According to a court filing earlier this week, former 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian citizen with ties to Russian intelligence. If the data Manafort shared with Kilimnik was used to materially guide spending by Russian nationals to influence the 2016 presidential election, then the Trump campaign seemingly received an “in-kind contribution” from the Russian nationals in the form of “coordinated expenditures” in violation of multiple federal campaign finance laws. A key link in the “coordination” here is the revelation of Manafort’s actions. U.S. campaign finance law for decades has provided that any expenditure “made by any person in cooperation, consultation, or concert, with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, his authorized political committees, or their agents” is considered a contribution to such candidate subject to contribution limits. … Early in 2017, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Russian government had conducted an influence campaign in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, including through “overt propaganda.”
In February 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller secured a federal grand jury indictment of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, together with two other companies and 13 Russian nationals for multiple conspiracy and fraud charges.
The Internet Research Agency and other defendants are alleged to have operated with a $1.25 million per month budget leading up to the 2016 election, to conduct “information warfare against the United States of America,” including “operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.” According to the indictment, from at least April 2016 through November 2016, defendants and their co-conspirators “began to produce, purchase, and post advertisements on U.S. social media and other online sites expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton.”