U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, to have his criminal case thrown out.
Manafort's lawyers had tried to argue that Special Counsel Robert Mueller acted outside the authority granted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when he indicted Manafort last year on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for work he did for a Ukrainian political party. Jackson wrote that the indictment "falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted the special counsel that Manafort finds unobjectionable: the order to investigate 'any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.'"
The judge also said it was "logical and appropriate for investigators tasked with the investigation of 'any links' between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign to direct their attention to" Manafort. Catherine Garcia
During a meeting with members of President Trump's legal team on March 5, Special Counsel Robert Mueller told them that if Trump declined to speak with federal investigators, he could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, four people with knowledge of the encounter told The Washington Post.
John Dowd, at the time Trump's lead personal lawyer, then erupted, the Post reports, telling Mueller this "isn't some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States." In the aftermath of the meeting, Trump's lawyers debated how to move forward, with Dowd ultimately resigning, and Mueller's team agreed to give Trump's attorneys more details on the topics prosecutors wanted to discuss with the president. One of Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, then put together a list of 49 questions he believed Trump would be asked, three people told the Post, which included queries about the firings of former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Those questions were obtained by The New York Times, and published Monday.
Sekulow and Dowd both declined to comment to the Post, but Dowd confirmed to The Associated Press that Mueller's team had raised the possibility of forcing Trump to testify. Since the meeting, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani had joined his legal team, and Giuliani told the Post on Tuesday he has a "totally open mind on what the right strategy is, which we'll develop in the next few weeks." Catherine Garcia
The New York Times has obtained a list of more than four dozen questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump as part of his investigation into ties between his campaign and Russia and possible obstruction of justice.
The questions focus primarily on Trump's firings of former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; a 2016 meeting held in Trump Tower between several top Trump campaign officials and Russians who said they had compromising information on Hillary Clinton; discussions Trump had with personal lawyer Michael Cohen regarding a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president offered people pardons; and if Trump knew about any attempts by his son-in-law Jared Kushner to set up a back channel with Russia after the election and before Trump's inauguration.
Members of Mueller's team told Trump's lawyers about the questions the special counsel wanted to ask, and they wrote them all down, with that document provided to the Times by someone not on Trump's legal team. The Times also published an annotated list of the questions, and reporters Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo note that "one of the most intriguing questions on the list" is this: "What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?" Manafort was Trump's former campaign chairman, and there is no publicly available information connecting Manafort to such outreach, making his inclusion here "significant." Catherine Garcia
The newest member of President Trump's legal team, Rudy Giuliani, met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday in Washington, reopening stalled negotiations for an interview with Trump, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.
Giuliani told Mueller that Trump and his advisers are wary about an interview but there's a chance Trump could agree to it, the Post reports. He also asked Mueller when he thinks the inquiry will be finished. Mueller reportedly responded by telling Giuliani that in order to complete the part of the investigation focusing on potential obstruction of justice, he needs to interview Trump to gather more information on the transition and first few months of his presidency. Last month, John Dowd, Trump's lead outside attorney on the case, resigned. Catherine Garcia
After spending several months negotiating with President Trump's legal team over the terms of an interview with the president, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office is moving forward on the presumption that the meeting will most likely not take place, several people familiar with the matter told NBC News on Thursday.
One person said talks collapsed this week after FBI agents raided the office, home, and hotel room of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Before that, the teams were finalizing the timing, length, and scope of an interview, NBC News reports. Trump's lawyers were reportedly asking that the interview last only a few hours and that Mueller agree to get a final report written within the next few months.
Three people told NBC News that before this week, Mueller had wanted to complete a report on whether Trump had attempted to obstruct justice in the Russia probe, with the goal being to finish it as early as May. If an interview with Trump doesn't happen, Mueller's team will likely be able to close the obstruction investigation faster because they won't need to prepare questions or follow up on Trump's responses. For more on what Mueller's report might contain regarding obstruction of justice, visit NBC News. Catherine Garcia
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 payment made to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2015 by a Ukrainian steel magnate in exchange for President Trump appearing via video at a conference in Kiev, three people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times.
The payment by Victor Pinchuk is part of a larger look at foreign money received by Trump and his associates ahead of the 2016 election, the Times reports. After being subpoenaed, the Trump Organization gave Mueller's team records regarding business with foreign nationals, including documents about Pinchuk's September 2015 donation. Trump appeared via video at the Pinchuk-sponsored Yalta European Strategy Conference that month, and he spent 20 minutes criticizing then-President Barack Obama and blaming his own halted delivery on a "terrible" sound system.
The payment was solicited by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and was the largest donation to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2015 from someone other than Trump, the Times reports. The Victor Pinchuk Foundation told the Times that Trump was approached to appear at the conference as a way to help "promote strengthened and enduring ties between Ukraine and the West." Cohen and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow did not respond to requests for comment.
Marcus S. Owens, the former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, told the Times that Pinchuk's payment is "curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence." You can read more about the payment, as well as other documents related to Russians the Trump Organization has been ordered to hand over to Mueller, at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
Mueller's latest known warrant for Paul Manafort was issued a week after partner Rick Gates took a plea deal
On Thursday night, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office released a trove of documents related to its case against Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, in response to a request for more information from Manafort's lawyers. The new documents contain seven search warrants, four of which are partially redacted because prosecutors are withholding names of informants or information about ongoing investigations.
One of the warrants, for data from five AT&T phone numbers, was obtained on March 9, which is two weeks after Mueller issued his second indictment against Manafort, suggesting that Mueller's team might still be investigating new lines of inquiry against Manafort. He and Rick Gates were first indicted in October for fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes. The new phone-related affidavit "contains redactions — albeit more substantial ones — relating to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort," Mueller's filing states.
It isn't clear how the five phone numbers relate to Manafort, but Politico notes that Manafort's defense team accidentally revealed in January that at least one employee in a Manafort consulting business was cooperating with the FBI. Perhaps more ominously, The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross points out, "the timing of the warrant is also significant in that it was issued a week after former Manafort business partner Gates accepted a plea deal with Mueller's team."
"The government has said they have a continuing investigation," Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said at last week's hearing, where he asked for more information from Mueller's team. Earlier this week, Mueller's office said that the Justice Department had authorized it to specifically investigate if Manafort colluded with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election. So far, Mueller has charged 19 people, including 13 Russians; five people have pleaded guilty; and one person has already been sentenced. Peter Weber
This week, members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team questioned a person who was a business associate of the Trump Organization, involved in recent deals conducted overseas, several people with knowledge of the matter told McClatchy DC.
Mueller's team arrived at the person's house unannounced, with subpoenas for electronic records and sworn testimony, McClatchy DC reports. This person was involved with several transactions related to President Trump's efforts to do business in foreign countries, and the investigators primarily wanted information on the person's interactions with Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Cohen left the Trump Organization in January 2017, but prior to that he had been part of attempted and completed business deals in Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. Last month, The Washington Post reported that Mueller's team has been looking into a hotel deal with a Moscow developer during the 2016 campaign, including a letter of intent from the businessman that Cohen delivered to Trump. Catherine Garcia