Paul Manafort Told Mueller He Sought a ‘Backdoor’ for Russia’s Control of Ukraine

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court.

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images.

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort told the special counsel’s team that his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik were a way to create a “backdoor” for a plan involving Russia’s control of eastern Ukraine.

The revelation came from the redacted filing of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel’s team noted that the FBI had assessed Kilimnik as having ties to Russian intelligence.

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“Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a ‘backdoor’ way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine,” reads the report, “both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President).”

Mueller’s team added that both men discussed the Trump campaign’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states, months after Manafort “had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik.”

As longtime business partners, Manafort and Kilimnik’s talks remained a focal point of the Russia investigation—Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge earlier this year that one interaction between the two held in August 2016 at a New York cigar bar was “of significance to the special counsel.” The meeting in question centered on Ukrainian policy and the removal of sanctions; at the time, Manafort served as the president’s campaign manager.

Last year, Kilimnik was charged with witness tampering in Manafort’s case.

Paul Manafort Told Mueller He Sought a ‘Backdoor’ for Russia’s Control of Ukraine