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Dems believe the special counsel's grand-jury materials could aid their Ukraine investigation, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for the House of Representatives revealed on Monday that they have reason to believe that the grand-jury redactions in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report show that President Donald Trump lied about his knowledge of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks. The attorneys made the stunning suggestion in a court filing as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s bid for Mueller’s grand-jury materials, which have remained secret by law. “Not only could those materials demonstrate the president’s motives for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation, they also could reveal that Trump was aware of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks,” the lawyers wrote in the filing, which was in response to the Justice Department’s opposition to the disclosure of the grand-jury information. To back up their claim, the House’s legal team — led by House General Counsel Douglas Letter — cited a passage in Mueller’s report about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s testimony that he “recalled” Trump asking to be kept “updated” about WikiLeaks’ disclosures of Democratic National Committee emails. There is a grand-jury redaction in that passage, the lawyers note. “The text redacted ... and any underlying evidence to which it may point are critical to the committee’s investigation,” they wrote. “Those materials therefore have direct bearing on whether the president was untruthful, and further obstructed the special counsel’s investigation, when in providing written responses to the special counsel’s questions he denied being aware of any communications between his campaign and WikiLeaks,” they added. In a text message to POLITICO, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, said the suggestion that Trump lied to Mueller’s investigators is “absurd.”

By Dahlia Lithwick

On Friday night the Washington Post dropped another blockbuster report in the midst of a fast-unspooling scandal involving Donald Trump’s improper communications with foreign officials. It raises a worrying question: Was there a memorandum that should have been produced to the Mueller probe that was never turned over? We learned Thursday, by way of a 9-page whistleblower report, about conversations between Trump and the Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump seems to have conditioned the receipt of military aid on Zelensky’s pledge to reopen “cases” that would investigate Joe Biden’s son for Trump’s own electoral benefit, that in the wake of the July phone call with Zelensky, “senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced – as is customary.”

We further learned from the whistleblower complaint that White House officials were ordered by “White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.” Further we know now that although it contained no classified information from a national security perspective, “the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.” That latter bit is almost a bigger scandal than the fact that the president tried to extort a foreign ally to produce fake opposition research in order to win the election. It directly implicates White House lawyers in hiding embarrassing documents under the pretext of protecting national security information.

Beyond which, it’s explicitly illegal to classify things for the purpose of covering up embarrassing behavior or misconduct. Presumably the House Intelligence Committee will now have to figure out who these lawyers were, and Russia, if you’re listening, maybe you can track down the emails. But here’s where Friday night’s Washington Post story perhaps magnifies the Ukraine scandal: The report, by Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima, alleges that there is a memorandum summarizing the White House meeting on May 10, 2017, between Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a meeting at which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a foreign agent, and at which he also told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.

The Post goes on to note that “it is not clear whether a memo documenting the May 10, 2017, meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was placed into that system, but the three former officials said it was restricted to a very small number of people.” Here’s the problem: That May 10 White House meeting was the subject of intense scrutiny by the Mueller probe because it went directly to the question of why Comey was fired. Page 71 of the second volume of the Mueller report notes, “In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.” The footnote cites to a White House Document entitled “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia” which is dated 5/9/17, the day before the meeting, and to an email (5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”); SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly, et al.). That’s the only document that seems to have been produced in reference to the May 10 meeting. There is confirmation of Trump’s remarks about Comey’s firing being a relief from Sean Spicer and Hope Hicks.

A former Trump campaign manager has lashed out at Democrats during the first congressional hearings to explore possible impeachment of the president. Corey Lewandowski repeatedly refused to answer questions during an ill-tempered House of Representatives session that devolved into shouting matches. One Democratic lawmaker called for Mr Lewandowski to be held in contempt of the proceedings. President Donald Trump praised Mr Lewandowski's "beautiful" remarks. Mr Lewandowski testified under oath on Tuesday before the House judiciary committee, which had issued him with a legal summons, known as a subpoena, to give evidence. In fractious exchanges with Democrats, he said he could not answer any question about his conversations with Mr Trump. On the eve of the hearing, the White House had instructed Mr Lewandowski not to divulge his discussions with the president. White House lawyers sat behind Mr Lewandowski during the session. He was fired by Mr Trump in June 2016 and never worked in the White House, but remains a staunch supporter. The president's fellow Republicans criticised the Democratic-controlled committee hearing as unfair and unsuccessfully moved to adjourn it.  

