One's ability to still be shocked has been seriously diminished after repeated Russia scandal disclosures that have strengthened the case for Trump campaign-Kremlin collusion, but then along comes incontrovertible evidence that Paul Manafort shared internal campaign polling data with likely Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik.
What is particularly shocking is the way this particular smoking gun became public -- a court filing on Tuesday by Manafort's hapless lawyers that inadvertently included details cut and pasted from a sealed brief by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors that was not intended to be made public.
The court filing boo-boo further confirms -- as opposed to revealing for the first time, or something -- the architecture for collusion; that is, the pathway Trump's campaign manager used to give Russia access to the data it needed to fine tune the covert social media-based disinformation campaign central to Putin's successful efforts to cybersabotage Clinton's campaign in the service of electing his poodle.
That pathway led from Trump Tower in New York to Kilimnik in Kiev, who according to the instructions Manafort gave Rick Gates, his longtime associate turned cooperating witness, was to tell Kilimnik to deliver the data to Ukrainian oligarchs Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, who are allies of Vladimir Putin.
Manafort's lawyers kept the exact nature of the polling data vague in their court filing, which begs the question of whether it included psychographic data from Cambridge Analytica or Psy-Group for use in highly targeted push polling. There also is the intriguing posibility of whether the data sharing went both ways and Russia was providing the campaign with data analytics Russian intelligence agents hacked from Democratic Party computers.
Then there were the added bonuses of the news upstaging the poodle's deeply anticlimactic prime time Oval Office snifflefest on Tuesday night over the border wall "crisis," which had all the gravitas of a comedian playing to an empty room, and the probability that Mueller knows much more than was accidentally revealed in the court filing, including the answer to the biggest scandal question of all: What did Trump know and when did he know it?
Newly-minted House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff says that the revelation raises "profound questions about why all the secrecy, why all the lies. And most seriously, why is a campaign manager of a U.S. presidential candidate providing campaign polling data to someone linked to a foreign adversary's intelligence agency?"
Further cooking Manafort's already well-done goose is that after agreeing to cooperate with Mueller's prosecutors to avoid a second trial and possibly reduce his sentence from his first trial, he kept lying. These lies included his data sharing with Kilimnik and discussing with Kilimnik a Ukraine "peace plan" during or possibly after the campaign.
That presumably is the Kremlin-friendly plan to legitimize Putin's annexation of Crimea that Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, Trump's former Mafia-linked business associate Felix Sater and Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko conspired to present to incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Manafort has denied lying intentionally, but significantly did not fight the prosecutors' November filing to the judge who would have presided over a second trial that the book be thrown at him, perhaps understanding that his luck finally had run out, his legal fees were astronomical, he already had forfeited $43 million in ill-gotten gains, several million of which creditors are fighting over, and would never be able to return to an extravagant five-home lifestyle replete with $15,000 silk-lined ostrich leather bomber jackets and $18,000 karaoke machines that had been built on a career polishing the images of a Who's Who of the most despicable world leaders.
Trump can pardon Manafort, although that begs the question of why he entered into a pardon-proof plea deal in the first place. But violating the deal doesn't make sense since the forfeiture process is well underway and many of the charges can be reinstated in state courts, which are beyond the reach of the presidential pardon pen.
But no matter the outcome and not even factoring in the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Donald Jr. was promised "dirt" on Clinton by a Russian operative, the Manafort court filing shows that the collusion "debate" is, in fact, now over bar the shouting.
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