Why the Mueller probe is now at full throttle
All the evidence one needs to know is in the torrent of headlines that have emerged between yesterday after this morning:
two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
One source cautioned it is still being worked out with Robert Mueller’s office and said it might be delayed until next week.
As CNN previously reported, among the people Mueller has expressed interest in speaking with are former and current White House staffers whom investigators consider witnesses, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former press secretary Sean Spicer, communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, communications adviser Josh Raffel and associate counsel James Burnham.
>Mueller’s team also approached the White House about interviewing staffers who were aboard Air Force One for the creation of the initial response to news of Donald Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, sources previously told CNN.
Three Americans with significant Russian business connections contributed almost $2 million to political funds controlled by Donald Trump, ABC News has learned.
The timing of contributions coming from US citizens with ties to Russia is now being questioned by investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a Republican campaign aide interviewed by Mueller’s team.
Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 campaign, said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. …
Government officials familiar with the House and Senate investigations into Russian election interference told ABC News that near the conclusion of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Trump’s son Don Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Russian emissaries interested in curtailing U.S. sanctions, Manafort made a cryptic and cursory n …
Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who holds American and British citizenship, has contributed $383,000 to the Republican National Committee since late April 2016 and added another $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. Those figures include more than $12,000 that was later directed into President Trump’s legal defense fund, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. He did not give directly to the Trump campaign. … Additional contributions from Russian-connected donors came from Russian-born oil executive Simon Kukes and New York businessman Andrew Intrater, who oversees the U.S. arm of the Russian conglomerate Renova Group. Neither Kukes nor Intrater had an appreciable record of political contributions until last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
We reported yesterday that Mueller has the cooperation of the IRS. This morning on CNN, a former CIA operative explained why this is such an important development:
The president’s former press secretary has tapped Chris Mead, a high-powered criminal defense attorney based, to handle issues related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The Daily Beast has learned. … Spicer will need legal help for the probe. Axios reported last week that he took detailed notes throughout the presidential campaign, which may be of great interest and use to Mueller and his team of investigators.
Before discussing the firing of former FBI Director James Comey with federal investigators, the FBI made the investigators promise not to share certain information with members of Congress or their committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman wrote on Monday. …
The Senate Judiciary Committee has previously complained about not having access to FBI materials. The Justice Department has blocked requests by the committee to interview Jim Rybicki, Comey’s former chief of staff, and Carl Ghattas, the executive assistant director in charge of the bureau’s national security branch.
But the Justice Department did provide the committee with redacted transcripts from its interviews with unnamed witnesses connected to the FBI about Comey’s actions as director. Those witnesses said that Comey had started drafting a statement “exonerating” Hillary Clinton in the case involving her use of a private email system, before the bureau had interviewed her or completed its investigation. National security experts and former FBI officials are divided about whether Comey broke norms or rules by doing so.
Another congressional panel, the House Intelligence Committee, has also come up against the FBI and the Justice Department. Earlier in September, that committee issued subpoenas requesting that the bureau and the department provide documents related to a largely unverified document about Trump.
In his letter on Monday, Grassley asked the special counsel office to provide the nondisclosure agreements and also notify the committee in the future “of any attempt by any agency under its jurisdiction, in any matter, to obtain an NDA that purports to limit the rights of the committee to obtain information from the OSC.” He also asked that the FBI explain to the committee why it sought the nondisclosure agreements.
Over on Capitol Hill, flamboyant dirty trickster Roger Stone told members and staffers of the House Intelligence Committee that he didn’t collude with Russia – but his story doesn’t add up:
[Stone said] the allegations he is facing of collusion with Russian operatives in the run-up to the 2016 election are completely false and that there was not “one shred of evidence” to support them.
“This is nothing more than conjecture, supposition, projection, allegation, and coincidence, none of it proven by evidence or fact,” he said a statement released ahead of addressing the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. “I have no involvement in the alleged activities that are within the publicly stated scope of this Committee’s investigation.”
Allegations of Stone’s collusion stem from a tweet he sent out on August 21, a month-and-a-half before Wikileaks released its first set of emails from John Podesta, then chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, saying “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 21, 2016
(Disclosure: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which John Podesta founded.)
If Roger Stone’s August tweet was referring to the impending release of Podesta’s emails by Wikileaks it would be extremely strong evidence of collusion with Russia, particularly in light of Stone’s role as an adviser to Trump’s campaign at the time and the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion that Wikileaks was working in concert with Russian military intelligence.
In his testimony to Congress, however, Stone offered a different version of events. His alibi is that he was not referring to Wikileaks’ release of Podesta’s emails but rather predicting “the Podesta brothers’ business activities in Russia with the oligarchs around Putin, their uranium deal, their bank deal, would come under public scrutiny.” He also referred to the fact that his “boyhood friend” Paul Manafort had just resigned because of allegations regarding his business activities in Ukraine. “I thought it manifestly unfair that John Podesta not be held to the same standard,” Stone said.
But there’s a key problem. Virtually none of the “deals” Stone mentions have anything to do with John Podesta at all. Nonetheless, he is claiming those stories — and not the subsequent release of Podesta’s emails by Wikileaks — would constitute a new scandal that would put Podesta “in the barrel.” Not only is there no evidence to back up Stone’s claim, but he publicly bragged about a backchannel to Wikileaks.
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman went so far as to call Stone a liar yesterday on MSNBC (hat tip: Raw Story):
By the way, if you don’t think some menbers of the HIC aren’t trading notes with Team Mueller, you’d be MAGA-hat wrong!
Oh, we almost forgot: Stone says Paul Manafort expects to be indicted!
Roger J. Stone Jr., an informal adviser to President Trump, said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman is expecting to be indicted by federal prosecutors investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election.
Mr. Stone’s remarks about the former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, came after Mr. Stone spent hours behind closed doors with members of the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian election interference. Mr. Stone said he had heard about the possible indictment from his lawyers, who had heard it from Mr. Manafort’s lawyers.
“I believe his attorneys informed my attorneys of that,” Mr. Stone said Tuesday. “They didn’t seem to know when nor what the charge may be.”
This comports with the prediction of a key Democratic senator:
Criminal charges against two former top advisers to President Donald Trump are virtually certain, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday.
Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort are almost sure to be indicted as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Connecticut senator told POLITICO.
“I’m about 99 percent sure there will be some criminal charges from this investigation,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blumenthal has also served as a U.S. attorney and spent 20 years as his state’s attorney general.