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Friday, March 22, 2019
Mueller SUBMITS Russia Probe REPORT to Justice Department
Elizabeth Zwirz, Alex Pappas Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday submitted to Attorney General Bill Barr his long-awaited report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and possible collusion with Trump associates.
Several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., received a letter about the report's drop
“Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of the Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters," the letter said.
Barr also said that he “may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
It’s not clear how much, if any, of the report will be made public or provided to Congress. None of Mueller’s findings were immediately released.
The president has repeatedly decried Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” emphatically denying he or his campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 race. The president has alleged a slew of internal “conflicts of interest” from Mueller’s team and has previously said his legal team is drafting a “major counter report” in response to its findings.
Mueller’s investigation, which was initially ordered to look into the 2016 election in May of 2017, has gone on for almost two years. It has expanded to probe financial crimes of Trump associates before the election, conversations Trump’s national security adviser had with the Russians during the transition and whether Trump obstructed justice with his comments and actions related to the probe.
Mueller, the former director of the FBI under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May of 2017. In his order, Rosenstein directed Mueller to investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, as well any other matters that arose from the investigation.
“If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Rosenstein wrote to Mueller.
Since then, Mueller’s team has indicted, convicted, or won guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies as part of an investigation that has also probed issues unrelated to the 2016 campaign.
Twenty six Russian nationals and three Russian companies have been charged with interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
But none of the Trump associates connected to Trump have been charged with crimes related to collusion, though Mueller’s team charged former Trump associate Roger Stone in January with lying about his communications with WikiLeaks, which published hacked Democratic emails during the election.
Other convictions include: former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who both pleaded guilty to making false statements in 2017.
Former campaign adviser Rick Gates in 2018 pleaded guilty and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted and later pleaded guilty in a separate financial crimes case dating back before the 2016 election.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements in a case brought by Mueller in November.
Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer, pleaded guilty to making false statements this year, and Richard Pinedo, a California man, pleaded guilty to identity fraud in 2018.
Mueller has also looked at actions taken by Trump after sworn in as president, like his firing of FBI director James Comey and his ousting of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions, once one of President Trump’s most loyal and trusted advisers infuriated Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation. In March 2017, Sessions announced his plans to recuse himself after reports surfaced detailing undisclosed conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.
At the time of his recusal, Sessions said he met with the “relevant senior career department officials” to discuss the issue.
“Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said.
Rosenstein, Sessions’ number two at the Justice Department, then took control of the investigation and decided to appoint Mueller to take over the probe – an investigation Trump has repeatedly lambasted as a “phony witch hunt.”
Rosenstein said at the time, “What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”
Mueller said in a statement, upon his appointment: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.’’
Rosenstein later ceded oversight to then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker when he took over for Sessions. But the report was submitted to Barr, who was confirmed in February by the Senate as attorney general.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.