Special counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Top Trump campaign staffer had a long business relationship with Russian a Russian operative who was working with the Kremlin intelligence in 2016, when Trump was running for president.
The Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, had worked with former Trump Campaign chair Paul Manafort since 2005, helping with Manafort’s clients in Ukraine, and continued to talk with Manafort’s team during the election, Vox reports.
Mueller’s team made the link public on Wednesday, saying that Kilimnik was still working with Russian intelligence when he was communicating with the Trump team in September and October of 2016.
It’s the closest connection to date between Trump’s campaign staff and Russian intelligence, with Mueller’s team already digging deeply into Manafort’s past businesses.
Mueller’s team is investigating 2016 Russian election meddling, but has expanded to cover President Donald Trump’s business dealings in Russia, and contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russians.
Kilimnik and Manafort also exchanged a series of emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. The two used code words, but investigators believe Manafort was offering to provide “private briefings” to Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is reportedly very close with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Mueller link between Kilimnik and Russian intelligence comes from court documents filed in the case of a lawyer who worked with Manafort and Rick Gates, according to the report.
The lawyer, Alex Van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in February. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had interviewed Van der Zwaan about his work with Manafort and Gates, Manafort’s long-time right-hand man.
In Wednesday’s court filing, Mueller’s team said that Person A “has ties to a Russian intelligence service,” and that Van der Zwaan had lied about communication with person A. The lies involved evidence “material to the Special Counsel’s Office’s investigation.” The New York Times identified “Person A” as Kilimnik.
The new filing describes the first direct line between Manafort and Russian intelligence.