The past few months have seen several significant developments in the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, which has loomed over American politics since the 2016 election. As the number of indictments grows, so too does the rift in American politics as several Republicans call for an end to the investigations, and a number of Democrats and Republicans alike reaffirm the necessity of the investigations and their faith in the Department of Justice and the FBI. This entry will be part one of a two part recap covering all of the major developments in the Russia scandal since early May.
The investigation, which has produced indictments or guilty pleas from at least 32 individuals, continues to gather steam as Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was originally indicted on charges unrelated to the Trump campaign, had new charges brought against him in June by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort was first indicted along with Rick Gates this past February on numerous charges of financial crimes, but in June was again indicted by Mueller, this time charged with obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Additionally, the special counsel named Konstantin Kilimik, who worked with Manafort in Ukraine on behalf of then president Viktor Yanukovich, as an associate of Manafort’s and brought charges against him as well. Manafort’s trial for the first has been set back two weeks, to July 24th, as one of the judge’s family members is set to undergo a medical procedure. His trial for obstruction of justice is currently set for September 17th. A federal judge denied Manafort’s motion to dismiss the former of the two indictments.
Meanwhile, supporters of the President have ramped up efforts to end the investigations, which many of them, including recent addition to the Trump legal team Rudy Giuliani, claim is an overstepping of the FBI’s and Special Counsel Mueller’s authority. Giuliani, who joined the Trump legal team last April, appeared on CNN on May 27th and claimed that “the basis on which [Mueller] was appointed was illegitimate,” and that the Mueller team is “giving us the material” to undermine the investigation.
Earlier in May, Vice President Mike Pence said of the investigation, “in the interest of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up.” Other Republicans have also voiced increasing opposition to the investigation, including congressman Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, who has called for an audit of the office of Special Counsel Mueller. Meadows’ audit was attached as a provision to a spending bill, which was passed by the house on May 4th. The bill and attached provision were approved by the Senate on June 8th but have not yet been sent to the President’s desk.
On May 16th Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement saying “There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.” The committee was tasked with conducting a review of the intelligence community’s assessment on Russian activities during the 2016 elections. Vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said in the joint statement with Burr that “after a thorough review, our staff concluded that the ICA conclusions were accurate and on point. The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.”
Also on May 16th, the Senate Judiciary Committee released its preliminary findings on the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which members of the President’s campaign allegedly met with Russian informants with the intention of receiving supposedly compromising intel on Hillary Clinton. The 22 page document outlines the connections between several Russian nationals and members of the Trump campaign, and notably states that “The Trump campaign expressed willingness to accept Russian assistance.”
The day prior, on May 15th, it was reported that the Trump administration gutted the role of cyber policy advisor. Christine Samuelian, an aide to national security adviser John Bolton, reported in an email to NSC employees that “the role of cyber coordinator will end.” The move was criticized by Sen. Warner, who stated that “I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats.” The purpose of the move is, according to an NSC email, to “streamline authority” for the leaders of NSC teams.
On May 21st, President Trump met with several officials including Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, as well as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in regards to growing demands by Republicans, notably led by Devin Nunes (R-CA), for documents relating to Mueller’s investigation. Nunes issued a subpoena to the Justice Department in the beginning of May demanding “all documents referring or related to the individual referenced in Chairman Nunes’ April 24, 2018 classified letter to Attorney General Sessions.” However, Nunes later backpedalled on the demand contained in the subpoena, stating that he was “not interested in any individual.”
In a seemingly distractionary or retaliatory move, the President unleashed a fury of tweets throughout the month, coining the new hashtag “#spygate.” The President tweeted on May 20th that he demanded the DOJ “look into whether or not the FBI/DOB infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Trump has previously tweeted that he believed the White House had spies planted within his campaign during the election. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein responded to this demand by asking the DOJ Inspector General to expand it’s already existing probe into alleged FBI surveillance abuses. Late May saw a series of tweets about the so-called “Spygate,” as Trump and members of his legal team have taken to calling it, insisting not only that the president and his campaign had nothing to do with the Russian’s interference in the election, but that former president Obama actively attempted to derail Trump’s presidential bid. Between May 25th and May 29th, Trump tweeted about the Russia investigations a total of 16 times. From the beginning, Trump has maintained that he nor his campaign were involved in Russian efforts to influence the election.
This Russia Blog Post was submitted by USRESIT NEWS Analyst Thomas Wesley: Contact Tom@usresistnews.org
Photo by: Ilya Pavlov