President Donald Trump on Thursday claimed he had no knowledge that Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, allegedly shared internal 2016 Trump campaign polling data with a suspected former Russian intelligence officer.
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When asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, "Did you know Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russians? Trump responded, "No. I didn’t know anything about that."
News of Manafort’s coordination with the Russian, Konstantin Kilimnik, came to light by mistake on Tuesday when his defense team failed to properly redact portions of a court document meant to defend their client from accusations he lied to investigators.
Legal experts told ABC News this week that sharing campaign polling data with a foreign person is not a crime, but could be an important piece to the puzzle concerning possible Trump campaign coordination with Russians during the 2016 campaign – a subject being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
Manafort already faces lengthy prison sentences for charges brought by Mueller’s office in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
A jury convicted Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank-fraud in August during his trial in Alexandria, Virginia. On the eve of a second trial in Washington, D.C., the next month Manafort struck a plea deal with prosecutors. he agreed to fully cooperate with prosecutors and plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy in a separate case in Washington, D.C.
But that plea deal fell apart after prosecutors accused him of lying.
Manafort’s sentencing in Virginia is scheduled for February 8 and in Washington, D.C., on March 5, but the president hasn’t ruled out a pardon for his former campaign chairman.
Trump, asked by the New York Post in November whether he was considering a pardon Manafort, said that he “wouldn’t take it off the table.”