Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his long-awaited report Friday to Attorney General Bill Barr, setting up a political battle over what’s in it and how much will be made public.
The news swept through Washington in the flash of thousands of tweets just before 5:00 p.m. Friday.
The Justice Department notified leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before announcing the end of a 22-month-long saga focused on allegations that President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with agents of Russia to improve his chances in the election.
In his letter to Judiciary Committee chairs and ranking minority members, Barr said he is ‘committed to as much transparency as possible.’
‘I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,’ he wrote.
How the news broke: This is the letter Bill Barr, the attorney general, sent to the chairs and ranking members of the Judiciary Committees, revealing the Mueller probe is over
In his hands: Attorney General Bill Barr now has the results of the almost two-year long Mueller probe into the 2016 election and whether Russia helped elect Donald Trump
What the White House says: Sarah Sanders said the president knows nothing of the contents of Mueller’s probe
Barr added that he plans to consult with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to decide what information ‘can be released to Congress and the public.’
Trump, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, has not seen any results from Mueller’s investigation.
‘The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr,’ Sanders wrote in a tweet, ‘and we look forward to the process taking its course.’
‘The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report,’ she added.
The president himself said Friday morning as he left Washington for Florida that he had no information about what might come, or when.
‘I have no idea about the Mueller report,’ he said, adding his standard assurance that ‘there was no collusion,’ between Trumpworld and the Kremlin, and that ‘there was no obstruction’ of justice in the White House.
‘Everybody knows it. It’s all a big hoax. … I call it the witch hunt,’ he said.
The ‘highly respected’ Barr, he added, ‘ultimately will make a decision.’
On Wednesday Trump told reporters that he would have no objection to the public release of Mueller’s findings.
‘I don’t mind,’ he said.
No let up: Trump repeated his anti-Mueller mantra on the White House lawn saying: ‘There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It’s all a big hoax. It’s all a witch hunt.’
Attack in the morning: Trump used an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network to claim that Mueller was the ‘best friend’ of James Comey, the FBI director the president fired
‘Let it come out,’ Trump declared. ‘Let people see it.’
Mueller, a former FBI director, has been a quiet force in Washington since accepting the mission from in May 2017.
Rosenstein was the top DOJ official empowered to appoint him: Jeff Sessions, who was then the attorney general, unexpectedly recused himself from the Russia matter shortly after taking office because he had been a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Trump shoved Sessions out the door in November.
Barr, who was previously the attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, took the reins of the Justice Department barely five weeks ago.
He now has the thankless responsibility of deciding which portions of Mueller’s output can be released in a way that’s consistent with federal law.
Mueller, a DOJ employee, is obligated only to submit his report to Barr. Congressional Democrats have consistently said they want to see his work in its entirety, however.
It’s possible Barr could delicately thread a political needle by sending an executive summary to Capitol Hill and keeping the rest private.
Hand in your phones! How Robert Mueller leak-proofed his investigation by turning his entire D.C. office into a secret fortress and even kept its address away from prying eyes
When members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election arrived for work each day, they placed their mobile phones in a locker outside of their office suite before entering.
Operating in secrecy in a nondescript glass-and-concrete office, the team of prosecutors and investigators since May 2017 has unearthed secrets that have led to bombshell charges against several of President Donald Trump’s aides, including his former national security adviser, campaign chairman and personal lawyer, who have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury.
To protect those secrets from prying ears, the whole of the office suite in southwest Washington was designated a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), U.S. spy speak for an area that has restrictions to ensure secret information stays secure.
One common restriction in SCIFs is to keep out smartphones and other electronic devices, which can be turned into covert listening devices or spy cameras. Visitors were also required to turn these over before entering.
Ground zero: This is one of the buildings which house the offices used by the Robert Mueller team. The building is in Washington D.C. just southwest of the White House. Witnesses interviewed by Mueller said they were picked up at their lawyers’ offices and whisked into a parking garage before being taken for questioning
The restrictions, while not surprising given the team was investigating whether a hostile foreign power tried to help Trump win the 2016 election and whether his campaign conspired in the effort, have not been previously reported.
