CNN just revealed that a key member of the 2016 Trump Campaign got interviewed by Speical Counsel Mueller — and it is bad news for former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
Pollster Tony Fabrizio started working for the Trump campaign in early 2016 after Paul Manafort brought him on board.
Earlier this week, Paul Manafort’s lawyers accidentally disclosed that he delivered Trump campaign internal polling data to a GRU Russian intelligence-trained interpreter for delivery to his Ukrainian bosses, and then lied about it to the Special Counsel. CNN reports:
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Mueller’s team met with pollster Tony Fabrizio in February 2018, an interview that has not been previously reported…
CNN journalists observed Fabrizio leaving the special counsel’s office on the first of February last year and have since confirmed he was meeting with Mueller’s team.
At the time, the special counsel had been digging into Manafort’s finances and political work ahead of his trial.
This week’s revelation that Paul Manafort was funneling the Trump campaign’s closely held internal polling from Fabrizio – who also worked on his Ukrainian campaigns – concretely demonstrates why the Special Counsel pursued criminal charges against the former Trump Campaign Chairman for his overseas work.
Paul Manafort would’ve also had access to the Republican Party’s voter file, a digital database with significant details about every GOP voter, which Russian intelligence could have potentially merged with stolen DNC data to make a data model of the electorate that is more accurate than either party possesses alone.
Manafort’s right-hand man, Konstantin Kilimnik, is a suspected Russian spy who was publicly caught passing information from the International Republican Institute, a GOP affiliated group’s information, to Russia’s FSB intelligence service. Former IRI member Sam Patten was Kilimnick’s other American business partner and pled guilty to illegal foreign agency conspiracy charges last year, two weeks before Manafort.
Paul Manafort pled guilty to a litany of illegal Ukrainian lobbying violations in September’s cooperation agreement, but the Special Counsel cried foul after it turned out he lied to them, which led to Tuesday’s botched filing and the reveal of the transfer of highly secret campaign data to Russia.
Tony Fabrizio was actually the first pollster to work with the Trump campaign, followed in August 2016 by campaign manager Kellyanne Conway after Manafort resigned in disgrace.
The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman even reported that Manafort shared insightful polling tips with the Trump campaign during its final days.
And a detail that got cut from our final days story the other day – Manafort sent at least one memo advising Trump to focus on Wi and MI
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 9, 2016
A month after the 2016 elections, Fabrizio’s firm told the Tampa Bay Times that Trump stiffed him on over $750,000 in charges, but he got paid soon after the negative press.
Tony Fabrizio hasn’t been charged with any crimes and wasn’t on the prosecution list in Manafort’s criminal trial for financial crimes, but CNN noted that Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates began cooperating very shortly after Fabrizio’s interview.
The Times reported that Gates was also involved in exfiltrating the Trump Campaign’s internal polling data.
This week’s revelations have made Mueller’s focus on Paul Manafort and the Trump Campaign’s polling data hugely important, considering that one of the key mysteries the Special Counsel was tasked to unraveling would be determining how Russia was able to finely target its typically more clumsy political efforts at the American electorate.
The last question Mueller has left to answer is how much did infamous control freak Donald Trump know about what the top person in his campaign did and what his top deputy was doing to coordinate his presidential bid with Russia’s government, with whom his son met with at Trump Tower and whom he openly asked to help his campaign in full view of the public.
Original reporting by Sara Murray and Katelyn Polantz