Top prosecutor: Trump campaign chairman's meeting with Russian at 'heart' of probe

  • Top prosecutor: Trump campaign chairman's meeting with Russian at 'heart' of probe

Top prosecutor: Trump campaign chairman's meeting with Russian at 'heart' of probe

Donald Trump's 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort continued to keep in touch with his Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik and discuss Ukrainian politics while he was working for the campaign and through previous year, and that's become a central issue of Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation, according to a transcript of a closed-door court hearing.

The transcript from a sealed hearing in Paul Manafort's case provides further insight into what special counsel Robert Mueller considers significant in his wide-ranging probe of the Kremlin's efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election and the ties between Trump associates and Russian Federation.

The closed hearing was held so the judge could weigh evidence supporting allegations by Mueller's office that Manafort had lied to prosecutors - including about his interactions with Kilimnik - in breach of a plea agreement.

Manafort's legal team had mistakenly revealed in an improperly redacted court filing on January 8 that Mueller's prosecutors said Manafort had "lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign".

Manafort's hopes for a pardon was one of several revelations in the 142-page transcript of a sealed hearing.

While many conservative critics of the investigation - most notably Trump - have dismissed the idea that there was any "collusion", criminal or otherwise, between the campaign and Russia's efforts to interfere in the election, the special counsel's office made clear in the hearing that it is still interested in these questions.

So, I mean, this goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think the motive here is.

Manafort has said he never lied to prosecutors.

Many of those lies involved Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator who worked with Manafort for a decade on political campaigns in Ukraine and is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence, prosecutors have said. It makes clear that prosecutors have homed in on the repeated contacts between Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says has ties to the Russia's military intelligence agency. He was found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud, in August. Gates also spoke to investigators about Manafort sharing the polling data, according to the transcript.

Kilimnik told the Washington Post that his meeting with Manafort on August 2 was "in no way related to politics or [the] presidential campaign in the U.S". And in 2016. there is an in-person meeting with someone who the government has certainly proffered to this court in the past, is understood by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, assessed to be - have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is [redacted]. Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, emailed Kilimnik earlier in the year to offer "private briefings" about the Trump campaign, the Washington Post reported.