Russia

Collusion is No Longer Much of a Question

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Lawyers for Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort have accidentally revealed that their client shared polling data with his Russian masters in 2016, but not everything Manafort shared with them was available to the public.

According to the New York Times, at least some of the data Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates shared with the Russians was internal polling data from within the Trump campaign.

Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.

Even if Trump did not personally know this was taking place -- which is a fairly generous assumption -- this is the clearest evidence we've seen yet that elements of the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government.

We don't know the exact nature of the polling data Manafort and Gates passed along to the Kremlin, but we do know the Russians used the data to tailor their own campaign messages for specific demographics and social circles on social media. There has always been a question of how the Russians knew which Americans to target for influence and this could be a significant piece of the puzzle.

It's reassuring to me and probably worrisome to the White House that special prosecutor Robert Mueller apparently knows all about this scheme, but the way the special counsel's team learned about it could tell us much more.

Manafort was only recently accused of lying, so it's an open question to me if they discovered he was lying based on testimony from others close to Trump such as Michael Cohen or Michael Flynn. Mueller's team has assembled a full choir to sing for them.

  • Christopher Foxx

    There has always been a question of how the Russians knew which Americans to target for influence and this could be a significant piece of the puzzle.

    I’m puzzled as to why the Russians would need to get polling data, presumably essential to being able to target their attacks, from the Trump campaign. Certainly they could hire pollsters on their own without those polling firms knowing who the real client was.

    • True but it was also a test to see how open to further corruption the campaign was. Manafort and company took that bait hook, line and sinker. Russia probably already knew who to target on social media but this is how foreign services recruit someone. They start by asking for something small and build from there. Then after a while, the target starts thinking, on the surface, it doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, polling data….what could it hurt, right? It could be gotten publicly, right? What’s the big deal? That’s what all the Trump supporters are saying right now. They started grooming Manafort, Carter, Trumpov Jr, Trumpov himself years ago. The polling data was just one rung on the ladder of increasingly big asks. Once they had things like polling data, which would help make Trumpov think he owed the Russians, they could ask for changes to the GOP platform re: Ukraine, missiles in Eastern Europe and finally lifting sanctions. So look at it in the bigger picture and it makes perfect sense.

      • Christopher Foxx

        It all sounds like a variation on the “Well, if I didn’t, then someone else would.” justification.

        Sure, if you don’t name names to Senator McCarthy then someone else would, so why not be the one to do it? They’re going to get the info anyway, so why not just had it over?

        The answer, of course, is so that you’re not the one who did it.

        • I’m sure they used that reasoning as well to convince the Trumpov campaign. I just meant that by the time they go to the “give us the poll data” phase, there had been a history of caving to their demands already and it would continue that way. So it all has to be looked at from that perspective to truly understand what was happening and motives.

  • Badgerite

    Love that guy with the sign. Says it all.

    • Christopher Foxx

      And when Santa calls you a traitor, well, you know you’ll never get off the naughty list.

  • Badgerite

    Conspiracy to defraud the American people and the alter the electoral outcome for sure. But there is more. And that is that trump and his people clearly made promises to Putin. There is no other reason for the Kremlin to stick its neck out and risk the severe reprisals that would have been ordered by Clinton against Russian intelligence capabilities for their attacks on the US for anything other than assurances that trump would do away with the sanctions that were hurting Putin’s base, the Russian mob. I’m quite sure Putin and the Kremlin didn’t give a flying crap about tax cuts for American corporations or the NRA stance on guns rights which are not allowed in Russia. What he cared about was NATO, Ukraine and diminishing America anyway he could and ….sanctions.

  • muselet

    It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.

    Bit of both, I’d think. Paul Manafort almost certainly would have seen an opportunity to help the Trump campaign and maybe, just maybe, avoid getting kneecapped by Oleg Deripaska’s enforcers.

    The theme to The Godfather is running through my head, only played on balalaikas. Can’t imagine why.

    –alopecia