In the week following former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea, new details have emerged about the meeting President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., attended in July 2016 with a Russian lawyer who offered him “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, among other revelations.
The investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller has also come under fire from Republicans, who, together with Trump himself, criticised the FBI over supposed partisan bias this week.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Trump Russia investigation from this week:
- Trump, Jr. asked Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 for evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation:Veselnitskaya stated that she did not have the information Trump Jr. was reportedly looking for, and said Trump Jr. misunderstood the purpose of the meeting. When Trump Jr. realised she did not have damaging information on Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Veselnitskaya said the meeting went downhill.
- Rob Goldstone sent followup emails after the Trump Tower meeting: After initially convincing Trump Jr. to meet with Veselnitskaya on the basis that she had information about Clinton, Goldstone, a music publicist for a Trump-connected Russian oligarch, suggested a plan for then-candidate Donald Trump to create a page on a Russian social-networking website. In the email, Goldstone also mentioned that Trump Jr. and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort would go along with the idea. Goldstone also called reports of Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee “eerily weird” because of what the Russians had discussed at the meeting.
- Flynn told a former Russian business partner that the US would end sanctions against Russia: Flynn suggested to a business associate that sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration in December would be “ripped up” under Trump, a whistleblower told a Democratic congressman. Flynn apparently told the associate this information minutes after Trump was inaugurated.
- Papadopoulos’s fiancee said he had regular contact with high level campaign officials: The fiancée of George Papadopoulos, the early foreign-policy adviser and aide to Trump’s campaign team who in October pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, disputed top officials’ characterization of him as a “low-level volunteer” and a “coffee boy.” Mangiante said Papadopoulos was “constantly in touch with high-level officials in the campaign.” She said she had seen correspondence proving it.
- Trump, Jr. is interviewed by House Intelligence Committee: Trump Jr. was “pretty non-responsive” on a range of issues during his eight-hour testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, according to a Democratic member of the committee. “My takeaway is he has a very serious case of amnesia,” Rep. Jackie Speier told CNN.
- Mueller fired an FBI agent in August over an anti-Trump text: Mueller ousted top counterintelligence veteran Peter Strzok from his team in August after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether Strzok sent text messages that could be seen as critical of Trump. Republicans jumped at the revelation to further claims that the Russia investigation is a political “witch hunt.”
- In response, Trump tweets that the FBI is in “tatters”: In a Sunday tweetstorm, Trump accused former FBI Director James Comey of lying about a conversation the two had in February about Flynn. In another tweet, Trump wrote, “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.” Current FBI Director Chris Wray responded to Trump’s claims with a motivational email to his staff. “It is truly an honour to represent you,” Wray wrote.
- Louie Gomert asks FBI director during hearing about FBI agents’ political biases:A Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee left several observers stunned on Thursday when he read off a list of names of agents to the FBI director and asked him to disclose their political biases. The notion that FBI agents could be subject to political tests from another branch of government unnerved several observers and former employees.
- Mueller rescinded the bail agreement for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort: Manafort evidently failed to tell the government that he was ghost-writing a draft op-ed about his work in Ukraine as late as November 30. He was working on it with “a longtime Russian colleague” who is “assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence,” according to the special counsel’s court filing. Mueller took back his initial bail agreement as a result.
- CNN story about a WikiLeaks decryption key being sent to the Trump campaign is debunked: A CNN story initially suggested that the Trump campaign had received a decryption key for a trove of WikiLeaks emails that had been obtained through hacks in advance of their public release, but it turns out CNN got the date of the email wrong. In fact, the key had been sent well after the emails had been published.
- The FBI met with Trump adviser Hope Hicks to warn her about Russians contacting her: FBI agents gave Hicks defensive briefings on at least two occasions after Trump’s election to warn her about Russian operatives trying to contact her through email during the transition period. There is so far nothing that indicates Hicks did anything improper.
- House and Senate investigative committees are mired in infighting: The Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, two of the three major congressional panels investigating Russia’s election interference, appear to have resigned themselves to the reality that their probes will be conducted according to the partisan interests of their members.
- Flynn judge recused himself:The US District Court for the District of Columbia judge presiding over the criminal case for Flynn has been recused from handling the case. The reason for the recusal is still unknown.
- The amount of money Mueller and his team have spent through September 30 is disclosed: Mueller says that during the first few months of his investigation his office spent $US3.2 million investigating Russian election interference and possible coordination with Trump’s associates, according to a report.
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