The case was about whether he made false statements to investigators about year-old work for Ukraine’s government.
By Andrew Prokop

Greg Craig, who served as White House counsel early in President Barack Obama’s administration, was found not guilty by a Washington, DC, jury Wednesday after a trial stemming from the Mueller investigation. Craig had been charged with making false statements in a Justice Department inquiry into whether his law firm Skadden Arps should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of its work for the Ukrainian government. His prosecution was spun off from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s extensive investigation of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair who came under scrutiny in the Russia investigation. Craig’s trial, which lasted about three weeks, boiled down to the question of whether, back in 2013 and 2014, he tried to mislead the Justice Department about what, exactly, he did for Ukraine, in hopes that DOJ would conclude he didn’t have to register as a foreign agent. Prosecutors argued that Craig tried to mislead the government about his contacts with journalists regarding a report that his firm had put together for the Ukrainian government. Their theory was that, because admitting to doing “public relations work” — rather than just legal work — could have led to a finding that he had to register under FARA, Craig misled DOJ about his contacts with the press. The defense argued that, while Craig indeed didn’t want to register as a foreign agent, he genuinely didn’t think he needed to. Craig himself took the stand to testify that any inaccurate statements to DOJ were accidental, and that he was talking to the media for his and his firm’s interests (rather than to help Ukraine).


‘That’s what open government is all about,’ Judge Reggie Walton said during court arguments over a FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department. A federal judge signaled Monday he’s considering removing the Mueller report’s redactions. During more than two hours of oral arguments in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton on several occasions appeared to side with attorneys for BuzzFeed and the non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center seeking public disclosure of the blacked-out bars covering nearly 1,000 items inside special counsel Robert Mueller’s final 448-page final report. Walton didn’t issue an opinion from the bench on the case, which centers around a pair of consolidated lawsuits filed against the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act. But the judge, an appointee of President George W. Bush, sounded increasingly skeptical of the arguments from the government pressing him to leave the redactions untouched. “That’s what open government is about,” Walton said during one exchange, citing the controversial resolution of a 2008 sex crimes case against the financier Jeffrey Epstein as an example of how obfuscating the reasons behind not prosecuting high-profile people generates public distrust in the country’s criminal justice system.

William Cummings, USA TODAY

President Donald Trump and many congressional Republicans treated former special counsel Robert's Mueller's testimony last week before two House committees as a victory, but for Democrats like Rep. Jerry Nadler the possibility of impeachment proceedings against the president remains very real. "My personal view is that he richly deserves impeachment," Nadler said during an interview with CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "He has done many impeachable offenses. He's violated the law six ways from Sunday." But the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment, said his personal view on whether the president should be impeached is not the issue. "The question is, 'Can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?'" he said. To that end, Nadler said House Democrats and his committee will continue to gather evidence and investigate "the corruptions of the administration, the abuses of power, what Mueller showed, the possible violations of the Emoluments Clause; all the things that might cause us to recommend articles of impeachment." During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney conceded that the impeachment battle is "far from over," but he said Nadler's was trying to take down the president because he is "facing a primary from his left in New York." "He is falling over himself to become more and more progressive in order to try and keep his job and not lose to the next AOC," Mulvaney said, referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset win over Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York's June 2018 Democratic primary. He said only left-wing Democrats still wanted to pursue the "bizarre" course of impeachment.

By John C. Eastman

The much-touted testimony of Special Counsel Robert Mueller before the House judiciary and intelligence committees last week yielded little beyond what was already in the “confidential” report Mueller submitted to the attorney general (and that has largely been made public). But there was one dramatic revelation from the testimony that should give every American pause, because it reveals not only a complete dereliction of duty on the part of the special counsel and his team of crack prosecutors, but also one of the greatest political scandals in American history. When asked about meetings between Glenn Simpson, the co-founder and president of Fusion GPS, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, whose clients include high-ranking Russian officials, that occurred both the day before and the day after Veselnitskaya’s 20-minute meeting at the Trump Tower in New York with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, Mueller declined to answer because the question was, he claimed, “beyond the scope” of his investigation. This is stunning, for it revealed that Mueller and his team believed they were tasked only with investigating Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, not Russian interference in the 2016 election more broadly.

By Rep. Eric Swalwell

The special counsel laid bare this president’s disdain for the rule of law. It’s time for Congress to exercise its constitutional duty. Congress must launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump — immediately. Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees Wednesday has left us with no other rational course of action. Doing so isn’t about partisan advantage in 2020; it’s not even about Trump. Impeaching him is about protecting America. Here is why: We heard — in Mueller’s own voice, without the president’s and attorney general’s distortions — that the special counsel’s investigation uncovered Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” interference in the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign’s embrace of this help and the president’s obstruction of justice during the investigation of it. It’s clear that Russia interfered in our election. It’s clear that it did so to help Trump win, and it’s clear that Trump benefited from Russia’s help and asked them to help further. “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious,” Mueller told the Judiciary Committee. Hours later, asked in the Intelligence Committee hearing whether future political campaigns could accept foreign interference, he replied, “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.”

By Sophia Tesfaye

How did Republicans react to Robert Mueller's testimony? By lying, deflecting and blocking election security bills. The integrity of American elections was compromised long before Donald Trump’s shocking victory in 2016, but former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday made clear that one political party is actively subverting attempts to protect our democracy. Hours after Mueller testified about foreign election interference before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday afternoon, the Republican-controlled Senate moved to block four separate bills to defend the U.S. democratic process. "Over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy," Mueller said in his opening remarks. "The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American." Muller told the committee that the Russian effort “wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” He later told lawmakers that "much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions — not just by the Russians, but others as well.” Researchers have already reported suspected Iranian disinformation campaigns on most major social media platforms this year. What Mueller said, coupled with his report — which found that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion” — is breathtaking. Russia's disinformation campaign in 2016 spent more than $1 million a month, as Mueller reported in an indictment last year. When given an opportunity to question Mueller, however, some Republicans on the Intelligence Committee actually challenged him on his findings, complaining that he was baselessly defaming the Kremlin.

