During the first week of 2018, investigators and the president’s allies alike zeroed in on the Department of Justice, with two Republican congressmen calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, suing the department, seeking to limit its powers.
Underneath all the drama though, perhaps the most illuminating news was that the impetus for the FBI investigation into Trump’s Russia ties turned out not to be the Trump-Russia dossier, but rather a drunken admission from Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to an Australian diplomat that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Here’s everything you need to know about what happened this week:
- 2 GOP lawmakers called on Sessions to resign: Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan called on Sessions to resign in an op-ed published by the conservative Washington Examiner, citing leaks coming out of the FBI they said Sessions appeared unable to “control.”
- FBI investigators met with House Speaker Paul Ryan: FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with the House speaker to discuss sharing files related to their investigation of the infamous dossier about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
- Paul Manafort sued the Department of Justice for exceeding its powers: Following his not guilty plea to 12 counts levied against him in October, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit against the DOJ. He is accusing Rosenstein of overstepping the scope of his authority by appointing special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate not just “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with” the campaign, but “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” the investigation.
- Steve Bannon reportedly called a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting “treasonous:“Trump’s former chief strategist also reportedly called the meeting between several Trump campaign officials and Russians “unpatriotic,” according to an explosive new book written by columnist Michael Wolff. The meeting is a pivotal part of Mueller’s Russia probe.
- We found out the real reason that prompted the FBI probe into Trump and Russia: According to The New York Times, former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in October, was responsible for initiating the Trump-Russia investigation. Papadopoulos reportedly drunkenly revealed to an Australian diplomat that he had knowledge that Russia had damaging information on former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which prompted the diplomat to turn to federal investigators. Prior to this revelation, many had believed that it was the Trump-Russia dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, that had prompted the investigation.
- House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes struck a deal with the DOJ to obtain documents related to the Trump dossier: Nunes was able to obtain the documents following months of subpoenas and letters he had sent to the Department of Justice, and Democrats and Republicans are now reportedly working together to obtain equal access to these documents. Nunes is pursuing a parallel probe to the Russia investigation, and is trying to look into the DOJ and the FBI’s handling of the case and potential political bias.
- Trump reportedly erupted in anger after learning that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself: Trump, believing Sessions would be able to protect him from the Russia investigation, did everything he could to convince him not to recuse himself from it due to his previously undisclosed contact with Russian government representatives. He reportedly even sent White House lawyer Donald McGahn to hold Sessions back. Nevertheless, Sessions was facing numerous calls to recuse himself, and once he did, he had to face Trump’s wrath.
- Senate Republicans refer the author of the Trump dossier to the DOJ for criminal investigation: In the first official criminal referral to come out of the Senate investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham referred British spy Christopher Steele to the Department of Justice so that they could look into whether Steele made false statements to the agency “about the distribution of claims” in the dossier he authored. Some legal experts have claimed that the move is in part motivated by politics.
Mueller is currently spearheading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favour. He is also looking into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May.
*Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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