Episode 14: Russia Investigation Part 3 - From the Appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the Michael Flynn Pleading Guilty

Just in time for the midterm elections, Dylan and Brent bring you the third installment in their series on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Who got fired? Who gets to stay? Just how many documents does Congress need anyway? Listen close to find out!

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May 2017

May 17, 2017

The deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appoints the former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to oversee the investigation into any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s actions to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Trump

May 18, 2017

President Trump tweets that the investigation into collusion between his campaign and Russians “is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” 

At a press conference standing next to the president of Columbia, Trump publicly denies he asked Comey to close down the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn. 

May 23, 2017

Trump retains adviser Marc Kasowitz as his private attorney for the Russian probe. 

Senate Investigation

May 23, 2017

Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and is asked if the Washington Post’s report on Trump’s request to help him push back against the FBI investigation is correct. He declines to answer saying, “It’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that.”

House Investigation

May 23, 2017

John Brennan, Former CIA director, testifies before the House intelligence committee about the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. During an exchange between Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, Brennan says he doesn’t know if any “such collusion existed,” but was concerned about contacts between people involved in the Trump campaign and Russian officials. He said,

I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals. I don’t know whether or not such collusion — and that’s your term, such collusion existed. I don’t know. But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.

May 31, 2017

Subpoenas issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for testimony, business records, and other documents from personal attorney to the President, Michael Cohen as well as Michael Flynn.

Kushner/Kislyak Back channel

May 26, 2017

The Washington Post reports that Kushner and Russian ambassador, Kislyak discussed setting up a secure communication channel between the Kremlin and Trump’s transition team at a meeting in early December 2016.

May 27, 2017

H.R. McMaster, National Security Adviser, downplays reports of Kushner discussing so-called back-channel communications with Kremlin saying that the U.S. has,

back-channel communications with a number of countries. So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner.

June 2017

Putin

June 1, 2017

Putin denies role in US elections, suggests that “patriotic hackers” outside government may be behind the attack. 

Reality Winner Leak

June 5, 2017

An NSA contractor by the name of Reality Winner is charged with leaking classified information regarding Russia’s hacking activities. 

Flynn

June 6, 2017

CNN reports that Michael Flynn gives more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate Intelligence committee. These documents were subpoenaed on May 10 by the committee. 

The Washington Post reports on this day that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in a meeting on March 22nd, “if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.” The report was based on “officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.” Spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Brian Hale issues a statement that said Coats “never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.”

Senate Investigation

June 7, 2017 

At a Senate intelligence committee hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio asks Dan Coats, National Intelligence Director, if he has ever been asked “by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation.” Coats declines to comment, rather saying it would be inappropriate to answer that question at an open hearing,

I am willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and don’t know,” Coats says. “What I’m not willing to do is to share what I think is confidential information that ought to be protected in an open hearing, and so I’m not prepared to answer your question.

Director of the National Security Agency, Michael S. Rogers, at this same meeting also declines to speak about any conversations he had with the president. Adding,

In the three plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical, or inappropriate.

In advance of his June 8th testimony in front of the Senate intelligence committee, James Comey submits his written testimony. In this testimony Comey states that he had “nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months - three in person and six on the phone.” 

Trump aside

Also on June 7:

President Trump states that he intends to put Christopher Wray as FBI director. Wray was an assistant U.S. attorney general in the During the GW Bush administration who was in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions division.

Comey

June 8, 2017

James Comey testifies before the Senate intelligence committee. Trump’s lawyer disputes Comey’s testimony. Here’s a quick summary from factcheck.org:

As his written testimony detailed, Comey says the president asked him for his loyalty at a Jan. 27 dinner and asked him to drop the Flynn investigation at a Feb. 14 meeting. He also says Trump asked that the FBI “lift the cloud” over his administration and publicly announce that the president is personally not under investigation on March 30 and April 11.

Comey also discloses that he gave a copy of his memo about his meeting with the president on Feb. 14 to a friend with instructions that he share the contents of the memo with a reporter. He says he did so “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Asked if the president’s request to drop the Flynn investigation amounts to obstruction of justice, Comey says: “ I don’t know. That — that’s [special counsel] Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”

June 9, 2017

During a joint press conference with Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian President, Trump denies that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation saying, “I didn’t say that.” 

Also saying in response to the loyalty pledge, “I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.” Trump said he is “100 percent” willing to testify under oath regarding he and Comey’s conversations saying, “No collusion, no obstruction, he’s a leaker.” 

