Special Counsel investigation (2017–present)

Since May 2017, a Special Counsel investigation has been led by the current Special Counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections including exploring any links or coordination between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. Several members of the Trump campaign and administration have been convicted or indicted as a result of the investigation, including Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort.

Mueller's investigation subsumed several existing FBI investigations including those involving former campaign chairman Manafort and former National Security Advisor Flynn. In August 2017, Mueller's investigation reportedly expanded to include several lobbying firms, including the Podesta Group. Mueller has assembled a team of attorneys to conduct the investigation into links between Trump associates and Russian officials along with related matters.

On October 30, 2017, Manafort and his business partner Gates surrendered to the FBI on charges brought by Mueller, unrelated to the Trump campaign. That day, his team revealed former Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty on October 5 to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with agents of the Russian government while working for the Trump campaign in 2016, and was cooperating with investigators. On December 1, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI, and later announced he is cooperating with Mueller's investigation and "working to set things right".[1]

Origin and powers[]

On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former Director of the FBI, to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). In this capacity, Mueller oversees the investigation into "any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".[2] As special counsel, Mueller has the power to issue subpoenas,[3] hire staff members, request funding, and prosecute federal crimes in connection with the election interference.[4]

The appointment followed a series of events that included President Donald Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey and Comey's allegation that Trump asked him to drop the FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.[5]

Rosenstein, in his role as Acting Attorney General due to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has authority over the use of DOJ resources by Mueller and the investigation. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rosenstein said he would recuse himself from supervision of Mueller if he himself were to become a subject in the investigation due to his role in the dismissal of Comey.[6] If Rosenstein were to recuse himself, his duties in this matter would be assumed by the Justice Department's third-in-command, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.[7]

Grand juries[]

On August 3, 2017, Mueller impaneled a grand jury in Washington, DC, as part of his investigation. The grand jury has the power to subpoena documents, require witnesses to testify under oath, and issue indictments for targets of criminal charges if probable cause is found.

The Washington grand jury is separate from an earlier Virginia grand jury investigating Michael Flynn; the Flynn case has been absorbed into Mueller's overall investigation.[8]

Grand jury testimony[]

The grand jury has issued subpoenas to those involved in the Trump campaign–Russian meeting held on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower, which was also the location of Trump's presidential campaign headquarters.[9]

The grand jury subpoenaed witness testimony from the executives of six public relations firms, who worked with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on lobbying efforts in Ukraine.[15]

On January 16, 2018, The New York Times reported that Stephen K. Bannon was subpoenaed by Robert S. Mueller, III, to testify before the standing grand jury in Washington, DC.[16]

Legal teams[]

Mueller and investigation team[]

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Upon his appointment as special counsel, Mueller resigned his position at the Washington office of law firm WilmerHale, along with two colleagues, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III.[17][18] On May 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts announced they had declared Mueller ethically able to function as special counsel.[19]

Politico proposed that the "ideal team" would likely have six to eight prosecutors, along with administrative assistants and experts in areas such as money laundering or interpreting tax returns.[20] By August 1, 2017, Mueller, who has an active role in managing the inquiry,[21] hired 16 lawyers,[22] and had a total staff of over three dozen, including investigators and other non-attorneys.[23]

Members of the team include:[20][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Mueller has also added unidentified agents of the IRS Criminal Investigations Division to his team. "This unit—known as CI—is one of the federal government's most tight-knit, specialized, and secretive investigative entities. Its 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. A former colleague of Mueller's said he always liked working with IRS' special agents, especially when he was a U.S. Attorney."[45]

House Conservatives have ramped up accusations that the investigation is manned by personnel with an "anti-Trump" bias who "let Clinton off easy last year".[46]

Trump's defense team[]

Members of the team include or have included:[47]

Topics[]

Russian election interference[]