There’s nothing wrong with defending the president during a scandal. But denying reality helps no one.
By Jonathan Bernstein

Some things are so obvious that no one even bothers to mention them. So I want to be clear: House Republicans embarrassed themselves Wednesday at former special counsel Robert Mueller’s hearings. There’s nothing wrong with politicians defending a president of the same party during a scandal. It’s their job, in fact, to point out where evidence is weak, conclusions assume too much, or stories have holes in them. Nor is it a problem when they try to place a scandal in context if (as is often the case) a media frenzy or overeager out-party has exaggerated the importance of some instance of wrongdoing. Many Republicans played that role during Watergate, and while they were burned by a president who couldn’t be trusted, historians have been relatively kind to them. That’s not what happened Wednesday. Instead of reading carefully into the evidence and finding contradictions or loose ends, House Republicans largely busied themselves with conspiracy theories. It wasn’t Donald Trump and his campaign who welcomed and benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election; it was Hillary Clinton! Never mind what U.S. intelligence agencies and Senate investigators have concluded. Never mind that this reality-denying line of inquiry left lawmakers defending Wikileaks and even, seemingly, the Russian agents indicted by Mueller.

By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

Mueller did not exactly exude charisma, but his testimony before Congress was illuminating when distilled down to the key moments. In the opening minutes of Wednesday’s first hearing with former special counsel Robert Mueller, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., pointedly asked, “Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Mueller’s one-word response? “No.” It was one of the more climactic moments of Mueller’s many hours of testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, which says all you need to know about the rest of that time. Anyone hoping for or expecting loud outbursts and emotional testimony has perhaps spent too much time watching fictitious courtroom dramas. This isn’t the WWE, it’s the United States Congress. But while the substance of Mueller’s testimony was often less than entertaining, it was an important moment in the saga that has been Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump reportedly was “triumphant” as he watched the event. But perceptions of the testimony are likely to vary widely in the immediate aftermath. This isn’t surprising. Much like the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate, how you experienced this hearing will likely color your impressions of it. In 1960, those who listened to the debate thought Richard Nixon performed better, but those who watched it on television seemed to favor John F. Kennedy.

By David A. Graham - Staff writer at The Atlantic

A Democrat asked the former special counsel whether the president had met each of the three elements necessary to prove obstruction of justice. Mueller’s answers spoke volumes. There’s a logical disconnect in volume 2 of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that is unmissable to any careful reader. As Mueller explains in the report, a charge of obstruction of justice requires three elements: an obstructive act, a nexus with an official proceeding, and corrupt intent. And in the report, Mueller’s team laid out several cases where President Donald Trump committed an obstructive act, in connection with an official proceeding, with what Mueller’s team concluded could be a corrupt intent. But because Mueller had decided at the outset of his report that he could not and would not charge the president with crimes, thanks to Justice Department guidance and in the interest of fairness, Mueller did not make the otherwise obvious jump from laying out the ways that Trump’s behavior met the three-prong test to actually stating that Trump obstructed justice. During today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries sought to demonstrate the disconnect by walking Mueller through the three-prong test. “Let me refer you to page 87 and 88 of volume 2 where you conclude the attempt to remove the special counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand-jury proceedings that might flow from the inquiry. Correct?” Jeffries asked.

William Cummings, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Former special counsel Robert Mueller has made few public statements since his May 2017 appointment to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign. Though the results of his work were made public in a 448-page report in April, many on Capitol Hill and around the country were anxious to hear from him directly about the investigation. After some wrangling, debates and delays, on Wednesday Mueller finally appeared to testify before Congress. Through it all, the stoic Mueller kept his cool and kept his vow to stick with what was in the text of his report. But there were still some fireworks and moments of humor during his more than four-hour appearance. Here are some of the highlights: A 'most serious' challenge to our democracy. Mueller, who was at the head of the FBI when terrorist attacks killed thousands of Americans on September 11, 2001, said he considered the Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election was one of the worst threats to U.S. he had witnessed. "Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy," Mueller said in his opening statement. "The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American." 'It is not a witch hunt'

By Philip Bump

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wasted no time during his House Judiciary Committee testimony Wednesday in undercutting President Trump’s ongoing insistence that Mueller’s probe cleared him of all wrongdoing. In fact, it was only about an hour after Trump’s most recent claim that there was “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION” that Mueller slowly read into the record an opening statement that made obvious how wrong Trump was. “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller said. But: “We did not address ‘collusion,’ which is not a legal term. Rather, we focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy. It was not.”