Also, when a reporter starts to ask Trump a question hinting that he may have tape recordings of he and Comey’s conversations Trumps says,

I’m not hinting anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.

 The House intelligence committee sent a letter to White House counsel, McGahn, asking if any such tapes exist and, if so, to turn them over to the committee by June 23.

Firing Mueller

June 12, 2017

Friend of the president and CEO of Newsmax Media, Christopher Ruddy told Judy Woodruff of PBS newsHour that Trump is considering firing Mueller saying,

I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option.

Trump tweets that allegations of obstruction of justice are part of a “witch hunt”. 

June 13, 2017

Aboard Airforce One, Sarah Sanders, Deputy Press Sec. says the president has the “right” to fire Mueller if he so chooses, but he won’t, saying, “While the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so.”

More Senate Investigations

Still on June 13

The deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that he alone has authority to fire the special counsel and explains he has not seen any evidence of a reason to fire Mueller.

Jeff Sessions testifies in front of the Senate intelligence committee. Saying,

The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.

According to factcheck.org,

Sessions, who has acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador on two occasions, says he does not recall meeting Kislyak a third time at Trump’s foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2016. “I don’t recall it,” Sessions says. “Certainly I can assure you nothing improper — if I’d had a conversation with him and it’s conceivable that occurred — I just don’t remember it.

Sessions declines to answer any questions about his conversations with the president regarding Comey’s firing or any other matter,

[C]onsistent with long-standing Department of Justice practice, I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications with the president.

So what is Mueller up to, anyway?

June 14, 2017

The Washington Post reports that special counsel heading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, has expanded his inquiry to include “an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.” 

Post writes, “Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. 

The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.”

Near this time Wa Post and NYT reports that Trump ordered that Mueller be fired but relented after Don McGahn, white house counsel threatened to quit.

Media

June 15, 2017

Trump tweets,

They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found Zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of Justice on the phony story. Nice.

Washington Post reports that Mueller is conducting an investigation into “the finances and business dealings” of Kushner. 

Also, stating that federal prosecutors and the FBI have been “examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates,” This includes Manafort, Page, and Flynn. 

Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick says in an email to the Post that, “it would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia.”

Near this date, CNN reports intelligence chiefs told senators that the president asked them to deny any Russian collusion.

NYT reports that Trump transition team orders former staff to keep all documents related to Ukraine or Russia.

But What About Pence?

Also on June 15

VP Mike Pence hires lawyer Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuireWoods and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia under President George H.W. Bush, to serve as his personal lawyer regarding all things regarding the Russia investigation. 

Misc.

June 16, 2017

On Twitter Trump says,

I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt!

Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney hires his own attorney to represent him in the Russian investigation. 

June 18, 2017

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow says on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the president is not under investigation saying, “The fact of the matter is the president has not been and is not under investigation… So this was his response, via twitter, via social media was in response to the Washington Post piece with five anonymous sources.”

Trump once again for good measure tweets that the investigation is a “witch hunt”.

June 19, 2017

According to the PBS timeline, - Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort associate, tells the Wash Post that he has no relation to Russian intelligence while others have insisted he “was” contacted.

June 20, 2017

Sean Spicer states that he does not know if Trump believes the Russians attempted to meddle in the 2016 election.

June 21, 2017

Jarod Kushner submits a third security clearance form, which amended it to include the June 2016 meeting.

June 22, 2017

Trump tweets,

With all the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump implies that he may not want Mueller in the job.

June 23, 2017

Trump acknowledges Russian meddling in a tweet and blames Obama for doing nothing to stop it.

June 25, 2017

Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is recalled back to Moscow.

June 27, 2017

Manafort registers retroactively as a foreign agent for his previous work in Ukraine. 

July 2017

G-20

July 7, 2017

According to factcheck.org,

Trump talks twice with Putin at G-20 summit. 

The first is a regularly scheduled meeting that lasted more than two hours. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends that meeting and discusses it with the media after it ends. 

The second conversation occurs at a dinner for G-20 leaders and their spouses. The White House would not disclose or confirm that second conversation until July 18. 

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group, revealed the previously undisclosed conversation in a newsletter to clients of his New York-based risk management company. Bremmer said Trump went to Putin’s table at some point during the dinner and the two men spoke for “roughly an hour.” 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump initiated the conversation, but he said it was brief and nothing more than “pleasantries and small talk” were exchanged. There is no record of the conversation, which was facilitated only by a Russian interpreter.

NYT breaks trump tower meeting

July 8, 2017 

The NYT breaks the story of Donald Trump Jr. arranging a June 9, 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, at Trump Tower. 

