His name is Konstantin Kilimnik, and he was a close business associate and friend of former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Kilimnik also has ties to Russian intelligence agency — by his own admission, as Politico reported in August of 2016, during the height of the presidential campaign. Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller agrees. In an indictment earlier this year, as the New York Times noted, Mueller singled out Kilimnik as a likely Russian spy.
Mueller has earlier said in court filings that Manafort and his aide Rick Gates, who also became a top Trump campaign official, were in contact with Kilimnik during the campaign. Now, a new investigative report by the Associated Press has revealed that, based on an examination of "internal records and business documents," Kilimnik — the suspected Russian intelligence operative — played a much larger role in the Trump campaign than has ever been reported.
In fact, the AP reported, the 48-year-old Kilimnik was far more involved in formulating pro-Russia political strategy with Manafort than previously known."
Kilimnik, who is believed to now be hiding in Russia, was slapped with an indictment by Mueller in early June, for allegedly helping Manafort attempt to tamper with potential witnesses in his case. Manafort was also charged in the same indictment and was sent to jail, as CNN reported, after Mueller's prosecutors asked a judge to revoke Manafort's bail over the alleged witness-tampering attempts.But Manafort and Kilimnik — who, as the Inquisitr noted, worked together in Manafort's Ukrainian political operation that helped elect right-wing, pro-Russia Ukraine politician Viktor Yanukovich Ukraine's president — had been plotting how Russia could covertly influence politics and public opinion in Western countries for almost 15 years, according to internal memos from Manafort's business examined by the AP.
"The West is just a little more skillful at playing the modern game, where perception by the world public opinion and the spin is more important than what is actually going on. Russia is ultimately going to lose if they do not learn how to play this game," Kilimnik told Manafort in a 2004 memo quoted by the AP. Manafort paid Kilimnik a base salary of $10,000 per month, AP reported.
When Manafort took over the 2016 Trump campaign, he used Kilimnik to approach Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was accused, according to the Telegraph newspaper, in a British court case of being a member of the Russian mob and ordering a hit on banker Vadim Yafyasov. Manafort owed a debt to Deripaska that has been reported as $19 million and he wanted Kilimnik to offer "private briefings" to Deripaska, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a way to pay off that debt.
Last year a CNN reporter attempted to ask Deripaska about the offer of "briefings" from Manafort as a way to pay off the debt, and Deripaska simply told the reporter, "Get lost, please. Thank you."
Deripaska has not been allowed to legally enter the United States since 2006, due to his alleged ties to the Yafyasov murder, and other crimes he is believed to have committed as he gained control of Russia's aluminum industry, according to Bloomberg News. But in August of 2016, investigative reporter Scott Stedman reported, a private jet belonging to Deripaska landed at Newark Airport in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City.
The plane arrived shortly after midnight on August 2, 2016, and departed later that same day. Also on August 2, in New York, a few hours before the plane landed, Manafort and Kilimnik met at a high-priced cigar club in 666 5th Avenue in Manhattan — a building owned by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner — to discuss "messages" from Deripaska to Manafort that the Russian oligarch had asked Kilimnik to convey, according to an Atlantic Monthly report.
Whether Deripaska was on board that private plane remains unclear.
But Kilimnik's connections to the the Trump campaign do not end there. In 2015, Kilimnik founded Washington, D.C., political consulting firm Begemot Ventures with lobbyist Sam Patten — who had previously worked for the political data firm Cambridge Analytica, The Daily Beast reported.
Cambridge Analytica was co-founded, as Inquisitr has reported, by Steve Bannon, who took over from Manafort as Trump's campaign chief in August of 2016 and went on to serve in the White House as Trump's "chief strategist." The company was financed by Robert Mercer, the secretive right-wing billionaire who was the top donor to Trump's campaign.
Facebook data containing personal information on approximately 71 million Americans was obtained by Cambridge Analytica and possibly used to target voters in the 2016 campaign with specifically crafted political messaging on Facebook and other social media platforms. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in congressional testimony said that the firm had not obtained the data with Facebook's permission, new information shows that Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica had the data as far back as 2015, but Facebook kept the information under wraps for almost three years, according to a Washington Post report.
The FBI and other government agencies are now expanding their investigation of the links between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, the Post reported. Whether Kilimnik's ties to Cambridge Analytica through his business partner, Patten, will be part of that probe also remains unclear.