kilimnik meetings, where the two men discussed the campaign and Kilimnik delivered a message from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych about a Ukraine peace plan. They sought to conceal their contacts, including leaving an August meeting in New York separately.
  • Manafort and Kilimnik also discussed “Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states.”
  • Manafort’s cooperation deal with Mueller fell apart over his refusal to cooperate regarding Kilimnik. Manafort lied to Mueller about his meetings with Kilimnik, which was one of the main reasons his cooperation agreement fell through.
  • The effects of the Kilimnik contacts are unclear. Mueller articulated that his office could not prove why Manafort shared the data with Kilimnik, nor what Kilimnik ended up doing with it.

Overview

Konstantin Kilimnik is a Russian national who, according to the Mueller Report, had “direct and close access to Yanukovych” and “facilitated communications between Manafort and his clients, including Yanukovych and multiple Ukrainian oligarchs.” Kilimnik’s Russian government ties go back decades; the Mueller report notes that Kilimnik traveled to the U.S. on a Russian diplomatic passport in 1997. The report also states that Kilimnik “maintained a relationship” with a deputy to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort allegedly owed at least $19 million (Deripaska has denied any ties to Kilimnik). During the campaign, Manafort communicated with Kilimnik about how to use his position to “get whole” with Deripaska. Kilimnik has denied ties to Russian intelligence and denied any links to Russian election interference, and he has refuted Mueller’s claims about him.

Manafort met with Kilimnik twice during the campaign. The first meeting occurred in May 2016 in New York City, where Manafort “briefed Kilimnik on the Trump Campaign.” At a second meeting that August, also in New York, Kilimnik delivered a message from Yanukovych “about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a ‘backdoor’ means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.” During this meeting, Manafort also “briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election. That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of ‘battleground’ states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.”

Manafort continued to keep in touch with Kilimnik through the transition and into Trump’s presidency. Around the time of the inauguration, Manafort met with Kilimnik and Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin in Alexandria, Virginia, and the two men met again in Madrid in February 2016. Kilimnik also provided Manafort information about Carter Page during the transition. In December 2016, Kilimnik emailed Manafort informing him that Page was in Moscow “sending messages he is authorized to talk to Russia on behalf of DT on a range of issues of mutual interest, including Ukraine.”

According to the Mueller Report, Manafort explicitly instructed Gates to keep Kilimnik updated about the campaign, telling him “to send Kilimnik Campaign internal polling data and other updates so that Kilimnik, in turn, could share it with Ukrainian oligarchs.” The report notes that “Gates understood that the information would also be shared with Deripaska,” but it is unclear if the information was, in fact, passed along to Deripaska. The report outlines several remaining questions about the polling data, noting “the Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign period” and adding, “because of questions about Manafort’s credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it.”

Manafort lied to Mueller’s office about Kilimnik. The report notes that “his unreliability on this subject was among the reasons that the district judge found that he breached his cooperation agreement.”

Remaining Questions

  • Why did Manafort lie about his meetings with Kilimnik to investigators?
  • Why did Manafort pass along polling data to Kilimnik? Who did Kilimnik give the data to?
  • What was the strategy for winning the Midwest that Manafort shared with Kilimnik? Did it have any influence on Russian efforts to interfere in the election?
  • What other information did Manafort and Gates pass to Kilimnik?
  • Did anyone else on the campaign communicate with Kilimnik? Who else knew that Manafort and Gates were communicating with an individual who had alleged ties to Russian intelligence?