Posts Tagged ‘George Papadopoulos’

From fishy beginning, Mueller case against Michael Flynn nears end with no jail recommendation

December 5, 2018

Michael Flynn has been waiting for more than a year to be sentenced. The retired three-star Army general, who spent 24 days as the Trump White House national security adviser, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to lying to the FBI in the Trump-Russia investigation. He agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

By Byron York
Washington Examiner
Opinion

Flynn’s sentencing, which has been delayed a number of times for reasons that have never been disclosed, is scheduled to finally take place on Dec. 18. Late Tuesday, Mueller filed what is called a sentencing report. Citing Flynn’s “substantial assistance” to the investigation, Mueller recommended “a sentence at the low end of the guideline range — including a sentence that does not impose a period of incarceration.”

It’s no surprise Flynn might be spared jail time. So far, two figures in the Trump-Russia matter have been sentenced for lying to investigators, the same offense as Flynn. Alex van der Zwaan, a bit player connected to Paul Manafort, was sentenced to 30 days in jail. George Papadopoulos, a short-time Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, was sentenced to 14 days — and that was after Mueller complained that Papadopoulos had not been cooperative when he was purportedly assisting the investigation.

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Flynn, on the other hand, is a retired general with a long record of service to the United States, which Mueller took into consideration in recommending no jail time. “The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part of the [special counsel’s] investigation,” Mueller wrote.

What the sentencing recommendation did not address was the sketchy beginnings of the Flynn investigation. It started with the Obama administration’s unhappiness that Flynn, during the transition as the incoming national security adviser, had phone conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Because Kislyak was under American surveillance, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had recordings and transcripts of the calls, in which Flynn and Kislyak discussed the sanctions Obama had just imposed on Russia in retaliation for its 2016 election interference.

There was nothing wrong with an incoming national security adviser talking to a foreign ambassador during a transition. There was nothing wrong with discussing the sanctions. But some officials in the Obama Justice Department decided that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, a 218 year-old law under which no one has ever been prosecuted, that prohibits private citizens from acting on behalf of the United States in disputes with foreign governments.

The Obama officials also said they were concerned by reports that Flynn, in a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, had denied discussing sanctions. This, the officials felt, might somehow expose Flynn to Russian blackmail.

So Obama appointees atop the Justice Department sent FBI agents to the White House to interview Flynn, who was ultimately charged with lying in that interview.

The FBI did not originally think Flynn lied. In March, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the two FBI agents who questioned Flynn “did not detect any deception” during the interview and “saw nothing that indicated to them that [Flynn] knew he lying to them,” according to the committee’s report on the investigation into the Trump-Russia affair. Comey said essentially the same thing to the Senate Judiciary Committee and, in the words of Chairman Chuck Grassley, “led us to believe … that the Justice Department was unlikely to prosecute [Flynn] for false statements made in the interview.”

FBI number two Andrew McCabe told the House the same thing. “The two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying, [which] was not [a] great beginning of a false statement case,” McCabe told the Intelligence Committee.

Only later, after Comey was fired and Mueller began his investigation, was Flynn accused of lying. He ultimately pleaded guilty.

Mueller’s sentencing recommendation specifically mentions the suspicion that Flynn violated the Logan Act. It says nothing about the Obama Justice Department’s blackmail tale.

Hill Republicans have been suspicious about the the Flynn case for quite a while. But they have not been able to get their hands on some key documents and testimony that might tell them what happened.

House investigators have a chance to learn more this week when, on Friday, Comey appears for a behind-closed-doors interview with members of the Judiciary and Oversight committees.

Lawmakers have promised to release the transcript of the interview within a day or two of its completion. That might possibly give the public a more complete picture of the Flynn case. Investigators could ask Comey specifically how the agents who interviewed Flynn characterized his answers and behavior. They could ask whether Comey believed Flynn would be indicted. They could ask what evidence Comey saw to suggest that Flynn did, in fact, lie. And they could ask if Comey ever saw the reports, the so called 302s, that the agents wrote describing the interview.

Congress has long ago pressed the Justice Department to hand over the 302s and other documents. So far, the answer has been no. But soon the Flynn case will be entirely over. Perhaps then the public will finally learn what really went on in United States of America . Michael T. Flynn.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/byron-york-from-fishy-beginning-mueller-case-against-michael-flynn-nears-end-with-no-jail-recommendation

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Michael Flynn court filing likely to reveal new details in Russia probe

December 4, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller is set to reveal the extent of Michael Flynn’s cooperation and insights into the dealings of Russians with the Trump campaign and administration.

In the court filing due by midnight Tuesday, Mueller’s team could also nod toward the next criminal indictments in its sights.
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The special counsel’s office is expected to describe the crimes Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, committed that led to his guilty plea a year ago and how he has helped the Russia probe this year. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators on December 1, 2017. The coming filing is meant to brief a federal judge before Flynn’s sentencing.
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Similar filings before other Mueller defendants’ sentencings — former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, Dutch lawyer Alex Van der Zwaan and internet salesman Richard Pinedo — contained revelations about what each person did and knew in regard to Russians and members of the campaign.
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Read the rest:
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https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/04/politics/michael-flynn-russia-investigation-court-sentence-plea/index.html
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Reuters
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U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office will make a sentencing recommendation for former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, in a court filing that is expected to shed light on the extent of Flynn’s cooperation in the Russia probe.
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Flynn, who held the White House job for only 24 days, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. He will be sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Dec. 18.

He is so far the only member of President Donald Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime uncovered during Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump aides.

Others who have also since been charged by Mueller include Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign deputy Rick Gates, as well as Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen who last week pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Organization skyscraper in Moscow.

Trump has called Mueller’s probe a witch hunt and has denied colluding with Russia. Moscow denies trying to interfere in the elections.

Flynn’s crime of lying to the FBI carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison. However his plea agreement states he is eligible for a sentence of zero to six months and can ask the court not to impose a fine.

