Drawn from various sources and updated frequently by our editorial team, RussiaGate Latest tracks daily developments in the coverage of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, how much of it the Trump campaign knew, and ongoing federal investigations of the matter.
Rosenstein Discussed Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed last year secretly taping President Donald Trump and enlisting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment, the mechanism for removing an unfit president — according to memos written by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The allegations, reported first by the New York Times, show the chaos within the Justice Department after Trump axed FBI Director James Comey last May. In his announcement of the firing, Trump drew from a memo Rosenstein had provided him: It criticized Comey’s handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Rosenstein, who received widespread condemnation from Democrats for enabling the president, became upset with Trump and worried that he may have had ulterior motives for firing Comey.
Rosenstein disputed the Times’s account, saying, “Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Cohen Working With Mueller Without Cooperation Deal
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and longtime confidant, has done several hours of interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller over the past month. The questioning has focused on the president’s financial dealings with the Kremlin, alleged collusion between his campaign and Russians to influence the 2016 election, and whether he discussed with Cohen the possibility of a pardon. Cohen never struck a cooperation deal with prosecutors, according to his attorney Lanny Davis.
Trump Halts Declassification of Russia Probe Documents
Trump backtracked on his Monday order to release sensitive materials related to the FBI’s investigation into Russian electoral interference. Citing concerns from “key allies,” the president announced Friday that he would defer to Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review the documents and conclude whether FBI investigators were guilty of anti-Trump bias.
Trump had ordered the Justice Department to “publicly release … without redaction” portions of the FBI’s June 2017 surveillance warrant application for his former campaign advisor Carter Page, as well as the text messages of several senior law enforcement officials, including Comey, McCabe, and FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
Trump Orders Immediate Declassification of Intelligence Materials
President Donald Trump has ordered the declassification of portions of the June 2017 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application for former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, and the public release of text messages “related to the Russia investigation” sent by FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) officials.
In July, the FBI released a heavily redacted version of Page’s FISA application. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated that Trump directed the DOJ and the director of national intelligence to immediately declassify “all FBI reports of interviews” related to Page’s application. Trump also demanded the release of unredacted text messages from former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and DOJ official Bruce Ohr.
Trump defended his decision by stating that he wants “transparency.” Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke to the consequences of the president’s decision, stating that, “With respect to some of these materials, I have been previously informed by the FBI and Justice Department that they would consider their release a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.”
Prosecutors Ready for Flynn Sentence
Special counsel Robert Mueller asked a federal judge to schedule sentencing for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In a joint filing with federal prosecutors and Flynn’s lawyers, the special counsel requested that Flynn be sentenced between November 28 and December 7, after the midterm elections. Prosecutors and Flynn’s lawyers also asked that the judge allow them to file all sentencing memos less than two weeks before the sentencing, which would allow the special counsel to wait until after the midterm elections to make public the ways in which Flynn assisted the investigation.
Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI about his contact with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but prosecutors have since delayed his sentencing. Three days before this filing, Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort struck a plea deal with investigators. Flynn is the highest-ranking official charged to date in the special counsel investigation.
Trump Legal Team Unafraid of Manafort’s Cooperation With Investigators
Trump’s lead lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that Manafort’s legal team assured him that Manafort, despite his cooperation with federal investigators, has not disclosed incriminating information on the president. Manafort and Trump have had a long-standing joint-defense agreement, but last week Manafort made a plea deal after pleading guilty to conspiracy against the US and obstruction of justice by witness tampering. Manafort’s legal team told Giuliani that Manafort has told investigators “nothing that is adverse to the president, the Trump family, the Trump campaign.”
However, legal ethics experts have refuted Giuliani’s claim, explaining that Manafort’s lawyers could not make a credible assertion about the consequences of Manafort’s cooperation with investigators. The Washington Post reports New York University Law Professor Stephen Gillers explanation, “No one can know whether what Manafort knows could be harmful.”