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, watched former special counsel Robert Mueller's highly anticipated testimony Wednesday in a packed common room of inmates a federal prison in New York. In a statement provided to CNN, Cohen -- writing from Federal Correctional Institution Otisville in Orange County, New York -- expressed disappointment with Mueller's "reluctance" to extrapolate beyond the report he released in April. "Mr. Mueller today had the world stage to answer questions regarding obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Sadly, his reluctance just continues to leave the debate open and those responsible free from prosecution ... for the moment," he said. "The American people deserve more!" Cohen is currently serving a three year sentence in the New York facility. In August 2018, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to hush money payments he made or orchestrated on behalf of Trump. In February, he testified about Trump's involvement in hush-money payments to women and his knowledge of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone's efforts to contact WikiLeaks. In his testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, Mueller offered mostly terse responses to pointed questions from lawmakers in an attempt to let his report guide his testimony. While Mueller refused to entertain questions about the Steele dossier -- an opposition research document put together by former British spy Christopher Steele -- as it related to his investigation, Cohen added Wednesday the testimony "confirmed" allegations made in the document against him were false.

By Justin Baragona

“Yes, that was news,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi, whose question provoked the answer, told The Daily Beast. “I didn’t anticipate that.” Towards the end of Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, the former special counsel indicated that the FBI is currently investigating matters of blackmail and compromise involving those were in President Donald Trump’s orbit. During his allotted time, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) noted that because it was outside the Mueller investigation’s purview, the final report did not reach any counterintelligence conclusions regarding “any Trump administration officials who may be vulnerable to compromise or blackmail by Russia.” “Those decisions were probably made in the FBI,” Mueller, himself a former head of the FBI, replied. “We referred to the counterintelligence goals of our investigation which were secondary to any criminal wrongdoing we could find.” Krishnamoorthi, meanwhile, pointed out that the report also did not address whether Russian oligarchs engaged in money laundering through the president’s businesses. “And, of course, your office did not obtain the president’s tax returns, which could otherwise show foreign financial services, correct?” Krishnamoorthi asked. “I’m not going to get into that,” Mueller responded.

ABC News

The former special counsel responded to questions posed by House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff.

Analysis by Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) - Former special counsel Robert Mueller hasn't testified on Capitol Hill in six years, and his performance on Wednesday was notably shakier during his high-stakes return. Many of Mueller's responses were halting and wobbly. His voice was stilted at times. He let Republicans speak over him and sometimes stood down when given opportunities to fight back. After a brief break, he showed flickers of humor and his demeanor warmed up slightly. On several occasions, Mueller struggled to follow along with the convoluted, rapid-fire questions from Republicans, which would be challenging for any witness to navigate. He asked lawmakers to repeat themselves throughout the House Judiciary Committee hearing, even when they spoke slowly. This same style continued at the House Intelligence Committee in the afternoon. It's not clear whether this was an intentional strategy or a reflection of a culture clash between a veteran public servant and the current political climate. On the eve of the hearings, the Justice Department imposed sweeping limits on what Mueller could discuss. Even though legal analysts have questioned some of those restrictions -- Mueller is a private citizen, after all -- Mueller said at the very beginning he'd honor these limitations. Two sources close to Mueller told CNN that the former special counsel was trying to be careful and keeping his answers as close to the report as possible. This fits with Mueller's lifelong style as a by-the-book prosecutor, not a grandstander who might seize the moment to put on a show. He kept things dry while surrounded by partisans from both parties in the middle of a political food fight. Republicans wanted to bolster the President, Democrats tried to drag him down.

By Dareh Gregorian

The special counsel's report said he never came to a determination about whether the president should be charged because of DOJ rules.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday that he did not indict President Donald Trump on obstruction of justice charges because of Department of Justice guidelines barring a sitting president from being indicted — but later clarified his remarks. The confusion came amid questioning from Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California during Mueller's testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. Lieu recounted the three elements needed for the crime of obstruction of justice. "I believe a reasonable person looking at these facts could conclude that all three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice have been met, and I'd like to ask you the reason, again, you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC (the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel) opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?" Lieu asked. "That is correct," Mueller asked.

By William Cummings, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Former special counsel Robert Mueller has made few public statements since his May 2017 appointment to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign. Though the results of his work were made public in a 448-page report in April, many on Capitol Hill and around the country were anxious to hear from him directly about the investigation. After some wrangling, debates and delays, on Wednesday Mueller finally appeared to testify before Congress. Mueller insisted that his testimony would not go beyond what was in his report but members of the House Judiciary Committee nonetheless did their best to get Mueller to say more about what he learned in his nearly two-years on the case. Through it all, the stoic Mueller kept his cool and kept his vow to stick with what was in the text of his report. But there were still some fireworks and moments of humor during his more than four-hour appearance. Here are some of the highlights:

By Corey Dukes and Justin Vail

Wednesday’s congressional hearings with former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are unlikely to reveal many new facts, since Mueller has vowed to use only the contents of his report as his “testimony.” But that doesn’t mean his appearance will serve no purpose. Few members of the public have had the time to study the 448-page Mueller report. Think of Wednesday’s testimony, then, as a sort-of audio book for the rest of us. The hearings are likely to provide an opportunity for many Americans to learn about details of the Mueller’s investigation they haven’t fully grasped before — about how the Trump campaign welcomed the assistance of a foreign adversary and how the president himself obstructed the government’s probe. What will matter even more, however, is how Congress responds to the hearings. Mueller’s testimony should set the stage for bipartisan legislative action aimed at securing elections, restoring the rule of law and preventing future abuses of presidential power. The facts of the Mueller report make clear that lawmakers have a job to do, and they should commit to legislative reforms that will get it done.

