•There are 17 known cases and investigations into the president, his 2016 campaign, and Russian interference. As an end-of-the-year treat, WIRED's Garrett M. Graff rounded them up.
• Robert Mueller was appointed special council in 2016. The recent sentencing of Michael Cohen reveals that we are just starting to see the beginning of what Mueller has uncovered in more than two years of work.
• Many of these investigations - and their players - overlap. Trump's world is, after all, being targeted by local, state, and federal prosecutors.
1. Investigations by the special counsel: The Russian government's attack on the 2016 election
What we know: The best-known investigation headed by Mueller and his team has looked into the Russian government's attack and interference on the 2016 election. This investigation is looking into data theft, the rigging of the US voting system and information influence operations by the Internet Research Agency.
What has been done: So far, Mueller has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers, 13 Internet Research Agency workers, as well as three Russian companies and a man from California who aided their identity theft.
What comes next: We have yet to find out, among other things, whether any Americans knowingly contributed to the attack and the level of involvement by Putin himself.
2. By the special counsel: The WikiLeaks-Trump connection
What we know: Mueller is trying to find out whether WikiLeaks' publishing of emails stolen by Russian hackers have any connection to Trump Tower.
What has been done: An aborted plea agreement from Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and conspiracy theorist, shows that Trump associates had at the very least some advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks' plan. Both Corsi and former Trump aide Roger Stone expect to be indicted in connection to this investigation.
What comes next: Mueller is still trying to figure out how this connects with the charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces. In November, the Department of Justice began preparing to bring charges against Assange, who is currently seeking asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Assange likely faces charges related to the Espionage Act. It is unclear if Mueller is planning on filing charges separate from this in connection to the Russia investigation.
3. By the special counsel: Middle Eastern influence
What we know: Not much is known yet about Mueller's investigation into Middle Eastern influence into the Trump campaign. The Daily Beast reported last week that more information might become available sometime early next year but so far, it seems the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were quite eager to help with the campaign. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, is tangled in this one as he has both business ties to some of these players and was tasked with handling peace in the Middle East.
What has been done: So far, Mueller has filed no public documents regarding this investigation, but two key figures are cooperating. George Nader, an adviser to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Trump associate Erik Prince have been talking to the counsel.
What comes next: Stay tuned for activity early next year.
4. By the special counsel: Paul Manafort
What we know: Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, was convicted on eight felonies in connection to money laundering.
What has been done: Manafort was convicted and accepted a plea deal. Then he broke it. His associate, Sam Patten, pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent.
What comes next: Mueller is investigating Manafort's associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who has been tied to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik was recently indicted for obstructing justice.
5. By the special counsel: Trump Tower Moscow
What we know: In November, Michael Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress about the Trump Organization's deal in Moscow, adding a ninth charge to his list of felonies and throwing another curveball at the president. Discussions over the multi-million dollar project went well into the presidential campaign. The lucrative deal connects Trump Organization to Vladimir Putin's office which was, at the time, already interfering with the election.
What has been done: Michael Cohen has been sentenced and continues to cooperate with investigators.
What comes next: Donald Trump Jr. might face legal trouble about his testimony over the Moscow project.
6. By the special counsel: Other contacts with Russia
What we know: There are many Trump associates that have been linked, one way or another, to Russia during the campaign and the presidential transition. The list, which has been pieced together by reporters all over the country, includes Jeff Sessions, Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn.
What has been done: Many of these players have already been contacted by the special counsel, who is also looking into a June 2016 meeting in which Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyers to get dirt on Hilary Clinton. Flynn and Papadopoulos have already pleaded guilty in connection to their campaign and transition contacts with Russia.
What comes next: Cohen and Flynn are still talking to Mueller about the campaign and transition's connections to Russia. We don't yet know what that means for Trump Jr. and Kushner.
7. By the special counsel: Multiple attempts at obstructing justice
What we know: By firing FBI director James Comey in the early stages of the Russia investigation, Trump might have attempted to obstruct justice. Not only that, many of his statements could potentially be considered attempts to mislead the public. Mueller may pick this up and make a strong case against the president.
What has been done: Not much, but WIRED reports that court documents show that Manafort and Cohen have provided useful evidence about this case.
