President Donald Trump on Thursday denied any knowledge of his former campaign chairman’s sharing of polling data with a Moscow-linked associate, distancing himself from a possible tie to the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.
Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort accidentally revealed in a court filing unsealed Tuesday that their client shared 2016 polling data and discussed a peace plan for Ukraine with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a business associate of Manafort’s with ties to the Russian government. The filing was in response to a charge by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Manafort lied during Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election.
The correspondence with Kilimnik, which was unknown before the court filing was revealed Tuesday, could offer a path for Mueller to establish coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to swing the election in the president’s favor. Trump has denied there was collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin.
Several operatives with Russian ties have already been reported to have penetrated Trump’s 2016 circle, including a meeting between members of Trump’s team and a Russian lawyer promising Kremlin-sourced damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But the correspondence between Manafort and Kilimnik is seen by many as perhaps the closest suggestion to date of active coordination with Russia. Still, Mueller has yet to publicly establish that Trump himself had any knowledge of the correspondence or that he coordinated with Russian operatives.
In an exchange with reporters on the White House’s South Lawn on Thursday, Trump denied knowing about the exchanges between Manafort and Kilimnik.
“No, I didn’t know anything about it. Nothing about it.” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question concerning Manafort’s contact with Kilimnik.
Manafort was convicted in August of several counts of tax and bank fraud and pleaded guilty to a set of other charges in an agreement with Mueller’s team. As part of his plea agreement, Manafort agreed to help Mueller’s investigation, a deal Mueller has accused Manafort of breaking by repeatedly lying to the special counsel’s team.
Manafort has been transferred to jail without bail, where his health has deteriorated, his lawyers wrote in a filing. Manafort’s lawyers have denied that their client knowingly lied, adding that his deteriorating mental and emotional health led him to make honest mistakes when working with Mueller.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Matthew Choi