Flynn, a retired army general, was forced to resign after he was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he had with Russia’s then-ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Under a plea bargain deal, Flynn admitted in a Washington court that he lied when asked by FBI investigators about conversations with Kislyak just weeks before Trump took office.

Prosecutors said the two men discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia and that Flynn also asked Kislyak to help delay a U.N. vote seen as damaging to Israel.

Mueller’s office has had varied degrees of success with the level of cooperation it has received from defendants who have pleaded guilty.

Recently, prosecutors asked for another delay in sentencing Gates, citing his ongoing cooperation in multiple probes.

But Manafort could be facing a tough sentence after prosecutors last month alleged he had breached his plea deal by lying repeatedly to the FBI.

They are due to file court papers on Friday laying out their case for why Manafort should lose any credit when he is sentenced for his alleged failure to accept responsibility for his crimes.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Alistair Bell

Carter Page suing DNC for defamation over Steele dossier — DOJ, FBI Wrongdoing Unravels

October 16, 2018

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is suing the Democratic National Committee for defamation over the Christopher Steele dossier.

Page claims in a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma federal court on Monday that from June 2016 through at least September 2016, the DNC, its law firm Perkins Coie and two of the firm’s partners, Marc Elias and Michael Sussmann, intentionally spread the contents of the dossier to media organizations and to entities in the US government.

Page says he wants to hold them accountable for “funding and distributing to the media an extensive series about him they knew to be false.”

The so-called “Trump dossier,” commissioned by Fusion GPS, contained many scandalous and unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia.

It also said that Page was the Trump campaign’s intermediary to Russia. Page denies this.

“The slanderous statements made and libelous documents” allegedly provided to the media, “directly exposed Dr. Page to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy… and injured him severely in all his occupations, and tended to scandalize both his colleagues and friends,” the lawsuit states.

He is seeking special and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

The DNC and Perkins Coie didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.

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Related:
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Trump blasts FBI, DOJ over report on Carter Page surveillance warrants

https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/404673-trump-blasts-bias-if-no-fisa-hearings-held-for-fbi-surveillance

and

Memos detail FBI’s ‘Hurry the F up pressure’ to probe Trump campaign

https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/395776-memos-detail-fbis-hurry-the-f-up-pressure-to-probe-trump-campaign

FBI Concealed Evidence That “Directly Refutes” Premise Of Trump-Russia Probe: GOP Lawmaker

October 15, 2018

After hinting for months that the FBI was not forthcoming with federal surveillance court judges when they made their case to spy on the Trump campaign, Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R) said on Sunday that the agency is holding evidence which “directly refutes” its premise for launching the probe, reports the Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross.

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Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe provided Sunday the clearest picture to date of what the FBI allegedly withheld from the surveillance court.

Ratcliffe suggested that the FBI failed to include evidence regarding former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, in an interview with Fox News.

Ratcliffe noted that the FBI opened its investigation on July 31, 2016, after receiving information from the Australian government about a conversation that Papadopoulos had on May 10, 2016, with Alexander Downer, the top Australian diplomat to the U.K. –Daily Caller

While Australia’s Alexander Downer claimed that Papadopoulos revealed Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Ratcliffe – who sits on the House Judiciary Committee – suggested on Sunday that the FBI and DOJ possess information which directly contradicts that account.

“Hypothetically, if the Department of Justice and the FBI have another piece of evidence that directly refutes that, that directly contradicts that, what you would expect is for the Department of Justice to present both sides of the coin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to evaluate the weight and sufficiency of that evidence,” Ratcliffe said, adding: “Instead, what happened here was Department of Justice and FBI officials in the Obama administration in October of 2016 only presented to the court the evidence that made the government’s case to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.”

The FBI referred to Papadopoulos in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application – however what has been released to the public is so heavily redacted that it’s unclear why he is mentioned.

As The Hill‘s John Solomon notes, based on Congressional testimony by former FBI General Counsel James Baker – the DOJ / FBI redactions aren’t hiding national security issues – only embarrassment.

Other GOP lawmakers have suggested that evidence exists which would exonerate Papadopoulos – who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Maltese professor (and self-professed member of the Clinton Foundation), Joseph Mifsud.

Ratcliffe suggested that declassifying DOJ / FBI documents related to the matter “would corroborate” his claims about Papadopoulos.

Republicans have pressed President Trump to declassify the documents, which include 21 pages from a June 2016 FISA application against Page. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has said that the FBI failed to provide “exculpatory evidence” in the FISA applications. He has also said that Americans will be “shocked” by the information behind the FISA redactions. –Daily Caller

President Trump issued an order to declassify the documents on September 17, but then walked it back – announcing that the DOJ would be allowed to review the documents first after two foreign allies asked him to keep them classified.

“My opinion is that declassifying them would not expose any national security information, would not expose any sources and methods,” said Ratcliffe. “It would expose certain folks at the Obama Justice Department and FBI and their actions taken to conceal material faces from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-10-15/fbi-concealed-evidence-directly-refutes-premise-trump-russia-probe-gop-lawmaker

Mr. Rosenstein, What Is the Crime?

September 9, 2018

We have a special prosecutor, a ton of facts, Public Enemy Number One George Papadopoulos is going to the slammer for 14 days, but we still don’t know what the BIG CRIME is we are looking for. Seems un-American…

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies on Capitol Hill, December 13, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

What’s the legal basis for his special-counsel investigation? We have a right to know.For precisely what federal crimes is the president of the United States under investigation by a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department?

It is intolerable that, after more than two years of digging — the 16-month Mueller probe having been preceded by the blatantly suspect labors of the Obama Justice Department and FBI — we still do not have an answer to that simple question.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein owes us an answer.

To my mind, he has owed us an answer from the beginning, meaning when he appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller on May 17, 2017. The regulations under which he made the appointment require (a) a factual basis for believing that a federal crime worthy of investigation or prosecution has been committed; (b) a conflict of interest so significant that the Justice Department is unable to investigate this suspected crime in the normal course; and (c) an articulation of the factual basis for the criminal investigation — i.e., the investigation of specified federal crimes — which shapes the boundaries of the special counsel’s jurisdiction.

