It's Manafort. It's Always Been Manafort. And The Senate Intel Committee Seems To Agree!
Holy mother of God, the GOP-controlled Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has finally dropped the long-awaited fifth installment of its report on the Russian attack on the 2016 election, the one that focuses on the Trump campaign's cahoots-ing (collusion/conspiracy) with the Russian government. It is ... well, it is a thing!
Short version: THEY DID IT. No matter what bullshit committee chair GOP Senator Marco Rubio says about "the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election." Fuck you, asshole, we can read.
It's 966 pages long, and they decided to dump this in the middle of the Democratic National Convention, while the Senate is in recess, and as we contend with this year's attempted election-stealing by Donald Trump and his foreign allies AKA America's enemies. Spoiler, this thing is more damning than the Mueller Report is in many ways. That's right, the report from the GOP-led SSCI is more damning, and makes Trump look more like a Russian asset, than the Mueller Report. (Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson are probably soooooo maaaaaad riiiiiiight nooooooow.)
Here's the thing. The Mueller Report was great, and exhaustive, but it only went so far, as Robert Mueller specifically searched for things he could charge as crimes before deciding that he wasn't allowed to charge anything as crimes. The Senate Intelligence Committee — well, it's right there in the name. This is counterintelligence. And it goes way further in connecting the dots of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia than Mueller did.
This is the report that's been collecting dust for however many months. This is the report that (we think) is the reason why former committee chair Republican Senator Richard Burr got nailed for alleged insider trading, but none of his other GOP friends did.
We'll have multiple posts on this report (966 pages, like we said), but in this one we'd like to focus on ...
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE FUCKING SAID PAUL MANAFORT IS THE KEY TO EVERY BIT OF THIS?
SSCI is quite clear about Manafort, the Trump campaign chair who came out of nowhere (the arms of a Russian oligarch, obviously) to run the Trump campaign for free, who it sure has always seemed was the intersection point between Russia and Trump's hilariously unlikely inside straight in the exact Rust Belt states he needed to "win." We knew Manafort had been giving Trump campaign polling data about the Rust Belt to his old business associate, Russian and Ukrainian national Konstantin Kilimnik, who most likely gave it to Manafort's former Russian oligarch boss Oleg Deripaska, who is so close to Vladimir Putin he might as well be one of Putin's actual Russian butt hairs.
And after that, it's been a lot of question marks. The report confirms elsewhere that Manafort's earlier job for Deripaska was doing "influence operations," which were directed by the Kremlin, so ONE MIGHT SURMISE DOT DOT DOT.
Whereas the Mueller Report and much of the other reporting on Kilimnik has been kinda cagy about how Kilimnik has ties to the Russian intelligence services, SSCI comes out and says it: Dude's a fucking spy. "Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer," it says on the first page of the section about Paul Manafort, which is at the very beginning of the document. (Page xi)
Kilimnik became an integral part of Manafort's operations in Ukraine and Russia, serving as Manafort's primary liaison to Deripaska and eventually managing Manafort's office in Kyiv. Kilimnik and Manafort formed a close and lasting relationship that endured to the 2016 U.S. elections. and beyond.
On numerous occasions, Manafort sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik. The Committee was unable to reliably determine why Manafort shared sensitive internal polling data or Campaign strategy with Kilimnik or with whom Kilimnik further shared that information. The Committee had limited insight into Kilimnik's communications with Manafort and into Kilimnik's communications with other individuals connected to Russian influence operations, all of whom used communications security practices.
Typical. They could only get so far, because all these fuckers protected their comms like ... well, like Russian spies.
The Committee obtained some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the GRU's hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election.
Oh. Oh! Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Really? The GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee thinks maybe the Russian spy Paul Manafort gave secret Trump campaign Rust Belt polling data to numerous times was also connected to the actual hacking of Democratic documents, which were then released through the Russian cut-out WikiLeaks, at convenient times during the campaign? Well then!
The report goes on to list three bullet points (p. 29) of information why they think Kilimnik was connected to the hacking. All redacted.