What comes next: Should Mueller find strong enough evidence about obstruction of justice by the president, this could come in handy if Congress considers impeachment.
8. Investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York: The Trump Organization's finances
What we know: We learned a lot from Michael Cohen's sentencing memos. Prosecutors said Trump - identified in court documents as "Individual 1"- directed hush money payments to cover up affairs near the end of the 2016 election.
What has been done: Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison. David Pecker - head of American Media Inc., which owns The National Enquirer - said he met with Cohen and "at least another member" of the Trump campaign to discuss how to hush the president's lovers.
What comes next: Pecker and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg are cooperating with investigators.
9. By the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY: Funding for the inauguration
What we know: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that prosecutors are looking into the $107 million raised by Trump's inauguration committee.
What has been done: Documents seized during the Cohen investigation have raised concerns about where the money for the inauguration came from, and where it went. At the very least, we know that Paul Manafort's associate Sam Patten helped a Ukrainian businessman funnel $50,000 to the inauguration.
What comes next: Unclear. There are no public filings regarding this case but we do know Patten is still cooperating with investigators.
10. By the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY: Where did the money for Trump SuperPAC Rebuilding America Now come from?
What we know: Rebuilding America Now, a Trump super PAC, is also under investigation following the news of the inauguration funding inquiries.
What has been done: The Times reported that prosecutors are looking into potential donations by foreign agents into the super PAC, which has been linked to Paul Manafort.
What comes next: As with the inauguration funds investigation, Sam Patten is cooperating with investigators.
11. By the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY: Foreign lobbying
What we know: Mueller was investigating whether three lobbyists - Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, and Greg Craig - failed to register as foreign agents for their work in connection to Ukraine.
What has happened: Muller handed his investigation of the three lobbyists to the SDNY in August. Greg Craig worked for Skadden Arps, a law firm that also employed Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his connection to Rick Gates.
What comes next: Gates is cooperating with investigators, according to WIRED.
12. Investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia: Russian agent Maria Butina
What we know: Russian agent Maria Butina pleaded guilty last week to conspiring against the United States. During and after the election, Butina attended several conservative events and was photographed with conservative leaders. She was long suspected of working with a high-ranking Russian government official to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence American policy in favor of Russia.
What has happened: Because she pleaded guilty with an extensive cooperation agreement, Butina may now meet with investigators without having lawyers present.
What comes next: Butina's boyfriend Paul Erickson, a Republican operative, is a target of the investigation. Butina's case raises questions about the NRA's connections to the 2016 campaign and its finances.
13. Investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia: Internet Research Agency chief accountant Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova
What we know: Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, alleged chief accountant of the Internet Research Agency, was indicted in October for interfering with the U.S. political system by both Virginia prosecutors and the Justice Department's unit that handles counterintelligence and espionage cases. According to WIRED, Khusyaynova was charged not only with interfering with the 2016 election but also attempting to interfere with this year's midterm elections.
What has happened: Khusyaynova has been indicted for serving as the chief accountant of "Project Lakhta." This Russian effort targeted audiences in the U.S. online. According to a Department of Justice press release, this conspiracy sought to conduct "information warfare" against the US through social media. Russian agents using fake social media accounts pretended to be American activists who shared "divisive social and political content" which advocated "for the election or electoral defeat of particular candidates in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections."
What comes next: Project Lakhta is still under investigation.
14. By the U.S. Attorney for the EDV: Turkish influence
What we know: Court documents show Michael Flynn, Trump's national security advisor, has cooperated with two investigations beyond the Russia probe. According to The New York Times, one of these two cases includes a grand jury in Virginia focused on Turkish government influence.
What has happened: Flynn has been sentenced and his plea agreement includes details on potential Turkish meddling.
What comes next: Flynn is cooperating with investigators and might have handed over many records from his businesses.
15. Investigations by New York and other attorney generals: New York Attorney General's look into Trump's taxes
What we know: The New York Times published an exposé in October that found Trump had benefited from more than $400 million in tax schemes. The Times uncovered a complex series of transfers by the Trump family, facilitated by companies created by them.
What has happened: City officials and the state's Tax Department said they were going to investigate Trump's finances soon after The Times' story came out.
