So while the web of Russians and their GOP puppets in Biglygate gains clarity despite all the hoohah over adult film stars and looting cabinet members, Mueller’s #TrumpRussia investigation moves forward as we learn about not the only (ex-)GRU guy involved.
In February 2017, this RFE/RL reporter conducted the first in-person interview with Konstantin Kilimnik. The interview led to an additional face-to-face meeting, several phone calls, and dozens of text messages over the course of nine months in 2017.
Kilimnik cut communication in late September, as Mueller’s investigation ramped up and shortly after RFE/RL’s publication of his comments in a story about Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin who was involved in business ventures with Manafort, and whom Manafort offered private briefings on the 2016 presidential race, via Kilimnik.
Kilimnik may have left Manafort’s company, but he remained in contact with Manafort after he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, as convention manager for the Republican Party’s mid-July gathering in Cleveland.
Kilimnik told me they spoke “every couple months” while Manafort was working for Trump. “I was briefing him on Ukraine,” he explained.
In follow-up conversations by phone and text message after those quotes were published in my February 2016 story, he elaborated on the communication, saying he was merely updating Manafort on news related to his former Opposition Bloc clients, and sending him links to stories in the English-language Kyiv Post newspaper.
However, sources have claimed that Kilimnik was doing more than that, perhaps even playing a part in altering the Republican Party’s official endorsement of providing Ukraine with lethal weapons. Ukraine had for years been asking Washington to provide such weapons to bolster its fight against Russia-backed separatists. The Trump administration has since approved the sale of lethal weapons to Kyiv.
A source in Kyiv told Politico that “after a late summer trip to the U.S., Kilimnik suggested that he had played a role in gutting” the proposed amendment.[…]
Never in our discussions did Kilimnik say or suggest he was nervous about landing in the crosshairs of Mueller’s prosecutors or the FBI, insisting that nobody from either group had tried to contact him before September 21.
But that confidence was betrayed hours before publication of my initial February interview with him. After I had emailed Manafort for comment and confirmation of things discussed in the interview, Kilimnik called me to express his concern with the angle of the piece, saying Manafort had received my e-mail and then called him to ask what this was all about.
Kilimnik communicated with me until September 2017. It’s unclear where he is currently, but a December court filing by Mueller’s team suggested he has since fled Kyiv to Russia.
Why donÃ¢ÂÂt you ask them? YouÃ¢ÂÂre the President of the United States.
Ã¢ÂÂ Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) April 7, 2018
And maybe Robert Mercer will get to be an “enemy of the people”.
In the days before the 2016 election, we noted that a pro-Trump group called Secure America Now had been heavily promoting a bonkers social media ad showing the future of the United States as “the Islamic States of America,” and had created versions specific to France and Germany as well.
At the time, the funding of the group was obscure—though it was run by an aide to conservative megadonor Ron Lauder and had previously counted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and incoming national security adviser John Bolton on its board of advisers.
But today, Open Secrets published an unredacted tax return that shows that much of the group’s funding came from Robert Mercer, a prominent backer of Trump’s campaign, his alt-right allies, and the various projects of Steve Bannon. Mercer gave the group $2 million in 2016. Another $2 million came from the 45Committee, a pro-Trump group that Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts had raised money for. Lauder gave $1.1 million and Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson and GOP mega-donor Foster Friess gave smaller amounts.
And Kilimnik was a contact for the International Republican Institute (IRI) NGO for many years in Moscow, explaining a possible reason for the Steele dossier’s path.
The IRI operates as a political organization abroad, providing training and assistance to favoured political parties. As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, it plays no part in domestic U.S. politics. However, the majority of its board, staff and consultants are drawn from the Republican Party. Its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, draws mainly from the Democratic Party.
Who wants Mueller to close his investigation?
Who claims heÃ¢ÂÂs exonerated before heÃ¢ÂÂs even been interviewed?
Ã¢ÂÂ Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) April 8, 2018
Because this is not just about data. In Britain, we have strict spending limits for elections. It’s what has kept Britain from following the path of American politics, where elections are the sport of billionaires and corporate interests.
Beyond data, there are two more issues at stake here: overspending and coordination between campaigns. The law forbids campaigns from coordinating, to forestall the potential for shell entities and overspending vehicles. In the digital age, where political campaigns use Facebook as their predominant tool, it’s difficult to enforce. And when four different campaigns – Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the DUP – all used the same data firm, AIQ, it’s pretty much impossible.