The Biden administration slapped Konstantin Kilimnik, an assistant of Paul Manafort and alleged Russian spy, with sanctions on Thursday as it escalated economic measures against Moscow.
In announcing the move, the Treasury Department suggested that Kilimnik gave internal Trump campaign polling data to Russian intelligence during the 2016 election.
“During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” the release reads.
That goes significantly further than any previous assessment of the fate of internal Trump campaign polling data that Paul Manafort notoriously shared with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee released in August 2020 declined to draw a conclusion on what Kilimnik ultimately did with the polling data, but said that its own investigation was operating with limited information:
The Treasury Department’s statement on Thursday suggests that Manafort did ultimately transfer Trump campaign polling data to Russian intelligence.
The Treasury Department also accused Kilimnik, reportedly in Moscow while facing charges of obstruction of justice related to the Mueller investigation, of interfering in the 2020 election.
It’s not entirely clear what steps Kilimnik took to interfere in the 2020 election. A release announcing the move says that the alleged Russian intelligence officer “sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
A longtime political consultant based in Kyiv, Kilimnik formed a close relationship with 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort while working for Ukrainian clients.
But Kilimnik began to attract scrutiny once Manafort returned to U.S. politics to work on the Trump campaign. Apart from various business dealings in which the two were involved, Kilimnik’s background included work as a Russian intelligence officer. The Senate Intelligence Report found evidence that Kilimnik may have also helped coordinate hacks of the Clinton campaign and DNC’s emails in 2016.
That didn’t stop Manafort from transferring internal Trump campaign polling data to Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign, a move whose consequences have never been fully understood.