Senator Says It’s OK Manafort Shared Trump Campaign Data With Suspected Russian Spy Because He Trusted Him

U.S. Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, is rushing to defend former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who shared detailed polling data with a suspected Russian spy.

His reasoning that it was OK to share data on a U.S. presidential election with an alleged Russian intelligence operative?

"This was someone that Paul Manafort had known for a very long time and trusted."

That's what Lankford said, as Raw Story's Martin Cizmar noted:

“We need to get the whole story on it because it makes it seem like it was some secret backchannel communication,” he said of the secret backchannel communication between the Trump campaign and a charged Russian spy which Manafort lied to investigators about. “If it was, this was someone that Paul Manafort had known for a very long time and trusted.”

Lankford served in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms before being elected a U.S. Senator in 2014.

He also served as the director of student ministry at a Southern Baptist camp for 15 years before coming to Congress, according to his official bio on his Senate website, 20 years at the ministry in total.

That is the extent of his pre-lawmaker experience.

And yet he sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and had sat on the Select Committee on Intelligence. Lankford is a frequent guest on cable news programs, frequently weighing in on matters of national security, including the Russia investigation.

On Wednesday Senator Lankford defended Manafort, after Manafort's own attorneys incorrectly redacted a critical court filing. The filing revealed Manafort shared (presumably) secret Trump campaign polling data with a suspected Russian intelligence operative, Konstantin Kilimnik.

The Washington Post reported that Kilimnik, "who began working for Manafort’s consulting firm starting in 2005, has been charged with helping his former boss to obstruct Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 election. He is believed to be in Moscow."

Lankford assured CNN Wednesday morning that Manafort's sharing of the data with an alleged Russian spy does not constitute collusion. (Experts say it is evidence of collusion.)

While he does have a Masters in Divinity, he does not have a law degree, yet Sen. Lankford is all too willing to go on national television and use the cloak of his office to shield the president's former campaign chairman, and by extension, the president, by giving his opinion on a legal matter.

The Oklahoma Senator characterized Manafort's association with Kolimnik as "an ongoing relationship,. Lankford noted that Kilimnik "also previously worked for the Russian military," but sloughed it off, saying, "so did most everybody in that, so I don’t see this as a deliberate contact with the Russian government, this was a person that he’d worked with for a decade and a half at that point, in Ukraine."

Senator Lankford is literally saying it's OK that Manafort shared intelligence – polling data – with a suspected Russian spy, because Manafort knew him "for a very long time and trusted" him.

That's exactly how spies get the information they need.


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