Attorney General William Barr was set to make public a redacted version of Robert Mueller’s two-year probe Thursday morning – finally revealing what evidence the special counsel obtained of potential obstruction and what he uncovered about any U.S. nexus to a web of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections.
Although Mueller submitted his report to the attorney general with no fanfare, simply submitting a classified document as required under statute, Barr scheduled a press conference where he will once again discuss its findings.
To date, he has only described the report through letters and testimony before Congress, while refusing to divulge its substance beyond core conclusions. The president suggested that he, too, may weigh in.
The rollout strategy was the latest example of Trump trying to turn the Mueller probe, which he has branded as ‘illegal’ and part of a ‘coup’ that he even called ‘treasonous’ – part of his 2020 reelection strategy.
The PR effort left little doubt that President Trump once again intended to proclaim ‘no collusion’ following the final submission of a probe he repeatedly branded as a ‘witch hunt.’
Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a 400-page report to Attorney General William Barr, who is putting out a redacted version
The release of the report, even in redacted form, provides a key milestone, if not an endpoint, to the probe that has drawn the wrath of the president. Throughout its course, the investigation raised alarms of a constitutional crisis, and even prompted talk of impeachment while it was underway.
Outside of what the report itself reveals, Barr’s decision to redact four categories of material is already setting up the next battle with Congress over the report.
The House Judiciary Committee has voted to authorize a subpoena for the full report, which panel chairman Rep. Jerold Nadler is demanding. If Barr blocked out information that seems key to Mueller’s conclusions, Trump critics will once again accuse him of whitewashing the special counsel’s findings.
Mueller submitted his confidential report to Barr on March 22, nearly two years after his inquiry began.
President Donald Trump regularly railed against the probe as a ‘witch hunt’
Deputy Attorney General appointed Mueller and oversaw the probe, due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal
Donald Trump Jr. wrote ‘I love it’ when offered potential dirt on Hillary Clinton said to be coming from Russia
Eight Convictions so far
Mueller quietly turned in the document after his team of investigators interviewed hundreds of witnesses in an effort to uncover the roots of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
As the probe ran through the first half of the president’s term, Mueller’s team obtained eight convictions – including of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and his deputy Rick Gates.
Picking up from information obtained by Mueller’s investigators, federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained a guilty plea from longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who is facing a three-year jail sentence.
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to Washington.
George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, served a 12-day jail sentence after admitting that he, too, lied to the FBI about Russia contacts that proved to be among the earliest information about Trump Russia contacts.
Barr will face scrutiny for the redactions he imposes on the report he publicly releases
Former advisor to US President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, leaves a court hearing on March 14, 2019, in Washington DC. He was charged with lying to investigators and witness tampering
Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained a firm grip on political control in Russia when the hacking was carried out
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced embarrassing disclosures after hacks DNC emails and those of her chief of staff
Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally resigned after prolonged attacks from Trump for having recused himself from the Russia probe
Key players in the Mueller probe
The Justice officials:
The former FBI director was appointed to oversee the probe into Russian election interference and whether there was any collusion with Donald Trump or his campaign. Mueller kept a low-profile, secured multiple indictments and guilty pleas, but failed to secure an in-person interview with the president. He submitted a 400-page report to Attorney General William Barr.
As deputy attorney general, Rosenstein assumed authority over the Russia probe with the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Rosenstein tapped Mueller to lead the probe – a fateful decision that drew the ire of President Trump, who went after him publicly. He remained on the job with oversight of the probe as Trump launched repeated attacks on the Justice Department. He relinquished formal authority when Trump named Matthew Whitaker acting AG and the Senate later confirmed William Barr to run the agency.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew the unending scorn of President Trump by recusing himself from the Russia probe, allowing for Mueller’s appointment. He had been a Trump campaign advisor, and had failed to initially disclose his own campaign contacts with Russians.
Trump installed Matthew Whitaker after asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. The move put a Trump loyalist in charge of the Mueller probe he had blasted publicly during a critical period. Nevertheless, Whitaker allowed Rosenstein to maintain day-to-day oversight of the probe, and it was allowed to go forward.
