For previous entries in this series, see:
Part 1: A Recusal and Comey’s Notes
Part 2: Comey’s Firing
Part 3: Mueller’s Band of Misfits
With the people in place, Mueller began his 19-month investigation. So, what did that investigation discover? Let’s start with the 34 people charged as a result of the probe:
- Former campaign manager Paul Manafort- indicted on 25 charges ranging from money laundering and FARA violation (not collusion with Russia- in fact, the charges involved Ukraine);
- Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner- faced 29 charges and pleaded guilty to one count of lying to investigators (no Russian collusion);
- George Papadopolous, former campaign adviser- one count of lying to investigators and served 14 days in jail (no collusion);
- Mike Flynn, former adviser to the campaign- one count of making false statements to investigators (no collusion) and case dropped by DOJ;
- Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney- making false statements to Congress and sentenced to 60 days in jail (no collusion) and the statements had nothing to do with Russia;
- Roger Stone, former campaign official- charged with making false statements;
- Richard Pinedo, no link to the campaign- convicted of identity fraud by stealing information of Americans and giving it to Russian nationals (no collusion);
- Alex van der Zwaan, Dutch attorney- one count of lying to investigators and sentenced to 30 days in jail (no Russian collusion- collateral damage in Manafort case);
- Konstantin Kilimnik, no association with campaign- indicted as part of Manafort’s dealing with Ukraine (no collusion- Kilimnik is not in the US);
- Twenty-five Russians and three companies- allegedly involved in the hacking of the DNC, Clinton campaign, and John Podesta with no ties to the Trump campaign. All are in Russia and will never see a US courtroom. The 25 Russians are officials and agents of the FSB or GRU.
That is it. That is what 19 months and millions of dollars achieved- 26 people or entities that will never see a US courtroom, and eight others convicted for what are called “process crimes,” which is basically lying to or misleading investigators under the general heading of “obstruction of justice,” or failing the FARA filing guidelines. Four of the eight pleaded guilty not over anything involving Russia, but involving Ukraine and Turkey. Pinedo’s case was one of identity fraud and Cohen’s case dealt with alleged hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels on behalf of Trump- again, not Russia. Only the Stone case has any connection to Russia vis-a-vis his alleged association and communications with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
But surely, all that manpower, time, effort, and money must have proven something, if not collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, right?
First, he determined that the general staff of the Russian military, under direction of the intelligence services, hacked the DNC, John Podesta, and the DCCC and that the stolen emails were published by WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, and DCLeaks, the latter two being Russian entities. Most importantly, the report concluded that no one in the Trump campaign colluded or conspired with Russian agents although Russia preferred a Trump presidency over that of Hillary Clinton. Conversely, the Trump campaign thought it would benefit from the release of the emails.
Again, there is no secret that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons. On the campaign trail, Trump called the Democrat nomination efforts “rigged,” which was confirmed by the release of the emails. If they were of benefit to anyone, it would have been Bernie Sanders who was saying the same things Trump said. Except for the occasional tidbit of information and the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, they are pretty boring reading unless you are a talking head pundit inside the DC beltway.
Third, Trump and his administration “engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation.” However, those efforts did not reach the level of being a crime. Here, Mueller expresses an inconsistency since others (Manafort, Papadopolous, etc.) were prosecuted for far less transgressions than those alleged against Trump. There was no secret that Trump was against the Mueller probe from day one and that the prosecutions from it went far beyond the original scope of the investigation. What Manafort’s FARA filings have to do with Russian interference in the election is never fully explained.
Some of Trump’s “efforts” were invoking executive privilege- a well-established doctrine- dating back to the presidency of George Washington. Obama used it during the Congressional investigation of Fast and Furious. If referring to the termination of James Comey, getting rid of the FBI director does not end an investigation that was in effect at the time. Despite their cozy relationship memorialized in Comey’s notes, Trump obviously lost confidence in Comey after a Virginia grand jury issued subpoenas regarding Flynn’s records (which, by the way, had nothing to do with Russian influence in the election).