This last provision is designed to prevent a special counsel’s investigation from becoming a fishing expedition — or what President Trump calls a “witch hunt,” what DAG Rosenstein more diplomatically disclaims as an “unguided missile,” and what Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, invoking Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret-police chief, pans as the warped dictum, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” In our country, the crime triggers the assignment of a prosecutor, not the other way around.

Trump Makes It Hard to Defend Trump

Sound reasons undergird the regulations. If a Democrat were in the White House, we would know them by heart at this point. Republicans once knew them well, too. That was before Donald Trump’s character flaws had them shrugging their shoulders, resigned that he deserves to be investigated whether he committed a crime or not.

Yet, the rationale for the regulations relates to the presidency, not to the man or woman who happens to occupy the office at a particular time. It is too debilitating to the governance of the United States, to the pursuit of America’s interests in the world, for us to permit imposing on the presidency the heavy burdens of defending against a criminal investigation unless there is significant evidence that the president has committed a serious crime.

As illustrated by this week’s hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats are too Trump-deranged in this moment to recognize their interest in avoiding a prosecutor’s cloud over future Democratic administrations. (Of course, they probably calculate that no Democratic attorney general would appoint a special counsel, no matter the evidence, and that the media would compliantly play along.) It is therefore up to Republicans to respond to the damage being done to the office. This can be hard to do.

If policy were all that mattered, the Trump presidency would be a rousing success. The economy is humming. The yokes of tax and regulation have been eased to the extent that, despite tariff hijinks, unemployment has plummeted and employers have trouble filling positions. Meanwhile, the federal courts are being stocked with exemplary jurists who, for decades, will be faithful stewards of the Constitution.

Alas, there’s a lot more to it than policy. You want to slough off as unreliable the latest ABC/Washington Post poll that has Trump’s job approval at just 38 percent (with 60 percent disapproving)? Okay . . . but since he seems hell-bent on personalizing the midterms as a referendum on him, it is less easy to ignore that the so-called generic ballot is swinging the Democrats’ way: by nearly 10 points according to FiveThirtyEight, while even more Trump-friendly Rasmussen reflects a recent Democratic surge to a four-point lead.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger observes, the president’s loyal base, consisting of roughly a third of the voting public, is going to be with him and, presumably, with Republicans. Still, if a Democratic takeover of the House is to be avoided, the GOP desperately needs the voters who reluctantly pulled the lever for Trump only because he was not Hillary Clinton.

You may notice that Mrs. Clinton is not on the ballot this time. Meanwhile, in just the last few days, the president has attacked his attorney general yet again, this time for prosecuting two allegedly corrupt Republican congressmen and thus refusing to politicize the Justice Department; he has conflated himself with the country in absurdly suggesting that an anonymous derogatory op-ed by an administration official might amount to “TREASON,” such that the New York Times should “turn [the author] over to the government at once” for the sake of “National Security”; and he has used Communist North Korea’s murderous anti-American dictator Kim Jong-un as a character reference. If this is the plan for turning out the Trump-skeptical vote, I respectfully suggest that it needs rethinking.

It’s about the Presidency, Not the President

More to the point, these derelictions — the president’s self-supplied fuel for the media narrative of an unhinged chief executive — make it politically risky for Republicans to defend the presidency by defending the president from what appears to be an unwarranted investigation.

To be clear, if there is probable cause to believe that Donald Trump was criminally complicit in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he must be investigated, and the nation must resign itself to the compromised administration that entails. But we have never been told, much less shown, that this is the case. It is supposed to be established before the investigation commences.

Meantime, not only have millions of public dollars been expended on Mueller’s investigation; administration officials have had to go into their own pockets, paying millions in legal fees to defend themselves and comply with the special counsel’s demands. Executive officials have been forced to deal with Congress and foreign leaders while hamstrung by criminal suspicion of the president. Trump aside, the signal has gone out to the meritorious people we should want to serve in future administrations: Why leave your prestigious, profitable job to serve in government and risk financial and reputational ruin?

Congressional Republicans are letting this happen because they don’t want to stick their necks out for Donald Trump. Yet this is not solely about Donald Trump, much as he seems determined to frame it that way. It is about a constitutional office that is far more critical than any current incumbent.

Questioning the Legitimacy of Mueller’s Investigation

Echoing Democrats, Republicans say Robert Mueller, a patriotic and honorable man, should be allowed to finish his work. Let’s take Trump the lightning-rod out of the equation. If we were to pretend that the president is a Democrat, what would be made of that claim?

1. Rectitude
Mueller’s personal rectitude would be irrelevant. If he or you don’t think so, go ask Ken Starr. In any event, a prosecutor’s personal integrity is never dispositive when he or she commences an investigation, seeks a warrant, or tries an accused. What matters is whether the laws and rules have been satisfied.

2. Special Counsel Neither Necessary Nor Authorized for Investigation of Russia 
If the president were a Democrat, it would be pointed out that to question the special counsel’s criminal investigation of the president is not to question the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The latter is vital. No one denies that it should be aggressively pursued to its conclusion.

Moreover, if the counterintelligence investigation were incidentally to turn up concrete evidence that Donald Trump had committed a crime, no one denies that a special counsel appointment would be appropriate at that time. (Get it? Evidence of crime first, then assignment of prosecutor.) But unless and until that were to happen, a counterintelligence investigation does not need a prosecutor at all, much less a special counsel. That is why the aforementioned special-counsel regulations do not authorize an appointment for counterintelligence cases.

3. Conflict of Interest
It is a condition precedent to the appointment of a special counsel that there be a conflict of interest. There is no such conflict preventing the Justice Department from investigating Russian interference in the election. If that were not obvious enough, Mueller himself has elucidated the point by transferring the two indictments he has brought against Russian operatives to Justice Department components — the “Troll Farm” case to the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, and the hacking case to Main Justice’s National Security Division. If there were a conflict of interest, it would be inappropriate for the special counsel to make such transfers. To the contrary, there is no reason why DOJ could not have investigated these cases in the normal course — if there is a “normal course” for a pair of publicity-stunt cases that will never be prosecuted.