Trump secured the resignation of Sessions and named Matthew Whitaker acting attorney general. Then, he nominated Barr, who had blasted the obstruction of justice basis for the probe in his writings, and who has taken a view of strong executive power. He was confirmed by the Senate on a 54-45 vote with just three Democrats voting for him. Barr infuriated Democrats by releasing a four-page summary of the Mueller report just 48-hours after he got it.
The campaign advisors
The president’s son-in-law, a senior White House advisor, was interviewed extensively by Mueller’s team. Kushner’s White House portfolio, his contacts with Russians and inaccurate disclosures, and his efforts to secure overseas financing for a Manhattan skyscraper all became areas for inquiry.
Former Trump National Security Advisor Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with Russians about sanctions during the transition, and to lying about his lobbying for Turkey. His early cooperation sent a message to other witnesses.
Trump’s former campaign chair got a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted on one set of money laundering and corruption charges, and pleading guilty to other charges. Prosecutors say he lied despite an agreement to cooperate. President Trump praised his loyalty, but claimed he had not thought about a pardon for his former top advisor.
Manafort’s deputy on the campaign, Gates had been Manafort’s business partner, and testified about Manafort’s efforts set up offshore companies, failure to pay taxes, and avoid disclosure laws. His participation helped the government untangle extremely complex business arrangements dealing with millions the pair earned for their Ukrainian work.
Page was a Trump foreign policy advisor when there were just a handful of them. His Russia contacts – he gave a speech in Moscow in the midst of the campaign – drew immediate scrutiny. The FBI got a judge’s approval for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Warrant to monitor Page – leading to Trump’s claim there was ‘spying’ on his campaign.
Papadopoulos met with a Maltese professor in London who said he had information about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton, a key development in the beginning of the FBI’s counter-intelligence probe on Trump. He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and served 12 days in jail.
Donald Trump Jr.
The president’s son attended an infamous meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016. When word got out, he released a statement saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions. When the New York Times was about to report on the contents of his emails, he tweeted out the entire email chain of contacts with British publicist Rob Goldstone about the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Goldstone was representing pop singer Emin Agalarov, whose father is a major Moscow real estate developer.
Trump’s longtime advisor Stone is an infamous political dirty trickster on the scene since the Nixon administration. Prosecutors charged him with seven counts including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks in January 2019.
Trump’s long-time press secretary and top White House communications aide met with investigators, and was involved when Trump dictated an initial misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Having been with Trump since his campaign operated with a skeleton crew, she was a potential font of information. But unlike many Trump aides, she left in good standing, and secured a lucrative job with Fox, where Trump is deeply connected.
The ex-British intelligence officer compiled information based on his Russia contacts for what became the golden showers dossier, which contained salacious unverified claims about Trump’s conduct in Moscow. It also said the Russians had compromising financial leverage over Trump. The FBI obtained the document in 2016, and former FBI Director James Comey briefed Trump about it during the transition.
Simpson’s firm, Fusion GPS, conducted the investigation that resulted in the ‘dirty dossier.’ Fusion began the 2016 campaign under contract from the conservative Washington Free Beacon news outlet, whose leaders hoped to damage Donald Trump enough to drive him out of the Republican primary season. Later, however, the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid Fusion roughly a combined $9 million to continue the work, using a law firm to move the money. Fusion hired Christopher Steele to do the ground work, using his contacts in Russia as sources.
Comey led the FBI when it opened a counter-intelligence probe of Trump campaign aides, and when agents obtained judicial approval for a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Trump cited Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, and his sudden exoneration of her in the middle of the presidential campaign, when he fired him just four months into his presidency. It became one element in the examination of possible obstruction of justice. Comey famously orchestrated press leaks of information from memos he wrote following his private meetings with President Trump, hoping they would lead to a special counsel probe. He delivered riveting testimony after his firing about Trump’s request for loyalty and cryptic comments about the investigation of Michael Flynn.
