ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Pass Legislation to Protect the Special Counsel Investigation
November 9, 2018
CREDO Action & Jonathan Chait / The National Interest & Andrew Prokopandrew / Vox.com
Donald Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The new acting attorney general is a Trump loyalist who opposes the special counsel investigation. This is simply unacceptable. The results of Tuesday's election made it clear that the American people want a check on Trump, and an honest accounting of any corruption or conflicts of interest. But Congress still hasn't passed legislation to protect special counsel Mueller's investigation into Trump's potential Russia ties.
ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Pass Legislation to Protect the Special Counsel Investigation
PETITION: Tell Congress:
"Donald Trump crossed a bright red line when he replaced Jeff Sessions with Matt Whitaker. Pass strong legislation to protect the integrity of the special counsel investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, preserve its findings and ensure Robert Mueller's independence."
(November 8, 2018) -- Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions yesterday. The new acting attorney general is Matt Whitaker, a Trump lapdog who is opposed to the special counsel investigation.  Reports indicate that he will take over supervision of Robert Mueller's investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  That is simply unacceptable.
The results of Tuesday's election made it clear that the American people demand a check on Trump, but Congress still hasn't passed legislation to protect special counsel Mueller's investigation into Trump's Russia ties. Congress must act right away to protect the integrity of Mueller's investigation and preserve its findings before Trump's stooges sabotage the investigation.
Trump's demand that Sessions resign was unsurprising, but his decision to install Whitaker in his place is a direct attack on the rule of law and our democracy. Whitaker complained that Mueller's investigation might hurt Trump and his family's reputations, defended the Trump Tower meeting with Russians, derided Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt," proposed slashing Mueller's budget in order to sabotage the investigation, suggested that Rosenstein should interfere with the scope of the investigation, retweeted an op-ed on the "Mueller Lynch Mob," suggested hiding the Mueller evidence from the public, complained about aggressive tactics, opposed legislation to protect the special counsel from White House interference and chaired the 2014 political campaign of Sam Clovis, a grand jury witness in the investigation. [3, 4] He made it perfectly clear that he will undermine or completely destroy Mueller's work.
Mueller's investigation produced indictments or guilty pleas from 32 people, including four former Trump advisers.  Earlier this week, reports emerged that White House officials were concerned that Mueller was on the verge of indicting Donald Trump Jr.  That's why Trump wants his stooge to step-in.
In April, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation to protect Mueller from being fired without just cause.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to the floor for a vote, hiding behind the excuse that he didn't think Trump would try to fire Mueller.  But McConnell is playing games.
Trump reportedly already tried to fire Mueller in 2017 and only backed down when White House staff threatened to quit.  And now that Trump crossed the line and installed his lapdog to oversee the investigation, every member of Congress must be forced to go on the record about whether they want to defend democracy or roll over for Trump.
ACTION: Click here to demand that Congress immediately put a check on Trump and protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation.
Kaili Lambe, Organizing Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1 Kevin Breuninger, "Trump's new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has criticized the Mueller probe, will now oversee it," CNBC, Nov. 7, 2018.
2 Darren Samuelsohn and Caitlin Oprysko, "Sessions ousted," POLITICO, Nov. 7, 2018.
3 Matthew Whitaker, "Mueller's investigation of Trump is going too far," CNN, Nov. 7, 2018.
4 Ken Dilanian, "Tweet," Nov. 7, 2018.
5 Andrew Prokop, "All of Robert Mueller's indictments and plea deals in the Russia investigation so far," Vox, Oct. 10, 2018.
6 Jonathan Chait, "Donald Trump Jr. Expecting to Be Indicted by Mueller Soon," Intelligencer, Nov. 7, 2018.
7 Brian Murphy, "These Republicans co-wrote a bill to protect Mueller. Now they won't push for it," The News & Observer, Aug. 22, 2018.
8 Lauren Gambino, "McConnell says he will not allow vote on bill protecting Mueller from firing," The Guardian, April 17, 2018.
Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, "Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit," The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2018
Donald Trump Jr. Expecting to Be Indicted by Mueller Soon
Jonathan Chait / The National Interest
WASHINGTON (November 7, 2018) -- Last year, Donald Trump Jr. testified that he never informed his father of a meeting with Russian officials promising "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. It seemed hard to believe that the ne'er-do-well son would neglect to seek credit for his expected campaign coup from the father whose approval he so obviously craves. And now it seems that Robert Mueller has obtained proof that it is not in fact true.
The Trump family lies all the time, of course, but two days ago, Gabriel Sherman reported that White House officials are concerned about Donald Jr. "I'm very worried about Don Jr.," a former West Wing official told Sherman, who fears Mueller will be able to prove perjury. Deep in a report about Trump's 2020 campaign plans, Politico drops the news this morning that Trump Jr. "has told friends in recent weeks that he believes he could be indicted."
If it's what you're saying, we love it.
The details of the expected indictment remain to be seen. But if Trump Jr. did lie under oath, the obvious question is why. He had a lawyer, who presumably informed him of the dangers of perjury.
Why take the risk of perjury to deny having informed his father about a meeting with Russian officials if the contacts produced absolutely nothing? Doing it under oath is a crime.
All of Robert Mueller's Indictments and Dlea Deals
In the Russia Investigation So Far . . .
That we know of
Andrew Prokopandrew / Vox.com
(October10, 2018) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies -- that we know of.
That group is composed of four former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. Six of these people (including now all four former Trump aides) have pleaded guilty.
If you also count investigations that Mueller originated but then referred elsewhere in the Justice Department, you can add plea deals from two more people to the list.
It's a sprawling set of allegations, encompassing both election interference charges against overseas Russians, and various other crimes by American Trump advisers.
However, Mueller hasn't yet alleged any crimes directly connecting the two -- that is, alleging that Trump advisers conspired with Russian officials to impact the election. He is continuing to investigate that.
Other reported focuses of Mueller's investigation -- such as potential obstruction of justice by the Trump administration -- have also not resulted in any indictments yet.
The full list of known indictments and plea deals in Mueller's probe
1) George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, was arrested in July 2017 and pleaded guilty last October to making false statements to the FBI. He got a 14-day sentence.
2) Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chair, was indicted on a total of 25 different counts by Mueller's team, related mainly to his past work for Ukrainian politicians and his finances. He had two trials scheduled, and the first ended in a conviction on eight counts of financial crimes. To avert the second trial, Manafort struck a plea deal with Mueller in September 2018.
3) Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and Manafort's longtime junior business partner, was indicted on similar charges to Manafort. But in February he agreed to a plea deal with Mueller's team, pleading guilty to just one false statements charge and one conspiracy charge.
4) Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, pleaded guilty last December to making false statements to the FBI.
5-20) 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies were indicted on conspiracy charges, with some also being accused of identity theft. The charges related to a Russian propaganda effort designed to interfere with the 2016 campaign.
The companies involved are the Internet Research Agency, often described as a "Russian troll farm," and two other companies that helped finance it. The Russian nationals indicted include 12 of the agency's employees and its alleged financier, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
21) Richard Pinedo: This California man pleaded guilty to an identity theft charge in connection with the Russian indictments, and has agreed to cooperate with Mueller. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 6 months of home detention in October.
22) Alex van der Zwaan: This London lawyer pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and has completed his sentence.
23) Konstantin Kilimnik: This longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates, who's currently based in Russia, was charged alongside Manafort with attempting to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses in Manafort's pending case this year.
24-35) 12 Russian GRU officers: These officers of Russia's military intelligence service were charged with crimes related to the hacking and leaking of leading Democrats' emails in 2016.
Finally, there are two other people Mueller initially investigated, but then handed over to others in the Justice Department to handle. Both eventually agreed to plea deals.
Michael Cohen: Trump's former lawyer pleaded guilty to 8 counts -- tax and bank charges, related to his finances and taxi business, and campaign finance violations, related to hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
Sam Patten: This Republican operative and lobbyist pleaded guilty to not registering as a foreign agent with his work for Ukrainian political bigwigs, and agreed to cooperate with the government.