But while we’re on the subject of conflicts . . . let’s have a brief look at Mueller’s staff.

The president is in the habit of ranting about “17 angry Democrats.” As is often the case, this misses the point. There is nothing wrong per se with a president’s being investigated by prosecutors registered with the opposition party. Of course, for the sake of his own credibility, Mueller is foolish to have stacked his staff with partisans. (Please, spare me the blather about how the Justice Department is not allowed to inquire about party affiliation when hiring. These are not obscure lawyers who applied for a job; they are well-known lawyers whom Mueller recruited into a hyperpolitical case, fully aware that they are activist Democrats.) But there is foolish, and then there is disqualifying. Being a Democrat is not disqualifying.

Still, we must ask, Why was Mueller appointed? Supposedly, because DOJ was too conflicted. So whom does he turn around and recruit? Well, his chief deputy is Andrew Weissman, and his main legal beagle is Michael Dreeben. They were two of the top officials at the purportedly conflicted DOJ — respectively, chief of the criminal-fraud section and deputy solicitor general. Before her stint as Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, Jeannie Rhee was DOJ’s deputy assistant attorney general. She, like several other members of Mueller’s bloated staff, comes to the task of investigating the president either directly from the purportedly conflicted Justice Department or after a brief stint in private practice.

In any proper special-counsel investigation, it would be worth asking why, if the Justice Department is too conflicted to handle the case, its top officials are an ethical fit to staff the case. In this particular investigation, however, the actions of the Justice Department (and the FBI) in commencing and pursuing the Trump/Russia probe are themselves under investigation by the Justice Department and its inspector general, and by several congressional committees. Under those circumstances, how is it appropriate to staff a special-counsel probe, which is premised on avoiding a conflict of interest, with lawyers who were top officials in the Justice Department whose conduct of the same probe is itself under investigation? If we pretend that the president is a Democrat, and we throw in for good measure Weissman’s adulation of former acting attorney general Sally Yates for insubordinately defying the president on an enforcement matter, is it not worth asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself but Weissman gets to run the investigation?

If a Democrat were in the White House, it wouldn’t happen. Because if a Democrat were in the White House, and Weissman & Co. were Republicans transferred over from the Republican DOJ now under investigation, congressional Democrats would be screaming that there was no conflict of interest warranting the appointment of a special counsel, and that the only apparent conflict involved the prosecutors. And Republicans sages would be meekly agreeing — as would I (less meekly, I hope).

What Is the Crime?

There is one thing and one thing alone that would justify the appointment of a special counsel: concrete evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime in connection with Russia’s election interference. So, to repeat: For precisely what federal crime is the president of the United States under investigation?

DAG Rosenstein owed us an explanation of this on Day One. He and Mueller’s staff have evaded this obligation by arguing that nothing in the special-counsel regulations requires a public recitation of the factual basis for the investigation. More haughtily, they claim that the special-counsel regulations are not enforceable — they’re just hortatory guidelines that DOJ may flout at will.

Allow me to translate: Rosenstein claims that the Justice Department’s desire for investigative secrecy takes precedence over the president’s capacity to govern.

This, notwithstanding that in every independent-counsel investigation since Watergate, the president and the public have been apprised of exactly what crimes necessitated an investigation. And notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s rationalization, in Morrison v. Olson (1988), that the constitutionally dubious statute (since lapsed) authorizing an independent counsel passed muster because, prior to the appointment, the Justice Department first carefully established evidence of specific criminal-law violations.

That is preposterous. Investigative secrecy should never have had pride of place where the presidency is at stake. After 16 months, there is no excuse for it.

The Rosenstein Memo . . . and the Steele Dossier

It is no answer that Rosenstein has given Mueller a supplemental memorandum (dated August 2, 2017) purportedly fleshing out the factual basis for the investigation. This memorandum, too, has been almost completely withheld from Congress and the public. Furthermore, from what little we know of it (the passages unsealed in connection with the prosecution of Paul Manafort for crimes unrelated to Russia’s election-meddling), it is inadequate.

As I have previously noted, it appears that the Rosenstein memo merely asserts that there are “allegations” that crimes may have been committed. It does not provide a factual basis for believing these allegations are true.

The Justice Department claims the memo cannot be unsealed without compromising the investigation and potentially prejudicing uncharged people. The latter concern could easily be addressed by redacting the names — except, of course, the president’s, if it appears. (Remember, the point here is to determine if the president is under investigation, and for what crime.) Thus I suspect there is a more controversial reason for Rosenstein’s obstinacy: Unsealing would reveal that the memo relies on the Steele dossier — the unverified opposition-research project sponsored by the Clinton campaign.

What makes me say so? Well, here is one of the two passages that Rosenstein, under court pressure, has deigned to let us read: Mueller is authorized to investigate:

Allegations that Paul Manafort . . . Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States of America, in violation of United States law.

To date, Manafort, like every other Trump-campaign official, has never been charged with a crime related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Now, the Steele dossier is not the only “collusion” evidence against Manafort. There has been public reporting that, while he was Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort furtively offered briefings on the campaign to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch known to be close to Vladimir Putin (but intriguingly discussed as if he could be, or become, a Western intelligence asset in emails between dossier author Christopher Steele and top DOJ official Bruce Ohr). If true, this claim of Manafort’s offer to Deripaska is unseemly and suspicious, but it does not establish a crime. Manafort is also known to have been present at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, arranged by Donald Trump Jr. in hopes of scoring campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Again, unseemly, but not a crime per se (unless the campaign-finance laws are stretched in a way that would implicate many, many campaigns). No, the only publicly known, unambiguous allegation that Manafort was enmeshed in a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and Russia is sourced to the Steele dossier.

