Trump campaign chief admits to providing polling data to Russian

Jan 10, 2019, 08:00 IST | Agencies

Manafort's confession comes as Trump struggles to address the govt shutdown over wall funds

Trump campaign chief admits to providing polling data to Russian
US President Donald Trump (left) has consistently refrained from talking about Paul Manafort in the past. Pic/AFP

Donald Trump's one-time presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort admitted in a court filing on Tuesday that he provided polling data from the campaign to a Russian with ties to intelligence during the 2016 US presidential race.

Manafort denied allegations from the Russian collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he had lied about his dealings with Konstantin Kilimnik, arguing he merely forgot details during the hectic campaign.

The specifics of the Mueller allegations were not previously known publicly, having been blacked out in a heavily redacted December 7 filing by the prosecutor's team. But in Manafort's response, the electronic formatting for the redaction could easily be bypassed, revealing exactly what Manafort was accused of lying about.

It showed that Mueller had questioned Manafort on his discussions with Kilimnik in 2016 on a possible peace plan for Ukraine — where the two had worked together years ago for a political party.

That could be significant, because Manafort is believed to have played a role in changing the Republican platform position on Ukraine during 2016 to a more Moscow-friendly stance. Manafort's legal team argued in the filing that his client had been intensely busy managing Trump's White House campaign, and could not recall every communication.

The previously unknown allegation adds to mounting evidence that contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign were more than just incidental, though Mueller has yet to make a case that there was any conspiracy that involved the campaign.

Manafort, 69, has already been convicted in one case brought by Mueller, and pleaded guilty in another, over financial crimes related to his work in Ukraine before the 2016 campaign, and for witness tampering, which also involved Kilimnik.

'Stop crisis'
Top Democratic Party leaders Tuesday asked Donald Trump to stop holding the American people hostage, stop manufacturing a crisis and reopen the government, after the US President blamed them for the impasse over his controversial border wall with Mexico. Minutes after President Trump gave his first prime-time address from the Oval Office, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed him for the partial government shutdown, in its 18th day, the second-longest ever.

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