Exclusive: Robert Mueller meets Trump's sounderWin McNamee / Getty Images

Robert Mueller, Special Advisor

(CNN) –
Last year, the special advocate, Robert Mueller, asked for information directly to one of Donald Trump's campaign investigators, also a former associate of Paul Manafort's firm.

Mueller's team met pollster Tony Fabrizio in February 2018, an interview that has not yet been reported and takes on new meaning after Manafort's lawyers revealed Tuesday that the team Mueller was still interested in how Manafort shared survey data with his Russian colleague.

CNN reporters saw Fabrizio leave the special council office on February 1 of last year and have since confirmed that he had met with Mueller's team. At the time, the special council had been studying Manafort's finances and political work in preparation for his trial.

In a filing Tuesday, Manafort's lawyers attempted to dispel the fact that prosecutors knew that Manafort was sharing polling data related to the 2016 presidential election with his intelligence-related Russian associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, while Manafort was leading Trump's presidential campaign. The information was to remain secret as it is part of an ongoing investigation, but it was revealed because of a formatting error in the rankings.

Fabrizio's involvement in Mueller is intriguing, as he is one of the few people in Manafort's orbit to have a knowledge of the inner workings of the Trump campaign as well as links to Europe's East of Manafort.

A former pollster and political strategist, Fabrizio participated in the Ukrainian elections with Manafort. He then served as the senior vice-president of the Trump Campaign starting in the spring of 2016.

A source close to the special council's interest said that Fabrizio's interview included questions about his polling work for Manafort in Ukraine rather than his internal poll as part of the Trump campaign. It is unclear what other topics were discussed in the interview or whether it focused solely on Fabrice's knowledge of Manafort's business relationship.

The Ministry of Justice first asked Mueller to look into Manafort's political ties in Ukraine, which could be linked to other allegations of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Fabrizio would not comment on this story.

When asked on Thursday that he knew that Manafort had released data from a poll to a Russian, President Trump replied, "No. I did not know anything about it. . "

More than a dozen people affiliated with the Trump campaign were interviewed by the Mueller team, according to the president's legal team.

Trump's first sounder

For most of the 2016 race, Trump was reluctant to hire pollsters. He insisted that it was a waste of money and that his instinct was more valuable than any poll that he could order.

But when Manafort was hired, the new campaign chairman aimed to professionalize the political apparatus. As part of this effort, he recruited Fabrizio, who already had close ties with Manafort and other Trump allies, including his longtime political advisor, Roger Stone. But he never had any particularly close ties with the candidate, even though he had previously worked for Trump's companies.

His relationship with Trump deteriorated late in the election when Trump's campaign challenged an estimated $ 767,000 bill to Fabrizio's polling firm. Fabrizio's company was finally compensated.

The source close to the situation said that Fabrizio did not know who Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, had shared campaign data during the elections.

The revelation on the exchange of poll data between Manafort and Kilimnik has alarmed the Democrats this week and fueled speculation that the Russians could have used this information to personalize their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections.

"This seems to be the closest case we have ever seen to a real and real collusion," said Wednesday Senator Virginia War Warner, the most Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee, to CNN. "Did the Russians end up using this information in their efforts that took place later in the fall, when they were trying to use the Internet Research Agency and other bots and robots? other automated tools on social media to remove, for example, the African-American vote? that something that was driven by this data campaign that was handed over to the Russians? "

The world of Manafort's advice

Fabrizio had long been part of Manafort's circle of political agents and was part of the troupe of characters mentioned in his criminal trial last summer.

At the trial, Mueller's team painted a picture of a well-oiled Ukrainian lobbying operation during which Manafort and his colleagues collected millions of dollars a year from pro-Russian oligarchs, some of whom were channeled to secret and illegal illegal bank accounts.

Fabrizio did not testify at the trial of Manafort in August, nor did he appear on the prosecution witness list. He was not charged with a crime.

The firm Fabrizio has earned more than a quarter of a million dollars from Manafort for polls and investigations into Manafort's operations in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, according to foreign lobbying information.

Since the trial, prosecutors seemed to be interested even more in Manafort's relations with Eastern Europe, particularly with Kilimnik, who apparently continued during the presidential campaign and after the election of Trump to the presidency.

Fabrizio's Ukrainian work with Manafort in 2013 overlapped with Kilimnik, according to public documents. At the time, Kilimnik was setting up Manafort operations in Kiev.

Prosecutors said Kilimnik had links to Russian military intelligence services that hacked Democrats in elections, according to an assessment by US intelligence. The ongoing investigation in the Mueller case has clearly focused on Kilimnik since prosecutors accused him of attempting to manipulate witnesses after Manafort's arrest.

Prosecutors accused Kilimnik of obstructing justice for contacting potential witnesses last spring. Prosecutors say Kilimnik lives in Russia and did not appear in US court to answer his charges.

Manafort's lawyers inadvertently revealed that Manafort had met Kilimnik in Madrid in 2017. The two men also discussed a Ukrainian peace plan while Manafort was chairman of the Trump campaign.

While the prosecutors were preparing their case against Manafort, they were aiming to get his longtime attorney, Mr. Gates, from the fight against criminal charges to cooperation. Gates had an unparalleled vision to offer on Manafort's finances as well as on the Trump campaign, having been deputy campaign chair and chairman of the inaugural committee.

Shortly after Fabrizio had spoken to Mueller's team last year, Gates began cooperating.

Gates continues to assist Mueller in several ongoing investigations, according to prosecutors and his legal defense team.