Peter Strzok and Lisa Page
Peter Strzok and Lisa Page
The FBI lawyers became known as ‘FBI lovers’ after their anti-Trump texts were exposed. Both shared deep concerns about Trump’s Russia connections as they unfolded. They became regular features of Trump’s Twitter attacks on the Mueller investigation.
The Trump lawyers
Cobb joined the Trump White House to aide in his legal defense. He counseled the staff to be in ‘full cooperation mode.’ Even as the president attacked the Russia probe, Cobb shared his personal admiration for Robert Mueller.
Trump’s outside lawyer John Dowd provided some back-channel communications with Mueller’s team amid the president’s attacks. He disputed journalist Bob Woodward’s claim that he called his client a ‘f****** liar’ and saw the ‘nightmare’ of possibilities of what would happen if Trump were allowed to meet with investigators after staging a mock interview.
The White House counsel met with Mueller’s investigators for a total of 30 hours. McGahn, who previously served as a member of the Federal Elections Commission and who advised Trump during the 2016, threatened to quit after Trump ordered Mueller’s firing, according to a New York Times report.
Amid a wave of turnover in Trump’s legal team, the president brought on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani stumbled several times in interviews and at one point confirmed Trump paid reimbursements to Michael Cohen after he paid porn star Stormy Daniels. He also steered Trump’s public response as he managed to avoid having to sit for an interview for the Russia probe despite saying he would love to do so.
The Russian president bristled at U.S.-led sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine, seeks to challenge U.S. influence around the globe, and maintained unrivaled control in Moscow as military intelligence undertook an election hacking campaign. Trump drew criticism for repeatedly praising Putin during the campaign and asking Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The former Russian ambassador to the U.S. was revealed to have had contacts with a series of Trump-connected figures during the campaign. His Oval Office meeting with President Trump drew attention when the Kremlin, rather than the White House, put out a photo.
The Kremlin-linked lawyer attended the Trump Tower meeting after the offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, then frustrated participants by pitching a sanctions-related issue. She was revealed to have worked with the Russian prosecutor general. She was later charged with obstruction of justice in a different money laundering case involving Russia.
The Russian oligarch was Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s benefactor – and Manafort also owed him millions during the campaign. Manafort offered to provide campaign updates to the aluminum magnate through an intermediary.
The Russia-born Sater tried to broker a deal through Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and Russians to build a Trump tower in Moscow, though the project fell through.
The WikiLeaks founder published damaging Democratic emails during the campaign. He was arrested on April 11 on charges of conspiracy to hack U.S. government computers in 2010. The initial charge does not mention Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Pops singer Emin Agalarov, an Azerbeijani-Russian entertainer who once cut a music video featuring a cameo by Trump, became an unusual link in the infamous Trump Tower meeting. The son of oligarch Aras Agalarov, it was Emin who put in motion the Trump Tower meeting with Russians by having his associate Rob Goldstone reach out to Donald Trump Jr. about information being promised by Moscow.
Goldstone’s email to Donald Trump Jr. became a key piece of evidence of a direct connection between Russians and the Trump campaign. The British PR figure reached out to the president’s eldest son, mentioning ‘Russia and its government’s support’ for the Trump campaign and conveyed the offer of dirt on Clinton. He mentioned Emin’s father and the ‘Crown prosecutor’ of Russia, lending legitimacy to what was being conveyed. Long after being swept up in the probe and testifying about the unusual way the meeting came together, he told NPR he had ‘no idea what I was talking about.’
The House Judiciary Chair obtained a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, and has emerged as the most prominent figure trying to force its release. He demanded Congress get the full report, called on Mueller to testify, and bashed Bill Barr’s four-page letter summarizing the probe’s conclusions.
The House Intelligence chairman steered his committee’s own Russia probe to put the focus on FBI investigators, the origins of the probe, and misconduct. He had to step back from running the inquiry after his White House visits were revealed, including one shortly before he said intelligence agencies may have monitored President Trump incidentally.
Two years of Mueller: How sprawling Trump-Russia probe unfolded in ultimate D.C soap opera
Here is a timeline of significant developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow.
