Trump Campaign Aide Talked Frequently With Alleged Russian Ex-Spy, Documents Say

Friday, 30 Mar, 2018

Prosecutors investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election say they have directly linked a former Moscow intelligence officer to a one-time top political aide to Donald Trump during his successful run for the White House.

Van der Zwaan previously pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Gates during work for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, which was ousted in 2014. Despite the fact that Gates and Manafort knew that this business associate had ties to the Kremlin, they still made a decision to form a working relationship with the associate during October of 2016, mere weeks before the election. It said Trump's deputy campaign manager Rick Gates was "directly communicating" in September and October 2016, just before the November election, with an operative identified only as "Person A", whom it described as having "ties to [the] Russian intelligence" service GRU. He also revealed that before getting involved with Manafort and Gates in 2005, he worked for the International Republican Institute, a US-funded "democracy promotion" outfit whose board of directors is now chaired by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona).

While the President's legal team denies the notion that a pardon was ever discussed, the New York Times has been told that the possibility of a pardon for both Manafort and Michael Flynn was indeed floated by the President's lawyers past year.

Gates has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on charges related to consulting work with pro-Russian political figures in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign and is cooperating with Mueller's investigators.

Gates pleaded guilty to lying to investigators last month, and is believed to be working with the probe as it goes after his former partner and others. He is due to be sentenced on April 3.

Mueller's team says he still has ties to the GRU, which the American intelligence community said was behind the hacks on Democrats' emails and disseminating them before the election, though Kilimnik has denied such claims.

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Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane reports from Washington.

Details in the document suggest that the person is Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian man who managed Manafort's office in Ukraine.

In fact, van der Zwaan is accused of giving Gates "talking points as to how to present the report in an advantageous light to Ukraine", against the express wishes of his law firm.

It said an investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors into Kilimnik's possible links to Russian spy agencies was closed late a year ago without charges.

Both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted earlier this year on numerous charges of money laundering and financial crimes which they allegedly committed while attempting to hide extensive Ukrainian funds.

The New York Times reported on March 28 that one of Trump's attorneys past year floated the possibility of pardoning Manafort and another top aide indicted by Mueller, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in discussions with their lawyers.