Donald Trump Jr. states that it was a “short introductory meeting” and, “We primarily discussed a program about adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.” 

The next day Trump Jr. says, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.” 

The NYT writes: “He said [Veselnitskaya] then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.” 

Donald Trump Jr. said: “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.” 

July 11, 2017

Donald Trump Jr. tweets pictures of the email exchanges saying Veselnitskaya “was not a government official” and that “the information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research.”

NYT reports that Trump signed off on his son’s statement about meeting with the Russian lawyer.

July 12, 2017

Trump’s attorney states that the president is not involved in drafting his son’s statement regarding Russian meeting.

At a joint press conference with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Trump states that the Trump Tower meeting between Veselnitskaya and his top campaign aides is “very standard in politics” 

Trump says,

I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent… That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.

July 19, 2017

The Senate judiciary committee asks that Donald Trump Jr. turn over all documents “relating to any attempts or actions taken by the Trump Organization or Trump campaign to coordinate, encourage, gain, release, or otherwise use information related to Russia’s influence campaign aimed at the US 2016 presidential election.” In a letter by the committee it asks in particular for any documents related to the June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya, as well as any and all communications he had with a long list of specific Trump campaign officials and Russian businesses and/or individuals. 

To the NYT Trump criticizes Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation.

NYT reports Manafort owed millions to pro-Russia interests. A spokesman for Manafort says those debts are not current.

Mueller expands AGAIN

July 20, 2017

Mueller expands investigation into the business dealings of Trump.

Sessions says he will serve the President as long as it’s appropriate. 

July 21, 2017

Anthony Scaramucci is announced as new White House communications director.

More Senate investigations

July 24, 2017

Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, meets for two hours with the Senate intelligence committee investigators releases a statement saying, “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.” In this statement Kushner says that he can recall only two meetings with Russian government representatives during the campaign and only two meetings during the transition. In this statement it also says Kushner spoke briefly to the Russian ambassador, Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D. C. in April of 2016 prior to a speech by Trump on foreign affairs. It also states that Kushner met with Kislyak for only 20 or 30 minutes at Trump Tower on Dec. 1, 2016. He also says he met with Sergey Gorkov in New York on Dec 13, 2016 for only 20 to 25 min., and he attended a meeting that was arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney at Trump Tower on June 9.

July 25, 2017

Manafort meets with Senate intelligence Committee staff who ask him about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. This same day the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas Manafort for broad questioning.

Kushner meets privately with House intelligence committee.

Oh, and also on July 25, 2017

Trump tells the Wall Street Journal that he’s “just looking at” firing Jeff Sessions.

FBI

July 26, 2017

On this day, the home of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is raided by the FBI. 

July 27, 2017

Trump foreign policy adviser during the campaign who we lovingly call “Big Pappa” aka: Papadopoulos, is arrested at Dulles International Airport on charges that he lied to FBI agents. According to a court document, Papadopoulos met with government investigators “on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

Investor Bill Browder tells senators that Veselnitskaya was pushing Moscow’s agenda at Trump Tower meeting in 2016. 

US Senate sends new Russian sanctions to Trump’s desk in the Oval Office

July 28, 2017

Russia expels US diplomats in reaction to the sanctions bill.

July 30, 2017

According to PBS over this weekend, “incoming White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly tells Sessions his job is safe.

July 31, 2017

Scaramucci is fired as White House communications director. 

August 2017

August 1 

According to factcheck.org:

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirms that the president was involved in drafting the statement that Donald Trump Jr. issued on July 8 about the meeting that he and other Trump campaign officials had with Russian representatives on June 9, 2016. 

That statement was misleading. It failed to mention that Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being promised “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to emails that Donald Trump Jr. released on July 11.

Sanders says: “The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had. He certainly didn’t dictate, but like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.” 

This contradicts an earlier statement by Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s attorneys, who said on “Good Morning America” on July 12 that “the president wasn’t involved.” 

August 2, 2017 

President Trump signs a bill for new sanctions against Russia but saying that the bill was “flawed”.

Rosenstein, in a letter outlining the scope of the Russia investigation, states that Robert Mueller has the authority to investigate “allegations that Paul Manafort committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russia government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law.”

It’s time for documents!

Also on August 2, 2017

Trump campaign turns over 20,000 documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Manafort turns over 400 pages of documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

August 4, 2017

Donald Trump Jr. turns over 250 pages of documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

August 5, 2017

On Russian TV the Russian ambassador Kislyak insists that he and Flynn never never talked about sanctions despite reports stating otherwise.