What comes next: The investigations into potential fraud are ongoing. Incoming New York Attorney General Letitia James said she plans to ramp up state-level probes of the issue.
16. Investigations by New York and other attorney generals: The Trump Foundation
What we know: New York sued the Trump Foundation over the summer. According to The Times, the foundation faces charges of "violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign."
What has happened: A judge has allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
What comes next: As mentioned, incoming New York Attorney General Letitia James has said she'll push more wide-ranging inquires into the Trump Organization.
17. Investigations by New York and other attorney generals: Maryland and D.C. Attorneys General subpoenaed Trump Organization records
What we know: According to WIRED, the D.C. and Maryland AGs sent out subpoenas this month for Trump Organization and hotel financial records.
What has happened: The AGs filed a lawsuit alleging the president breached the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which means he can't accept payments from foreign powers while in office.
What comes next: We have to wait for the release of the records under subpoena, but the AGs' lawsuit could make public information about how foreign governments have done business with the Trump Organization. This could include the Saudi government's purchase of more than 500 rooms at Trump's hotel, which was reported by the Washington Post.
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia working with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has been extended, officials said, but it is not clear for how long.
The grand jury, empaneled July 5, 2017, had been set to end Saturday after an 18-month term. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the District, who oversees grand jury activities, said she approved the extension.
Howell declined to comment on how much longer the grand jury could sit. Under federal rules of criminal procedure, a grand jury may serve more than 18 months only if a judge finds an extension is in the public interest, and then generally for no more than six additional months.
The extension comes amid suggestions the Mueller probe might be drawing to an end.
WASHINGTON — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.
The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.
If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.
“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.
No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.
The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry, revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation.
The decision to investigate Mr. Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Mr. Comey and enduring the president’s verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”
A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.
The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counterintelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counterintelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.
Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.
Other factors fueled the F.B.I.’s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.
In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump’s associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia’s campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.
“In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.
“That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,” she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.
And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the president’s national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.
But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counterintelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election.
After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.
The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation.
Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.
He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.
The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.
“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. “He’s the wrong man for that position.”
As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russia’s interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.
“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.
F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
In what will stand as among the most definitive public accounts of the Kremlin’s attack on the American political system, the report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation laid out in precise, chronological detail how “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
The Russians’ goal, Mueller emphasized at several points, was to assist Donald Trump’s run for the White House and to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. And the Republican candidate took notice, looking for ways to turn leaks of stolen emails to his advantage and even telling campaign associates to find people who might get their hands on Clinton’s personal emails.
“The Trump Campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’ releases of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016,” Mueller’s investigators wrote. The anti-secrecy website became the major outlet for Russia’s pilfered material, and Trump campaign staffers were engaged in discussions about pending leaks and how to capitalize on them, Mueller found.
Investigators did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But both sides used similar tactics. Through social media and selective leaking, the Russians stoked deep societal divisions and aroused Americans’ suspicions of politicians and the integrity of the electoral process, Mueller found.
Trump, too, tried to divide voters, exacerbating political fault lines, and he insisted that something was rotten in the way the country elects its president, calling the process a “rigged” system.
Mueller’s findings build on a set of indictments he issued last year against Russians who allegedly participated in the active-measures campaign.
The level of detail in those charges was achieved through highly sensitive intelligence sources, current and former officials have said. The final report is no different and contains several blacked-out passages marked “investigative technique,” indicating that U.S. officials are not prepared to tell the world — and the Russians — how they know what they know about the Kremlin’s actions.
Two operations lay at the heart of Russia’s unprecedented interference, Mueller found: a social media campaign “designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States” and a hacking effort led by a Russian intelligence agency, which stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and a key Clinton campaign aide and released them to disparage the Democratic candidate.
The email “hacking-and-dumping operations,” as Mueller’s investigators called them, were epitomized by disclosures by WikiLeaks, which in July 2016 posted messages stolen from the DNC and then in October trickled out emails taken from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Trump campaign staffers and supporters discussed pending releases of emails by WikiLeaks on several occasions, the report shows. Many passages are blacked out because, Mueller noted, they could harm an ongoing matter.
