"The proverbial smoking gun": Maddow explains what newly unredacted Manafort files reveal

WATCH: MSNBCs Rachel Maddow breaks down Monday's file dump

By Jon Skolnik
Published May 25, 2021 11:43AM (EDT)
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Federal investigators have declassified "smoking gun" court documents that indicate Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, handed over campaign polling data to the Russian government, according to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow

"Now we know today, in black and white, what Trump's campaign chair lied to prosecutors about on pain of considerate prison time for doing so," Maddow declared.

During the Mueller investigation back in 2017 – in which Robert Mueller, the former special counsel for the Department of Justice, probed whether Russia meddled in the 2016 general election – Mueller put specific emphasis on Manafort's relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukranian political consultant. 

In 2018, an AP News report found that Manafort worked alongside Kilimnik for years, each of them reportedly working to promote their own country's interests in the U.S. and Russia. Officials had long alleged that Kilimnik has ties to the Russian government, with some speculating he may have played a key role in helping Russia exert enough influence in the 2016 general election to ensure that Donald Trump would beat Former United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. 

However, in April of this year, the Treasury Department formally revealed that Kilimnik had in fact handed over internal polling data, given by Manafort, to the Russian government.

Newly redacted court documents, as Maddow reported, shed more light on the extent of the Mueller investigation. "The issue of internal campaign polling data being sent to [redacted], who the defendant conceded is extremely close to the senior leader in Russia, is in the core what the special counsel is supposed to be investigating," wrote Andrew Weissman, the former general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Court documents also alleged that "Manafort lied to the government about his sharing of internal campaign data with Kilimnik." Previously, as Maddow noted, Manafort said that the information he handed over was not sensitive in nature. 

Manafort also reportedly lied about whether he knew Kilimnik would transfer the internal campaign data to the Russian government. Court documents stated Manafort was not only "sharing internal confidential polling data covered by a non-disclosure agreement…outside the campaign, but he's sharing it with a foreign national with a specific understanding and intent that it would be passed on to other foreign nationals, in this case Russians."

However, it still remains unclear why Manafort intentionally shared information with the Russian government – and to what end. "Why would Donald Trump's Kremlin-linked campaign chair be sharing protected valuable internal campaign polling data with a Russian intelligence officer while Russia was carrying out an attack on our election to try and get Trump elected?" Maddow asked rhetorically.

"That was what fully half the Muller investigation was about – what Russia did to our election to try to elect Trump and how the Trump campaign was involved in it and perhaps assisted it? 

"What we thought happened, happened," Maddow continued. "Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, sharing this kind of data with a Russian intelligence officer is the proverbial smoking gun in terms of how the Trump campaign was involved in it."


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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