Bob Woodward Saw No Collusion, Still Thinks It Happened
While discussing his new book Fear, famed journalist Bob Woodward stated that despite looking hard for any signs of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia, he found nothing. However, he does still believe special counsel Robert Mueller has something on the president: “He [Mueller] has something that [Trump’s former lawyer] Dowd and the president don’t know about, a secret witness or somebody who has changed their testimony.”
While the book deals mostly with disorder within the White House and the efforts of aides and advisors to undermine Trump, this admission from the man who broke watergate is an interesting aside.
Trump Passes Weak Sanctions Against Foreign Meddlers, Russia Doesn’t Care
In a move which angered both Republicans and Democrats, Trump signed an executive order which may result in sanctions on any foreign countries or individuals who attempt to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections. Coming just eight weeks before the November 6th election, lawmakers from both side of the aisle derided the move as not enough, while Russia shrugged it off as merely internal US politics.
Departing from from his usual style, Trump signed the order behind closed doors with no reporters present. According to national security advisor John Bolton, the sanctions could include freezing assets, restricting foreign exchange transactions, limiting access to US financial institutions, and prohibiting U.S. citizens from investing in companies involved.
Both Republicans and Democrats however, have decried the order, with a joint statement by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) summarizing the position of both sides: “Today’s announcement by the administration recognizes the threat, but does not go far enough to address it.”
Manafort Cuts Plea Deal with Mueller
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, has agreed to cooperate with Mueller in the inquiry into possible collusion between the campaign and Russians. In return, Manafort’s seven-charge indictment has been reduced to two; he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of obstruction of justice.
In a separate trial in Virginia, Manafort is convicted of eight financial crimes that, combined with the other charges, could amount to a 20-year prison sentence. Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said that the charges will be dropped if Manafort complies fully with terms of the deal. Both White House attorney Rudy Giuliani and press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Manafort’s decision to cooperate with Mueller is “totally unrelated” to the president.
GOP Releases New Batch Emails Between Ex-FBI Officials
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) released a number of text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page capturing their reaction to news coverage of the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s election interference. The texts, Meadows said, “suggest a coordinated effort on the part of the FBI and DOJ to release information in the public domain potentially harmful to President Donald Trump’s administration.” In one message, Strzok told Page that he wanted discuss with her “media leak strategy with DOJ,” which Republican lawmakers interpreted as an attempt to manipulate media coverage about the investigation.
Strzok and Page came under fire earlier this year when it emerged that they exchanged texts critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign. Strzok was fired from the bureau last month, and Page resigned.
Stone and Assange’s Alleged Intermediary Testifies Before Grand Jury
Political activist, perennial political candidate, and comedian Randy Credico told Ari Melber on MSNBC that most of his testimony in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election was about Trump’s political adviser Roger Stone. Credico said a “preponderance” of the questions pertained to Stone, and that investigators asked questions about WikiLeaks “peripherally.” This is Credico’s second subpoena before a grand jury. In November 2017, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Credico after Stone alleged that Credico was his intermediary with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to obtain information on Hillary Clinton. The committee released Credico from appearing for an interview after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right.
Trump Jr. Is Not Afraid of Mueller Probe
Donald Trump Jr. told Good Morning America that he is not afraid of any information that may be uncovered in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.
“I know what I did, and I’m not worried about any of that,” Trump Jr. said, “I’ve done nothing that anyone else wouldn’t do in that position.” Trump Jr.’s participation in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Towers is a key area of the investigation. He initially told reporters that the purpose of the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was to discuss a “program about the adoption of Russian children” but later admitted that he was expecting to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton. In a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump’s lawyers acknowledged that Trump “dictated” Trump Jr.’s misleading statements.
Trump Tweets About Collusion on 9/11 Anniversary
On the morning of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Trump tweeted, “We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia” but alleged that there is an increasing amount of “documentation” implicating the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Hillary Clinton. Trump then alleged that newly released text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page contained a “Media Leak Strategy.” The president’s last tweet of the morning acknowledged the 9/11 attacks by praising his attorney and then-mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, who Trump called a “TRUE WARRIOR.”