That could be a reference to the prosecution of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide whose claims to be in touch with WikiLeaks during the campaign drew scrutiny.
By the late summer of 2016, after the first WikiLeaks release, the campaign “was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks,” Mueller found.
The report cites a conversation between Trump and then-deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates during a car ride to LaGuardia Airport. The section is redacted, but the visible part reads, “shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.” Where Trump was getting that information is unclear, but his interest was obvious.
Mueller also found that Trump repeatedly requested that his aides find people who could gain access Clinton’s private emails.
Trump had fixated on Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, saying it revealed a lack of judgment and disregard for secrecy rules that bordered on criminal negligence. “Lock her up!” Trump supporters shouted when he spoke about the server on the campaign trail.
At a July campaign stop, Trump expressed his hope that Russia would find some 30,000 emails that Clinton had said she deleted because they were of a personal nature and not related to government affairs. After that, “Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails,” Mueller’s team found.
Trump made the request repeatedly, former national security adviser Michael Flynn told Mueller’s investigators. Eventually, Flynn contacted two GOP operatives who were running their own hunts for Clinton’s emails. One of them kept Flynn and another senior campaign official, Sam Clovis, aware of the project, which ultimately did not produce any purloined messages.
“Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found,” Mueller wrote.
Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and cooperated with Mueller’s probe. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. He also cooperated with the investigation.
Mueller also took note of direct communications that people in the Trump campaign had with WikiLeaks that suggested the group wanted to work on behalf of the Republican candidate.
On Sept. 20, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. emailed senior campaign staffers saying, “Guys I got a weird Twitter DM [direct message] from wikileaks.” He said the group asked him about an unlaunched anti-Trump “conspiracy” site. “Seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me,” he said. The email had not been previously reported.
The next day, after the site had launched, Trump Jr. sent a direct message to WikiLeaks: “Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
On Oct. 3, WikiLeaks sent another message to Trump Jr., asking “you guys” to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated using a drone to target WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Trump Jr. replied that he already “had done so” and asked, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” WikiLeaks did not respond.
On Oct. 12, several days after WikiLeaks began publishing emails hacked from Podesta’s account, WikiLeaks wrote him again, saying it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if mentions us...” Two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted the link.
While Russian hackers chiseled away at the Clinton campaign, another group was setting up fake social media accounts — and making inroads with the Trump campaign and its supporters.
The social media campaign began in 2014 as a “generalized program” to undermine the U.S. election system, Mueller wrote. But it evolved into “a targeted operation” that by early 2016 “favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton.”
At the center of the operation was an organization based in St. Petersburg, called the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” that churned out tendentious and manipulative posts and images.
The organization, which received funding from an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, used fictitious personas to open accounts on Twitter and Instagram and to start group pages on Facebook. They were all designed to attract followers with polemic content on race, gender and other often-polarizing topics.
The Russians’ following grew, and they eventually reached millions of Americans with their messages, Mueller found. The content was even spread by U.S. political figures, who retweeted messages from Internet Research Agency-controlled Twitter accounts.
Some employees from St. Petersburg traveled to the United States to obtain information and gather photographs to use in their posts. They are among those Mueller indicted last year.
“On multiple occasions,” Mueller wrote, “members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted — typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting — pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts.”
A single Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, purporting to represent Tennessee Republicans but actually operated by the Russian troll farm, was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, digital operations chief Brad Parscale and national security adviser Flynn.
Mueller also noted that Russian operatives directly contacted Trump supporters “in a few instances” to help coordinate political rallies inside the United States. Mueller ultimately chose not to bring prosecutions because the Americans did not realize that they were in contact with Russians.
Getting the Trump campaign — or better yet, Donald Trump himself — to tweet or retweet material put out by the Russian disinformation campaign was a closely watched goal for the operatives at the Internet Research Agency, Mueller found.
The report recounts the celebration when Trump applauded an event in Miami the Russians had organized in August 2016, by tweeting, “THANK YOU for your support Miami!… TOGETHER, WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
A Russian account on Facebook, posing as an American named Matt Skiber, sent a message to an American tea party activist afterward saying, “Mr. Trump posted about our event in Miami! This is great!”