Accounts of witnesses interviewed by the special counsel’s team, their lawyers and others familiar with the investigation reveal the lengths to which Mueller, a former FBI director, went to ensure his high-profile probe safeguarded its secrets.
In a city known for its leaks, Mueller pulled off a rare feat. He kept a tight lid on both his office and the evidence he was amassing in his highly sensitive investigation that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency. And he did it even as Trump relentlessly criticized him, calling the probe a ‘witch hunt’ and the special counsel’s team ‘thugs.’
When former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo agreed to an interview with Mueller in May 2018, he was told he would be picked up at the hotel where he was staying in Washington.
On the lookout for a black government SUV, Caputo and his lawyer were surprised when an FBI agent drove up in his personal car, a white Dodge Charger.
‘Then he drove us 15 blocks to their location and we went in through the garage so that nobody would see,’ Caputo said in an interview.
Caputo was questioned about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Manafort’s aide Rick Gates and long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone. When the interview was over, Mueller’s team told him they would take him back to his hotel. Caputo said Mueller’s team was not happy with what he said next.
‘I said I’m meeting a TV crew downstairs so I won’t need a ride,’ Caputo said. ‘They weren’t upset that I was talking to the media, they were disturbed that I was doing it in (front of) the office.’
‘They were concerned … that would put their agents and attorneys at risk,’ Caputo said, adding that he agreed to meet the news crew at a different location nearby.
Former Trump campaign advisor Sam Nunberg said an FBI agent picked him up at the train station to take him to the office.
‘You put your phone and any electronic devices and leave them in a compartment out front,’ Nunberg added. ‘It was a very plain office.’
Caught on camera: Andrew Goldstein, Mueller’s lead prosecutor, was pictured outside the office used by the special counsel during a rainstorm on Thursday
Nunberg said he went into a conference room with three tables, and prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, a member of Mueller’s team, came in with three FBI agents, one female and two males.
The office’s location was not publicly revealed but was discovered by journalists. Still, it has not been widely publicized. Mueller’s team has asked media outlets not to publish the exact location for security purposes.
‘We are working in a secure location in Southwest DC,’ Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, has said.
‘In a town where everybody and their mother is trying to get on the front page, Bob Mueller was always trying to stay out of the news,’ said Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman. ‘He wanted to be judged on actions, not press conferences.’
Corallo, who was briefly a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, was interviewed by Mueller’s team in February 2018.
Corallo and other witnesses summoned for interviews by Mueller’s team said they were picked up from their lawyers’ offices and taken to a secure parking garage in the building in southwest Washington.
The team’s office suite was anonymous with no plaque on the door to identify its occupants, said Washington lawyer A. Joseph Jay, who represented a witness he declined to identify.
More than once, Jay recalled, members of Mueller’s team expressed their commitment to confidentiality. ‘They made it clear on a number of occasions, ‘We don’t leak. You don’t have to worry about that with us.”
‘By keeping to their code of silence, they were professionals,’ Jay said. ‘They weren’t reacting to the spin. They were doing their jobs. They spoke through a number of indictments. They spoke through a number of sentencing memos.’
Mueller has remained silent throughout the investigation and his office has issued only one statement.
In that statement, issued this past January, spokesman Carr labeled as ‘not accurate’ a BuzzFeed News account describing evidence collected by the special counsel that allegedly showed that Trump had directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal. BuzzFeed has stood by its story.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, himself a former federal prosecutor, also remarked on Mueller staying out of sight.
‘Whenever we talk to them, they say, “We’ll take it to Bob.” He’s like the Wizard of Oz,’ Giuliani said.
Giuliani said although he was suspicious of leaks to the news media, he acknowledged he knew of none for sure from the special counsel’s team and that nothing he told Mueller’s office was leaked.
‘Mueller doesn’t talk to us. I don’t know why he’d talk to the press,’ the former New York mayor added.
Joseph Campbell, a former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division who worked at the agency when Mueller headed it, said the special counsel knows how to handle sensitive investigations and ignores the attacks on him.
