5 Damning Revelations on Trump and Russia from the New Senate Report
The Senate Intelligence Committee published a devastating account of the Trump Campaign’s actions relating to Russia, in a report released earlier this week. One of its top-level findings will leave some Americans speechless:
While the GRU and WikiLeaks were releasing hacked documents, the Trump Campaign sought to maximize the impact of those leaks to aid Trump’s electoral prospects. Staff on the Trump Campaign sought advance notice about WikiLeaks releases, created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release, and encouraging further leaks. The Trump Campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.
The Report states that the United States government notified the public on October 7, 2016 that Russia was involved in the hack, though the Campaign surely had heard reports to that effect prior to that date. The evidence suggests the Campaign wasn’t troubled by Russia’s involvement. That fact alone is shocking.
There are many more incredible details in the 952-page report. Below are five of the most damning new revelations.
1. Trump lied to Robert Mueller
Trump famously declined to be interviewed in person by Robert Mueller’s team. In Trump’s written responses, he said:
I spoke by telephone with Roger Stone from time to time during the campaign. I have no recollection of the specifics of my conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016. I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with him, nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign, although I was aware that WikiLeaks was the subject of media reporting and campaign-related discussion at the time.
The new Senate report offers compelling evidence that this statement by Trump to the special counsel was a lie. It concludes, “Despite Trump’s recollection, the Committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions.”
The evidence is overwhelming. On the same day the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced it had been hacked by Russian intelligence officers, Stone spoke with Trump two times. The Report states that witness testimony and documentary evidence show they spoke about WikiLeaks information before it was published. “Stone called Trump all the time,” said Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.
The Committee has evidence that Stone and Trump spoke on several occasions in June and July 2016, and notes, “Any of these calls would have provided Stone with an opportunity to share additional information about WikiLeaks directly with Trump, and given the content of his conversations with Manafort and Gates combined with Trump’s known interest in the issue, the Committee assesses he likely did.”
Both Cohen and Rick Gates recall specific instances of Roger Stone talking with Trump about WikiLeaks. And Paul Manafort assumed Trump and Stone spoke often about that topic. On September 29, 2016, Trump and Stone talked over the phone on several occasions. After one of the calls, Trump told Gates that “more releases of damaging information would be coming.
2. Konstantin Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer
Robert Mueller’s team believed that Konstantin Kilimnik, a former employee of Paul Manafort’s international consulting firm, had “ties” to Russian intelligence. The Senate Committee goes further, finding that “Konstantin Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer.” Much of the evidence supporting this conclusion, however, is redacted.
The Committee based its assessment on “electronic communications; interviews; law enforcement information;” and additional items that were classified. Rick Gates, who worked closely with Kilimnik, always suspected he was a Russian intelligence officer, noting that he “was well connected in Russia and Ukraine and could obtain information easily.” The Committee added that Kilimnik was experienced in Russian intelligence tradecraft, “For example, Kilimnik conducted broad engagement with diplomats and embassies, especially in Kyiv; used multiple encrypted applications to enhance his communications security; used coded and vague language when discussing sensitive topics in writing; used ‘foldering’ in emails; and used pseudonyms…”
3. Paul Manafort and Kilimnik may have been involved in Putin’s hack-and-leak operation
In March 2016, officers of the GRU successfully hacked computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee, along with the email accounts of Clinton campaign officials including John Podesta. The data was eventually transferred to WikiLeaks at critical points during the 2016 election campaign. Vladimir Putin directed the attack.
The Committee found that, “Some evidence suggests Kilimnik may be connected to the GRU hack-and-leak operation related to the 2016 U.S. election. This assessment is based on a body of fragmentary information.” It also states, “Two pieces of information, however, raise the possibility of Manafort’s potential connection to the hack-and-leak operations.”
Sadly, all of the evidence pointing to the possible involvement of Manafort and Kilimnik in the hack-and-leak operation is redacted. The American people must be allowed to see this evidence in order to fully assess the connections between the Trump Campaign and Russia.
4. Kilimnik and Manafort helped spread the false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered
The Committee believes that Kilimnik “almost certainly helped arrange some of the first public messaging that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. election.” The goal was to deny Russian interference by blaming Ukraine. “Manafort worked with Kilimnik,” according to the Report, “starting in 2016 on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.”
The Committee’s main finding is extremely damning and significant:
The Committee observed numerous Russian-government actors from late 2016 until at least January 2020 consistently spreading overlapping false narratives which sought to discredit investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and spread false information about the events of 2016. Manafort, Kilimnik, Deripaska, and others associated with Deripaska participated in these influence operations. As part of these efforts, Manafort and Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election…These efforts coincided with a [redacted] and related efforts by Deripaska to discredit investigations into Russian meddling. Similarities in narrative content, the use of common dissemination platforms, the involvement of Kremlin agents Kilimnik and Deripaska, and [redacted] all suggest that these influence efforts were coordinated to some degree.
These disinformation efforts are especially troubling since prominent American politicians like Senators Ted Cruz, John Kennedy, Ron Johnson, and Chuck Grassley have embraced them.
5. Manafort shared A LOT of internal polling data with Kilimnik
We already knew that Paul Manafort shared internal polling data with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. And some of Trump’s defenders, like Rudy Giuliani, have tried to downplay the significance of the data. We now know, however, that the information was potentially quite valuable and that Kilimnik was experienced at utilizing such data.
On August 2, 2016, Paul Manafort had a meeting with Trump and Rudy Giuliani at 5:30 p.m. at Trump Tower. Later that evening, Manafort met Kilimnik at the nearby Grand Havana Room for a meeting, where a significant amount of polling data was exchanged.
The internal polling data was compiled by Anthony Fabrizio and included information on 137 designated market areas. At the meeting, Manafort walked Kilimnik through the information in detail. According to Committee, “Gates recalled that Manafort further discussed the ‘battleground’ states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.”
Rick Gates didn’t trust Kilimnik, and felt he “could have given the data to anyone.” One wonders if Kilimnik shared this information with Russian intelligence. This possibility is implied, but not mentioned in the Report. Given Russia’s ongoing interference in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania during the 2016 campaign, this seems like an extremely significant danger.
John Reeves is an editor and writer living in Washington, D.C.