Russian disinformation teams used social media to recruit Americans across the political spectrum to help push their themes online and also to participate in real-world political rallies and other events, Mueller found.
The recruiting of Americans started in 2014 and continued even beyond the November 2016 election. An African American “self-defense instructor” in New York offered classes for the Russian-created social media group “Black Fist” in February 2017.
Conservative activists participated in a range of political events organized by the Internet Research Agency, including appearing as Santa Claus while wearing a Trump mask in New York City.
Overwhelmingly, such efforts were intended to help Trump and hurt Clinton, Mueller’s investigators concluded. They found no similar contact between Russians and Americans supporting Clinton.
WASHINGTON—Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report is unambiguously clear on this point: Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help Donald Trump win the White House.
That has been the unanimous view of the intelligence community for nearly 2½ years. But it is laid out in unprecedented detail across nearly 200 pages of the special counsel’s report, which also describes Russian efforts to forge ties with members of Trump’s campaign to further the Kremlin’s interference goals.
The report from Mr. Mueller will likely serve as the definitive document about Russia’s use of an array of digital weapons to influence the American electorate in 2016. It will also bolster warnings from senior U.S. intelligence officials that Russia and other hostile foreign powers remain intent on disrupting future elections, including the 2020 presidential contest.
Mr. Mueller asserted on the very first page of the report that the Russian government “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
The report describes how the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency engaged in interference dating back to 2014, as Russia’s relations with the U.S. took an abrupt turn for the worse after Russia’s seizure of Crimea. In June of that year, the report said, four IRA employees traveled to the U.S. on an intelligence-gathering mission, assisting what would metastasize over the following two years into a relentless psychological war on voters.
IRA employees took to social media from Moscow pretending to be Americans, creating bogus accounts on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter that reached tens of millions of people and garnered hundreds of thousands of followers, the report said. In one instance, Russians used social media to recruit an American to walk through New York wearing a Santa Claus suit and a Donald Trump mask, the report says.
“Hopefully, what this report does is put to bed any lingering questions about what Russian intent or activities were during the 2016 presidential election,” said April Doss, who served as senior counsel for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own Russia investigation until last year. “This is a level of detail we have never seen before.”
Russia has denied interfering in the election.
The report explains how Russia’s yearslong hacking and social-media operations coincided with a series of contacts between the Kremlin and Trump campaign officials and associates, including Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son. Those interactions included discussions about possible business deals, policy goals and getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. The latter transpired during a well-known meeting in Trump Tower in New York. Investigators didn’t establish that a conspiracy existed between the two sides to work together to interfere in the election.
The Russians also succeeded in getting a number of officials closely associated with the Trump campaign to promote the Russian government’s messages. Those officials included the younger Mr. Trump; then-digital-media director for the Trump campaign, Brad Parscale; and prominent members of the media. A lawyer for Mr. Trump Jr. declined to comment on sharing disinformation from Russia, but said there was nothing wrong with his client’s decision to listen to a Russian offer of potentially damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Parscale declined to comment on Thursday. Previously, he has said that he retweeted a tweet of Russian origin in his timeline that others in the campaign had retweeted and that Twitter doesn’t advise users of the country of origin for tweets.
In his Thursday press conference, Mr. Barr was emphatic that the report found that no American, including anyone associated with the Trump campaign, knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to hack Democratic Party emails or peddle disinformation on social-media networks.
Mr. Barr addressed as a separate issue the special counsel’s investigation of whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign helped disseminate or encouraged the release of documents related to the Democratic Party that were stolen by Russian hackers. Mr. Barr didn’t say that no American engaged in such activity, but rather that “publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.”
Large portions of the report’s section on Russian interference were redacted due to concerns that details would reveal sources or methods of the U.S. investigation, or do damage to an ongoing probe. About two dozen Russian officers were indicted last year as a result of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but they all remain at large.
Certain sections about Russian interference are so heavily redacted they are nearly unreadable, including one labeled “Structure of the Internet Research Agency” and more than a full page describing Russia’s operations involving political rallies. Both are scrubbed due to concerns about harming an ongoing investigation, while substantial information about Russia’s hacking of Democratic Party emails is blacked out to protect investigative techniques.