CBS News

Robert Mueller explained at the House Judiciary Committee hearing why his office did not charge President Trump with obstruction of justice. He later suggested that such charges could potentially be filed after a sitting president leaves office.

By Kevin Breuninger

In a historic trip to Capitol Hill, Robert Mueller testified Wednesday that President Donald Trump was not “totally exonerated” by the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference, as Trump has frequently claimed. The former special counsel, who was answering questions about the probe for the first time since he took it over in May 2017, also testified that Trump could be prosecuted for potential crimes after he leaves office. A Department of Justice legal opinion, which Mueller followed during his probe, states that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller was asked about the findings of his two-year investigation during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. He faces a second hearing before the House Intelligence Committee later Wednesday. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., asked Mueller if Trump was “correct” in his repeated claims that the report “found that there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him.” “That is not what your report said, is it?” Nadler asked. Mueller responded: “Correct. That is not what the report said.”

By Holmes Lybrand and Daniel Dale, CNN

(CNN) - On Wednesday, former special counsel Robert Mueller faces lawmakers at two separate hearings. We are fact checking the whole event, starting with President Donald Trump's attempts to set the agenda with a series of early-morning Mueller-related tweets. Before the hearing began, Trump tweeted eight times about Mueller and the investigation. He made false and misleading claims. Here's a rundown:

New Day

During Robert Mueller's testimony, the former special counsel agrees that the Russian government believed it would benefit from Donald Trump winning the 2016 election.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) - The big day is underway. After months of legal wrangling -- and more than 100 days after the release of his report detailing Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election -- former special counsel Robert Mueller will take questions from Capitol Hill lawmakers throughout the day. I am watching all of it and offering some key takeaways throughout the hearings, which I will add here as they happen in real time. (Mueller will testify before the House Judiciary Committee this morning and the House Intelligence Committee this afternoon.) They're below.

By Alex Ward
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the House Judiciary Committee chair, got the special counsel to say that right at the beginning. In just five minutes, House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) prompted special counsel Robert Mueller to knock down President Donald Trump’s main talking points about “no obstruction.” Nadler, as the panel’s chair, got to ask the long-anticipated hearing’s first questions. He used the opportunity both to set the tone for Wednesday morning and to get Mueller to refute the president’s repeated claim that he didn’t obstruct justice during Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

By Dan Mangan

Special counsel Robert Mueller began his testimony before a House panel on Wednesday with an opening statement that called Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election that sent President Donald Trump to the White House among the “most serious” challenges to American democracy. Mueller is expected to testify on Capitol Hill for hours about his investigation into Russian interference, possible coordination by members of Trump’s campaign, and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself. “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller said before he began being questioned by members of the House committee. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.”

In his first public statement about the special counsel investigation, Robert Mueller explained why his office never considered the president for obstruction of justice. He pointed to policy, saying charging the president with a crime was "not an option." Paula Reid explains.

By Quinta Jurecic

Some troubling-to-outright-damning episodes have been lost in the noise around its release.
After two years of silence, the special counsel Robert Mueller recently made his first public remarks — to complain, it seemed, that no one had read his report. “We chose those words carefully,” Mr. Mueller said, “and the work speaks for itself.” But at a dense 440-plus pages, if the report speaks for itself, it takes a great deal of time and focus to listen to what it has to say. Mr. Mueller tells a complicated story of “multiple, systematic” efforts at Russian election interference from which the Trump campaign was eager to benefit. And he describes a president eager to shut down an investigation into his own abusive conduct. This is far from, as the president put it, “no collusion, no obstruction.” The document is packed with even more details, ranging from the troubling to the outright damning. Yet these have been lost in the flurry of discussion around the report’s release. Even the most attentive reader could have trouble keeping track of the report’s loose ends and dropped subplots. Here are four of the most surprising details that you might have missed — and none of them are favorable to the president. Coordinating with WikiLeaks? (Volume I, pp. 52-54) How much did Mr. Trump personally know about Russian efforts to assist his campaign, and when did he know it? Three pages of heavily redacted text provide hints.

