Long story short, Kilimnik has been with Manafort — and that means with Gates, too — for quite a while. More recently, Vogel reported, Kilimnik “has had conversations with fellow operatives in Kiev about collecting unpaid fees owed to Manafort’s company by a Russia-friendly political party called Opposition Bloc.” Vogel cited locals who said the amount owed to Manafort was in the millions of dollars.
So, given that history, and given Manafort’s well-documented financial troubles caused by the manic overspending outlined in the charges against him, and given the effects the money problems had on the Manafort-Gates enterprise, it doesn’t seem terribly odd that Gates would be in touch with a “Russian intelligence official” — AKA the firm’s longtime guy in Kiev — about getting the money owed them. (Neither Manafort nor Gates took a salary during their time with the Trump campaign.)
But are there any clues as to what Gates and Kilimnik actually discussed? Anything that points toward collusion in the 2016 election? There are indeed clues in those court documents CNN mentioned, but they don’t, at least on their face, point toward collusion.