Despite the redactions, new details are scattered throughout the report. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn embarked on an effort to find Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails at Mr. Trump’s direction in the summer of 2016, enlisting the help of a Senate staffer and a longtime GOP donor, according to the report.
Mr. Trump “asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails,” the report said. Mr. Flynn “recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.” A lawyer for Mr. Flynn didn’t respond to a request for comment. The emails haven’t surfaced.
The report doesn’t answer all Russia-related questions. Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-born aide to Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, remains a riddle.
Investigators have long sought to learn whether Mr. Kilimnik, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says has ties to Russian intelligence, was a conduit between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Mr. Kilimnik denies ever serving as a conduit or having ties to Russian intelligence. The report didn’t say definitively that Mr. Kilimnik ever worked for Russian intelligence, but noted that several facts supported the notion.
During the campaign, Mr. Manafort told investigators that he purveyed polling data to Mr. Kilimnik, with the expectation that he would then give it to people in Ukraine and to a former client in Russia, oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The report also says that Rick Gates, who served as Mr. Manafort’s deputy on the Trump campaign, told investigators he relayed to Mr. Manafort his belief that Mr. Kilimnik was a Russian spy.
Investigators weren’t sure whether to believe Mr. Manafort. “Because of questions about Manafort’s credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it,” the report said.
The report also reveals some of the forensic challenges encountered by investigators, and suggests that some questions about the Russian operation and WikiLeaks’ exact role in releasing Democratic Party emails may never be fully known. It acknowledges that investigators encountered hurdles trying to obtain communications between Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the GRU, Russian military hackers behind the pilfering of the emails and WikiLeaks, which received those emails and dumped them online in advance of the 2016 election.
The Kremlin was apparently thrilled with Mr. Trump’s victory. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s sovereign-wealth fund who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, received a message from an unidentified person on Nov. 9, 2016, as news spread that Mr. Trump had triumphed in an upset. It read, according to the report, “Putin has won.”
Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who spent nearly two years leading the Russia investigation, has agreed to testify publicly before Congress on July 17, setting the stage for what will probably be the most anticipated day on Capitol Hill in recent memory.
The announcement was made Tuesday evening by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. They said the agreement was reached after they issued Mueller a subpoena.
“Americans have demanded to hear directly from the special counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaign’s acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates' obstruction of the investigation into that attack,” they said in a statement.
Mueller had been reluctant to appear on Capitol Hill. During his only public statement before stepping down as special counsel last month, he said he hoped it would not be necessary.
“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
But Democrats were adamant that the former special counsel publicly describe his findings and answer questions after leading an investigation that was the subject of intense scrutiny. They hope his testimony will refocus attention on what his team’s investigation uncovered.
In the report, Mueller said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. He found that Russian operatives tried to boost the president’s candidacy by spreading divisive disinformation on social media and releasing hacked Democratic Party emails at key moments.
But the report did show that Trump’s team welcomed Russia’s illegal assistance.
In addition, Mueller said his report “does not exonerate” the president on the question of whether he broke the law by trying to obstruct the investigation. The report included detailed evidence that Trump tried to limit the inquiry “to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president’s and his campaign’s conduct.”
Mueller declined to say whether Trump committed a crime in that regard, citing Justice Department guidelines that prevent bringing charges against a sitting president.
House Democrats have said they need a noteworthy event like Mueller’s testimony to jump-start their own investigations. They hope that despite his reluctance to speak publicly Mueller can help elucidate his findings for Americans who didn’t follow every twist and turn of his investigation.
“If we're expecting the average member of Congress to do their job and read it themselves or the American people to read a 450-page report, that just isn't going to happen,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
Trump has also recognized the attention — and television coverage — that Mueller’s testimony would generate.
“Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” he tweeted on May 5.
Republicans immediately moved to criticize the hearing as a desperate public-relations exercise.
“Democrats subpoena Mueller. 2 years of investigating not enough. They want more,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) tweeted shortly after the announcement. “This was never going to end at a ‘no collusion’ verdict. Dems were always going to drag it out. This isn’t a fact finding mission. It’s an attempt at a PR operation. Nothing more.”
You obviously don't know what delusional means. Its listening to a proven fact than denying its true,