Another Week Where There was No Collusion Whatsoever
The Biden Administration solves an important mystery.
Here is something that will break your brain: Donald Trump used to be the President of the United States of America. And once upon a time during his Presidency, there was a huge discussion about the amount of “collusion” between his Campaign and the Russian government (if any) in the 2016 election. Throughout multiple investigations, Trump would utter a feckless cry of “NO COLLUSION” whenever the topic was brought up, something that seems incredible silly in hindsight.
And it got even sillier this week, as the Biden Administration dropped an interesting little nugget in the collusion narrative. On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions on 32 Russian entities or persons and singled out Returning Champion Konstantin Kilimnik:
If his name sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote about him way back in 2020, when the Senate Select Committee’s (SSCI) report on Russian interference was released. Kilimnik was Paul Manafort’s primary handler during both Manafort’s stint on the Trump Campaign and also while Manafort was cruising around Europe looking for governments to overthrow for Russia.
Treasury’s statement is really significant, because they are filling in a gap that both Robert Mueller and the SSCI could not. While all prior investigations have brought up the polling data transfer, this is the first time we’ve heard that Kilimnik passed it directly to Russian Intelligence. In his report, Mueller was the first person to highlight Manafort sharing the polling data with Kilimnik:1
[Kilimnik and Manafort] also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting (page 6-7)(my emphasis and we’ll come back to that later).
Mueller says later that his team could not determine what the purpose of sharing the polling data was, mostly due to Manafort’s refusal to cooperate:
The Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign period. […] 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 (page 131).
However, they also could not figure out what he did with the polling data, although they hinted that what they suspected wasn’t anything good:
The last line there is really significant. Put all of this together in your head:
Trump had a “grave counterintelligence threat” working essentially as his Campaign manager. Manafort worked with a Russian agent (Kilimnik) for years as they both worked to overthrow pro-Western governments in Europe, and even with this history, the Trump Campaign brought Manafort on to work for them (for free).
Manafort was giving Kilimnik internal polling data from the Trump Campaign and, at the same time, was holding meetings with Kilimnik about the Campaign’s strategy to target the Midwest.
Kilimnik was also giving that internal polling data back directly to Russian Intelligence.
The Committee suspects that Kilimnik - who was armed with internal polling data and Trump Campaign strategy and was sending it back to Russia - was involved in the hacking and releasing of the emails from Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and the DNC.
This has all been confirmed or hinted at by the Republican SSCI, Mueller, and now Biden’s Treasury Department. Put together the internal polling data, Manafort talking to Kilimnik about the “plan” to win the Midwest, and then revisit some of those crazy headlines from 2017:3
That is some hefty tea to sip on. I very much doubt this is the last revelation we will get about Russia and the Trump Campaign, but I think at the very least everyone has to admit this: If you say there was no collusion, you cannot read.
Regular Jackal is coming on Monday, but there was just too much to cover this week and put all into one post. And this is a pretty big story. See you on Monday my babies.
We did get a small preview of this during a hearing in Manafort’s case, when Andrew Weissmann said Manafort’s meetings with Kilimnik “goes…very much to the heart” of what Mueller was investigating.
Because Mueller was technically a prosecutor, and could only cite facts that his office could “establish.” When a prosecutor “establishes” something in a report, that means he proved it “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But that does not mean he did not find “evidence” of something, and he explained this during his testimony before Congress.
Related to the previous footnote, Mueller’s team did say that they found “no evidence” of coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia in regard to the social media campaign launched by Russia. That needs to be contrasted with them saying that the evidence they found of a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia did not rise to the level of a crime. But it’s possible that Mueller’s team simply got this one wrong, possibly due to Manafort’s obstruction. We will just have to wait and see.