Michael Cohen is ready to talk.
A week after it was reported that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort would be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Muller's Russia investigation, ABC News reports that Cohen is already far ahead of him.
Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, has already spent hours talking with Special Counsel Mueller's team, sitting for multiple interviews over the past month, ABC News reports. Cohen has evidently discussed "all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia," and he has been asked about whether the president has offered to pardon him.
Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in August, striking a plea deal with prosecutors that cut down his jail time but did not compel cooperation with federal investigators. But in addition to the Russia probe, ABC News reports that Cohen is speaking with authorities in New York about the ongoing investigation into the Trump Organization, where Cohen used to work as vice president.
Cohen had been Trump's personal lawyer and sometimes-fixer since 2006. In his August plea, he said that during the 2016 campaign, he had arranged payments to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump, specifying that he'd violated these campaign finance laws at Trump's behest. Cohen had previously released a secret tape of himself discussing this payment with Trump. The president responded on Twitter, saying that he would "strongly suggest" anyone looking for a good lawyer not hire Cohen. Brendan Morrow
When Trump advisers Roger Stone and Michael Caputo testified before the House Intelligence Committee on their contacts with Russians, they "lied through their teeth," claims a Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Speaking on Yahoo News' Skullduggery podcast, Swalwell said he and the ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), have been pushing to send transcripts of Stone and Caputo's testimonies to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but that the pair have been "shielded by Republicans" like the committee's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Swalwell's accusation follows the revelation that "at Caputo's instigation, Stone met during the 2016 campaign in Florida with a Russian immigrant and sometime FBI informant named Henry Greenberg who offered 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton," Yahoo News writes. Caputo and Stone both failed to mention the meeting when being interrogated about their contacts with Russians before the House committee. "[T]o say that there was 'failure of memory' by both individuals to recall this meeting, I just don't buy it," said Swalwell.
Stone has since said he rejected the "dirt" on Clinton, which Greenberg allegedly wanted to sell for $2 million. Swalwell, though, argued that Stone "was communicating with individuals associated with the Russian hacks. It would be very hard for me to believe that if he was in contact with Donald Trump regularly throughout the summer of 2016 and the fall, that he would not be passing along to Mr. Trump his efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails — or efforts that were passed along to him that others were taking to obtain the emails." Listen to the Swalwell's full comments on Yahoo News' podcast Skullduggery here. Jeva Lange
House Intelligence Committee Republicans conclude that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia
House Intelligence Committee Republicans on Friday released a report that found "no evidence" of collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reports.
The report details information from a year-long Republican-led committee investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The committee's Democrats refused to endorse the report, saying that the investigation sought to absolve Trump without thoroughly and fairly reviewing relevant facts, the Post reports.
"While the committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns," the report concludes.
Some of that "poor judgment" included a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between top Trump campaign staffers and a Russian lawyer who promised to provide damaging information on opponent Hillary Clinton.
While the report acknowledges that Russia interfered in the election, it blames the FBI and the previous administration for failing to respond appropriately. It found no evidence that Trump's past business dealings in Russia set the stage for collusion leading up to the election, and says that information in the dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele was "second- and third-hand."
Trump immediately took to Twitter to share the news: "Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia," he tweeted. "A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!" Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza
White House communications director Hope Hicks is expected to testify privately in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, several people familiar with the committee's schedule told ABC News.
Hicks has been close to President Trump for years, and she will likely be asked about the campaign, transition, and the last year in the White House. Several other Trump associates, including former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, have refused to answer questions posed by the committee, and it's possible Hicks will claim executive privilege. Catherine Garcia
In a New York Times op-ed titled "The Republicans' Fake Investigations," the founders of research firm Fusion GPS said they were setting the record straight regarding their testimony in front of three congressional committees about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the Steele dossier.
The firm's founders, former journalists Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, wrote that they explained how they were hired separately by The Washington Free Beacon and Hillary Clinton's campaign to investigate President Trump's business dealings. Simpson and Fritsch said they also told Congress how former British spy Christopher Steele was hired to look into Trump's "complex business past," and said they do not believe the dossier he compiled is what triggered the FBI investigation into Russian interference. "As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp," they wrote.
Trump's allies in Congress have "dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia," Simpson and Fritsch said, and Republicans ignored their tips to look at the records of Deutsche Bank and other establishments that fund Trump's businesses. "Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm's testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right," they wrote. "It's time to share what our company told investigators." If those transcripts are released, it will help the American people "learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy." Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
Jill Stein, the Green Party's 2016 presidential nominee, has been approached by the Senate Intelligence Committee and asked to turn over documents as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, her former communications director told BuzzFeed News Monday.
Dennis Trainor Jr. said Stein told him about the request on Friday, and he was informed because during the campaign, his personal cellphone was a "primary point of contact" for people who wanted to speak with Stein, including several producers from the Russian state-funded news agency RT who called him to book Stein appearances. Trainor told BuzzFeed News he will likely cooperate, but will first seek legal counsel. When asked by BuzzFeed News what the committee was looking for from Stein's campaign, committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) responded, "collusion with the Russians."
In 2015, Stein attended a gala in Moscow hosted by RT, sitting at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump's future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his contacts with Russian officials. Stein has said she was not paid to go to the dinner and had to cover her own travel costs. Catherine Garcia
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein praised Special Counsel Robert Mueller throughout his five-hour testimony Wednesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers that "based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task."
Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and the Russians, and Rosenstein pushed back against Republicans complaining about an FBI agent working on the investigation who was found to have exchanged text messages with an FBI lawyer that called Trump "an idiot" and "loathsome human." That agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the team, and Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on Wednesday he thinks Strzok and his texting partner "clearly allowed their political opinions to cloud their judgment." Mueller did the right thing in removing Strzok, Rosenstein responded, and he "understands the importance of ensuring there is no bias reflected in the conduct of the investigation."
Rosenstein oversees Mueller's investigation, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after it was revealed that he met with Russians before the election despite saying otherwise during his confirmation hearing. Rosenstein said he knows what Mueller is doing, and "if I thought he was doing something inappropriate, I would take action." Catherine Garcia
Nine months into his administration, President Trump's tweets have fallen into a familiar topical groove: Trump's suffering at the hands of the media, his suffering at the hands of Democrats, his suffering at the hands of Republicans, his suffering at the hands of the basic constitutional structure of governance of the United States — you get it. But one topic on which Trump's feed has been comparatively silent of late is Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, including whether Mueller should be fired.
Per a Monday report from Politico, that's because White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who joined Trump's team over the summer, has convinced the president of the serious legal risks of public comment while the probe is underway.
"It's one thing to have an adviser to tell you, 'Boy, if you say this it's not good politics, it's not good for us,'" said Solomon Wisenberg, who worked on Kenneth Starr's investigation of former President Bill Clinton. "It's another thing to have your white-collar lawyer say, 'This is extremely harmful to you legally to say this.'"
Cobb himself told Politico that he could not "take credit for the change in the president's tone on Russia," praising Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump himself for helping to effect the difference. Still, Cobb said, Trump's new tact on this issue has fostered a "good relationship in terms of trust" between Mueller and the White House. Bonnie Kristian