Culture

Russia used Trump lackey Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks during 2016 — Senate

One segment of the review referred to "potential criminal activity." Oof.

Former Trump presidential campaign chair Paul Manafort can be seen in a mugshot. He is wearing an olive green shirt. He appears exhausted.
Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It's no longer a secret that WikiLeaks enjoyed a rather relationship with Donald Trump's campaign. Its founder, Julian Assange, was once seen as a dissenter against imperialism, war crimes, disaster capitalism, corporate greed, and the like. But the moment it became clear that Assange was in touch with Trump's political campaign and his son, Donald Trump Jr., the tides turned against the self-styled rebel. Because that's what happens when you exchange righteousness for infamy.

That reputation is only getting worse now that Reuters reports a Senate-led committee has confirmed that Russia used Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks to cement his victory in the 2016 presidential election. The review found that WikiLeaks played an integral role in bolstering Trump's political status by publishing confidential emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton just before the election.

The 966-page report is most likely the lengthiest, most detailed, and in-depth look at the controversial 2016 presidential race to date. The president himself doesn't sound too bothered about it, though. When asked about the review, Trump told the press, "I don't know anything about it. I didn't read it."

He then added, "It's all a hoax." Of course, dismissing something as a hoax is standard procedure for the former reality star. And reading is a burdensome distraction from golf.

What the review says — Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated in 2019 that there was no conclusive evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump, the Senate review points to Manafort. It states that Russia used Manafort as a collaborative source to provide insider information to oligarch Oleg Deripaska and figures like Konstantin Kilimnik at the time.

The review noted that Manafort's contact with Russia and his "high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services [...] represented a grave counterintelligence threat." And while Trump claims that he had no contact with anyone within WikiLeaks, the report found that the president had spoken about it with political consultant Roger Stone.

In 2019, Trump told Mueller, "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." The review however states that "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." At one point, the review refers to "potential criminal activity" related to the obvious collusion, but it is fully redacted and in the possession of law enforcement authorities, according to Reuters.

The bipartisan review vindicates the view that there was collusion during the 2016 presidential race with the aim of ensuring the man who formerly enjoyed a cameo in Home Alone 2 and The Simpsons became president. But even beyond that, the review could help federal agencies keep a more vigilant eye on campaigns and their communications, especially with November 3 around the corner. No one wants a repeat of this disaster. At least, no one with any sense of decency, decorum, or belief in the value of facts.