Documents also state that Gates had admitted knowing the associate was a former officer with Russian military intelligence

Julian Borger in Washington

Wed 28 Mar 2018 11.50 EDTLast modified on Wed 28 Mar 2018 19.30 EDT
Paul Manafort: how decades of serving dictators led to role as Trump’s go-to guy

Rick Gates, who was Paul Manafort’s right-hand man in the Trump campaign, has struck a plea deal admitting conspiracy and lying to the FBI. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, were in contact during the 2016 presidential campaign with a business associate known to have ties to Russian military intelligence, according to court documents.

The documents, filed late on Tuesday night by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller, also state that Gates had admitted knowing that the associate was a former officer with Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

The description of the associate, referred to as Person A in the court papers, closely matches the Russian manager of the Ukraine offices of Manafort’s former lobbying business, Konstantin Kilimnik.

Previous court documents filed by Mueller’s team have described Person A as “a longtime Russian colleague … who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service”. These court papers go further, explicitly naming the GRU, and stating closely that the ties remained active during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Kilimnik has denied ties with Russian intelligence, but served in the army and attended a military foreign language university which is widely viewed as a training ground for GRU officers. Manafort was in touch with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign, offering to provide briefings to Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money-laundering and fraud charges related to work his business did for Moscow-backed politicians.

Gates, who was Manafort’s right-hand man in the Trump campaign and in the lobbying business, has struck a plea deal, admitting conspiracy and lying to the FBI, and agreeing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign links with the Kremlin.

The court documents are a sentencing memorandum in the case against Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer who carried out work on behalf of Manafort’s lobbying efforts in Ukraine. He has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts in 2016 with Gates and Person A.

The Mueller memorandum states: “That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents assisting the special counsel’s office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

The document adds: “During his first interview with the special counsel’s office, Van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian intelligence officer with GRU.”


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