Paul Manafort's attorneys accidentally revealed that their client is accused of sharing polling data from the 2016 election with a Russian operative.
Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have accidentally revealed information about their client that could provide the strongest evidence yet of direct coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Due to an apparent filing error, Manafort's lawyers let slip that special counsel Robert Mueller's team has accused Manafort of sharing polling data from the 2016 presidential election with a Russian operative — while Manafort was working with the Trump campaign — and later lying to Mueller about it.
Manafort's attorneys submitted a new court filing Monday in response to special counsel Robert Mueller's allegation that Manafort broke his September 2018 plea agreement by lying to federal investigators.
The filing was made public Tuesday, with large portions of the text redacted. It turned out, however, that the redacted text could be revealed simply by copying and pasting it into a new document.
Most of the redacted information pertains to Manafort's communication with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime ally and business partner of Manafort who is accused by Mueller of being an operative with active ties "to a Russian intelligence service."
Among other key details, the poorly redacted filing revealed that Mueller's team has alleged that Manafort "lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign."
In other redacted sections, Manafort’s attorneys write that he "conceded" to prosecutors that he discussed a "Ukraine peace plan" with Kilimnik "on more than one occasion," and that he traveled to Madrid to meet with Kilimnik.
While the date of the meeting in Madrid is not specified in the filing, an unredacted section states that "these occurrences happened during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign."
All of this looks incredibly damning. One of the key questions investigators have been trying to answer is whether Russian operatives had any help from the Trump campaign when deciding where to target the Facebook ads and other social media operations that made up their 2016 influence operation.
It has previously been reported that Russian Facebook ads specifically targeted battleground states including Wisconsin and Michigan — two states that were crucial to Trump’s electoral college victory. Trump won both states by less than a 1 percent margin, and Michigan was the closest race in the country, with Trump edging out Hillary Clinton by less than 11,000 votes out of an estimated 4.8 million total ballots cast.
“Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal,” CNN reported in October 2017.
“The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages” and “some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.”
At least 25 percent of the Russian-linked Facebook ads released during the 2016 presidential campaign are believed to have been geographically targeted to focus on states with the closest races.
In addition to Russian-linked content, there are also questions about whether the Trump campaign may have worked with outside actors to boost its own efforts as Election Day drew near.
The Trump campaign relied heavily on highly targeted Facebook content to reach its desired audience, and it has been reported that the campaign suddenly shifted resources to Rust Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.
And Manafort may have had an important role in the Trump campaign's decision to start targeting those states. In November 2016, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported that Manafort sent at least one memo to Trump telling him to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin.
If the campaign passed this information along to Russian operatives, it would have been possible for the foreign agents to amplify the effectiveness of the Trump campaign's last-minute shift in voter targeting.
And if the information that was accidentally revealed on Tuesday is proven to be true, we may now have an answer as to how Russia knew exactly where and when to target their illegal activities — and that answer would directly implicate the Trump campaign, providing the clearest evidence yet of collusion.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.