Giuliani: Trump Won’t Answer Questions on Obstruction of Justice
President Donald Trump will not answer any obstruction-related questions in his interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to his attorney Rudy Giuliani. It is an explicit rejection of Mueller’s attempt to determine whether Trump tried to block the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin in the 2016 election. Mueller’s team has tried in the past to question Trump on his firing of the former FBI director James Comey and his continued attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Kavanaugh Denies Discussing Russia Probe With Law Firm
On the third day of his confirmation hearing, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh definitively denied speaking about the Russia inquiry with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 presidential hopeful, first asked Kavanaugh the question on the second day, but he said he wasn’t certain. Harris told Kavanaugh that she had “received reliable information” that he had discussed the investigation with the firm, but did not provide any proof.
Kavanaugh also declined to answer whether a sitting president can be subpoenaed.
Former Trump Aide Pleads for Clemency Prior to Sentencing
Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded for probation instead of prison ahead of his sentencing on Friday. Papadopouloss was indicted for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with a London-based professor. Mueller’s team recommended a six-month prison term.
During the 2016 campaign, Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat about his meeting with the professor, who had informed him that Russians had compromising information on Democrat Hillary Clinton. The tip spearheaded the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling.
Republicans Urge Trump to Declassify Russia Documents
Allies of the president are urging him to release classified documents onin the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election interference. GOP Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) have specifically requested that Trump declassify the bureau’s warrant application for former campaign aide Carter Page.
The development is part of an ongoing effort by the GOP to expose alleged anti-Trump bias among intelligence officers handling the Russia probe. The FBI’s application to spy on Page was based on tips from the dossier compiled by British spy Christopher Steele, which posits collusion between Trump and Russians. House Republicans pointed to the long-standing relationship between Steele and Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr — who testified before two subcommittees last week — as proof that the Russia probe lacks credibility.
Mueller Will Accept Written Testimony From Trump
Special counsel Robert Mueller will accept written testimony from President Donald Trump regarding allegations that his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Trump’s lawyers accepted Mueller’s offer to allow written responses to his questions after the special counsel sent the proposal in a letter on Friday. Mueller will decide how to proceed with Trump’s interview after he receives the written responses, but has not ruled out the potential for an in-person interview, reports the New York Times. The special counsel and White House lawyers have negotiated the conditions of an interview with Trump for months.
Trump Failed Mock Interview With His Own Lawyer
Fearing that Trump would commit perjury if he were to be interviewed in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Trump lawyer John Dowd held a practice interview with the president. The result was a frustrated “30-minute rant.” Journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Fear, informed by interviews with administration officials, describes how Trump reportedly had trouble answering Dowd’s mock questions, contradicted himself, became frustrated, and stated that he does not want to testify. After the practice interview, Dowd reportedly told Trump not to testify, explaining, “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.” According to Woodward, Trump expressed anger and fear after hearing of the appointment of Mueller, stating “Everybody’s trying to get me.”
Greek Court Rules Cryptocurrency Expert to be Extradited to Russia
Russian cryptocurrency expert Alexander Vinnik has been detained for the past year, after having been arrested by US prosecutors for running a cryptocurrency exchange used to launder money through criminal groups including Fancy Bear — a group of Russian military intelligence officers indicted in the special counsel investigation. Vinnik has been held in a Greek prison leading up to today’s preliminary hearing by Greece’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Vinnik be extradited to Russia. The court will issue a final ruling next week; meanwhile there are also attempts by the US and France to extradite Vinnick. At the time of the 2016 US presidential election, Vinnik supervised the largest cryptocurrency exchange platform in Russia.
Iranian Influence Operation Bigger Than Originally Thought
After a recent Facebook sweep to remove fake pages, accounts, and campaigns showed that not just Russia is meddling in US politics, Reuters has found that Iran’s operation is bigger than originally thought. The Iranian plan follows the Russian model of attempting to instill divisions within the country rather than actually pushing any cohesive agenda. Whether it’s run by private interests or government agencies is unclear. Seemingly following Russia’s example, the Iranians were running pages that campaigned for the secession of California and Texas, as well as to push an anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian agenda. There were also pages pushing support for the US-Iran Nuclear deal and for Bernie Sanders.
