The New York Times was forced Wednesday to correct a bombshell report that accused Paul Manafort of attempting to pass internal Trump campaign data to a Russia oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential race.
The story, which carried the bylines of reporters Sharon LaFraniere, Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman, was based on an accidental disclosure made in a filing by Manafort's defense team. The filing, redacted portions of which were viewable for a brief time due to a formatting error, revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed Manafort had "lied about sharing polling data … related to the 2016 presidential campaign" with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian businessman who the U.S. claims to have links to Russian intelligence and was charged last year with tampering with potential witnesses.
The Times' initial story went one step further. Citing "a person knowledgeable about the situation," the paper reported that Manafort had asked his deputy, Rick Gates, to "tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg P. Deripaska." Deripaska is a former client of Manafort who signed a contract in 2006 agreeing to pay the political operative $10 million per year, and the two maintained a business relationship until at least 2009. If true, the report would have shed light on the clearest example of a relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The story appeared on the front page of Wednesday morning's print edition. However, the paper was forced to publish a correction by early Wednesday afternoon.
"A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data," a note at the bottom of the story read. "Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin."
Why asked how the original, incorrect version of the story made it to print, a New York Times spokesperson said, "We published a thorough correction and have no comment beyond it."
Manafort pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy charges in Washington and faces sentencing in a separate case in Virginia, though none of the charges are directly concerned with the alleged collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
Tuesday's filing was supposed to refute the claims by the special counsel that Manafort lied to Mueller’s team despite agreeing to cooperate. Prosecutors say Manafort violated their plea agreement by lying, but his defense insists it wasn’t intentional and that his mistakes were due to illness, exhaustion and extensive questioning from investigators.
Manafort’s lawyers say he’s suffering from anxiety and depression, lacks contact with his family, and had little time to prepare for hourslong questioning by the investigators.
Fox News' Lukas Mikelionis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.