While this information suggests that a channel for coordination on the GRU hack-and-leak operation may have existed through Kilimnik, the Committee had limited insight into Kilimnik's communications with Manafort and REDACTED, all of whom used sophisticated communications security practices.
Indeed, Manafort used 10 DIFFERENT ENCRYPTED APPS for communication with his various co-conspirators.
So that's one of Marco Rubio's "absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election."
Moving to page 89 of the report, we learn the committee also thinks maybe PAUL MANAFORT HIMSELF was connected to the hacking operation: "Two pieces of information [...] raise the possibility of Manafort's potential connection to the hack-and-leak operation."
Uh oh, [REDACTED]!
So that's two more of Marco Rubio's "absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election."
And who else in this story has been connected with "hacking operations" in the past? Oh dunno, just Oleg Deripaska, though all that is [REDACTED].
Wanna know something else fun? It appears the actual hacking was happening right about exactly the time Paul Manafort managed to finagle his way onto the Trump campaign, in March of 2016. Roger Stone had been bigtime lobbying for them to hire Manafort. And Manafort was sure to let his buddy Kilimnik know as soon as he got the job with Trump, before it was publicly announced. HUH.
The committee reports Manafort and Kilimnik also worked together later on "narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election." If you're gonna steal a democracy with Russian spies, you gotta cover it up, after all. You know, allegedly.
One of those narratives should be quite familiar by now: the fake news narrative that UKRAINE did the REAL collusion with HILLARY. That's right, the report says (p. 108) that Kilimnik "almost certainly helped arrange some of the first public messaging that Ukraine had interfered in the U.S. election." Did any of that actually happen?
[T]he Committee identified no reliable evidence that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump's entire impeachment was built around the propaganda story, seeded by a literal Russian spy, that Ukraine had interfered in the election, and GOP Senator Ron Johnson is currently leading a bullshit investigation connected to that topic, also featuring bullshit Russian propaganda about the Bidens in Ukraine.
We knew the committee had debunked all that shit, in December of last year, but it's nice to hear them say it out loud.
Suck it, Ron Johnson.
But Back To August 2, 2016!
There is so much more, and we'll dive deeper into the SSCI's report in the coming days. There's a lot about exactly what polling information Rick Gates was sharing with Kilimnik, at Manafort's direction, and what Manafort shared with Kilimnik the night of August 2, 2016, at the Grand Havana Room at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, and just how specific it was. (This was V. IMPORTANT INFO to share, with a Russian spy.) That was also one of the many times Trump associate discussed "peace plans" for Ukraine, which was only and always code for Trump lifting the sanctions levied on Russia in punishment for its invasion of Ukraine.
The committee did not firmly establish that Kilimnik gave all Manafort's intel to Deripaska, but again, these people use one million encrypted spy comms apps. "This lack of documentary record is not dispositive," as the committee puts it. They say they did get "a single piece of information that could plausibly be a reflection of Kilimnik's actions" after the August 2 meeting, and it is [REDACTED].
(Marco Rubio's "absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election," etc. etc.)
Regardless, here are the committee's conclusions on Manafort:
The Committee assesses that Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services, and that those services likely sought to exploit Manafort's access to gain insight info the Campaign. Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik, represented a grave counterintelligence threat.
But don't worry, everyone, Marco Rubio says it's fine. Even though we have all this evidence to the contrary. Even though the Special Counsel's Office said in court that this particular August 2 meeting was at the "heart" of what they were investigating, when explaining to the judge exactly why it was so important that Manafort had lied so much about this meeting.
Paul Manafort is out of prison on COVID home confinement now. Wonder what he's up to this election season.
FUNNY POSTSCRIPT: They also found Kilimnik's up-to-now secret Twitter account. He retweets people like that hack asshole propagandist Mollie Hemingway from the Federalist, and one of his followers before this week was that other hack asshole former Breitbart/Sputnik reporter Lee Stranahan. Isn't that funny? We thought it was funny.
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