Confirmed Russian Collusion

In case this was overlooked with all the other news that is out there these days, a press release from the US Treasury department confirmed what most thought was true but had not been confirmed by the Mueller Report or the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee – what actually happened after Paul Manafort provided Konstantin Kilimnik with the polling data and campaign strategy back in 2016? Yup, Kilimnik passed it on to the Russian Intelligence Agency (aka the “new” KGB) and it likely made its way to Putin himself. From the always excellent Letters From An American Substack:

We also knew from the Senate Intelligence Report that Manafort had provided Kilimnik with secret polling data from the Trump campaign in 2016—his business partner and campaign deputy Rick Gates testified to that—but the committee did not have evidence about what Kilimnik had done with that data.

Today’s Treasury document provides that information. It says: “During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.”

It is hard to overestimate the significance of this statement. It says that Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, provided secret polling data and information about campaign strategy to a Russian intelligence officer, who shared it with Russian intelligence. Russian intelligence, as we also know from both the Mueller Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, both hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, and targeted U.S. social media to swing the 2016 election against Democrat Hillary Clinton and to Donald Trump.

By itself, the statement that the Trump campaign worked with Russian intelligence is earthshaking. But aside from the information about the exchange of this particular kind of intelligence in 2016, this statement also indicates that the Trump campaign itself was not simply operating in happy if unintentional tandem with Russian intelligence– which was as far as the Muller Report was willing to go– but in fact had an open channel with Russian operatives. That’s a game-changer in terms of how we understand 2016 and, perhaps, the years that have followed it.

Heather Cox Richardson

Just so we’re clear, 70 million US citizens voted to re-elect a US President who worked directly with the Russians to ‘win’ the 2016 election, got impeached twice, incited an insurrection on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and botched the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to the tune of 500,000+ dead US American citizens. Amongst other things.

Like A Poker Player Drawing to an Inside Straight

From Vanity Fair’s Scott Turow

Robert Mueller, presumably, still doesn’t know what a truthful Manafort would have to say, but Trump does. If Manafort is, in fact, playing for a pardon, a route that even disgraced former N.S.A. chief Michael Flynn, whom Trump steadily defended, didn’t take it would speak volumes about how damaging Manafort’s testimony could be to Trump or to those close to him, such as his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. If Manafort’s truthful testimony was simply going to absolve all of them of conspiring with the Russians, he could have made a deal long ago. Such testimony would have been as likely to earn an eventual pardon, once the smoke cleared. Manafort’s problem, then, seems to be that Mueller may already have evidence of collusion that threatens to endanger him, his former colleagues on the campaign, and possibly Trump himself.

Turow’s article does an amazing job of laying out how deftly “Bobby Three Sticks” is playing this and how Manfort’s already limited options are rapidly dwindling to nothing.  Even if Manfort holds out in the hopes of getting a pardon from 45, Mueller can still bring him in front of a grand jury because in that scenario, Manafort would have to talk as he would lose his Fifth Amendment right to silence since he has no risk of prosecution based on his testimony.  But if he lies in that scenario, he could still face the music.  If 45 fired Mueller, Washington would explode, not to mention the electorate, and impeachment hearings would start faster than you could say “kompromat”.