A longtime associate of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and convicted felon Paul Manafort was a Russian agent who fed election data on U.S. citizens to the Kremlin, the Treasury Department announced Thursday.
Konstantin Kilimnik, a “known Russian Intelligence Services agent,” was one of 16 individuals and 16 entities sanctioned Thursday by the Biden administration for carrying out “Russian government-directed attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election,” according to a White House fact sheet.
During the 2016 presidential election, Kilimnik also provided the Russian Intelligence Services with “sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” noted the Treasury Department statement. To distract attention from the true culprit, he promoted the false narrative that Ukraine — not Russia — had meddled in the election, according to officials.
The new economic sanctions are also aimed at punishing Moscow for the massive SolarWinds cyberattack on U.S. government agencies and major companies, and its ongoing occupation and “severe human rights abuses” in Crimea.
But the statement on the sanctions was the first time officials have drawn a line directly from the Trump campaign to Russian intelligence. “So much for the ‘Russian hoax’ hoax,” noted a headline in The Washington Post, referring to former President Donald Trump’s repeated claim that any such connection was fake.
The FBI is currently offering a reward of up to $250,000 for information leading to the arrest of Kilimnik. He’s believed to be in Russia.
Kilimnik, whose employment as a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant served as cover, worked for years with Manafort, a longtime U.S. Republican political operative and consultant who was Trump’s onetime 2016 campaign manager. Kilimnik was variously described as a fixer, office manager and translator in his work with Manafort.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, accused Manafort of lying about providing election data to Kilimnik to feed to Russian intelligence. Trump denied knowing of any such arrangement.
Kilimnik was indicted in 2017 with Manafort on U.S. federal charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding lobbying work. That work was related to Kilimnik and Manafort’s efforts to restore former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin, to power.
Manafort was later convicted of eight felonies, including bank and tax fraud, and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Trump pardoned him in December, declaring him an innocent victim of “perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American history.”
The U.S. statement on sanctions said the Russia Foreign Intelligence Department was responsible for the SolarWinds cyberattack, which managed to access some of Microsoft’s source code.
Besides the 32 entities and individuals sanctioned for links to Kremlin-directed meddling in the 2020 election, six Russian tech companies are also being sanctioned for supporting the Russian Intelligence Services’ cyber program. Another eight individuals and entities are being sanctioned for repression in the Crimea.
The Biden administration is also barring American financial institutions from participating in the primary market for bonds issued by Russia’s central bank and other leading financial institutions.