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Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view

Associated Press • Feb 25, 2019 at 9:28 AM

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller has not made a single public comment since his appointment in May 2017. But he has spoken loudly, if indirectly, in court — indictment by indictment, guilty plea by guilty plea.

In doing so, he tracked an elaborate Russian operation that injected chaos into a U.S. presidential election and tried to help Donald Trump win the White House. He followed a Republican campaign that embraced the Kremlin’s help and championed stolen material to hurt a political foe. And ultimately, he revealed layers of lies, deception, self-enrichment and hubris that followed.

The full, final report on the investigation, believed to be in its final stages, may never be made public. That’s up to Attorney General William Barr.

But woven through thousands of court papers, the special counsel has made his public report. These are the key findings:

RUSSIA TRIED TO HELP TRUMP

The Kremlin directed a large-scale effort to help Trump during the 2016 election.

According to U.S. intelligence agencies and lengthy indictments brought by Mueller’s team, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a multipart influence campaign aimed at hurting Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, undermining American democracy and helping Trump get elected.

That effort included the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic groups. Russian intelligence officers then coordinated the release of stolen emails and internal documents using the false online personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, and later the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks.

While the hacking was being carried out, Mueller has also accused a Russian troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency, of using fake social media accounts to flood the American public with disinformation. That social media effort began in 2014 with a goal of sowing discord by trumpeting extreme positions on divisive political issues. But as the presidential campaign progressed, Mueller team says the effort began supporting Trump and disparaging Clinton.

WikiLeaks has denied that Russian was the direct source of the material it released. One defendant in the troll farm case has denied the allegations.

PEOPLE AROUND TRUMP WERE RECEPTIVE TO THE HELP

Donald Trump Jr., Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, and Trump himself all sought to benefit politically from Russian election interference.

In the middle of the campaign, Trump Jr. took a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer thinking he would be getting “dirt” on Clinton. Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, which included Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

Stone sought to help the Trump campaign benefit from damaging material released by WikiLeaks. After the DNC pointed the finger at Russia in its hacking, Stone pitched himself as a WikiLeaks insider in discussions with the Trump campaign. According to Mueller , Trump’s campaign kept in contact with Stone about the timing and content of any releases of Clinton documents that could be damaging to her campaign.

Trump himself also publicly welcomed Russia’s help. During a political rally, Trump called on Russia’s hackers to help find emails scrubbed from Clinton’s private server, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Court documents show that on that same day, Russian intelligence officers tried to hack into email accounts hosted at a domain used by Clinton’s personal office, as well as email addresses used by her campaign.

TRUMP WAS TRYING TO DO BUSINESS IN RUSSIA DURING THE CAMPAIGN

In fact, he wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Court documents in the case of Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, show the Trump Organization pursued the project even after Trump had secured the Republican presidential nomination. As part of that effort, Cohen spoke with an assistant to the Kremlin’s spokesman about finding the land and financing for the building’s construction. He also pitched Trump on visiting Russia during the campaign as part of the business proposal.

The potential deal ultimately fell through but Cohen discussed the project with Trump and his family even as the GOP candidate was publicly claiming that he had nothing to do with Russia.

HIS CLOSE ADVISERS SOUGHT RUSSIAN BACK CHANNELS DURING THE TRANSITION

The moves violated a long-standing norm in American democracy of “one president at a time.”

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn , in particular, was the main conduit, according to court documents .

In the waning weeks of the Obama administration, Flynn had several conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., involving two issues important to Mueller. On Dec. 22, 2016, at Kushner’s direction, Flynn asked Kislyak to delay or vote against a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, a request Russia rebuffed.

A couple days later, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its election interference efforts. But in discussions with Kislyak, Flynn asked that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond “in a reciprocal manner.”

Putin ultimately decided not to respond in kind, which Kislyak said was the result of Flynn’s request.

LOTS OF PEOPLE AROUND TRUMP LIED TO INVESTIGATORS

His national security adviser, campaign chairman, personal lawyer and three other aides or advisers: All of them have been accused of lying to federal agents or Congress.

Many of the lies cut to the heart of the investigation.

Flynn lied about his contacts with Kislyak. Cohen lied about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos lied about his contacts with Russian intermediaries who appeared to know ahead of time about Russia’s stealing of Clinton’s emails.

Mueller has also accused Stone of lying to Congress about his discussions regarding WikiLeaks, though Stone has denied any wrongdoing.

STILL, NO DIRECT EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY WITH RUSSIA

Mueller’s brought charges against more than 30 defendants but he hasn’t charged any Americans, let alone Trump associates, with actively conspiring with the Russia government during the 2016 campaign. That includes Stone, who has dismissed the charges against him as “process crimes.”

Trump has used the lack of conspiracy charges to claim vindication using his favorite phrase, “NO COLLUSION!”

Read AP’s coverage of the Russia probe: https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations

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