Mueller's next move, the Steele dossier, and an NSA hack -- the latest in a wild week of Trump-Russia developments

Robert MuellerAlex Wong/Getty ImagesRobert Mueller.

This week saw a slew of critical revelations in the ongoing Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller; Facebook and its role in Russia’s election interference; the explosive but unverified Steele dossier; and an elite Russian cybersecurity firm that’s attracted scrutiny as Russia ramps up its aggression in the cyber space.

We got an important update from Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on the status of their investigation into Russia’s interference in the election.

“The issue of collusion” between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow “is still open,” Burr told reporters during a press conference.

New details also emerged about Russia’s extensive use of Facebook to sow discord and spread misinformation during the election. A Columbia University social media analyst published research on the topic and found that Russian propaganda may have been shared billions of times on Facebook.

The company still doesn’t know the full extent of Russian ads that were purchased because of the platform’s self-service tool, and Axios reported Saturday that Facebook will now require targeted and politically tilted ads to be manually reviewed before they’re approved.

Here’s more on what you may have missed:

  • Mueller homes in on Trump’s pardon power: The special counsel’s team is said to be probing the limits of presidential pardon powers as the Russia investigation heats up. Experts say the move is an unprecedented step taken to ward off efforts by the White House to guard itself against the investigation.
  • Investigators take cues from the explosive Trump-Russia dossier: Burr and Warner said the Senate Intelligence Committee has been working “backwards” to verify the dossier, compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges several ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The dossier is also a subject of interest for Mueller, who reportedly interviewed Steele about the document this summer.
  • Facebook will not release Russia-linked ads : Business Insider learned that Facebook will not release the approximately 3,000 ads linked to Russia that were purchased on its platform and found to have been part of Russia’s disinformation campaign. A source familiar with the matter told Business Insider’s Alex Heath that Mueller’s investigation was hindering the company from releasing the ads.
  • Trump wants Mueller to do what Comey didn’t: The president’s lawyers are reportedly hoping the special counsel will publicly confirm Trump is not under investigation. Mueller is unlikely to do so, as he’s investigating the president for obstruction of justice and examining his role in crafting a misleading statement his son gave after it emerged he met with a Russian lawyer last June.
  • Russian hackers gain access to classified NSA information: Russian government hackers exploited antivirus software created by Kaspersky Labs, an elite Russian cybersecurity firm, to steal top-secret NSA information about how the US infiltrates foreign adversaries and protects itself against cyberattacks. Depending on what was stolen — documents or code — the breach could be catastrophic for Kaspersky.
  • Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were close to being indicted on charges of federal fraud in 2012: The Manhattan District Attorney’s office dropped a felony fraud investigation against the Trump children. The move came after Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, made a hefty donation to the district attorney’s campaign. The initial donation was returned before the case was dropped, but Kasowitz made a larger donation six months later. The district attorney maintains he made the right call in dropping the case, which he said contained allegations that had “no connection to reality.”

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