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Team Trump's info sharing with Russia comes into sharper focus

We knew Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chair, lied to prosecutors. Now, we're finally learning what it is he lied about.

It's difficult to choose a favorite among the many criminals from Donald Trump's political organization. After all, the former president's campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, campaign adviser, lawyer, and national security adviser, among others, were all convicted of assorted felonies.

But even within this motley crew, Paul Manafort still stands out as special.

Manafort, of course, oversaw Trump's political operation in 2016, before he was convicted of a variety of felonies, including tax fraud and bank fraud, and he even served some time in federal prison -- right up until Trump pardoned him, rewarding his former aide for failing to cooperate with law enforcement.

But there's long been some mystery surrounding the short-lived cooperation agreement Manafort initially reached with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. We know that Manafort ended up lying about a great many things, which in turn voided the agreement and sent the Republican to prison. What we didn't know was some of the relevant details: court records of the episode included a variety of redactions, obscuring key elements.

Now, however, the details are coming into focus as the materials are being unredacted, which means we now have a better sense of what the former president's campaign chairman lied to prosecutors about -- lies he was willing to tell, even if they sent him to prison. TPM noted yesterday:

The evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had suggesting that Paul Manafort was sharing polling with a shady figure with links to Russian intelligence was more extensive than previously known, as revealed by documents unsealed Monday in Manafort's case.

Quite right. As Rachel explained on last night's show, Manafort specifically lied about sharing internal campaign polling data -- during the 2016 campaign, as Russia was targeting our political system in the hopes of putting Donald Trump in power -- with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Manafort business associate whom U.S. officials have identified as a Russian intelligence agent.

It was just last month when the U.S. Treasury Department said Kilimnik relayed the information he received from Team Trump to Russian Intelligence Services.

So where does that leave us? For one thing, Manafort insisted that the internal campaign polling data he shared wasn't important. According to the newly unredacted court documents, that wasn't true.

For another, the same unredacted filings indicate that Manafort also lied about knowing that the leaked information would be passed along to the Kremlin.

I'm mindful of the debate surrounding the opaque definition of "collusion" -- a political term, not a legal one -- but none of these revelations do Team Trump any favors. Donald Trump's own campaign chair shared internal information with a Russian intelligence officer, who conveyed that information to Russian Intelligence Services, during Russia's attack on our elections, and then lied about it to federal prosecutors.

Occasionally, the former president likes to claim that the Russia scandal was a "hoax." It's among the most important lies he's ever told.