Mueller's primary responsibility is "to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election". U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded "with high confidence" that the Russian government interfered in the election by hacking into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the personal Gmail account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and forwarded their contents to WikiLeaks,[52][53][54] as well as by disseminating fake news promoted on social media[55] and by penetrating, or trying to penetrate, the election systems and databases of multiple U.S. states.[56] In July 2016, the FBI began looking into these issues, as well as the question of whether members of the Trump campaign might have coordinated or cooperated with Russia's activities.[57] Those investigations became part of the Special Counsel's portfolio.[58]

Russia's influence on U.S. voters through social media is a primary focus of the Mueller investigation.[59] Mueller used a search warrant to obtain detailed information about Russian ad purchases on Facebook. According to a former federal prosecutor, the warrant means that a judge was convinced that foreigners had illegally contributed to influencing a US election via Facebook ads.[60]

Mueller is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Republican activist Peter W. Smith. Smith stated that he tried to obtain Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, and that he was acting on behalf of Michael Flynn and other Trump campaign members. Trump campaign officials have denied that Smith was working with them.[61]

In January 2018, McClatchyDC reported that the investigation is looking into allegations that Aleksandr Torshin laundered money from Russian sources via the National Rifle Association to benefit Trump's campaign.[62]

Links between Trump associates and Russian officials[]

As early as spring 2015, US intelligence agencies started overhearing conversations in which Russian government officials, some within the Kremlin, discussed associates of Trump, then a presidential candidate.[63][64] In one such conversation, Russian officials said they had cultivated a strong relationship with Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Trump and his team.[65]

Multiple Trump associates, including Flynn, Manafort, and other members of the Trump campaign had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials during 2016.[66] In particular, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with several Trump campaign members and administration nominees. Flynn was forced to resign as National Security Advisor on February 13, 2017, after it was revealed that on December 29, 2016, the day that Obama announced sanctions against Russia, Flynn had discussed the sanctions with Russian ambassador Kislyak. Flynn had earlier acknowledged speaking to Kislyak but denied discussing the sanctions.[67][68] Also in December 2016, Flynn and presidential advisor Jared Kushner met with Kislyak hoping to set up a direct, secure line of communication with Russian officials that American intelligence agencies would be unaware of.[69][70] Jared Kushner also met with Sergei Gorkov, the head of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB).[71] Flynn and Kushner failed to report these meetings on their security clearance forms.[72][71]

FBI agents, working with Mueller, raided Manafort's home in July 2017. The no-notice, no-knock raid used a federal search warrant, authorizing agents to look for tax documents and foreign banking records. A wide range of documents and other items were seized. Before the raid, Manafort had voluntarily provided some documents to congressional investigators, including the notes he took during the Veselnitskaya meeting.[73][74]

The Trump team issued multiple denials of any contacts between Trump associates and Russia, but many of those denials turned out to be false.[75][76]

On December 4, 2017, prosecutors filed that Paul Manafort worked on an op-ed with a Russian intelligence official while out on bail, in a court filing requesting that the judge revoke Manafort's bond agreement.[77]

Alleged collusion between Trump campaign and Russian agents[]

Mueller is looking into the meeting on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower in New York City between three senior members of Trump's presidential campaign  – Kushner, Manafort, and Donald Trump Jr. – and at least five other people, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist and former Soviet army officer who met senior Trump campaign aides, Ike Kaveladze, British publicist Rob Goldstone and translator Anatoli Samochornov.[78][79] It has been confirmed that Goldstone had suggested the meeting to Trump Jr., and it was arranged in a series of emails later made public. Trump Jr. initially told the press that the meeting was held to discuss adoptions of Russian children by Americans. He added that he agreed to the meeting with the understanding that he would receive information damaging to Hillary Clinton.[80] Goldstone had stated in his email that the Russian government was involved as part of its support for the Trump campaign.[81] Mueller's team is investigating the emails and the meeting,[78] and whether President Trump later tried to hide the meeting's purpose.[82]

On July 18, 2017, Kaveladze's attorney said that Mueller's investigators were seeking information about the Russian meeting in June 2016 from his client,[83] and on July 21, Mueller asked the White House to preserve all documents related to the Russian meeting.[84] It has been reported that Manafort had made notes during the Russian meeting.[73]