We know that in June 2017, a month after appointing Mueller, Rosenstein relied heavily on the Steele dossier in approving a FISA surveillance-warrant application (targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page). Is it not reasonable to suspect that, less than two months after signing off on the warrant application, he would again rely on the Steele dossier in amplifying the basis for Mueller’s investigation?

More questions: Did Rosenstein have evidence other than the Steele dossier to support this criminal-collusion allegation against Manafort? Does the deputy attorney general acknowledge relying on the Steele dossier in his memo to Mueller? Are there other allegations in the Rosenstein memo that mirror the Steele dossier’s sensational, uncorroborated claims? Is Donald Trump named in the memo?

Mueller’s Report . . . about What?
The last question is the pertinent one. Reuters reported back in April of this year that Rosenstein assured Trump that he is not a “target” of Mueller’s probe. Even if true, that would not mean the president is not a subject of the probe. If he’s not, why wouldn’t we have been told that? Why hasn’t it been announced that the Trump aspect of the investigation is closed — if, indeed, it was ever open?

We have to assume that Trump is and has been under criminal investigation, even if there is not and has never been a crime.

It is frequently noted that, as special counsel, Mueller is expected to provide a report to Rosenstein, who will then decide what parts of the report to share with Congress and the public. This is said to explain why Mueller is being so thorough: He must be comprehensive even if he finds no prosecutable crimes.

Democrats, of course, anticipate that such a thoroughgoing, narrative report will form the basis for an impeachment of the president. Impeachment does not require proof of courtroom-prosecutable misconduct, but of any misconduct Congress might determine is — or might inflate into — high crimes and misdemeanors. The idea is that, despite the absence of penal offenses, Mueller will find discreditable and erratic behavior, which, post-midterms, a Democratic-controlled House can whip into “collusion” and “obstruction” for purposes of impeachment articles.

We go back, however, to first principles. The way this is supposed to work, the Justice Department must describe the factual basis for specified crimes – not discreditable, erratic behavior; crimes – that the special counsel is authorized to investigate. If the special counsel wants to investigate other crimes, he is supposed to ask for his jurisdiction to be expanded. When the special counsel writes his report, it is supposed to be about why prosecution of those crimes should be authorized or declined. That’s it. Mueller is a prosecutor working for the Justice Department, not counsel for a congressional impeachment committee. His task is to report his prosecutorial decisions about crimes he has been authorized to investigate because the Justice Department is conflicted; it is not to hold forth on his assessment of Donald Trump’s overall comportment and fitness to be president. That is for voters, or their elected representatives, to determine.

So what are the suspected crimes committed by Donald Trump that Mueller has been authorized to investigate, and what was the factual basis for Rosenstein’s authorization of this investigation?

We still haven’t been told.

The anti-Trump Left decries all criticism as an effort to “delegitimize” and “obstruct” the Mueller investigation. But no one is questioning the investigation of Russia’s interference in the election. We are questioning why a special counsel was appointed to investigate the president of the United States. It is the Justice Department’s obligation to establish the legitimacy of the appointment by explaining the factual basis for believing a crime was committed. If there is no such basis, then it is Mueller’s investigation that is delegitimizing the presidency and obstructing its ability to carry out its constitutional mission — a mission that is far more significant than any prosecutor’s case.

We’re not asking for much. After 16 months, we are just asking why there is a criminal investigation of the president. If Rod Rosenstein would just explain what the regs call for him to explain — namely, the basis to believe that Donald Trump conspired with the Kremlin to violate a specific federal criminal law, or is somehow criminally complicit in the Kremlin’s election sabotage — then we can all get behind Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But what is the explanation? And why isn’t the Republican-controlled Congress demanding it?

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/09/trump-russia-probe-robert-mueller-investigation/

Related:

George Papadopoulos, Trump campaign adviser, sentenced to 14 days in prison

September 8, 2018

George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, was sentenced to 14 days in prison Friday after he told a judge he admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries.

Papadopoulos, the first campaign aide sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation, acknowledged that his actions hindered an investigation of national importance, a move that the judge in his case said resulted in the 31-year-old putting his own self-interest above that of his country.

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“I made a dreadful mistake, but I am a good man who is eager for redemption,” Papadopoulos said.

The punishment was far less than the maximum six-month sentence sought by the government but more than the probation that Papadopoulos and his lawyers had asked for.

Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump‘s campaign, has been a central figure in the Russia investigation dating back before Mueller’s May 2017 appointment. He was the first to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe and is now the first Trump campaign adviser to be sentenced. His case was also the first to detail a member of the Trump campaign having knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while it was ongoing.

Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said Papadopoulos’ deception was “not a noble lie” and said he had lied because he wanted a job in the Trump administration and didn’t want to jeopardize that possibility by being tied to the Russia investigation.

“In some ways it constitutes a calculated exercise of self-interest over the national interest,” the judge said.

Moss noted that many similar cases resulted in probation but said he imposed a sentence of incarceration partly to send a message to the public that they can’t lie to the FBI.

The sentence drew a quick response from Trump on Twitter, as he scoffed at the two weeks of prison time by comparing it to an unverified cost figure for the Mueller probe.

“14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for America!” the president tweeted.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for America!

Memos authored by House Republicans and Democrats , now declassified, show that information about Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russian intermediaries triggered the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. That probe was later taken over by Mueller.

According to a sweeping indictment handed up this summer, Russian intelligence had stolen emails from Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and other Democratic groups by April 2016, the same month Papadopoulos was told by a professor that Russian officials had told him they had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Papadopoulos later used his connections with the Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, and other Russian nationals in an attempt to broker a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He admitted last year to lying to the FBI about those contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries, false statements that prosecutors say caused irreparable harm to the investigation during its early months.

Prosecutors say those false statements, made during a January 2017 interview with federal investigators, led the FBI to miss an opportunity to interview Mifsud while he was in the United States in early 2017.

In court Friday, prosecutor Andrew Goldstein said Papadopoulos’ cooperation “didn’t come close to the standard of substantial assistance.”

“It was at best begrudging efforts to cooperate and we don’t think they were substantial or significant in any regard,” he said.

