Trump campaign manager pushed Ukraine hacking conspiracy, documents show

New papers suggest Republicans had ‘non-public information’ on leak of Democrat emails

Paul Manafort (R), US president Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman,  at a court in New York in June  2019. Photograph: Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times

Paul Manafort (R), US president Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, at a court in New York in June 2019. Photograph: Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times

 

US president Donald Trump clamoured for the speedy release of emails hacked from Democrats during the 2016 election campaign, and a top Trump aide promoted the idea that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was behind the cyber attack, documents from special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry showed on Saturday.

The revelations were included in the 500 pages of interview summaries, emails and other documents related to Mr Mueller’s report released by the US justice department on Saturday. The documents were released after a court battle with BuzzFeed News and CNN.

Mr Mueller’s report on his inquiry detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 US election,

The documents released included summaries of FBI interviews with Mr Trump’s deputy campaign chair Rick Gates, his one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former campaign lawyer Michael Cohen, and Steve Bannon, the former presidential adviser.

Mr Gates told investigators on April 10th, 2018, that Manafort during the 2016 campaign believed a hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails was “likely” carried out by Ukrainians, not Russians, the documents showed. A lawyer for Mr Gates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Trump’s allies later promoted that theory to undermine Mr Mueller’s conclusions about Russian interference, but it has been discredited.

The current House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into the president is looking at whether Mr Trump improperly pressured Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival, and former vice-president, Joe Biden in a July phone call.

In that call, Mr Trump pressed the Ukrainian president to investigate possible Ukraine involvement in the 2016 email hacking.

The Gates interview notes also suggested that the Republican National Committee (RNC) has more knowledge then previously disclosed about the hacked DNC emails.

‘Non-public information’

Mr Gates told investigators the RNC had “non-public information” about the timing of the release of the emails on website WikiLeaks, but did not identify who at the RNC knew this information. The RNC has not commented on the documents’ release.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion by the US government in April.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump was frustrated that WikiLeaks was slow in releasing DNC emails that the Trump campaign was told WikiLeaks had obtained, the newly released documents show.

When WikiLeaks did dump a series of documents, Mr Gates said the campaign’s response was “euphoric”.

In July 2017, Mr Trump publicly asked Russia for help finding emails his election rival Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, had not made public during a state department inquiry into her use of a private email server.

Mr Trump later backtracked, telling Fox News: “Of course I’m being sarcastic.”

“Trump was generally frustrated Clinton’s missing emails had not been found,” Mr Gates said in an interview, the notes show.

The documents also include email correspondence between Mr Bannon and Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s adviser and son in law, as well as a “proposal to obtain” and analyse emails belonging to Ms Clinton, which was sent to Mr Bannon by conservative activist and former congressional staffer Barbara Ledeen.

BuzzFeed filed a freedom of information request seeking all documents related to the investigation by former FBI director Mueller and a lawsuit to get access to the documents. – Reuters