By August 3, 2017, Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia that issued subpoenas concerning the meeting.[85] The Financial Times reported on August 31 that Akhmetshin had given sworn testimony to Mueller's grand jury.[86]

In fall 2017, Mueller's team interviewed former Government Communications Headquarters IT specialist Matt Tait, who had been approached by Republican political operative Peter Smith to verify the authenticity of allegedly hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton's private email server.[87]

Obstruction of justice[]

Early in Trump's presidency, senior White House officials reportedly asked intelligence officials if they could intervene with the FBI to stop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Flynn.[88] In March, Trump reportedly discussed the FBI's Russia investigation with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and asked if they could intervene with Comey to limit or stop it.[89] When he was asked at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the report, Coats said he would not discuss conversations he had with the president but "I have never felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation in any way."[90]

In February 2017, it was reported that White House officials had asked the FBI to issue a statement that there had been no contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence sources during the 2016 campaign. The FBI did not make the requested statement, and observers noted that the request violated established procedures about contact between the White House and the FBI regarding pending investigations.[91] After Comey revealed in March that the FBI was investigating the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump phoned Coats and Director of National Security Admiral Michael S. Rogers and asked them to publicly state there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russians.[88][92][93] Both Coats and Rogers believed that the request was inappropriate, though not illegal, and did not make the requested statement. The two exchanged notes about the incident, and Rogers made a contemporary memo to document the request.[92][93]

In May 2017, a February memo by Comey was made public about an Oval Office conversation with Trump on February 14, 2017, in which Trump is described as attempting to persuade Comey to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn.[94][95] The memo notes that Trump said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Comey made no commitments to Trump on the subject.[96] In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, Comey gave a detailed report on the February 14 conversation, including Trump's suggestion that he should "let go" the Flynn investigation. Comey said he "took it as a direction… I took it as, this is what he wants me to do." He added that it was "a very disturbing thing, very concerning", and that he discussed the incident with other FBI leaders.[97] Comey created similar memos about every phone call and meeting he had with the president.[98]

The FBI launched an investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice a few days after the May 9 firing of Comey.[99] The special prosecutor's office took over the obstruction of justice investigation and has reportedly interviewed Director of National Intelligence Coats, Director of the National Security Agency Rogers, and Deputy Director of the NSA Richard Ledgett.[99][100][101] ABC News reported in June that Mueller was gathering preliminary information about possible obstruction of justice, but a full-scale investigation had not been launched.[102] On June 16, Trump tweeted: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt."[103] However, Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow said Trump's tweet was referring to the June 14 Washington Post report that he was under investigation for obstruction of justice,[99] and that Trump has not actually been notified of any investigation.[104][105]

Financial investigations[]

The special counsel investigation has expanded to include Trump's and his associates' financial ties to Russia. The FBI is reviewing the financial records of Trump himself, The Trump Organization, Trump's family members, and his campaign staff, including Trump's real estate activities, which had been under federal scrutiny before the campaign. According to CNN, financial crimes may be easier for investigators to prove than any crimes stemming directly from collusion with Russia.[23] Campaign staff whose finances are under investigation include Manafort, Flynn, Carter Page, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.[106]

Transactions under investigation include Russian purchases of Trump apartments, a SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, transactions with the Bank of Cyprus, real estate financing organized by Kushner, and Trump's sale of a Florida mansion to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.[107] The special counsel team has contacted Deutsche Bank, which is the main banking institution doing business with The Trump Organization.[108]

Mueller took over an existing money laundering investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Manafort. On October 30, 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Manafort and his associate Rick Gates on charges including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.[109] Manafort's financial activities are also being investigated by the Senate and House intelligence committees, the New York Attorney General, and the Manhattan District Attorney.[110]

The special Counsel will be able to access Trump's tax returns, which has "especially disturbed" Trump according to the Washington Post. Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, as presidential candidates normally do, has been politically controversial since his presidential campaign.[111]

The Special Counsel is investigating whether the Central Bank of Russia's deputy governor, Alexander Torshin, funneled money through the National Rifle Association to the Trump campaign.[112][113]

