11 questions looming now that the Mueller investigation is over


In a letter to legislators Friday afternoon, Barr said he might be willing to share Mueller's "key findings" with Congress "as early as this weekend," and a senior official said Department of Justice said that information could be made public. But it is not clear exactly how much of Mueller's work the public will see – or when it will be published.

In the public opinion, it is the ball game. Prosecutors designed a mosaic showing how the collusion could have taken place. But if Mueller does not produce a smoking gun, President Donald Trump will declare his total victory and his total claim.

Of course, the reality is more nuanced. Court records and reports have already shown that Trump's main associates were eager to accept Russian help or share sensitive electoral data with them. It's the second half of the equation that is still shrouded in mystery.

Special advocate Robert Mueller completes his investigation

The Mueller team left a trail of breadcrumbs suggesting that had there been collusion with the Russians, Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, might have played a key role. Trump and Manafort deny any collusion and, in dozens of public filings, Mueller has never produced any evidence implicating them in collusion. However, prosecutors repeatedly claimed that Manafort was working for free, was desperate for money and was trying to monetize his position with influential oligarchs.

In addition, Mueller explained how Trump's acolyte, Roger Stone, sought information from WikiLeaks by relying on the Trump campaign to find out when the website would publish politically damaging documents. These documents were stolen by hackers from the Russian government. But Mueller never accused Stone of working directly with WikiLeaks or the Russians.

Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, recently told Capitol Hill that he had witnessed discussions between WikiLeaks and Stone during the summer of 2016. During a An exciting audience that had lasted all day, Mr. Cohen had also explained how he and Trump had pursued a deal with a Russian company during the campaign. Mueller's team suggested that this could be a cause for collusion, pointing out in the court filings that the deal would have enriched Trump with Russia's help.

If there had been collusion and it was reaching a high crime level, it is reasonable to assume that Mueller would have charged him. The investigation on Russia is now over and no one on Trump 's orbit has been accused of conspiring with the Russian government. A Justice Department official told CNN on Friday that no other indictment has come out of the Mueller investigation.

But Mueller could also have found collusion-like items that are not prosecutable. The federal rules require Mueller to provide the Attorney General with a report explaining why he has not lodged a complaint against the subject of an investigation. It's up to Barr to decide how much time should become public, but we hope that the report provides a definitive answer to the issue of collusion.

Why did Mueller not interview Trump in person?

Another element of the Russian drama that was unfolding was the intermittent dance between Mueller's team and Trump's lawyers regarding the president's testimony. Trump provided Mueller with written answers about his 2016 campaign, but nothing that happened after polling day, considering the transition and his term as subject to the privilege of the executive.

With the investigation over, it seems that Trump's lawyers managed to avoid an in-person interview.

Trump's lawyers knew that their clients regularly walked away from the truth and sometimes from blatant lies. So to prevent an interview was to prevent perjury.

Mueller could have summoned Trump, although it would have entailed risks, such as a long court battle ending in a decision favorable to Trump. Mueller might have found a way to get what he needed from other witnesses. Or perhaps he was finally convinced by Trump's lawyers that they had cooperated so extensively that an on-site interview would not bring much value.

If the Ministry of Justice dissuades Mueller from seeking a subpoena, a notification must be sent to Congress. The regulations of the special councils require the Attorney General to inform Congress if prosecution measures have been barred from going forward. It's something to look for.

What will the audience see in Mueller's report?

At its confirmation hearing in January, Barr is committed to "providing as much transparency as possible" with regard to the investigation of Russia. His comments pleased the Republicans, who control the Senate and easily confirmed him to head the Department of Justice.

But Barr left much room for maneuver in his testimony, and nothing in the rules on special boards requires Barr to disclose the full report to the public. Democrats drew a line in the sand, demanding more promises from Barr and total transparency.

There is nothing to indicate that Barr is in the mood to yield to Democrats' complaints. But his hands could be tied if the Democrats assigned the report to appear or invited Mueller to a public hearing. A potential trial by chamber democrats could trigger long legal battles around the report. California Representative Adam Schiff, Chair of the House's Intelligence Committee, recently said that all of these options were on the table. In this respect, the "end" is only the beginning.

Have there been even more contacts with the Russians?

After the elections, the Trump team maintained that there was no contact between the campaign and the Russians. It was not long before this story collapsed completely. Since then, at least 16 Trump associates have been identified as having contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition. There were dozens and dozens of Trump-Russia contacts.

This 16-person list includes Trump campaign personalities, Trump administration officials, Trump family members, and people belonging to Trump's trusted circle.

Surprisingly, we are still learning about some of these contacts. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Manafort was sharing internal polls with one of its Russian collaborators, Konstantin Kilimnik, suspected by the FBI of having active links with Russian intelligence services.

The lie of "no contacts" was debunked a long time ago. Perhaps there will be even more contacts between Trump-world and Russia that will be revealed for the first time in Mueller's report.