August 10, 2017

The President says he was surprised by July FBI raid at Manafort’s house and has always found Manafort to be a good man.

August 14, 2017

Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen sends a letter to Congressional investigators disputing the Steele “dossier” made public in January.

August 22, 2017

Senate Judiciary Committee has a day long hearing with Fusion GPS founder. 

August 28, 2017

The Wash. Post and ABC News report that the former chief counsel for the Trump Organization and attorney Michael Cohen, provided congressional investigators with a statement that Trump signed a “letter of intent” during the 2016 campaign to pursue “a proposal for ‘Trump Tower Moscow.’”

Cohen told Congress that Trump signed the letter of intent with I.C. Expert INvestment Co., a Moscow-based developer, on Oct. 28, 2015. He also explained to Congress that in January 2016 he emailed Dmitry Peskov, the press sec. for Russian President V. Putin in an attempt to gain the approvals that were necessary for this project. Saying, “Those permissions were never provided. I decided to abandon the proposal less than two weeks later for business reasons and do not recall any response to my email, nor any other contacts by me with Mr. Peskov or other Russian government officials about the proposal.”

In a separate statement written to ABC News, Michael Cohen states that “The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.” 

September 2017

Donald Trump Jr. in Trouble

September 7, 2017

Behind closed doors Donald Trump Jr. spends 5 hours answering the questions of Senate Judiciary Committee investigators. 

In prepared remarks Trump Jr. stated, “I did not collude with any foreign government and do not know anyone who did.” He also discusses his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and five or six others at Trump Tower in New York on June 9, 2016. 

Trump Jr. says that he was “skeptical” but nonetheless intrigued by an email he received from a Russian acquaintance that claimed that the Russian government had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia.” 

Trump Jr. says, “To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out.” Trump Jr. stated that the meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes and produced no significant information about Clinton. “I have no recollection of any documents being offered or left for us,” he says. 

Let’s bring Facebook into it

Still on September 7, 2017

The NYT details Russian fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter. 

Facebook admits it found fake accounts likely tied to Russia.

September 15, 2017

Facebook hands over information to Mueller on Russian ads.

A Break for Manafort...

September 19, 2017

CNN reports that federal investigators “wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election,” citing unnamed sources. According to CNN, two warrants were obtained by the FBI to conduct surveillance of Manafort from the FISA court. CNN writes, “it is unclear when the new warrant started.” 

...And back to Facebook!

September 22, 2017

Russia denies using Facebook to try to influence the 2016 US presidential election. 

Trump tweets out,

The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?

September 26, 2017

Roger Stone testifies for three hours in a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee. In a written testimony to the committee, Stone flat out denies any collusion with the Russians. Saying,

To be clear, I have never represented any Russian clients, have never been to Russia, and never had any communication with any Russians or individuals fronting for Russians, in connection with the 2016 presidential election.

In this meeting Stone refuses to name who worked with him and Assange.

Roger Stone tells reporters that Manafort, who was once Stone’s partner in a political consulting firm, expects to be indicted. Saying, “I believe his attorneys informed my attorneys of that… They didn’t seem to know when nor what the charge may be.”

October 2017

October 1, 2017

President Trump misses the Oct. 1 deadline to impose new required sanctions on Russia. 

October 2, 2017

According to Factcheck.org,

Facebook gives the Senate and House intelligence committees more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia that it says appeared on the social media site during the 2016 campaign. In a blog post, Elliot Schrage, vice president of policy and communications at the company, says the ads reached an estimated 10 million people in the United States.

October 4, 2017

The Republican chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee hold a joint press conference to address the newest updates on the Russia investigation. The committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, says, “the issue of collusion is still open.” referring to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. He states that the committee has interviewed over 100 people and has 25 more interviews on the schedule for October. He also stated that the committee hopes to complete their investigation before the 2018 midterm elections next November. 

October 5, 2017

Big Papadopoulos pleads guilty to lying to FBI agents 

October 13, 2017

Reince Priebus, the president’s former chief of staff is interviewed by federal investigators. His attorney William Burck said in a statement, “Mr. Priebus was voluntarily interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller’s team today. He was happy to answer all of their questions.” 

October 17, 2017

Report out that Russian trolling operation likely cost 2.3 million dollars and reached 6 million people.

October 18, 2017

Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Judiciary committee again. At this hearing Sen. Lindsey Graham asks Sessions, “Did you ever overhear a conversation between you and anybody on the [Trump] campaign who talked about meeting with the Russians?” Sessions indicates that he did not by saying, “I have not seen anything that would indicate a collusion with Russians to impact the campaign,” Sessions tells the committee. 

