WASHINGTON — The Senate intelligence committee has concluded the Kremlin launched an aggressive effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential contest on behalf of Donald Trump and says the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the campaign posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat.
It says Trump associates were eager to exploit the Kremlin’s aid, particularly by maximizing the impact of the disclosure of Democratic emails that were hacked by Russian military intelligence officers.
The report from the Republican-led panel lays out significant contacts between Trump associates and Russians, describing for instance a close professional relationship between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee describes without equivocation as a Russian intelligence officer.
"The Committee found that Manafort's presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump campaign," according to the report released Tuesday.
The report notes how Manafort shared internal Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik and says there is “some evidence” that Kilimnik may have been connected to the Kremlin’s operation to hack and leak Democratic emails, though it does not describe that evidence. In addition, the report says that “two pieces of information” raise the possibility of Manafort’s potential connection to those operations, but what follows next in the document is blacked out.
Both men were charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but neither was accused of any tie to the hacking.
The report purposely does not come to a final conclusion about whether there is enough evidence that Trump’s campaign coordinated or colluded with Russia to sway the election to him and away from Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That leaves its findings open to partisan interpretation.
But the report says interference in the election is indisputable.