Flynn activities[]

Michael Flynn statement of offense

As part of the investigation, Mueller assumed control of a Virginia-based grand jury criminal probe into the relationship between Flynn and Turkish businessman Kamil Ekim Alptekin.[114] Flynn Intel Group, an intelligence consultancy, was paid $530,000 by Alptekin's company Inovo BV to produce a documentary and conduct research on Fethullah Gülen, an exiled Turkish cleric who lives in the United States.[114] The special prosecutor is investigating whether the money came from the Turkish government, and whether Flynn kicked funds back to a middleman to conceal the payment's original source. Investigators are also looking at Flynn's finances more generally, including possible payments from Russian companies and from the Japanese government. White House documents relating to Flynn have been requested as evidence.[115] The lead person within Mueller's team for this investigation is Brandon Van Grack.[116]

Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, is also a subject of the investigation. Michael G. Flynn worked closely with his father's lobbying company, the Flynn Intel Group, and accompanied his father on his 2015 visit to Moscow.[117] On November 5, 2017, NBC News reported that Mueller had enough evidence for charges against Flynn and his son.[118]

Flynn's defense team stopped sharing information with Trump's team of lawyers in late November 2017.[119] This was interpreted as a sign that Flynn was cooperating and negotiating a plea bargain with the special counsel team.[119][120][121] On December 1, 2017, Flynn appeared in federal court to plead guilty to a single felony count of "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI and to confirm his intention to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.[122] As part of Flynn's plea bargain, his son Michael G. Flynn is not expected to be charged.[123][124]

Lobbyists[]

In August 2017, Mueller's team issued grand jury subpoenas to officials in six firms, including lobbying firm Podesta Group and Mercury LLC with regard to activities on behalf of a public-relations campaign for a pro-Russian Ukrainian organization called European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. The public relations effort was headed by Paul Manafort, and took place from 2012 to 2014.[125][126][127][128] Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, is head of the Podesta Group. John Podesta is not employed by the company. Mercury LLC is headed by Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman.[129] Mueller is investigating whether the firms violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Charges[]

As of December 2, 2017, Mueller has initiated criminal proceedings against four individuals.

Accused Date charged Charge(s) Case status Ind.
Papadopoulos, GeorgeGeorge Papadopoulos October 3, 2017 1 count: false statements. Pleaded guilty on October 5, 2017.[130]
Unsealed on October 30, 2017.
[131]
Gates, RickRick Gates October 27, 2017 8 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (×3), unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements. Pleaded not guilty on October 30, 2017.[132] [133]
Manafort, PaulPaul Manafort October 27, 2017 9 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (×4), unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements. Pleaded not guilty on October 30, 2017.[132] [133]
Flynn, MichaelMichael Flynn November 30, 2017 1 count: false statements. Pleaded guilty on December 1, 2017.[134] [135]

George Papadopoulos[]

On October 30, 2017, it was revealed that George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty earlier in the month to making a false statement to FBI investigators.[136] The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain in which he agreed to cooperate with the government and "provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant."[137] As of January 17, 2018, Papadopoulos has not been sentenced.[138]

On December 30, 2017, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump's campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos had disclosed to Alexander Downer in Kensington Wine Rooms, a London wine bar, in May 2016 his inside knowledge of a large trove of stolen Hillary Clinton emails that could potentially damage her presidential campaign, which in turn led to the opening of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 United States Presidential Election to be opened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[139]

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates[]

On October 30, 2017, Paul Manafort surrendered to the FBI after being indicted on multiple charges. Rick Gates was also indicted and surrendered to the FBI.[140] The pair have been indicted on one count of conspiracy against the United States, one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, one count of making false and misleading FARA statements, and one count of making false statements. Manafort was charged with four counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts while Gates was charged with three.[133] The charges arise from their consulting work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine and are unrelated to the Trump campaign.[141] Both were placed under house arrest. On December 4, 2017, prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Manafort's bond agreement, charging that Manafort violated the terms of his bail by working on an op-ed piece with Konstantin Kilimnik,[142] an associate with ties to Russian intelligence.[143]