May 9: President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey and days later Trump attributed the dismissal to ‘this Russia thing.’
May 17 – U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI Director Mueller as a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and to look into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and people associated with Republican Trump’s campaign.
June 15 – Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, the Washington Post reports.
October 30 – Veteran Republican political operative and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who worked for the campaign for five pivotal months in 2016, is indicted on charges of conspiracy against the United States and money laundering as is his business partner Rick Gates, who also worked for Trump’s campaign.
– Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.
December 1 – Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser for less than a month who also had a prominent campaign role, pleads guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his discussions in 2016 with the Russian ambassador to Washington.
February 16 – Federal grand jury indicts 13 Russians and three firms, including a Russian government propaganda arm called the Internet Research Agency, accusing them of tampering to support Trump and disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The accused ‘had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election’ according to the court document filed by Mueller.
– An American, Richard Pinedo, pleads guilty to identity fraud for selling bank account numbers after being accused by prosecutors of helping Russians launder money, buy Facebook ads and pay for campaign rally supplies. Pinedo was not associated with the Trump campaign.
February 22 – Manafort and Gates are charged with financial crimes, including bank fraud, in Virginia.
February 23 – Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators. He agrees to cooperate and testify against Manafort at trial.
April 3 – Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, is sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000 for lying to Mueller’s investigators, becoming the first person sentenced in the probe.
April 9 – FBI agents raid home, hotel room and office of Trump’s personal lawyer and self-described ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen.
April 12 – Rosenstein tells Trump that he is not a target in Mueller’s probe.
April 19 – Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter in the election campaign, joins Trump’s personal legal team.
June 8 – Mueller charges a Russian-Ukrainian man, Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner whom prosecutors say had ties to Russian intelligence, with witness tampering.
July 13 – Federal grand jury indicts 12 Russian military intelligence officers on charges of hacking Democratic Party computer networks in 2016 and staged releases of documents. Russia, which denies interfering in the election, says there is no evidence that the 12 are linked to spying or hacking.
July 16 – In Helsinki after the first summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump publicly contradicts U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election with a campaign of hacking and propaganda. Trump touts Putin’s ‘extremely strong and powerful’ denial of meddling. He calls the Mueller inquiry a ‘rigged witch hunt’ on Twitter.
August 21 – A trial jury in Virginia finds Manafort guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.
– Cohen, in a case brought by U.S. prosecutors in New York, pleads guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance law violations. Cohen is subsequently interviewed by Mueller’s team.
August 31 – Samuel Patten, an American business partner of Kilimnik, pleads guilty to unregistered lobbying for pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.
September 14 – Manafort pleads guilty to two conspiracy counts and signs a cooperation agreement with Mueller’s prosecutors.
November 6 – Democrats gain control of the House in the elections, positioning the party to control panels with oversight authority of the Justice Department.
November 8 – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns at Trump’s request. He had recused himself from overseeing the Mueller inquiry because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador as a Trump campaign official. Trump appoints Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a critic of the Mueller probe, as acting attorney general.
November 20 – Giuliani says Trump submitted written answers to questions from Mueller, as the president avoids a face-to-face interview with the special counsel.
November 27-28 – Prosecutors say Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to investigators, which Manafort denies. Trump says he has not ruled out granting Manafort a presidential pardon.
November 28 – Giuliani says Trump told investigators he was not aware ahead of time of a meeting in Trump Tower in New York between several campaign officials and Russians in June 2016.
November 29 – Cohen pleads guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to Congress about the length of discussions in 2016 on plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. ‘I made these misstatements to be consistent with individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to individual 1,’ says Cohen, who previously identified ‘individual 1’ as Trump.
– The president criticizes Cohen as a liar and ‘weak person.’
December 12 - Two developments highlight growing political and legal risks for Trump: Cohen sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including orchestrating hush payments to women in violation of campaign laws before the election; American Media Inc, publisher of National Enquirer tabloid, strikes deal to avoid charges over its role in one of two hush payments. Publisher admits payment was aimed at influencing the 2016 election, contradicting Trump’s statements.
