Trump’s Campaign Manager Discussed DNC Hacks with Alleged Russian Spy at Crucial Election Moment

Manafort met with Alleged Russian Spy During 2016 Campaign

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign chairman, met with a suspected Russian spy just as questions about his connections to Russia reached a boiling point, and as the campaign was denying those connections, the Washington Post reported Monday. Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik met for dinner at an exclusive cigar bar in New York City to talk about the Russian hacking of the DNC. The timing was extraordinary.

The Post doesn’t report an exact date but states that “The August dinner came about two weeks before Manafort resigned…” Manafort officially resigned from the Trump campaign on August 19th, which puts the meeting at roughly August 5th. This means that it took place only two weeks after the Republican National Convention. In March, Politico reported that Kilimnik had told a Ukrainian operative that he played a role in the GOP changing their official platform to be less adversarial toward Russia’s occupation of Eastern Ukraine. The meeting happened shortly thereafter. The meeting also coincided with reports of Manafort’s work with the former pro-Russian regime in Ukraine and the fuzzy finances of that work. The pressure from those reports became so intense that Manafort resigned shortly after the meeting.

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Kilimnik was born in Eastern Ukraine under the Soviet Union, and is a dual citizen of Russia and Ukraine. He was trained as an English-language specialist by the Russian military. In 1993, he worked as a translator on a Russian arms company’s trade mission. Kilimnik once told a former employer that he had been trained by Russian intelligence. A pro-democracy group in Ukraine suspected him of being “too closely allied with Russia,” according to a Politico report.

Kilimnik and Manafort worked together in Kiev, Ukraine. Manafort was a top political assistant to pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Yanukovych, who ultimately fled to Russia following a democratic uprising, and who faces charges of high treason in Ukraine. Kilimnik was a protege of Manafort’s. One of his key tasks was chasing clients with outstanding debts to Manafort. The two continued working together to promote Opposition Bloc, a pro-Russian political party that arose from the ashes of the corrupt Yanukovych regime. Manafort left Ukraine to work for Trump and Kilimnik stayed to continue working for Opposition Bloc. Manafort is wanted for questioning in Ukraine regarding his role in Yanukovych’s regime and the financial structuring of his work.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni told Politico that Manafort’s conversation with Kilimnik likely included discussion of Russia’s hacking of the DNC and the release of stolen emails.

In August, the two men

“talked about bills unpaid by our clients, about [the] overall situation in Ukraine . . . and about the current news,” including the presidential campaign, according to a statement provided by Kilimnik, offering his most detailed account of his interactions with the former Trump adviser.

August was not the first time the two met during the campaign, though. They also met earlier in April, 2016.

Kilimnik “is of interest to investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee,” in its efforts to establish the connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. Kilimnik’s name appeared on a federal prosecutor’s subpoena of individuals with business ties to Manafort “this spring,” the Post reported.

Manafort has long been seen as a key figure in Trump’s sordid connections to Russia’s attack on American democracy in 2016. The incredible timing of the meeting, at the very moment that Manafort was swatting away accusations about his connections to the pro-Russian president of Ukraine, is another piece of evidence to add on the pile that the overlap between Russian interests and Trump’s interests is significant and troubling. The connections between Trump and Russia are not a straight line, but rather a spider web of influence. Every new revelation seems to fit an emerging pattern that it’s difficult to find where Russian foreign policy ends and Trump’s agenda begins.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master's degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.