Trump’s campaign manager dealt with Russian agent, report says

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Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, routinely passed information during the 2016 US presidential campaign to a Russian intelligence officer who worked for him, a bipartisan Senate investigation has revealed.

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Select Committee concluded that Manafort posed a “serious counterintelligence threat” because of his “close and enduring relationship” with Konstantin Kilimnik, the alleged intelligence officer who headed Mr. Manafort’s office in Ukraine.

The report was released more than a year after Special Advocate Robert Mueller concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election, but said he was unable to establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump and Moscow campaign. Mr. Trump called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.”

The nearly 1,000-page Senate report revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered computer networks and Democratic Party affiliated accounts to be hacked and information disclosed in an attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign , help Mr. Trump and the American Democratic Process ”.

He said WikiLeaks, which published pirated Democratic documents, “actively researched and played a key role in” the Russian campaign, adding that he “very likely knew” that he was supporting a Russian influence effort.

The report found that Mr Manafort, a longtime Republican political agent, had adopted sensitive poll data and campaign strategy to Mr Kilimnik and had repeatedly discussed with him a peace deal for the eastern Ukraine which benefited the Kremlin.

Mr Manafort, 71, was convicted in 2018 of tax and banking fraud related to his work as a consultant in Ukraine. He was sentenced last year to 47 months in prison but was released in May on risk of coronavirus.

Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat, said the report showed “a breathtaking level of contact between Trump officials and Russian government agents that poses a very real threat of counterintelligence to our election.” .

Marco Rubio, the main Republican on the panel, said the report found “compelling evidence” of Russian interference, which was “very disturbing,” but “absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump , or his campaign, have come to an agreement with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 Election ”.

The document released on Tuesday was the Senate’s fifth and final report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It was based on more than three years of investigation, including hundreds of interviews. Parts of the report have been obscured.

As part of its investigation, the committee also found that the FBI gave “unwarranted credibility” to a report on Russia-Trump relations – known as the “dossier” – prepared by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. . The committee said it lacked rigor and transparency.

The U.S. intelligence community warned this month that Russia was seeking to interfere in the 2020 election, with some Kremlin-linked actors seeking to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy. In February, a senior election intelligence official told members of Congress that Moscow was in favor of Mr. Trump.

A White House spokesman said the Senate report released Tuesday “affirms what we have known for years. There was absolutely no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senate Leader, said the report “shows how heavily the Trump campaign has relied on pirated Russian news for its own political gain, while seeking multiple connections with Moscow agents.”

The committee found that at least two participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Trump campaign officials – including Mr. Manafort and Jared Kushner – had “significant ties to the Russian government, including the service of Russian intelligence ”, and may have sought to obscure the true intent of their work in the United States.

One of those people, Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet army officer who worked as a lobbyist in the United States, told the Financial Times that the report “exonerated” him of the “scandalous lie” that he was a Russian spy. He added that he was “disappointed” by any insinuation that he might have sought to obscure the goals of his professional endeavors, calling them a “lie”.

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