"The media is trying to split me with DT and family by lies and untruths," Manafort wrote to Hannity in August 2017. "It is such a dirty game."
By Tom Winter, Pete Williams and Rich Schapiro

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort exchanged hundreds of text messages with Fox News host Sean Hannity after the longtime GOP operative was charged in the special counsel's probe, according to court documents released Friday. "The media is trying to split me with DT and family by lies and untruths," Manafort wrote to Hannity in August 2017. "It is such a dirty game." In another, Manafort says: "I have new lawyers who are junk yard dogs and will undo a lot of this injustice. But it is going to be a painful and expensive fight for me." Hannity, for his part, offers Manafort consoling words and an open invitation to his show. "I pray that God give you grace and peace in this difficult moment," Hannity, one of Trump's most vocal supporters, wrote that same month. "If you ever just want to talk, grab dinner, vent, strategize -- whatever, I am here. I know this is very hard. Stand tall and strong." Hannity and Manafort, who is serving a 7 1/2 year prison sentence on charges brought by ex-special counsel Robert Mueller, sometimes texted multiple times a day between July 2017 and June 2018, according to the newly-released court documents. In late January of this year, Manafort said in one message, "Sean, per our conversation this morning, my attorney -- Kevin Downing -- will call you at 11:30 am tomorrow. He will update you on what we are doing and how it connects to your reporting. What number should I give him to call you?” Hannity replies, "Awesome," and says "I asked him to feed me every day" and later says, "HE HAS TO SEND ME STUFF."

House Intel Committee Chair Schiff said Wednesday's hearing is meant to address unanswered questions from the Mueller report about Russian influence.
By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller's report failed to address crucial questions about President Donald Trump's relationship with Russia that the FBI may still be investigating, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday as he kicked off a hearing designed to spotlight those issues. "Of all the questions that Mueller helped resolve, he left many critical questions unanswered — what happened to the counterintelligence investigation?," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said as he opened a hearing on counterintelligence issues. "Were there other forms of compromise, like money laundering, left out, uninvestigated or referred to other offices? Were individuals granted security clearances that shouldn't have them? And are there individuals still operating in the administration that leave America vulnerable?" Schiff said he is determined to get to the bottom of those questions, but he wasn't likely to do so at Wednesday's hearing, which featured testimony from two former FBI counterintelligence officials and a conservative commentator. The former FBI officials, Stephanie Douglas and Robert Anderson, each ran the FBI's National Security Division, a job that entails hunting for Russian spies in the United States. Neither of them is in a position to know what the FBI is doing now, but they sought to interpret the spare language of Volume One of special counsel Mueller's report, the section that details more than 100 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Douglas, for example, said that when then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort handed polling data to a person the FBI said was linked to Russian intelligence, that amounted to the Russians "tasking" Manafort, a term spy hunters use to describe the actions of people under the influence of a spy service.