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued an order on December 22, 2017 demanding that Gates explain why his comments in a brief, videotaped address to the fundraiser held in an Arlington, Va., Holiday Inn, on December 19, did not amount to a violation of the gag order she issued in the case. Of particular concern to Jackson is Gates' involvement with the Washington-area lobbyist who organized the event, Jack Burkman.[144]

On January 16, 2018, Jackson denied the government's proposal for a May 14 trial, indicating that the criminal trial appears likely to start in September or October.[145] Gates was released from home confinement, but not Manafort. A letter from Manafort's physician had asked that he be permitted to attend a gym for health reasons, but Jackson said, "While he's subject to home confinement, he's not confined to his couch, and I believe he has plenty of opportunity to exercise."[145]

Michael Flynn[]

On December 1, 2017, it was reported that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn agreed to a plea bargain with Mueller, pleading guilty to "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the FBI, and agreeing to cooperate with Mueller's probe.[146]

Opposition[]

On December 16, 2017, Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for Trump for America, sent a letter to Congress alleging that Mueller's team had unlawfully acquired, via the GSA, tens of thousands of emails sent and received by thirteen senior members of the Trump transition team. The communications derived from the official governmental Presidential Transition Team domain, "ptt.gov".[147][148][149] On the following day, GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt stated that Trump's transition team had been explicitly advised at the time of the transition that all material passing through government equipment would be subject to monitoring and auditing, and would not be held back from law enforcement officers.[150][151] A spokesman for Mueller's investigation, Peter Carr, also rejected Langhofer's claims, stating that the Trump transition emails were acquired appropriately through the criminal investigation process.[152]

Reactions[]

Mueller's appointment to oversee the investigation immediately garnered widespread support from Democrats and even some from Republicans in Congress.[153][154] Senator Charles Schumer (DNY) said, "Former Director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual for this job. I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead." Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) stated, "Bob was a fine U.S. attorney, a great FBI director and there's no better person who could be asked to perform this function." She added, "He is respected, he is talented and he has the knowledge and ability to do the right thing." Rep. Jason Chaffetz (RUT) tweeted that "Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted."[153] Much Republican support in Congress was lukewarm: Rep. Peter T. King (RNY) said "It's fine. I just don't think there is any need for it."[155]

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote of the team that "Bob Mueller is recruiting the smartest and most seasoned professionals who have a long track record of independence and excellence".[25] Former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who had investigated Bill Clinton during the Clinton Administration, said that the team was "a great, great team of complete professionals".[22]

Later some conservatives, including political commentators Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who had initially praised Mueller for "integrity and honesty"), stated that Mueller should be dismissed and the investigation closed.[156][157][158] Christopher Ruddy, the founder of the Right-leaning Newsmax, and a friend of Trump, stated that the president has considered firing Mueller.[159]

On June 23, 2017, Trump stated that members of Mueller's team were "all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton." PolitiFact rated Trump's claim "Mostly False", noting that only three had made campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton and one had defended the Clinton Foundation in court. One member of the team had made contributions to Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Republican Senator George Allen.[160][28] In an interview with The New York Times published on July 19, 2017, Trump stated that he would have not appointed Sessions as Attorney General had he known that he was going to recuse himself from the investigation. Furthermore, Trump confirmed that he would view it as a violation if Mueller investigated his and his family's finances, unrelated to Russia.[161]

On June 25, 2017, it was reported that a pro-Trump group had launched an ad called "Witch Hunt," featuring conservative Tomi Lahren, which attacked Mueller and the investigation.[162]

On July 21, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Trump asked his advisors about his power to pardon those under investigation. Trump and his legal team discussed the possibility of Trump pardoning aides, family members, and himself. No president has ever pardoned himself, so there is no case law on whether it would be legal. Trump attorneys also reportedly created a list of Mueller's potential conflicts of interest. Trump lawyer John Dowd said the story was "nonsense".[111]

On August 3, 2017, at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia, Trump continued to deny any Russian involvement in his campaign or win: "The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics, that's all it is." This occurred on the same day as the announcement that another grand jury had been impaneled.[163]