Fourth, there were multiple contacts with Russian agents during the course of the campaign with officials and members. However, although they occasionally took the bait, they did so unknowingly and hence, no criminal charges. These “Russian agents” are allegedly Joseph Mifsud and Stephan Halper, but they have closer ties to Western intelligence, not Russia. The offering of dirt on Hillary Clinton was the bait and if you believe you are talking to a Maltese professor or an American Republican strategist, how can that be construed as dealing with Russians?
Fifth, the Russian social media campaign disparaging Clinton and supporting Trump was documented as the effort of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian cyber effort. Using social media platforms like Facebook, the effort targeted both conservatives and liberals alike indicating the true purpose of the effort: to sow the seeds of political discord. The effort amounted to a financial obligation roughly equal to that of a Super Bowl advertisement. If this was the case and if the effort was to help Trump, then the Russians got a great bang for their limited buck.
Julian Assange is still under investigation. In a strange revelation, it was reported that the Trump campaign was in contact with WikiLeaks over an anti-Trump website with known contacts to Vladimir Putin. If Putin wanted Trump to win, then why was he tied to an anti-Trump website? Instead, the report stated that shortly after Trump announced his candidacy the Russians took interest given his previous business ventures (none that came to fruition except the 2013 Miss Universe pageant) in Russia. In other words, there was no evidence Russia “groomed” Trump for at least five years as the Steele dossier asserted.
The report even stated that Cohen did not think the Trump Tower project in Moscow held any political importance- it was simply a business deal. At that time of those negotiations, Trump was a candidate and the negotiations ended way before a single primary or caucus was held. Regardless, Donald Trump was not even involved in the negotiations. Yes- Paul Manafort shared polling information with Konstantin Kilimnik which likely was as exciting as watching paint dry.
We found out that late on Election Day in the wee hours of the morning, Russian officials reached out to Trump campaign officials and five days later- horrors!- Trump and Putin spoke directly to one another by phone. Imagine that: the president-elect of the United States talking to another foreign leader.
We received a huge document numbering 448 pages. Subsequent revelations showed that the effort was for naught. The report failed to mention that George Papadopolous offered the FBI help in locating Joseph Mifsud for questioning. This was specifically withheld by Aaron Zelinsky, Jeannie Rhee, and Andrew Goldstein who happened upon the information during their investigation- a fact that never made it into the Mueller report.
The report said nothing about exculpatory information regarding the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The FBI had interviewed one of the translators at that meeting four days after the story broke in 2017 and they told them nothing suspicious, especially about Hillary Clinton, was discussed. This FBI report was left out of the Mueller report. The investigation used a selectively edited email between Papadopolous and others making it appear as if the campaign was encouraging him to continue his contacts with Russians when, in fact, the unedited version of those emails prove the exact opposite? Why?
Throughout the ordeal, investigators went to great lengths to say the Steele dossier played a negligible role yet Rosenstein’s scope of investigation memo in August 2017 specifically states Carter Page and Paul Manafort. As the previous Crossfire Hurricane probe was in progress, the first time these two are mentioned are in the Steele memos.
It is possible that the FBI and Steele were working in concert and their reports and discoveries reaffirmed one another. If that is the case, then why disavow the Steele dossier at all? But by the time Rosenstein wrote that memo, the FBI had interviewed Steele’s subsource in January, March and May 2017. And what did this person tell the FBI?
That the “intelligence” in the Steele dossier was “word of mouth and hearsay” often obtained when he and friends were enjoying a beer in a bar. When Mueller gave his final public testimony on July 24, 2019, he refused to answer any questions about the dossier or Christopher Steele. He avoided questions about those three FBI interviews with Steele’s subsource who disavowed the contents of the dossier, and he avoided recognition of the fact Steele was paid by the Clinton campaign and DNC through Fusion GPS.
Next: Questions left unanswered.