December 16 – President Trump tweets that Michael Cohen ‘became a “Rat”‘ – using lingo associated with the mob for those who testify against higher-ups
January 25 – Longtime Trump associate and self-proclaimed political ‘dirty trickster’ Roger Stone charged and arrested at his home in Florida. Stone is accused of lying to Congress about statements suggesting he may have had advance knowledge of plans by Wikileaks to release Democratic Party campaign emails that U.S. officials say were stolen by Russia.
February 21 – U.S. judge tightens gag order on Stone, whose Instagram account posted a photo of the judge and the image of crosshairs next to it.
February 22 – Manhattan district attorney’s office is pursuing New York state criminal charges against Manafort whether or not he receives a pardon from Trump on federal crimes, a person familiar with the matter says. Trump cannot issue pardons for state convictions.
February 24 – Senior Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Schiff says Democrats will subpoena Mueller’s final report on his investigation if it is not given to Congress by the Justice Department, and will sue the Trump administration and call on Mueller to testify to Congress if necessary.
February 27 - Cohen tells U.S. House Oversight Committee Trump is a ‘racist,’ a ‘con man’ and a ‘cheat’ who knew in advance about a release of emails by WikiLeaks in 2016 aimed at hurting rival Clinton. Trump directed negotiations for a real estate project in Moscow during the campaign even as he publicly said he had no business interests in Russia, Cohen testifies.
Cohen also testifies that he ‘never asked for, nor would I accept’ a pardon from Trump, forcing his lawyer to issue a clarifying statement that Cohen ‘could have been clearer’ and standing by statement Cohen didn’t ‘personally’ ask for a pardon.
March 7 – Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case to almost four years in prison. The judge also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution of just over $24 million.
March 13 – Manafort is sentenced to about 3-1/2 more years in prison in the Washington case, bringing his total prison sentence in the two special counsel cases to 7-1/2 years.
– On the same day, the Manhattan district attorney announces a separate indictment charging Manafort with residential mortgage fraud and other New York state crimes, which unlike the federal charges cannot be erased by a presidential pardon.
March 22 – Mueller submits his confidential report on the findings of his investigation to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
March 24 – Barr releases a summary of Mueller’s report, saying the investigation did not find evidence that Trump or his associates broke the law during the campaign. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says the summary is a complete exoneration of Trump.
March 29 – After facing a backlash from Democratic critics, Barr tells Congress the report is nearly 400 pages long and that he will make a the report public, stating: ‘Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own.’ He writes that he is working on redactions including of material that could harm ‘reputational interests of peripheral third parties.’
April 3 – Democratic-run House Judiciary Committee votes to subpoena the full Mueller report.
April 9 – Barr tells Congress he is reviewing FBI conduct that began the Mueller probe.
April 11 – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is arrested in Britain on charges of conspiracy to hack U.S. government computers in 2010. The initial charge does not mention Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
April 18 – Attorney General William Barr makes public a redacted version of the Mueller report, according to the Justice Department.
When Mueller’s team obtained information on criminal behavior by longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, FBI agents executed a raid on Cohen’s home and office. The case ultimately went to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, but created still more difficulties for the president.
Cohen testified and had information about the hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who each claim they had affairs with Trump.
Cohen would eventually move away from Trump and denounce him. He also revealed new information related to the Russia probe: evidence that he discussed a potential Moscow tower project in Moscow through the summer of 2016, despite the president’s denials his company had any dealings with Russia.
Review of obstruction of justice
As 2018 wore on, it became clear that Mueller’s team was examining whether the president had obstructed the investigation through his firing of former FBI Director James Comey and other actions.
Questions about potential obstruction emerged almost as soon as Comey testified the president had spoken to him privately over dinner about letting the FBI investigation of Flynn go.
The president repeatedly went after attorney general Jeff Sessions online, attacked the Justice Department – sometimes putting ‘Justice’ in quotes – blasted the FBI, and labeled the probe itself an illegal ‘witch hunt.’