He said Papadopoulos’ deception required investigators to scour more than 100,000 emails and gigabytes of data to reconstruct the timeline of his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries.

Even after his arrest and plea agreement last year, Goldstein said, Papadopoulos continued to be difficult, only providing information after being confronted with documents such as emails and text messages.

In response, defense lawyer Thomas Breen said his client was “remorseful” that his lies impeded the investigation.

Papadopoulos lied because he was torn between wanting to cooperate and wanting to remain loyal to a president whose administration he hoped to join, Breen said. His client was also affected by Trump’s cries of “fake news” and his casting of the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” just days before his FBI interview.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” Breen said.

Breen described his client as a “patriot,” who wasn’t trying to help Russia. But he acknowledged that Papadopoulos was unsophisticated, naive and even a “fool” for having made contacts with Russia intermediaries during the campaign.

Breen said his client’s primary interest was brokering a meeting between Trump and Putin, a move he believed the campaign supported. In court papers, Breen wrote that during a March 2016 meeting attended by Papadopoulos, Trump nodded with approval at the idea, and then-Senator Jeff Sessions “appeared to like” it and said the campaign “should look into it.”

That clashes with what Sessions, a key campaign aide and now Trump’s attorney general, told the House Judiciary Committee last November. In that testimony, Sessions said he resisted the idea of any Russia meeting proposed by Papadopoulos.

Outside the courthouse Friday, Breen said Papadopoulos didn’t recall ever telling anyone in the campaign about the fact that Russia had dirt on Clinton in the form of emails.

Breen also rejected the idea that Papadopoulos was the victim of a witch hunt or prosecutorial misconduct.

“We have seen no such thing. We have seen no entrapment. We have seen no set up by U.S. intelligence people,” he said, noting that he also had no reason to believe that Papadopoulos was the subject of a warrant obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Asked if Papadopoulos still remained loyal to Trump, Breen smiled wryly and paused for a beat.

“We don’t talk politics,” he said.

(AP)

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Mueller recommends up to six months of jail time for Papadopoulos

August 18, 2018
Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended up to six months in prison for former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, reports Reuters.

His reasoning: Mueller called prison for Papadopoulos “appropriate and warranted” in a court filing after the former campaign aide lied to federal agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Papadopoulos is scheduled for sentencing on September 7.

https://www.axios.com/robert-mueller-george-papadapoulos-russia-investigation-df594093-354b-478a-8220-7892a52fb1d4.html

Related:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/mueller-prosecutors-say-prison-is-optional-for-george-papadopoulos-in-russia-probe/2018/08/17/44a194ce-a194-11e8-93e3-24d1703d2a7a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3be775817c36

Some Republicans will say how about Hillary Clinton, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr and a host of others…. None of them lied during the investigation?

What Are the FBI and CIA Hiding?

August 1, 2018

The agency might have led the bureau down a rabbit hole in the 2016 Trump counterintelligence probe.

George Papadopoulos in London.
George Papadopoulos in London. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Did the Central Intelligence Agency lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation down a rabbit hole in the counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign?

Although the FBI’s case officially began July 31, 2016, there had been investigative activity before that date. John Brennan’s CIA might have directed activity in Britain, which could be a problem because of longstanding agreements that the U.S. will not conduct intelligence operations there. It would explain why the FBI continues to stonewall Congress as to the inquiry’s origin.

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John Brennan. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, The Associated Press.

Further, what we know about the case’s origin does not meet the threshold required by the attorney general guidelines for opening a counterintelligence case. That standard requires “predicate information,” or “articulable facts.”

From what has been made public, all that passes for predicate information in this matter originated in Britain. Stefan Halper, an American who ran the Centre of International Studies at Cambridge, had been a CIA source in the past. Recent press reports describe him as an FBI informant. Joseph Mifsud, another U.K.-based academic with ties to Western intelligence, met with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016. Mr. Mifsud reportedly mentioned “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Then, on May 10, Mr. Papadopoulos met with Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer in London, to whom he relayed the claim about “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton.

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Peter Strzok

Peter Strzok, the FBI’s deputy assistant director, went to London Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the case was opened, ostensibly to interview Mr. Downer about his conversation with Mr. Papadopoulos. But what about the earlier investigative activity? The FBI would not usually maintain an informant in England. It is far likelier that in the spring of 2016 Mr. Halper was providing information to British intelligence or directly to the CIA, where Mr. Brennan was already pushing the collusion narrative.

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James Clapper

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that “intelligence agencies” were looking into the collusion allegations in spring 2016. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported that British intelligence had been suspicious about contacts between associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible Russian agents. That prompted Robert Hannigan, then head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, to pass information to Mr. Brennan. With only these suspicions, Mr. Brennan pressured the FBI into launching its counterintelligence probe.

The FBI lacked any real predicate. But in the post-9/11 world, a referral from the CIA would cause some in the FBI to believe they had to act—particularly as the agency’s information originated with America’s closest ally. Shortly after the case opened that summer, Mr. Brennan gave a briefing to then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, telling him that the CIA had referred the matter to the FBI—an obvious effort to pressure the bureau to get moving on the collusion case.

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Harry Reid

As the FBI’s investigation progressed, it would use a surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a former member of Mr. Trump’s campaign, who had been in contact with Mr. Halper. A dossier prepared for the Clinton campaign by Christopher Steele, formerly of Britain’s MI6, was used to obtain the warrant.

The existence of the investigation was withheld from the congressional “gang of eight” because of its “sensitivity,” former FBI Director James Comey later said. The FBI continues to withhold the full details of the origin story from Congress. Their rationale is the “protection of sources,” as the origin lies with our best international partner.

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Although Mr. Brennan has exposed himself as a biased actor, the CIA has escaped criticism for using only thinly sourced information from British intelligence to snooker the FBI. Most damaging is the possibility that the CIA violated agreements with Britain by spying there rather than asking MI5 or MI6 to do so. And that may be what is really being withheld from Congress.