On August 12, 2017, the New York Times published an interview of Republican Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he said he was hopeful that the investigation would be complete by the end of the year.[164]

On August 24, 2017, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) added a rider to the proposed fiscal 2018 spending bill package that would block funding from being used "for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015" (the month Trump announced he was running for president) immediately and terminated funding for the special counsel investigation 180 days after passage of the bill.[165] Rep. DeSantis said that the DOJ order of May 17, 2017, "didn't identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expion."[166]

Shortly after the indictments against Manafort and Gates were unsealed, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz introduced a congressional resolution demanding Mueller's recusal as special counsel due to conflicts of interest. This resolution was co-sponsored by U.S. Representative from Arizona Andy Biggs and U.S. Representative from Texas Louie Gohmert.[167][168]

In the resolution, Gaetz called for a special counsel investigation into the handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy by James Comey, undue interference of Attorney General Loretta Lynch in that investigation, and the acquisition of Uranium One by the Russian state corporation Rosatom during Mueller's time as FBI director.[169][170] Gaetz stated that he did not trust him to lead the investigation because of Mueller's alleged involvement in approval of the Uranium One deal and Mueller's close relationship with the dismissed FBI director James Comey, a probable person of interest in the proposed investigation.[170] On November 8, 2017, U.S. Representative from Arizona Trent Franks co-sponsored the resolution.[171]

According to Trump transition lawyer, Kory Langhofer, on August 23, 2017, the FBI requested from the GSA copies of communications by nine members of Trump's team. A further request was made on August 30.[172] On September 1, the GSA gave a flash drive to Mueller's team containing tens of thousands of communications by thirteen senior members of Trump's transition team from the official governmental Presidential Transition Team domain, "ptt.gov", including Kushner.[173][148] On December 16, Langhofer sent a letter to Congress alleging the acquisition by Mueller from the GSA of the emails was unlawful.[147][148][174] On December 17, responding to Langhofer's claims, GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt stated that Trump's transition team was explicitly advised that all material passing through government equipment would be subject to monitoring and would not be held back from law enforcement officers,[175][151] and Mueller's spokesperson, Peter Carr, also rejected Langhofer's claims, stating that the Trump transition emails were acquired appropriately through the criminal investigation process.[152]

Polling[]

A May 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that 81% of U.S. voters supported the special prosecutor's investigation.[176] A June 2017 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll asked U.S. adults whether the special counsel investigation could be fair and impartial: 26% were "extremely confident" or "very confident"; 36% were "moderately confident" and 36% were "not very confident" or "not at all confident."[177] The poll indicated that 68% of Americans were at least "moderately concerned" about inappropriate connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians.[178]

A poll published in November 2017 by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 58% of Americans approved of Mueller's handling of his investigation, while 28% disapproved. It also indicated that half of Americans believed that President Trump was not co-operating with the investigation.[179] A Quinnipiac poll published on November 15, 2017 suggested that 60% of Americans believed that Mueller's investigation was proceeding fairly, with 27% believing that it was not. The poll also found that 47% of respondents said that President Trump ought to be impeached if he were to dismiss Mueller.[180]

A December poll by Associated Press-NORC indicated that four out of ten Americans believed Trump to have committed a crime in connection to Russia, with an additional three out of ten beyond that believing that he had acted unethically. It found that 62% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans believe that Trump acted illegally. It found that 68% of Americans believed that Trump was obstructing the investigation. 57% of respondents said that they were "extremely confident" or "moderately confident" that Mueller's investigation is fair.[181]

In another December poll from The Hill, 54% of respondents believe Mueller has a conflict of interest due to his relationship with James Comey. The poll also found 36% agreed Trump and his allies are getting harsher treatment from the special counsel than Clinton and her allies did during the FBI investigation into her handling of classified material."[182] The same poll found that 60 percent of voters say that “a comment to the FBI director that he should consider letting Flynn off the hook” is not enough to constitute obstruction of justice.

See also[]

References[]

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