‘He went through 12 years starting with 9/11 of extremely critical and sensitive investigations around the world,’ said Campbell, referring to the 2001 attacks on the United States. ‘This is right in his wheelhouse.’
‘He is not affected by external criticism or speculation,’ Campbell added.
Robert Litt, former general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said any leaks about the investigation appeared to have come from witnesses or their lawyers.
‘There’s nothing he can do about that,’ Litt said, referring to Mueller.
Litt said Mueller, the 74-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps officer and architect of the modern FBI, probably ‘cares little about the public perception of him.’
‘He cares,’ Litt said, ‘about doing the job right.’
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. Sentenced to three years in prison and $2 million in fines and forfeitures in December 2018
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
And he admitted lying to Congress in a rare use of the offense. The judge in his case let him report for prison on March 6 and recommended he serve it in a medium-security facility close to New York City.
GUILTY AND JAILED: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Sentenced to 47 months in March 2019. Pleaded guilty to two further charges – witness tampering and conspiracy against the United States. Jailed for total of seven and a half years in two separate sentences. Additionally indicted for mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney, using evidence previously presented by Mueller
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts in August 2018. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent due in September did not happen when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and witness tampering in a plea bargain. He was supposed to co-operate with Mueller but failed to.
Minutes after his second sentencing hearing in March 2019, he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud and conspiracy by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., using evidence which included documents previously presented at his first federal trial. The president has no pardon power over charges by district and state attorneys.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY AND JAILED: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018, and reported to prison in November. Served 12 days and released on December 7, 2018
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Sentenced to a year in prison
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence and was deported to the Netherlands on his release
Van der Zwaan was a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik. His law firm say he was fired.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. At large, probably in Russia
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States. They remain at large in Russia
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
INDICTED: MICHAEL FLYNN’S BUSINESS PARTNERS
Bijan Kian (left), number two in now disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s lobbying company, and the two’s business partner Ekim Alptekin (right) were indicted for conspiracy to lobby illegally. Kian is awaiting trial, Alptekin is still to appear in court
Kian, an Iranian-American was arrested and appeared in court charged with a conspiracy to illegally lobby the U.S government without registering as a foreign agent. Their co-conspirator was Flynn, who is called ‘Person A’ in the indictment and is not charged, offering some insight into what charges he escaped with his plea deal.
Kian, vice-president of Flynn’s former lobbying firm, is alleged to have plotted with Alptekin to try to change U.S. policy on an exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who is accused by Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of trying to depose him.
Erdogan’s government wanted him extradited from the U.S. and paid Flynn’s firm through Alptekin for lobbying, including an op-ed in The Hill calling for Gulen to be ejected. Flynn and Kian both lied that the op-ed was not paid for by the Turkish government.
The indictment is a sign of how Mueller is taking an interest in more than just Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
INDICTED: ROGER STONE
Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign official and longtime informal advisor to Trump, was indited on seven counts including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks in January 2019. Awaiting trial
Stone was a person of interest to Mueller’s investigators long before his January indictment, thanks in part due to his public pronouncements as well as internal emails about his contacts with WikiLeks.
In campaign texts and emails, many of which had already been publicly revealed before showing up in Mueller’s indictment, Stone communicated with associates about WikiLeaks following reports the organization had obtained a cache of Clinton-related emails.
Stone, a former Nixon campaign adviser who has the disgraced former president’s face permanently tattooed on his back, has long been portrayed as a central figure in the election interference scandal, but as recently as January 4 told Dailymail.com that he doesn’t expect to be indicted.
‘They got nothing,’ he said of the special counsel’s investigation.
According to the federal indictment, Stone gave ‘false and misleading’ testimony about his requests for information from WikiLeaks. He then pressured a witness, comedian Randy Credico, to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify, and pressured him in a series of emails. Following a prolonged dispute over testimony, he called him a ‘rat’ and threatened to ‘take that dog away from you’, in reference to Credico’s pet, Bianca. Stone warned him: ‘Let’s get it on. Prepare to die.’