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.