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Manafort Allegedly Shared Polling Data With Russian Operative

Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges stemming from work he did for Ukrainian politicians and business interests.(file photo)

A new U.S. court filing shows that President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman shared polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with a Russian-Ukrainian man whom U.S. intelligence suspects of having ties to Russian spy agencies.

The filing was made on January 8, apparently in error, by defense lawyers for Paul Manafort, who has already been convicted by a federal jury and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges stemming from work he did for Ukrainian politicians and business interests.

The filing was made in response to accusations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating interactions between Russian officials and Trump associates. Mueller’s prosecutors alleged that Manafort lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate.

Manafort's lawyers said he "provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability" during multiple meetings with a grand jury and prosecutors.

The lawyers wrote that Manafort allegedly misled prosecutors about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, who was Manafort’s associate in Ukraine when Manafort was advising the Ukrainian political party, Party of Regions.

The lawyers wrote that Manafort was "sharing polling data ... related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”

That detail was blacked out in the court filing, but it could still be uncovered and read.

The filing did not indicate whether the polling information involved internal campaign data or when exactly it was provided. But the data could have provided Russians with insights on the U.S. election.

In another section of the filing, Manafort's lawyers revealed that he "may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan" with Kilimnik "on more than one occasion."

The peace plan refers to the conflict that erupted in Ukraine in 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid mass protests.

The United States and Western allies hit Russia with sanctions after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and Moscow had sought to ease the punitive measures.

In February 2017, Kilimnik told RFE/RL that he had done many things while advising Manafort, including work on a proposed a peace plan, but he suggested Manafort wasn't involved -- a claim that was undermined by the January 8 court filing.​

Kilimnik did not respond to messages from RFE/RL seeking comment on January 8.

A longtime Republican operative and lobbyist who had worked for prominent Republicans, including Bob Dole, Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

He was fired in August after Ukrainian officials published ledgers that showed the extent of work he had done for the Party of Regions

Manafort was convicted in federal court in Virginia in August of bank fraud and tax evasion connected to his work in Ukraine.

He later pleaded guilty in a separate case to two counts of conspiracy to avoid a second trial in Washington, D.C.

Manafort has been imprisoned since June, when a federal judge said he violated his bail by reaching out to potential witnesses in his case.

According to prosecutors, he and Kilimnik contacted potential witnesses in Mueller’s investigation, trying to tell them what to say if they were questioned -- a federal crime.

Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced on February 8 in Virginia and on March 5 in Washington.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Christopher Miller.
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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.