His use of the pardon power, his labeling of Cohen as a ‘rat,’ and his praise for Manafort’s loyalty, raised the possibility he was interfering in an official proceeding authorized by the Justice Department.
Trump would eventually push out Sessions, install an acting attorney general without senior Justice Department experience, and finally nominate a hand-picked successor, Barr. Barr had expressed a strong belief in executive power and had blasted Mueller’s theory of potential obstruction of justice in an unsolicited memo he provided to Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing the probe.
Until Thursday, the only material the public was able to review on the subject was contained in a four-page summary of the report’s findings provided by Barr.
Barr’s letter said the report ‘did not draw a conclusion’ on obstruction of justice. He also included a line with a partial quotation stating that ‘while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’
Barr said he and Rosenstein decided not to prosecute Trump on obstruction charges, and stated that it was not attributable to DOJ guidelines against prosecuting a president while in office.
Among the most concrete evidence Barr revealed in his March letter was the extent of the investigation overseen by Mueller, who earned a reputation for thoroughness during his 12 years running the FBI. His team conducted 500 interviews, agents executed 500 search warrants, and and lawyers obtained 2,800 subpoenas.
No Trump interview
One interview Mueller wasn’t able to execute in person was with President Trump, who has told falsehoods numerous times in previous court proceedings.
Trump said he would ‘love to speak’ with Mueller, but through the course of the probe, his changing team of lawyers never agreed to one.
By November 2018, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Trump had submitted written responses to questions from Mueller’s team in writing.
With Trump never having had to submit to an in-person interview, Democratic critics wondered how Mueller could have reached a conclusion on obstruction, since a person’s mindset is ordinarily critical in evaluating their intent in such matters.
On Russia aspects of the probe, Mueller’s team filed detailed indictments laying out charges of Russian election interference.
Indictments charged members of a Russian troll with carrying out the election hack of Democratic emails that WikiLeaks posted during the campaign. One release caused the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of her party’s convention.
Prosecutors filed a grand jury indictment of 25 Russian nationals and three Russian entities charged with defrauding the United States. Some were charged with identity fraud and money laundering. All are in Russia and remain at large.
But the indictment spelled out the details of a scheme that previously had only been referred to cryptically by the intelligence community. It established a place (a St. Petersburg Troll farm), a team who allegedly carried it out, a financial backer (a confidant known as ‘Putin’s chef’), and a motive (to sow division, boost Trump, and tear down Hillary Clinton).
Emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta provided embarrassing fodder for stories in the final months of the campaign.
Mueller’s team probed Trump associates for contacts with WikiLeaks to try to establish a connection. They established that longtime advisor Roger Stone had penned emails proclaiming information about WikiLeaks’ pending email dumps. But Stone said he was engaging in bravado.
Stone has been charged with lying about his WikiLeaks contacts and witness tampering, but not of a conspiracy with Russia. He has pleaded not guilty.
Trump Tower meeting probed
Another key area of inquiry was the infamous June Trump Tower meeting with Russians. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., released potentially damaging emails about the meeting when the New York Times was on the verge of revealing it.
The email traffic revealed that when a British music publicist revealed that the Russians had potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s team took a meeting. Sitting in were Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump Jr. But Trump Jr. said nothing came out of it.
One constant feature in the probe was Trump’s attacks. Even while being investigated, he called the probe ’the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.’ He blasted the FBI as ‘leakers’ and ‘liars.’ When anti-Trump texts were revealed among a pair of agents having an affair, he regularly went after the ‘FBI lovers.’
Trump went after his former FBI director James Comey, and occasionally attacked the dossier of unverified information saying the Russians had compromising material on him. Trump went after the ‘fake dossier’ and said ‘dirty cops’ were out to get him. He even retweeted an image that showed Comey and other top officials – including his own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, pictured behind bars.
Despite all the attacks, Trump never succeeded in sacking Mueller, and even allowed Sessions to linger months after he had lost confidence in him.
Trump ordered the firing of Mueller in June 2017, the New York Times reported months later, but backed off after former White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.
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