Mr. Baker is a retired FBI special agent and legal attaché.

Appeared in the August 1, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-are-the-fbi-and-cia-hiding-1533078662

White House Orders Broader Access to Files About F.B.I. Informant

July 13, 2018

The White House has rebuffed concerns among American intelligence and law enforcement officials and ordered that more lawmakers be given access to classified information about an informant the F.B.I. used in 2016 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to two American officials with knowledge of the decision.

Both the director of national intelligence and the director of the F.B.I. tried to keep the classified documents tightly restricted, fearing that a broader dissemination of operational reports and other sensitive material could lead to more leaks of detailed information about the role of the confidential F.B.I. informant.

Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, opposed expanding the number of lawmakers who can read the classified files.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

Some American officials believe, in fact, the reason the White House made the decision was to provide political ammunition to President Trump’s Republican allies who have argued — without any evidence — that the F.B.I. investigation was opened in July 2016 as an effort to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president.

The F.B.I. files about the informant will now be available to all members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, instead of to just a group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump or a lower-level White House official authorized the move.

The controversy over the F.B.I. informant is one skirmish in a searing political battle that was renewed on Thursday during a contentious hearing convened by the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees that heard testimony from Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. agent who once ran the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign.

PHOTO: Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok waits to testify before a joint committee hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, July 12, 2018 in Washington.

Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok waits to testify before a joint committee hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, July 12, 2018 in Washington. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

During the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. sent an informant to meet with two Trump campaign advisers after the bureau had received information that the two men had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. The informant, Stefan Halper, an American academic who teaches at Cambridge University in England, had meetings with both Carter Page and George Papadopoulos to gain a better understanding of their contacts with Russians.

The New York Times did not originally name Mr. Halper because of a general practice not to name confidential F.B.I. informants to preserve their safety. Mr. Halper’s name has now been widely reported.

A veteran of several Republican administrations, Mr. Halper has been a source of information to the C.I.A. and other American security agencies for several years, according to people familiar with his work for the government.

F.B.I. officials concluded that they had the legal authority to open the investigation into the Trump campaign after they received information that Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that the Russians had compromising information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, in the form of “thousands of emails,” months before WikiLeaks released stolen messages from Democratic officials.

Mr. Trump’s congressional allies reacted angrily to the revelation of Mr. Halper’s role in the F.B.I. investigation, accusing the bureau of “spying” on the Trump campaign. The president himself has called the issue a “scandal” on Twitter.

“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” he wrote in May.

“If true — all time biggest political scandal!”

Congressional leaders have received two briefings about Mr. Halper’s role in the F.B.I. investigation. One of the briefings was attended by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and Emmet T. Flood, a White House lawyer handling issues related to the special counsel’s Russia investigation — leading to vocal criticism on Capitol Hill that it was improper for White House officials to attend a classified briefing about an investigation that involves the president.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress, for weeks has demanded that the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees be given access to documents about the informant’s role in the campaign. He has accused the Justice Department of “obstruction” of a congressional investigation.

Democrats have argued that the true aim of the Republicans is to undermine the Russia investigation — which in May 2017 was taken over by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — and that Republicans want access to F.B.I. files to gain information they can use against the inquiry.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials — including Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director — were opposed to expanding the number of lawmakers who can read the classified files, according to people with knowledge of their thinking.

In a letter to Mr. Coats on Thursday, Democratic members of the Gang of Eight protested the release of the documents, saying that it “contravenes your representation to us and our colleagues that this information would not be shared outside that group.”

“We believe your decision could put sources and methods at risk,” they added.

Representatives for the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

During congressional testimony in May, Mr. Wray gave a thinly veiled warning to lawmakers about the dangers of exposing information about confidential sources.

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” he said.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: More Access, Not Less, To F.B.I. File On Informant.
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Mueller Poised to Zero In on Trump-Russia Collusion Allegations

June 26, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to accelerate his probe into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person familiar with the probe.

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Robert Mueller

Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions — and possible indictments — related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice.

Suspicious contacts between at least 13 people associated with Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians have fueled the debate over collusion.

Some of those encounters have been known for months: the Russian ambassador whose conversations forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation and led Michael Flynn to plead guilty to perjury. The Russians who wangled a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in July 2016 after dangling the promise of political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Other encounters continue to emerge, including a Russian’s chat with veteran Trump adviser Roger Stone at a cafe in Florida.

‘Warning Lights’

Signs of suspicious Russian contacts first surfaced in late 2015, especially among U.S. allies who were conducting surveillance against Russians, according to a former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By the spring of 2016 the frequent contacts set off alarm bells among U.S. intelligence officials, according to James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence at the time. The FBI’s Russia investigation officially began that July.

“The dashboard warning lights were on for all of us because of the meetings,” Clapper said in an interview this month. “We may not have known much about the content of these meetings, but it was certainly very curious why so many meetings with Russians.”

On three occasions, Russians offered people associated with Trump’s campaign dirt on Democrat Clinton — all before it was publicly known that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Mueller has interviewed or sought information about many of the people known to have met with Russians during the campaign. But it’s not known publicly whether the barrage of Russian contacts was instigated or coordinated by the Kremlin. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly denied any such plotting, tweeting on June 15, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion.”

Here are the players and their known interactions, with links to previous news stories:

Michael Cohen

Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer started working on a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in September 2015 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who’s a felon and previously had helped collect intelligence for the U.S. government. Cohen said the Trump Organization signed a nonbinding letter of intent in October 2015 with Moscow-based I.C. Expert Investment Company.

The project ultimately fizzled. Cohen said he stopped working on it in January 2016, around the time he reached out to a Kremlin spokesman asking for help with the project. Yahoo News reported that in May Sater and Cohen were still talking about the tower, including a possible trip to Russia to have a meeting with government officials. Just before and after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and Andrew Intrater, who invests money for Vekselberg. Shortly after, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Russian Oligarch Tied to Trump Lawyer in Stormy Bombshell

Michael Flynn

The retired Army lieutenant general attended a December 2015 dinner in Russia where he sat at a table with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several months later, Flynn started working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and in August attended Trump’s first intelligence briefing with the FBI. After the election he was named Trump’s national security adviser. During the presidential transition he had multiple contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they discussed U.S. sanctions. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after it become known he had lied about the nature of his conversations with Kislyak. He was later indicted by Mueller for making false statements to investigators and agreed to become a cooperating witness.

