2016 Campaign

Clapper Says the Russians Did Tip the Election

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told PBS Newhour that, in his judgment, Russia’s subversion of the 2016 presidential election did prove decisive in tipping it to Donald Trump.

Said Clapper: “As a private citizen, it’s what I would call my informed opinion that, given the massive effort the Russians made, and the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and multi-dimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion … and given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election. And it’s my belief they actually turned it.”

Mueller Fights Media Access to Secret Court Filings

“Special counsel Robert Mueller is fighting a drive by media organizations to unseal secret court filings relating to searches and surveillance efforts undertaken as part of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election,” Politico reports.

“While lawyers for President Trump have suggested in recent weeks that the inquiry appears to be winding down, Mueller’s prosecutors submitted a court filing on Wednesday that painted a very different picture of an investigation that is moving forward on multiple fronts and could be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the records sought by news outlets.”

Mueller Starts Sentencing Process for Papadopoulos

“A federal judge agreed to begin the process of preparing to sentence George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, an initial move toward wrapping up one phase of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller,” the Washington Post reports.

“Prosecutors’ willingness to start the sentencing process for Papadopoulos may be a sign that their need of assistance from the young oil and gas consultant is coming to a close.”

Kushner Had Second Interview with Mueller’s Team

Washington Post: “Kushner has had two interview sessions with the special counsel’s team. The first set of questions in November centered largely around former national security adviser Michael Flynn… Then, in mid-April, Kushner sat for six to seven hours of questions that covered many topics, including his work on the Trump campaign, the transition and in the White House and about Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire Comey.”

“The special counsel’s questioning focused only on Kushner’s work with Trump and did not include topics such as Kushner’s personal finances or those of his family business, Kushner Companies.”

Most Don’t Know Mueller Has Uncovered Crimes

A new Navigator Research survey finds that 59% of Americans believe that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has not yet uncovered evidence of crimes, even though Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.

Matthew Yglesias: “That suggests that the press as a whole has not done a good job of actually conveying factual information to our audience, that Democrats’ messaging on the investigation has not been clear enough on the most damning point (Trump, even if otherwise innocent, is guilty of hiring crooks and trying to prevent an investigation into their activity), and that Trump’s counterstrategy of muddying the waters around the investigation has been fairly successful.”

Trump Tries to Limit Scope of Mueller Interview

President Trump’s legal team is trying to narrow the scope of his potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller to questions on Russia-related matters that occurred before Trump’s election, CNN reports.

“Trump’s lawyers, who are urging Mueller to wrap up his investigation, are looking for a way to get him to agree to limit — or eliminate — questions regarding Trump’s conduct after he won the presidency, especially those related to whether he might have obstructed justice while in office.”

Where’s the Hacking Indictment?

“In the year since the start of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, one thing has been notably absent: a public indictment of any Russians for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” The Hill reports.

“Mueller has charged President Trump’s former campaign chief, secured guilty pleas from several individuals in Trump’s orbit and indicted 13 Russians for an elaborate plot to leverage social media to influence the American electorate.”

“But the special counsel has yet to announce charges for the hacking of the DNC, even though the intelligence community and private cybersecurity experts linked the attack to the Russian government more than a year ago. Legal experts say there are several possible explanations.”

Why Is Trump Freaking Out Now?

Jonathan Chait: “This weekend, the New York Times revealed that, in August 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met in Trump Tower with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who offered campaign help… The deeper question is how closely related the Gulf story is to the heart of the Russia question. Was it just another one of Donald Jr.’s legal misadventures? Or did Nader, Prince, and the Gulf States play a central role in facilitating a corrupt deal with Russia?”

“Trump’s furious lashing out, including his reckless escalation of a crisis with the Department of Justice this weekend, provides interesting clues. Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigators get to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. And now that attic is looking awfully interesting.”

First Read: “Don’t get distracted — that reporting of a second Trump Tower meeting in 2016 was the biggest news from the weekend.”

Mueller Probe Expands to Israeli Entrepreneur

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is looking more closely into Middle Eastern involvement during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, as it is now exploring the role of an Israeli entrepreneur with ties to a Gulf monarchy,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mueller has been conducting interviews about the work of Joel Zamel, an Australia-born Israeli businessman with experience in social media and intelligence gathering… Mr. Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. , Mr. Trump’s eldest son, at Trump Tower in the months before the 2016 election along with George Nader, a top adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss an offer to help boost the campaign. Erik Prince, a U.S. defense contractor who specializes in the Middle East and had close ties to the campaign, also attended the meeting, which was first reported by the New York Times on Saturday.”

“Following Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Nader made a payment to Mr. Zamel of $2 million, which a person familiar with the payment described as unrelated to the campaign.”

It Wasn’t Just Russia That Tried to Help Trump

“Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor,” the New York Times reports.

“The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office.”

“The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who was originally tasked with examining possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia in the election.”

FBI Source Met with 3 Trump Advisers During Campaign

“A retired American professor in 2016 began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential campaign, and he contacted three Trump advisers in the summer and fall of that year,” the Washington Post reports.

“The role played by the source is now at the center of a battle that has pitted President Trump against his own Justice Department and fueled the president’s attacks on the special counsel investigation. The Washington Post has confirmed the informant’s identity with multiple people familiar with his role but is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.”

New York Times: “The role of the informant is at the heart of the newest battle between top law enforcement officials and Mr. Trump’s congressional allies over the F.B.I.’s most politically charged investigations in decades. The lawmakers, who say they are concerned that federal investigators are abusing their authority, have demanded documents from the Justice Department about the informant.”

Mueller Subpoenas Another Roger Stone Aide

Special counsel Robert Mueller “has subpoenaed a key assistant of long-time Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone… the latest sign that Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is increasingly focusing on Stone,” Reuters reports.

“The subpoena was recently served on John Kakanis, 30, who has worked as a driver, accountant and operative for Stone.”