MUELLER MADNESS: Special Counsel SURRENDERS All 'EVIDENCE' on Mike Flynn

Andrew Harnik | AP  Paul Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman leaves Federal District Court in Washington

The lawyer, John Dowd, who departed Trump's legal team last week, denied to the Times that he talked pardons, saying, "There were no discussions".

At the time of the calls, Mr. Gates was the Trump campaign's liaison to the Republican National Committee and, before that, he was the campaign's deputy chairman.

Kilimnik ran Manafort's office in Kiev during the 10 years he did consulting work there, The Post reported in 2017.

The allegations underscore Mueller's interest in Manafort and Gates, who continued to interact with business associates in Ukraine even as they helped lead Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Both Gates and the lawyer, Alexander van der Zwaan, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller in his investigation of Russian meddling in the election.

They said when van der Zwaan was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in November, he told investigators that Gates had informed him that Person A was a former GRU officer.

The filing identifies the ex-spy only as Person A. The description of him by prosecutors, a person living in Moscow and Kiev who worked with Manafort and Gates in Ukraine, matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik.

Manafort has also denied knowingly communicating with Russian intelligence during the campaign. Mueller is now apparently directly disputing that using Gates's own words.

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller probe in December. Lawyers for van der Zwaan said he should not be sentenced to jail.

A Manafort spokesman expressed confidence in June that investigators would ultimately conclude that Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik were "perfectly permissible and not in furtherance of some conspiracy".

The new van der Zwaan filing doesn't shed a whole bunch of new light on that, but it does suggest that Mueller views Kilimnik as a possible link between the Trump campaign and Russia, and believes Kilimnik hasn't been forthcoming about his ties to Russian intelligence.

Gates' alleged communications with the former intelligence officer were revealed in a sentencing document for former Skadden Arps attorney Alex van der Zwaan. An investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors into Mr. Kilimnik's possible links to Russian spy agencies was closed late a year ago without charges. We will not likely get an answer to that question any time soon, but the contacts between Kilimnik and Gates in September and October of 2016 while Gates was still working on the campaign are undeniably curious, at the very least. On the one hand, Mueller is now explicitly asserting that Trump's campaign manager was linked to Russian intelligence during the campaign.

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