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Six revelations in Senate intel report on 2016 Russian interference

The bipartisan report provides new details on Trump’s conversations with Roger Stone and the activities of the president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Image: Trump, Manafort
Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination in Cleveland on July 20.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, was the product of more than 200 witness interviews and nearly a million documents. It's the only bipartisan account of how the Trump campaign embraced Russia’s intelligence operation in 2016 designed to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump.

Much of the report covers old ground, albeit with more detail than ever before. But there are some important new revelations. Here are some of them:

Trump’s campaign chairman was consorting with a Russia spy

The report says — in a first — that Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was a “Russian intelligence officer.” It also says Manafort was meeting regularly and sharing information with Kilimnik, including internal Trump campaign polling data.

But because the men used encrypted communications, and because Manafort never truly cooperated with investigators, the committee was unable to determine exactly what the pair were up to.

The report says there is information, blacked out in the document, suggesting both Kilimnik and Manafort may have had some link to the Russian operation to steal and leak Democratic emails. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough for Mueller to bring charges.

That fact pattern alone led the committee to label Manafort, who is serving prison time for unrelated offenses, a "grave counterintelligence threat.” Whether he actually “colluded” with the 2016 Russian intelligence operation may never be determined.

Trump almost certainly talked to Roger Stone about Wikileaks

The committee — including some key Trump allies — determined that Trump knew his campaign was communicating about Wikileaks, even though he told Mueller he didn’t recall that.

Trump, in written responses to the special counsel’s office, stated: "I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign."

Trump further claimed that he had "no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016."

Despite Trump's recollection, the report says, “the Committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone's access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions.”

That puts Trump in the middle of his campaign’s eager embrace of material he knew had been stolen by a foreign intelligence agency.

The report doesn’t accuse Trump of lying, but it lays out a pattern of discussions with Stone that makes it difficult to believe Trump didn’t remember.

The dossier by a British intelligence officer was deeply flawed

The Senate investigation didn’t try to verify or disprove the allegations included in the Steele dossier, a set of memos about Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, but it did examine Steele’s work process and whether the FBI should have viewed the dossier credibly.

The committee found that Steele’s tradecraft in the dossier was “generally poor” compared to the intelligence community’s standards, often relying on sources “several steps removed from the information they provided.” The senators also said there were “several opportunities for interested parties to insert disinformation” – a conclusion that buttresses concerns that elements of Russian disinformation may have made their way into the dossier amid other accurate portions.

The committee also found multiple links between Steele and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch, and indications that Deripaska had early knowledge of Steele's work. Yet Steele and his subsources appear to have neglected to include or missed in its entirety Deripaska’s business relationship with Manafort, which appeared to be a significant tie between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Steele refused to talk to the committee, other than to answer written questions, the report says.

Two participants in the Trump Tower meeting had extensive Russian connections

At least two participants in the June 9, 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians in the Trump Tower had “significant connections to the Russian government, including Russian intelligence services… far more extensive than what had been publicly known.”

Although the meeting was set up to deliver dirt on Clinton to the Trump campaign, no such information was transmitted, the committee found. But the committee assessed that two participants in the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, have "significant connections to the Russian government, including the Russian intelligence services."

"Those connections, particularly regarding Veselnitskaya, were far more extensive and concerning than what had been publicly known, and neither Veselnitskaya nor Akhmetshin were forthcoming with the committee regarding those connections," the report said. "Both Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin may have sought, in some cases, to obfuscate the true intent of their work in the United States.”

Veselnitskaya has acknowledged working to repeal sanctions on Russia.

Akhmetshin’s lawyer, Michael Tremonte, said in a statement that his client is no spy, and did not ”obfuscate” anything in his testimony. “It is unfortunate that the Committee would stoop to trafficking in politically-motivated innuendo, which undermines the Committee’s integrity and disserves the American public,” Tremonte said.

The idea that Ukraine interfered in the campaign originated with Russian intelligence

Kilimnick, a Russian intelligence operative, “almost certainly helped arrange some of the first public messaging” that Ukraine interfered in the election, an idea that Trump embraced, the report said. One example cited was his email to a Financial Times reporter, who subsequently wrote a story headlined, “Ukraine's leaders campaign against 'pro-Putin' Trump.”

Carter Page may have been wronged by the FBI, but the committee found him suspicious

The Justice Department inspector general found that the FBI made serious errors in applying for surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign aide, and an FBI lawyer had admitted to a crime as a result. Page was never charged in the investigation, but the committee was not pleased with what he had to say to lawmakers. FBI scrutiny of Page was justified, the report says.

"The Committee had significant challenges in its attempt to understand Page's activities, including his role as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump Campaign. After weeks of negotiation and an eventual Committee subpoena, Page produced some electronic documents, some of which included his own annotations and alterations to the original document form, and sat for an interview that lasted six and a half hours.

"Page's responses to basic questions were meandering, avoidant, and involved several long diversions. Despite the meticulous records Page kept on his personal hard drive detailing his daily routines, he was unable to recall any details of his trips to Moscow, or the names of senior Russian officials with whom he met, despite using his engagements with them to build his credentials within the Campaign."

In a footnote, the report adds, “The Carter Page FISA order and renewals are examined in detail in the DOJ OIG FISA Report. While there were several problems with the FBI's FISA renewals for Page, the Committee assesses that Page's previous ties to Russian intelligence officers, coupled with his Russian travel, justified the FBI's initial concerns about Page."