According to Factcheck.org,

It was later disclosed that Russia was discussed at a March 31, 2016 meeting chaired by Sessions of the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee. At that meeting, Papadopoulos said he had contacts in Russia and could help arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. Sessions would later say that he “pushed back” at the idea of such a meeting.

October 24, 2017

NBC News reports that the Podesta Group and the group’s co-founder, Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, are “subjects” of the special counsel’s investigation. John Podesta is not affiliated with the firm.

Citing unnamed sources, NBC News says federal investigators are interested in the Podesta Group’s work from 2012 to 2014 for a public relations campaign organized by Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, for a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The nonprofit reportedly was backed by the “pro-Russian and oligarch-funded Ukrainian political party” that was in control of Ukraine at the time, according to NBC News.

A spokesman for the Podesta Group tells NBC News in a statement that the firm “is cooperating fully with the Special Counsel’s office and has taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms timely compliance.”

October 30, 2017

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business associate and a Trump campaign aide, are indicted on money laundering and tax evasion charges related to their work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

Between 2006 and 2015, Manafort controlled firms that did “political consulting, lobbying, and public relations” for the government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions and its presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, and then later for the Opposition Bloc, a successor to the Party of Regions, according to the indictment. Yanukovych, a close ally of Putin, was elected president of Ukraine in 2010, but fled the country in 2014 after a popular uprising. The Opposition Bloc formed after Yanukovych fled Ukraine.

Manafort allegedly laundered “more than $18 million” that he used to buy property, goods and services in the United States without paying federal taxes. “Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts to other accounts he controlled,” the indictment says.

 “The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading [Foreign Agents Registration Act] statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts,” a Department of Justice press release says.

Gates joined the Trump campaign at around the same time that Manafort became the campaign’s convention manager in late March 2016. He served as Manafort’s deputy and remained with the campaign after Manafort left in August 2016.

Separately, the Department of Justice announces that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a professor who Papadopoulos “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials.”

Papadopoulos, who became a campaign adviser in March 2016, learned from the professor in April 2016 that Russia possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton “in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’” according to a statement from the Justice Department stipulating the facts of the case against Papadopoulos. However, Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI “multiple times that he learned that information” about Clinton prior to joining the Trump campaign, according to the statement.

According to the statement, the professor also introduced Papadopoulos to two others: a “Female Russian National,” who Papadopoulos believed had “connections to senior Russian government officials,” and “an individual in Moscow … who told defendant Papadopoulos he had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about his contacts with the “Female Russian National,” and failed initially to disclose his contacts with the “Russian MFA Connection,” the statement says.

November 2017

Sometime in November

Mueller’s team interviews Kushner. They also interview White House Counsel Don McGahn for the first time. He speaks with the team at least three times.

November 2, 2017

Carter Page testifies behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which later releases a transcript.

November 11, 2017

Trump says Putin privately assured him “he didn’t meddle.” Good enough for me!

But the next day on November 12, 2017

Trump tells reporters he accepts US intel over Putin’s assurances. “I’m with our agencies.”

November 14, 2017

Sessions changes his account, claiming before the House Judiciary Committee that he did remember a 2016 Big Papa meeting at the Trump Hotel where the Papster claimed he knew people who might be able to arrange a Trump/Putin meeting.

November 16, 2017

Senate Judiciary Committee says Kushner didn’t tell them about Wikileaks emails and talks for a “backdoor” channel with Russians.

November 21, 2017

NYT obtains a letter from the President’s attorneys to Mueller’s team about the possibility of him testifying. Some tasty tidbits:

he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired

astounding public revelations about the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice which appears to have led to the alleged Russia collusion investigation

The records and testimony we have, pursuant to the President’s directive, already voluntarily provided to your office allow you to delve into the conversations and actions that occurred in a significant and exhaustive manner, including but not limited to the testimony of the President’s interlocutors themselves. In light of these voluntary offerings, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President.

Far, far, from obstructing justice, the only individual in the entire Flynn story that ensured swift justice was the President. “ We all know that when you repeat an a word two times in a row truth is born.

While Mr. Comey may or may not have misunderstood, misinterpreted or misremembered the President’s alleged comments

We remind you of these facts simply because even assuming, arguendo, that the President did order the termination of an investigation (and the President, along with Mr. Comey in his testimony and in his actions, have made it clear that he did not) this could not constitute obstruction of justice.

December 1, 2017: Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI, indicating he will cooperate with Mueller.

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