A Reuters analysis has identified 10 more sites and dozens of social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. US-based cyber security firm FireEye Inc and Israeli firm ClearSky reviewed Reuter’s information and confirmed it originates from the same accounts taken down by Facebook last week.
Robert Mueller Gets New Unique Russian Perspective After Plea Deal
Special counsel Robert Mueller just gained a very interesting perspective of President Donald Trump’s world, with political operative Sam Patten agreeing to cooperate as part of a plea deal. He admitted to failing to disclose that he was lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukraine party. He is also admitted to others crimes the US agreed not to prosecute him for in exchange for his help in the investigation.
Patten spent the last two decades advocating for Russian interests abroad, as well as with the Steve Bannon-linked company Cambridge Analytica. This work meant he crossed paths with former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik.
Of most interest to Mueller however may be Patten’s knowledge of a $50,000 transfer from a pro-Russian politician to Trump’s inauguration committee, in exchange for a seat at the event. An inaugural committee cannot accept foreign donations so Patten helped use offshore accounts to reroute the money.
It is unclear if the Trump administration knew about the origins of the money. However, with Patten’s unique perspective of the inside of both Russian and Trumpian politics on Mueller’s side, it’s another dangerous weapon for the Russian investigation.
White House Counsel McGahn to Resign in the Fall
White House Counsel Donald McGahn will resign in the coming weeks, Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter. McGahn has been with Trump since the early days of his 2016 campaign, but the two have often butted heads over Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s election interference. McGahn warned the president against contacting Justice Department officials, and allegedly threatened to resign when Trump tried to fire Mueller last June.
McGahn will leave the West Wing “shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump tweeted. The decision felt imminent to many on Capitol Hill after reports emerged that McGahn cooperated extensively with Mueller, providing insight on whether Trump obstructed justice over at least 30 hours of voluntary interviews. Washington litigator Pat Cipollone has allegedly been tapped to replace McGahn.
DOJ Lawyer Says Russia Had Trump 'Over a Barrel'
In a closed-door hearing before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr said that Russian agents thought they had then-candidate Trump “over a barrel” during the presidential campaign. Ohr said he received the intel in July, 2016, from Christopher Steele, author of the infamous dossier alleging collusion between Trump and Russians.
Ohr’s relationship with Steele, which stretches back to the mid-2000s, has made him a target of Trump — who called for his firing before the testimony — and the GOP rank and file. Some House Republicans are using the connection as proof that Mueller and the Justice Department relied too heavily on the dossier — which isn’t fully substantiated — in their investigation.
Giuliani Preparing Rebuttal Against Mueller
Trump’s legal team is preparing a “counter-report“ to question the legitimacy of Mueller’s probe, White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani said. It’ll be divided into two sections: one to focus on “possible conflicts” of interest by federal investigators, the other to address allegations that Trump obstructed justice and colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election.
The completed memo is expected to be more than 100 pages long and subject to changes, as Mueller’s findings have not yet been made public. In fact, Mueller’s report could determine whether the rebuttal is published at all, Giuliani said, “because they may subpoena [the president], and then we’d have to turn our attention to fighting the subpoena.”
Cohen Attorney Made a ‘Major Mistake’ Claiming Trump Knew About Trump Tower Meeting
Lanny Davis — the lawyer of President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen — said he made a “major mistake” when he claimed his client would testify that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where his campaign staff hosted Kremlin-linked Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton. In July, CNN cited anonymous sources to report that Cohen was present when Trump approved the meeting in a discussion with his son, Donald Trump Jr. Over the weekend, Davis said that he was the anonymous source behind the story. On Tuesday, he told NBC that he “never should have” made the claim and could not independently confirm it. Davis also stated that Cohen’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he said he did not know about the meeting before it was made public, is accurate.
Second Manafort Trial Delayed by One Week
US District Judge Amy Berman delayed the opening statements in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s trial for conspiracy and money laundering by one week at the request of his defense team. Manafort’s lawyers said they needed more time to prepare after wrapping up his federal bank and tax fraud trial, citing more than 1,000 pieces of evidence the government intends to present. The trial date is now set to September 24.