That's the full list, but we'll delve into the charges in a bit more detail below.
The four ex-Trump aides who struck plea deals with Mueller
So far, no Trump associates have been specifically charged with any crimes relating to helping Russia interfere with the 2016 election.
Yet four have pleaded guilty to other crimes. Manafort and Gates were charged with a series of offenses related to their past work for Ukrainian politicians and their finances. Papadopoulos and Flynn both admitted making false statements with investigators to hide their contacts with Russians.
Papadopoulos: Back in April 2016, Papadopoulos got a tip from a foreign professor he understood to have Russian government connections that the Russians had "dirt" on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails." He then proceeded to have extensive contacts with the professor and two Russian nationals, during which he tried to plan a Trump campaign trip to Russia.
But when the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos about all this in January 2017, he repeatedly lied about what happened, he now admits. So he was arrested in July 2017, and later agreed to plead guilty to a false statements charge, which was dramatically unsealed in October 2017.
Initially, it seemed as if Papadopoulos was cooperating with Mueller's probe. But we later learned that the special counsel cut off contact with him last year, after he talked to the press. In the end, he didn't provide much information of note, Mueller's team said in court filing. His involvement with the investigation is now over, and in September 2017, he was sentenced to 14 days incarceration.
Flynn: In December 2016, during the transition, Flynn spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions that President Barack Obama had just placed on Russia, and about a planned United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements.
But when FBI agents interviewed him about all this in January 2017, Flynn lied to them about what his talks with Kislyak entailed, he now admits. In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to a false statements charge and began cooperating with Mueller's investigation. We haven't seen the fruits of his cooperation yet, and he has not yet been sentenced.
Manafort and Gates: This pair worked for Ukrainian politicians (and, eventually, the Ukrainian government) for several years prior to the Trump campaign, and made an enormous amount of money for it. Mueller charged them with hiding their lobbying work and the money they made from it from the government, as well as other financial crimes and attempts to interfere with the investigation.
Gates was the first to strike a plea deal. In February, Mueller dropped most of the charges he had brought against him. In exchange, Gates pleaded guilty to two counts -- one conspiracy to defraud the United States charge encompassing the overall Ukrainian lobbying and money allegations, and a false statements charge. (With the latter, Gates admitted lying to Mueller's team during a meeting this February. A Dutch lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI related to his Ukrainian work with Gates.)
Manafort, meanwhile, fought the charges in two venues, Washington, DC, and Virginia. His first trial was in Virginia, and in August, it ended with his conviction on eight counts -- five counts of subscribing to false income tax returns, one count of failing to report his foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. The jury deadlocked on another 10 counts, so for those, the judge declared a mistrial.
The conviction finally brought Manafort to the table, and on September 14, he and Mueller's team struck a plea deal requiring his cooperation. Manafort pleaded guilty to just two more counts -- conspiracy to defraud the United States, and an attempted obstruction of justice charge. But he admitted that the other allegations Mueller previously made against him were true as well.
About two-dozen overseas Russians have been charged with election interference
Mueller has also filed two major indictments of Russian nationals and a few Russian companies for crimes related to alleged interference with the 2016 election: the troll farm indictment, and the email hacking indictment.
The troll farm indictment: In February, Mueller brought charges related to the propaganda efforts of one Russian group in particular: the Internet Research Agency. That group's operations -- which included social media posts, online ads, and organization of rallies in the US -- were, the indictment alleges, often (but not exclusively) aimed at denigrating Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy and supporting Donald Trump's.
Mueller indicted the Internet Research Agency, two other shell companies involved in financing the agency, its alleged financier (Yevgeny Prigozhin), and 12 other Russian nationals who allegedly worked for it.
The specific charges in the case include one broad "conspiracy to defraud the United States" count, but the rest are far narrower -- one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and six counts of identity theft. It is highly unlikely that the indicted Russian individuals will ever come to the US to face trial, but one company involved, Concord Catering, is fighting back in court.