By Marshall Cohen

Washington (CNN) - One day after special counsel Robert Mueller publicly refused to exonerate President Donald Trump and hinted at potential impeachment, the President responded Thursday with an avalanche of widely debunked lies about the investigation and its findings. Over a few hours Thursday morning, Trump spread several lies and falsehoods about the Russia investigation, Mueller's findings, the cost of the probe, and the legal restrictions that Mueller faced when grappling with the possibility of a President who broke the law.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The Mueller investigation witness longest known to have refused testifying finally spoke to a secret federal grand jury Friday about conservative political operative Roger Stone, the 2016 Republican National Convention and his relationship with Stone since then and will give more documents to investigators in the coming week, his attorney said. Andrew Miller, who worked for Stone in 2016, testified for two hours before a grand jury in Washington on Friday. The session indicates that a federal grand jury previously used in the Mueller investigation is still interested in Stone, and new charges or cases could be on the horizon. Separately on Friday, prosecutors made their boldest statement yet that they looked closely at whether Stone had violated the law against hacking while he was in contact with Russians online and WikiLeaks in 2016. Miller also testified Friday about what he knew of Stone's contact with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The documents prosecutors have requested pertain to Stone's schedules during the 2016 political convention. "It's hard to say where they're going on this," his attorney Paul Kamenar said outside the courthouse about the ongoing investigation, which has an unknown scope but was previously handled by special counsel Robert Mueller. "There could very well be a continuing investigation" of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but Miller did not have much information to help prosecutors, Kamenar said. Miller did not know of contact between Assange and Stone, Kamenar said. Stone and Assange have already been charged with crimes, and Stone has pleaded not guilty to obstruction, witness intimidation and lying charges. The grand jury at this point is not able to use Miller's testimony to build those open cases, and instead under Department of Justice policy the grand jury must work toward new charges. Miller said he worked for Stone -- "Uncle Roger" he called him after his grand jury session Friday -- for 13 years, as a driver and helping to manage Stone's emails and website. He has not worked with Stone since the 2016 election, his attorney said. He does not need to testify again to the grand jury, his attorney said he was told. Miller held off testifying for a year as he challenged the constitutionality of Mueller's investigation, and the courts denied him.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department on Friday released a transcript of a call from Donald Trump's attorney John Dowd to Rob Kelner, the lawyer for Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, where he sought information about Flynn's discussions with the special counsel. However, the Justice Department refused to turn over transcripts of Flynn's calls with Russian officials, including then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as was expected after Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered prosecutors to file those publicly. Dowd also wanted to remind Flynn about "the President and his feelings towards Flynn." The transcript was submitted to a federal court in Washington following a judge's order to submit it. The call, which occurred on November 22, 2017, was part of the investigation into potential obstruction by Robert Mueller covered in his lengthy report. RELATED: Michael Flynn told Mueller people connected to Trump admin or Congress attempted to influence him. Regarding the Kislyak call, prosecutors appear to say they don't believe they need to hand over other recording transcripts they may have involving Flynn. But their explanation in the filing Friday isn't clear. "The government further represents that it is not relying on any other recordings, of any person, for purposes of establishing the defendant's guilty or determining his sentence, nor are there other recordings that are part of the sentencing record," the Friday filing says, in the only sentence apparently addressing their response to Sullivan's order for the Flynn transcripts of calls with Russians. Separately, the Justice Department hasn't released any additional parts of the Mueller report that were previously confidential. The judge had told prosecutors they needed to make public redacted sections of the report that pertained to Flynn by today. Prosecutors said Friday that all of the information about Flynn or that Flynn gave to Mueller that made it into the report is already public.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The longtime political stuntman Roger Stone faced an exasperated judge on Thursday, as his lawyers failed to gain traction with bold legal arguments criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller before Stone's November criminal trial. At the two-and-a-half-hour court hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the DC District Court didn't rule on requests Stone has made to puncture the case against him but got his legal team to admit flaws in almost all of their arguments. Stone's team, however, still appears to have hope that they may get access to redacted parts of the Mueller report that describe Stone's case. Jackson floated the possibility that Stone could potentially see some some parts of the Mueller report that would be "harmless" and repeat details his team is already learning through evidence they've received in the case. Prosecutors have fought against this, saying giving unredacted parts of the sought-after document to the defense team would reveal how they plan to try his case. Jackson is one of the few people in Washington who have read unredacted portions of the report outside of the Justice Department. The redacted portions of the report about Stone are kept secret because they could influence his case before it goes to a jury -- with the Justice Department marking those redacted sections as "harm to ongoing matter(s)."
Stone is accused of lying to Congress, obstructing a congressional investigation and intimidating a congressional witness about his efforts to reach WikiLeaks in 2016 over the publication of hacked emails that could hurt then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help candidate Donald Trump, a friend of his. He has pleaded not guilty.

By Lanny J. Davis, Opinion Contributor

Special counsel Robert Mueller is the true man of progressive convictions and principles. He believes in due process of law — even for people who have done such evil they don’t deserve it. The problem is, when it comes to Donald Trump, we progressives find it inconvenient to apply our core due process principles. But we don’t need to choose between due process and Congress doing its duty, as Robert Mueller properly implied is the next step. When prosecutors hold press conferences after an indictment, they fundamentally compromise due process. They omit telling the public that an indictment is meaningless — a one-sided presentation to a grand jury with no cross-examination, no counter-point evidence. It’s no joke when prosecutors joke that they could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted. They could. It is therefore no accident that in the United States, according to the last report of the Department of Justice, in 2012 the conviction rate in U.S. federal courts was 93 percent. Don’t tell me that 93 percent of those convicted by judges or juries were guilty. The percentage of black people in U.S. prisons is about 38 percent of the total population — more than three times the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. Don’t tell me that is because poor black people are three times more criminal than white people.

By Eugene Kiely

Special counsel Robert Mueller devoted much of his 10-minute remarks on May 29 to explaining why the special counsel’s office did not reach a determination about whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. Democrats have criticized Attorney General William P. Barr for mischaracterizing the findings on that point in Mueller’s report. Here we compare what Mueller said in his remarks with how Barr has characterized the special counsel’s report and Mueller’s decision not to make a determination on obstruction charges. In his remarks at the Department of Justice, Mueller spoke for the first time about his two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller reiterated that Russia had engaged in “multiple, systematic efforts” to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy” between the Russia government and any individuals associated with the Trump campaign. He said the “central allegation” against the Russians “deserves the attention of every American.”

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Washington (CNN) - Robert Mueller ended his two-year stint as special counsel with a bang disguised as a whimper: In a 10-minute statement announcing his resignation and the closure of the special counsel's office, the former FBI director sent a very clear message to anyone listening: I didn't charge Donald Trump with obstruction because I couldn't. "The Special Counsel's Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy," said Mueller, referencing an Office of Legal Counsel ruling that a siting president cannot be indicted. "Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider." And just in case you missed what Mueller was driving at with that quote, he was even more explicit later in his remarks. "The [OLC] opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing," Mueller added. So, to summarize: Mueller says the special counsel's hands were tied by the OLC opinion when it came to charging Trump with obstructing the Russia probe. Mueller notes that "the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing." Oh, whatever could he mean???? To date, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held off the increasing number of voices within the House Democratic caucus calling for impeachment, insisting that Trump wants to be impeached because it will turn him into a victim and allow him to make the election about alleged Democratic overreach rather than about health care, immigration and so on. It's a sound political stance -- one reinforced by CNN polling that shows that almost 6 in 10 Americans don't want to see Trump impeached and more than 4 in 10 who think Democrats have already done too much investigating of the President.

