Paul Manafort's lawyers, through a PDF malfunction, revealed this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Manafort, when he served as Trump's campaign chairman, shared internal campaign polling data with an associate believed to be a Russian intelligence asset. This is a big deal, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano told anchor Shepard Smith on Wednesday.
"This shows that Bob Mueller can demonstrate to a court, without the testimony of Paul Manafort, that the campaign had a connection to Russian intelligence and the connection involved information going from the campaign to the Russians," Napolitano said. "The question is, was this in return for a promise of something from the Russians, and did the candidate, now the president, know about it?” That would be "a conspiracy," he added, regardless of whether the Trump campaign actually got anything of value from the Russians.
"If this is collusion — though collusion isn't a crime — this would be collusion,” Smith said. "The crime is the conspiracy, the agreement," Napolitano said. "Collusion is a nonlegal term." "I know, but if there's collusion," Smith pressed, "giving stuff to the Russians about polling data ..." "Would probably fit into that kind of a category," Napolitano agreed. The Manafort talk begins at the 4:30 mark.
Smith and Napolitano weren't the only ones bandying about the "c" word on Wednesday. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Manafort's inadvertent leak clearly has a "wisp" of "collusion," and the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Mark Warner (Va.), called it "the closest we've seen yet to real, live, actual collusion." He later elaborated to CNN's Anderson Cooper, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber
Democrat Sen. @MarkWarner on latest Manafort twist in Mueller probe: "Sharing confidential polling data with a known Russian spy... I don't whether you call that collusion... but to me that is inappropriate and one of the most significant items of the whole investigation." pic.twitter.com/7yefnMJn2p