No Americans have been charged with being witting participants in this Russian election interference effort. However, one American, Richard Pinedo of California, pleaded guilty to an identity fraud charge, seemingly because he sold bank account numbers created with stolen identities to the Russians. Pinedo agreed to cooperate with the probe as part of his plea deal. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 6 months home detention in October.
The email hacking indictment: Brought in July, here Mueller charged 12 officers of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, with crimes committed to the high-profile hacking and leaking of leading Democrats' emails during the 2016 campaign.
Specifically indicted were nine officers of the GRU's "Unit 26165, " which Mueller alleges "had primary responsibility for hacking the DCCC and DNC, as well as the email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign" like John Podesta. Three other GRU officers, Mueller alleges, "assisted in the release of stolen documents," "the promotion of those releases," "and the publication of anti-Clinton content on social media accounts operated by the GRU."
A trial here is unlikely, since all of the people indicted live in Russia.
Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort associate,
has been charged with obstruction of justice
Then, Konstantin Kilimnik -- who worked with Manafort in Ukraine and is now based in Russia -- was charged alongside Manafort with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in June.
Mueller argued that, earlier in 2018, Manafort and Kilimnik worked together to contact potential witnesses against Manafort and encourage them to give false testimony. He argues that this is attempted witness tampering, and qualifies as obstruction of justice.
The alleged tampering relates to the "Hapsburg group" -- a group of former senior European politicians Manafort paid to advocate for Ukraine's interests.
Both Manafort and Kilimnik tried to contact witnesses to get them to claim the Hapsburg group only operated in Europe (where US foreign lobbying laws don't apply). But Mueller says there's ample evidence that the group did work in the US too, and the witnesses thought Manafort and Kilimnik were trying to get them to commit perjury.
In Manafort's September plea deal, he admitted to this. Kilimnik, however, is in Russia, and will likely remain there rather than face charges.
Michael Cohen and Sam Patten struck plea deals
after Mueller referred their investigations elsewhere
Last but not least, there are two known instances where Mueller surfaced incriminating information about people, but handed off the investigations into them to elsewhere in the Justice Department.
Michael Cohen: Mueller's team was investigating Trump's former attorney in 2017, but at some point, they referred the Cohen probe to the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). It was SDNY that authorized the FBI raid of Cohen's residence and office in April.
In August, Cohen cut a deal. He agreed to plead guilty to 8 counts. Six of them involved his own finances -- 5 tax counts involving hiding various income related to his taxi medallion business and other financial transactions from the US government, and a bank fraud count.
More salaciously, Cohen admitted participating in a scheme to violate campaign finance laws in connection with hush money payments to women alleging affairs with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Cohen admitted causing an unlawful corporate campaign contribution, by orchestrating a hush money payment of $150,000 from American Media Inc. (the parent company of the National Enquirer) to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
He also admitted himself paying $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 general election, and said it was at candidate Trump's direction. The crime here was in violating campaign donation limits (individuals are permitted to give only a few thousand dollars a year to a federal campaign, and Cohen's payment was far above that).
Sam Patten: A GOP lobbyist who had worked in some of the same Ukrainian circles as Manafort and alongside Konstantin Kilimnik, Mueller's team began investigating Patten, but at some point handed him off to the DC US attorney's office. However, the plea deal Patten eventually struck obligated him to cooperate with Mueller.
According to a criminal information document filed by the DC US attorney's office, Patten and Kilimnik (who is not named but referred to as "Foreigner A") founded a lobbying and consulting company together. They did campaign work in Ukraine and lobbying work in the US, and were paid over $1 million between 2015 and 2017.
Specifically, the document claims that Patten contacted members of Congress and their staffers, State Department officials, and members of the press on behalf of his Ukrainian clients -- all without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as required by law.
Patten also admits to helping his Ukrainian oligarch client get around the prohibition on foreign donations to Donald Trump's inauguration committee. The oligarch sent $50,000 to Patten's company, and then he gave that money to a US citizen, who bought the four tickets. The tickets were given to the oligarch, Kilimnik, another Ukrainian, and Patten himself.
Finally, Patten also admits to misleading the Senate Intelligence Committee and withholding documents from them during testimony this January. He pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
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