Mueller report: Michigan’s role as 2016 battleground part of Russian meeting

Wikimedia Commons

All news is local, so here’s how Michigan figures into the redacted report on Russian 2016 election interference released on Thursday with findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Paul Manafort mug shot | Wikimedia Commons

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for now-President Donald Trump, met in New York in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI suspects has ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort has a been a player in GOP politics for years and also spent almost a decade consulting for the Ukraine’s Party of Regions and leader Viktor Yanukovych.

During the meeting with Kilimnik, Manafort discussed Trump’s plan to win the critical Midwest states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Trump won all but Minnesota in November 2016, which put him over the top in the Electoral College.

“That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data,” the report said.

Trump Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates was the source of the information, the report said. Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. He has been cooperating for more than a year with federal prosecutors and “served as a Mueller star witness” in the Manafort trial in summer 2018, Politico notes.

In that trial, Manafort was convicted on eight counts: five for tax fraud, one for failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts and two for bank fraud.

In a second case, he pleaded guilty to two criminal charges: conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy witness tampering. He was sentenced for 7 1/2 years for the two cases.

Erik Prince | Wikimedia Commons

The Advance previously reported on the role in the report of Michigan native and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended Trump before the report was released, reiterating one of the president’s favorite lines that there was  “no collusion” between Trump’s campaign and Russians interfering in the election.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes criticized Barr’s role and called for the unedited report’s release to Congress.

“We needed a special counsel investigation because we couldn’t trust Trump or his underlings to provide the truth for the American people,” she said. “William Barr’s conduct has only reinforced that point and why the only word we should trust is Robert Mueller’s. Bottom line — all of Congress, including Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Gary Peters, and the entire Michigan delegation, must have access to Mueller’s full, unredacted report.”

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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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