The New York Times caused a firestorm over its reporting that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort attempted to pass internal Trump campaign data to a Russia oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential race. Various sites declared the story by reporters Sharon LaFraniere, Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman as the final corroboration of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. However, the New York Times later retracted the key connection to a Russian oligarch.
The story was based on a formatting error that disclosed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed Manafort had “lied about sharing polling data … related to the 2016 presidential campaign” with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian businessman with alleged ties to Russian intelligence. However, the Times also cited “a person knowledgeable about the situation” that Manafort had asked his deputy, Rick Gates, to “tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg P. Deripaska.” Deripaska is closely linked to Manafort in a 2006 contract to pay Manafort $10 million per year.
Even before the correction, I was underwhelmed by the sharing of polling data that appeared to be public information.
The Wednesday morning story however was corrected in the afternoon:
“A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.”
In truth, there is little that I would not believe about Manafort who has long been viewed as a sleazy figure in Washington. Many of us were shocked when Trump selected him to head the campaign. However, this is a considerable difference in the accounts. Yet, many stories continue to rely on the original claims of the story of an exchange with a Russian oligarch.