Berman decided to begin jury selection on the trial’s original start date, September 17, as the current schedule represents a compromise between the defense and prosecution, who wanted to keep the original court date. Manafort’s defense team has also requested to move the trial outside of Washington DC, citing pretrial publicity. Berman has not made a decision regarding the location change request, but said the court has found “impartial jurors” in “high-profile cases before.”
British Intelligence Agencies Reject Devin Nunes’s Meeting Requests
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-CA), visited London earlier this month to investigate Christopher Steele, the former M16 British intelligence officer and author of the Trump dossier. Nunes alleged in a February memo that, in a surveillance warrant for Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the FBI had used false and misleading information provided to them by Steele. Nunes also said he sent two aides to London last year to investigate Steele without the knowledge of the US or British governments. This month, Nunes flew to London and requested meetings with three British intelligence agencies — MI5, MI6, and the Government Communications Headquarters — but intelligence officials were “wary” to meet with him because they suspected that he was “trying to stir up a controversy.” Nunes instead met with the UK’s deputy national-security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri.
August 22-24, 2018
Senate Democrats Demand White House Hand Over Documents from Helsinki Summit
Senate Democrats have demanded access to all the documents — including the interpreter’s notes — from President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month. The letter argued that with the midterms looming and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry starting to produce results, Congress needs to understand exactly what was discussed and agreed to. However, it appears unlikely any information will be released.
National Enquirer Kept Trump Stories in Safe
In the final stretch of the 2016 presidential election, the tabloid National Enquirer kept in a safe damaging stories about then-candidate Trump, including his affairs with and attempts to silence two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. But the safe contained not only dirt on the president: it hid embarrassing secrets of many other celebrities. Deploying a so-called catch-and-kill strategy, the magazine buys exclusive rights to people’s stories in order to prevent anyone else from publishing them.
Reports emerged Thursday that David Pecker, the chief of the Enquirer’s parent company, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors. Exemption from legal retribution may prompt Pecker to come clean about the Enquirer’s efforts to curry favor with Trump by protecting him from negative press. Under Pecker’s leadership, the Enquirer’s coverage of the 2016 campaign was so blatantly pro-Trump that the New Yorker said the tabloid embraced him “with sycophantic fervor.”
Trump Lawyers Advise Against Pardons
Trump’s personal lawyers have warned the president against even contemplating pardoning former aides indicted in Mueller’s inquiry. With the midterms less than three months away, they’re especially concerned about the possible political fallout from pardoning Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair who was convicted of financial crimes on Tuesday. Trump heeded his legal team’s advice, said Rudy Giuliani, one of the lawyers.
Cohen Lawyer Says Client Would Never Accept Pardon From Trump
Lanny Davis, the lawyer representing Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, said his client will not be “dirtied” by a presidential pardon for his crimes. Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to violating campaign finance laws by paying Daniels to kill her story and reimbursing the Enquirer to kill McDougal’s. Davis, who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, revealed during a media tour that Cohen turned on Trump after witnessing his widely criticized meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit. He also hinted that Cohen may be able to inform Mueller about whether Trump “ahead of time knew about the hacking of emails, which is a computer crime that was the subject of the indictment of the 12 Russians.”
August 20-21, 2018
Cohen Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations, Two Hush-Money Campaign Contributions
President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including violating campaign finance laws at the direction of then-candidate Donald Trump for the “principal purpose of influencing [the] election.” During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Cohen directly paid adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her affair with then-candidate Trump, and reimbursed a pro-Trump tabloid that bought exclusive rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of a contemporaneous affair. Daniels and McDougal have since publicly spoken about their interactions with Trump, and Cohen agreed to a plea deal after admitting that he had paid Daniels $130,000 and McDougal $150,000. These payments are considered illegal campaign contributions, far exceeding the federal limit. Facing a maximum of 65 years in prison, Cohen reached a plea deal Tuesday. It is now estimated that he will serve between 46 and 63 months; Judge William H. Pauley III will sentence him on December 12.
