A Ukrainian businessman painted in the Mueller report as a sinister link to Russia was actually a “sensitive” intelligence source for the US State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian issues – and passed messages between the Washington and Kiev, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon.
Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was described on page 6 of the Mueller report as having “ties to Russian intelligence” – and was cast in a sinister light as a potential threat to democracy. Mueller completely omitted the fact that Kilimnik was working as an informant and intermediary between America and Ukraine, and subsequently indicted him for obstruction of justice.
Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either.
He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government. He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show.
The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded. –The Hill
What’s more, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, Alan Purcell, told the FBI that State officials – including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, thought Klimnik was such a valuable asset that they wouldn’t mention his name in official cables out of fear that WikiLeaks would expose him.
“Purcell described what he considered an unusual level of discretion that was taken with handling Kilimnik,” said one FBI interview report reviewed by Solomon. “Normally the head of the political section would not handle sources, but Kasanof informed Purcell that KILIMNIK was a sensitive source.”
Purcell told the FBI that Kilimnik provided “detailed information about OB (Ukraine’s opposition bloc) inner workings” that sometimes was so valuable it was forwarded immediately to the ambassador. Purcell learned that other Western governments relied on Kilimnik as a source, too.
“One time, in a meeting with the Italian embassy, Purcell heard the Italian ambassador echo a talking point that was strikingly familiar to the point Kilimnik had shared with Purcell,” the FBI report states. –The Hill
And Mueller mentioned none of this in his report despite knowing about it since 2018 – more than a year before the final report.
Three sources with direct knowledge of the inner workings of Mueller’s office confirmed to me that the special prosecutor’s team had all of the FBI interviews with State officials, as well as Kilimnik’s intelligence reports to the U.S. Embassy, well before they portrayed him as a Russian sympathizer tied to Moscow intelligence or charged Kilimnik with participating with Manafort in a scheme to obstruct the Russia investigation. –The Hill
Kilimnik was described by Purcell’s predecessor, Alexander Kasanov, as one of the few reliable informants spying on former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, whose Party of Regions had hired Manafort’s lobbying firm.
Kasanof described Kilimnik as one of the few reliable insiders the U.S. Embassy had informing on Yanukovych. Kilimnik began his relationship as an informant with the U.S. deputy chief of mission in 2012-13, before being handed off to the embassy’s political office, the records suggest.
“Kilimnik was one of the only people within the administration who was willing to talk to USEMB,” referring to the U.S. embassy, and he “provided information about the inner workings of Yanukovych’s administration,” Kasanof told the FBI agents.
“Kasanof met with Kilimnik at least bi-weekly and occasionally multiple times in the same week,” always outside the embassy to avoid detection, the FBI wrote. “Kasanof allowed Kilimnik to take the lead on operational security” for their meetings. –The Hill
And, despite the Mueller report suggesting Kilimnik is a Russian stooge, state officials told the FBI that he did not appear to hold any allegiance to the Kremlin, and had been “flabbergasted at the Russian invasion of Crimea.”
“Most sources of information in Ukraine were slanted in one direction or another,” Kasanof told the FBI. “Kilimnik came across as less slanted than others.”
Solomon corroborated the FBI interviews with Kasanov and Purcell with “scores of State Department emails” which contain regular intelligence dispatches from Kilimnik on what was going on inside of the Yanukovych administration, the Crimea conflict, and Ukrainian and Russian politics.
Not a threat
Contrary to the dire threat to national security implied in the Mueller report, Kilimnik was allowed to enter the United States twice in 2016 to meet with State officials – meaning he clearly wasn’t flagged in visa databases as a foreign intelligence threat.
Mueller also painted a one-sided picture of Kilimnik’s peace plan for Crimea which he had presented to the Trump administration – suggesting that it was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine. In fact, Kilimnik had presented the idea to the Obama administration in 2016.
As Solomon notes “That’s what many in the intelligence world might call “deception by omission.”
Specifically, the Mueller report flagged Kilimnik’s delivery of a peace plan to the Trump campaign for settling the two-year-old Crimea conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a ‘backdoor’ way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine,” the Mueller report stated.
But State emails showed Kilimnik first delivered a version of his peace plan in May 2016 to the Obama administration during a visit to Washington. Kasanof, his former handler at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, had been promoted to a top policy position at State, and the two met for dinner on May 5, 2016.
The day after the dinner, Kilimnik sent an email to Kasanof’s official State email address recounting the peace plan they had discussed the night before. –The Hill
While Kilimnik did not respond to The Hill for comment, he slammed the “made-up narrative” about him in a May email to the Washington Post, adding “I have no ties to Russian or, for that matter, any intelligence operation.”
That said, as Solomon writes “Kilimnik holds Ukrainian and Russian citizenship, served in the Soviet military, attended a prestigious Russian language academy and had contacts with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. So it is likely he had contacts over the years with Russian intelligence figures. There also is evidence Kilimnik left the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) in 2005 because of concerns about his past connections to Russia, though at least one IRI witness disputed that evidence to the FBI, the memos show.”
However Mueller’s omission of his “extensive, trusted assistance to the State Department seems inexplicable.”
We learn this four days after deceptive edits were found in the Mueller report regarding a phone call between attorneys for President Trump and former national security adviser Mike Flynn designed to make it appear as though Trump was attempting to strongarm Flynn and possibly obstruct justice by shaping witness testimony.
As Solomon concludes – “A few more such errors and omissions, and Americans may begin to wonder if the Mueller report is worth the paper on which it was printed.”