In August of 2016, just months before Donald Trump was elected president, his former campaign chairman met and had dinner with a man who may have ties to Russian intelligence.
Two meetings took place between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a man who is suspected of being a high-level spy for the Russian intelligence service.
According to the Washington Post, Kilimnik learned fluent English and Swedish at a Soviet military school, and his work as a translator earned him the reputation of being an operative for Russia’s GRU intelligence service.
In 2005, Kilimnik went to work for Manafort, who was running a political consulting firm in Ukraine. They helped engineer the election of Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian puppet who later fled the country and is now believed to be living in Russia under the protection of Vladimir Putin. As the Post explains:
“Kilimnik’s role for Manafort grew over time. Beyond his work as a translator, Kilimnik would ‘help Manafort understand the political context and why people were doing what they were doing.’
“People familiar with Kilimnik’s work in Ukraine for Manafort say his assignments included meeting with powerful Ukrainian politicians and serving as a liaison to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who is close to Putin and did business with Manafort.”
The 2016 meetings between Manafort and Kilimnik included one in May, 2016, just months before Manafort was named campaign chairman for Trump. The second one, in August, took place about two weeks before Manafort was forced to resign his position as head of the Trump campaign team when his connections to Ukraine were revealed.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said there was nothing unusual or suspicious about the meetings between Manafort and Kilimnik:
“It would be neither surprising nor suspicious that two political consultants would chat about the political news of the day, including the DNC hack, which was in the news. We’re confident that serious officials will come to the conclusion that Paul’s campaign conduct and interaction with Konstantin during that time was perfectly permissible and not in furtherance of some conspiracy.”
However, it should be noted that Kilimnik’s late-summer visit to the U.S. did draw the notice of U.S. authorities, and he later bragged to associates that he had played a role in helping to soften the Republican platform toward Russian interests in Ukraine.
More recently, Kilimnik was named in a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury in connection with Manafort’s work in Ukraine and his business connections to several Ukranian firms.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org