Flynn’s Side Deals, Link to Trump Aides Offer Clues for Mueller

George Papadopoulos

Shortly after being named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in March 2016, Papadopoulos met with a London professor he believed had connections to the Russian government. That month, Papadopoulos suggested he could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, an offer that was rejected by Sessions, who led the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. In April, the professor told Papadopoulos that Russian officials had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Papadopoulos also was in contact with a Russian who said he represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and in October pleaded guilty to misleading investigators.

Trump Says He Has Little Memory of Meeting With Papadopoulos

Jared Kushner

The president’s son-in-law met briefly with Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 in what he has described as an exchange of pleasantries. In December, after the election, Kushner met again with Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who’s close to Putin.

Kushner Denies Improper Russia Contacts as He Meets With Senators

Michael Caputo

The Republican political strategist — who lived for a time in Moscow and worked for the campaign of the late President Boris Yeltsin — worked briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He was contacted by a Russian business partner who asked him to help facilitate a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian national who identified himself as Henry Greenberg. Caputo directed him to veteran Republican operative Stone, with whom Caputo has worked for decades.

Caputo Says He Never Heard Campaign Talk of Russia Collusion

Roger Stone

The longtime Trump political adviser confirmed for the first time this month that he met at a Florida cafe in May 2016 with Greenberg, who claimed to have information that would be “beneficial” to the Trump campaign but demanded $2 million in exchange. Stone — who says he’d forgotten about the 20-minute meeting when he failed to disclose it in interviews with a congressional committee — said he rejected the deal. Stone says he thinks the meeting was part of an FBI plot to entrap him in light of indications that Greenberg had worked in the past as an informant for the bureau.

Stone also told people during the campaign that he was in contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published Democratic National Committee emails believed to have been stolen by Russian operatives. Stone has since denied that he communicated directly with Assange. Stone also exchanged private messages on Twitter with an online persona called Guccifer 2.0, believed to be linked to the Russian government.

Mueller Turns His Focus to Longtime Trump Adviser Roger Stone

Paul Manafort

While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort was in contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has described as having ties to Russian intelligence. In July 2016, Manafort offered to give a campaign briefing to another business associate, Oleg Deripaska, who’s closely aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort was charged in October with a series of financial crimes and for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. His bail was revoked and he was jailed after prosecutors claimed he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Manafort Judge Rejects Bid to Toss Money-Laundering Charge

Donald Trump Jr.

The president’s son helped arrange the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. Kushner and Manafort also were there. While the Russians billed it as a chance to share damaging information on Clinton, participants have said nothing of value was offered.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting at the request of a pop star in Russia whose family has ties to Putin and has known the Trump family for several years. The meeting also has led to controversy over President Trump’s role in drafting a statement that falsely described the topic of the meeting as adoptions of Russian children.

In addition, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, has said he had shared a dinner table with Trump Jr. at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in May. Torshin, a former senator in Putin’s United Russia party directed dirty-money flows for mobsters in Moscow, according to investigators in Spain.

Trump Jr. Declines to Detail Talk With Father, Democrat Says

Carter Page

After being named a foreign policy adviser to the campaign in March 2016, Page traveled to Moscow that July for a speech and meetings. Page said he met briefly with Arkady Dvorkovich, then the deputy prime minister of Russia. Page said he also met Dvorkovich again at a dinner in December, after he was no longer affiliated with the Trump campaign. Page also met in July with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations for the Russian energy company Rosneft. And Page met with Kislyak briefly at the Republican convention in July. U.S. intelligence agencies indicated Page was a target of Russian intelligence as early as 2013.

Page Tells Russia Probe He’s ‘Biggest Embarrassment’ to Trump

Jeff Sessions

The attorney general, who took an early role in Trump’s campaign while serving in the Senate, had conversations with Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican convention and in September in his Senate office. The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Kislyak telling Russian officials that they discussed campaign-related issues. Session recused himself from the Russia investigation — a move for which Trump has repeatedly vilified him because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Trump Laments Picking Sessions as GOP Ally Undercuts Spying Claim

J.D. Gordon

As a campaign foreign policy adviser, Gordon met briefly with Kislyak at the Republican convention. Page contacted Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, and others on the campaign in July to praise them for a change in the Republican Party platform that softened the party’s support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Gordon also has said Page went around him to secure permission to make a trip to Russia.

Trump’s Campaign Foreign Policy Team Under Mueller’s Microscope

Rick Gates

In September and October, Gates communicated directly with Kilimnik, according to court filings. Gates was a right-hand man to Manafort and worked as a campaign aide until he was fired by Trump in August. Even after being fired, Gates remained involved with the campaign through the Republican National Committee, and he worked on the presidential transition. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiring with Manafort to defraud the U.S. in charges not directly related to the Russia probe.

Gates Guilty Plea Strengthens U.S. Hand Against Manafort

Erik Prince

The founder of Blackwater, a provider of private security forces in trouble spots such as Iraq, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is now education secretary. After Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Prince met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian-government controlled wealth fund who’s close to Putin, during a visit to the Seychelles islands.

Prince told congressional investigators he was meeting with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Middle East tensions and bauxite mining when the prince’s brother casually suggested that he go downstairs to chat with “this Russian guy.” The New York Times has reported that the meeting was arranged in part to explore the possibility of a back channel for discussions between the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the meeting it didn’t identify.

Erik Prince’s Seychelles Meeting With Russian Draws New Scrutiny

— With assistance by Billy House, and Steven T. Dennis

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-26/mueller-poised-to-zero-in-on-trump-russia-collusion-allegations

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