By Steve Chapman Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune

After months of hearing Donald Trump portray special counsel Robert Mueller as a crazed Democratic attack dog, it may have surprised partisans to see the sober and scrupulously precise lawyer who finally spoke for himself Wednesday morning. His statement won’t prevent the president from continuing to brazenly claim total exoneration. But it underlines the disgraceful picture of Trump that can be found in the special counsel’s voluminous report. The most important words that Mueller uttered about his office’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election were the ones he saved for last, an implicit condemnation of Trump: “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments: that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” The most important American who has exhibited indifference to that allegation, of course, is the one who bears the chief responsibility for protecting the nation from such attacks: the president. The report made abundantly clear that the Russian government and its confederates tried to manipulate events and perceptions to get the outcome Vladimir Putin wanted. Putin did get what he wanted, and Trump’s presidency has been a boon to the Kremlin. As Mueller reminded his audience, his investigators did not clear the president of obstructing justice. They operated on the premise, based on firm Justice Department policy, that indicting him was not an option. The absence of an indictment, Mueller made clear, does not mean an absence of evidence of Trump’s guilt.

Newly unsealed search warrants confirm that Trump’s lawyer and a sanctioned Russian billionaire met in the months after the election.
By Justin Miller

Michael Cohen exchanged hundreds of phone calls with an executive tied to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to newly unsealed federal search warrants that show the two sides were closer than either previously admitted. Columbus Nova CEO Andrew Intrater and Cohen exchanged 320 phone calls and 920 text messages beginning on Election Day 2016, according to the warrants pursued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Columbus Nova paid Cohen $500,000 for consulting work for what the company called “potential sources of capital and potential investments.” Intrater introduced Cohen to his cousin and business associate, the billionaire industrialist Viktor Vekselberg. Cohen was even added to Columbus Nova’s office security list. The chatter between Cohen and Intrater was part of the network of relationships between Russian-linked interests and the former lawyer to President Trump. Cohen’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests to comment for this story. Intrater’s spokesperson downplayed the significance of the thousand-plus conversations between the two men. They were working together so of course texted and called each other. This was all known and investigated, and wasn't even deemed worthy of being included in the Special Counsel's report,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen had more than 1,000 contacts with a Russian-linked company, evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller used to quickly intensify his investigation, according to newly unsealed court records. Mueller was appointed in 2017 to investigate Russian interference in US politics, and the new documents show how Cohen gave Mueller plenty of reasons to aggressively investigate him. That's because Cohen initiated many of his contacts with foreign companies immediately after the 2016 presidential election, and started taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign sources. The special counsel obtained five search warrants before handing the Cohen investigation over to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Those warrants were unsealed Wednesday by a federal court in Washington, DC, after CNN and other media outlets sued to make the records public. The details of Mueller's early work were disclosed as Trump and Attorney General William Barr set their sights on the origins of the Russia investigation. Barr has questioned the legitimacy of how the probe started, while Trump has called it an "illegal" and even "treasonous" endeavor. But the documents describe how investigators were learning of new and concerning actions, tying Trump's closest associates to powerful Russian interests, even after Trump was elected.


Just months into a cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, former national security adviser Michael Flynn sent an unsolicited text message to one of President Donald Trump's top allies in Congress, urging him to "keep the pressure on." "You stay on top of what you're doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now," Flynn wrote to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Congress' most vocal critics of the Mueller investigation. "Keep the pressure on." POLITICO confirmed the details of the exchange, first reported by CNN, which came in April 2018, just five months into Flynn's cooperation agreement with Mueller. Flynn began assisting Mueller's probe after a Dec. 1, 2017 guilty plea on charges that he made false statements to the FBI about contacts with Russia's ambassador. Flynn sent Gaetz a separate set of messages on Feb. 14, 2019, the day Attorney General William Barr was confirmed: images of a bald eagle and an American flag. Gaetz confirmed the substance of the messages and said he didn't reply. He also emphasized he had no past relationship with Flynn or his son, Michael Flynn Jr. It's unclear if Mueller was aware of Flynn's outreach to lawmakers, particularly to one of the special counsel's top antagonists on Capitol Hill. It's also unclear if Flynn sent messages to other lawmakers. Flynn's attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The special counsel's office declined to comment.

By Tom Winter, Adiel Kaplan and Rich Schapiro

The communications could have affected the ex-national security adviser's "willingness to cooperate," Robert Mueller wrote in court filings. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly unredacted court papers filed Thursday. The court filing from special counsel Robert Mueller is believed to mark the first public acknowledgement that a person connected to Capitol Hill was suspected of engaging in an attempt to impede the investigation into Russian election interference. “The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation," says the newly revealed section of a sentencing memo originally filed in December.

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