Manafort Guilty on Eight Counts of Financial Fraud
After four days of deliberation, a jury found former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. Special counsel Robert Mueller had charged Manafort with 18 counts of financial crimes, but US District Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on 10 counts after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Manafort has not been sentenced yet, and is facing another federal trial on September 17 for failing to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for pro-Russian Ukrainian political campaigns. He has also been accused of witness tampering.
Microsoft Identifies Russian-Military-Linked Hackers Targeting US Senate, Think Tanks
Microsoft has identified and seized six websites created by Fancy Bear hackers linked to Russian military intelligence. Fancy Bear is directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, and carried out the hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016, according to cybersecurity specialists. Microsoft stated that Russian operatives created websites that mimic the US Senate official webpage, and those of US conservative think tanks that have been critical of Trump, to steal passwords and then manipulate the upcoming US midterm elections.
Steele Wins in Court Against Russian Oligarchs
Judge Anthony C. Epstein upheld former MI6 officer Christopher Steele’s motion to throw out a case brought against him by three Russian oligarchs. Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan sued Steele for defamation, claiming that one of the 17 memos sent between Steele and Washington DC–based intelligence firm Fusion GPS contained inaccurate information. Steele was subcontracted by Fusion GPS while the intelligence firm was investigating Trump’s connections to the Kremlin. Epstein ruled that the information contained in the memo is protected by the First Amendment, and that the prosecutors failed to prove that Steele knew that part of the memo was inaccurate.
Democrats Request Information on Trump Security Advisor’s Work With Alleged Russian Spy
Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) requested records related to Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton’s work with alleged Russian agent Maria Butina. In a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the lawmakers asked Kelly to produce all documents, such as security clearance forms or other “White House vetting materials,” to determine if Bolton disclosed his relationship with Butina prior to his appointment as Trump’s national security advisor. Last month, the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint accusing Butina of working as a Russian agent.
White House Counsel McGahn Cooperating With Mueller
During 30 hours of interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller, White House Counsel Donald McGahn shared sensitive information that could reveal whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation. Some crucial topics McGahn spoke about include Trump’s reasons for firing former FBI Director James Comey, his rage over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal from the Russia probe, and his attempts to ax Mueller. Investigators may not have been able to obtain elsewhere many of the details McGahn divulged.
Trump’s legal team, meanwhile, faces a predicament, as it does not have the full account of McGahn’s interviews with Mueller. Several people on the president’s camp blame his former lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb for allowing full cooperation with Mueller’s team, including by waiving attorney-client privilege.
Trump Looking to Revoke DOJ Official’s Security Clearance “quickly”
Now that former CIA deputy director John Brennan’s security clearance has been revoked, Trump has turned his attention to Bruce Ohr, an official of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Ohr served as associate deputy attorney general until late 2017, then briefly continued as head of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. It is currently unclear what role he plays at DOJ, although he is still employed there.
While most people are not aware of this career-official, Trump has repeatedly posted vicious tweets aimed both at Ohr and his wife, Nellie. The issue appears to be connected to Ohr’s relationship with British spy Christopher Steele and his infamous dossier, which Ohr’s wife worked on while doing consultancy work for Fusion GPS. Since Steele and Ohr also knew each other from their work investigating organized crime, there are suggestions Steele was using Ohr as a conduit to get information to the FBI after the official relationship was terminated.
Mueller Requests Six Month Jail Term for Former Trump Advisor Papadopoulos
With the sentencing of Trump’s former advisor George Papadopoulos expected next month, Mueller has submitted a memo recommending six months in jail. Mueller stated that Papadopoulos’ lies about his contacts with Russians shaped the investigation. According to the memo, the offense happened “when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made.” Papadopoulos did not contribute much to the investigation, and that most of what he provided only came after he was confronted by overwhelming evidence from the government.
With his sentencing only three weeks away, Papadopoulos has remained largely silent, although his wife has requested that a pro bono lawyer take on his case and try to scrap the plea deal.