Has Trump or anyone else prevented justice?

The saying goes that "concealment is worse than crime". This could be true once again.

The obstruction can have a lot of things. Already, members of Trump's inner circle have pleaded guilty to witnessing forgery, lying to the FBI and misleading congressional investigators. Cohen pleaded guilty to having lied to Congress and testified before legislators that he had done so on the order of Trump, although this one did not explicitly used those words. Prosecutors said that these shares of Cohen and former Trump campaign collaborators hindered the Russian investigation on many occasions.

Many detractors of Trump already think that he is guilty of obstruction. They mention his dismissal of FBI director James Comey, his role in public deception over the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, his attempts to remove Mueller from his post, his continued public attacks on witnesses, and more .

If it meets the legal threshold of obstruction, it is Mueller. But even in this case, the regulation of the Ministry of Justice states that a president in office can not be indicted. And unlike the investigation conducted by independent lawyer Ken Starr on President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, it is not up to Mueller to conduct the impeachment procedure in Congress.

The House Democrats, however, are ready to pick up where Mueller stops. The Democratic Chair of the House Judiciary Committee recently said that he thought it was already "very clear" that Trump had obstructed justice.

Are there more fat lies that will be exposed?

Lies are a major theme in this two-year saga. Time and time again, Trump and his allies changed their stories, spread false information or were forced to disavow their previous comments. The Mueller team has accused six Trump associates of lying about their relations with Russia.

Whatever the legal implications, Mueller may have discovered more lies by interviewing dozens of witnesses. And some of these revelations may be in his final report.

Read: Attorney General William Barr's Letter to Judicial Committee Leaders Regarding the Mueller Report

For example, even some of Trump's most loyal followers questioned Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony that he had never spoken to his father about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. And Cohen said publicly that he had attended a conversation in June 2016 between Trump and Trump Jr. which he said was about meeting the Trump Tower.

Others have had a hard time believing that George Papadopoulos, counselor of the Trump campaign, has told anyone in the campaign that he had been warned that the Russians would have damaged the emails. Hillary Clinton. (Papadopoulos told CNN that he "can not guarantee" that he has never been approached.)

There was then the controversial attempt by the Trump campaign staff to block language in the Republican Party platform at their 2016 convention on arming Ukraine to counter Russia. At the time, Manafort and Trump denied any involvement, despite Manafort's close ties with Ukrainian interests. Since then, Mueller has interviewed a witness about this situation and also wanted to talk to Trump about it.

Was Trump considered a threat of counterintelligence?

Beyond the criminal investigation, FBI investigators have looked into the possibility that Trump is working for the Russians. The details of this investigation were publicly confirmed this week by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who opened the investigation in May 2017.

McCabe said in an interview that the counterintelligence investigation was spurred by Trump's strange public statements and comments – and not by overwhelming classified information. But once the probe opened, the FBI could use a wide range of tools to investigate the president.
The FBI's general counsel at the time, James Baker, told Congress that it was not a clear hint. He added that FBI officials had considered the full range of possibilities, ranging from Trump "acting on demand in any way, following their instructions, somehow their will" until the possibility that Trump is totally innocent. In both cases, said Baker, it was necessary to investigate.

Nevertheless, analysts noted that it would be odd for investigators to view Trump as a threat to national security. They would then stay on this information for months while Mueller continued his work.

The Republicans have been extremely critical of McCabe and regularly accuse the FBI and the Justice Department of anti-Trump bias. The report could explain in detail why McCabe and others took this drastic step and describe the safeguards put in place to ensure a fair investigation.

How much of the Mueller record could he confirm?

It is impossible to discuss the investigation of Russia without mentioning the "record", the famous memos written in 2016 by retired British spy Christopher Steele. The reports, which contained raw information from reliable sources, which he said allege a vast conspiracy to collude.

The saltiest elements of the record are not proven. Yet many of the allegations in the memos have persisted over time, or at least have been partially true. The memos accurately described Russia's interference and indicated that the Trump campaign was hiding contacts with the Russians and that the Kremlin was involved in possible real estate transactions for the Trump organization.
Mueller's team met with Steele in the summer of 2017, and CNN had previously reported on the FBI's efforts to evaluate the memos. But it's not clear if Mueller felt compelled to include a complete bookkeeping record in his final report. Much of this work probably comes from highly classified sources and clandestine surveillance that US intelligence agencies want to keep secret.

What did Mueller find while crossing the "red line" of Trump?

In an interview with the New York Times in July 2017, Trump said Mueller would cross a "red line" when he was investigating Trump's personal finances and his family's affairs.

Mueller has gone beyond Trump's rhetorical line. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, looked closely at his friends' efforts to balance his business interests with his role in the government. And he entrusted Cohen's extensive investigation to the Manhattan federal attorneys. In this case, the Trump organization was squarely at the center of federal investigators' concerns.

That's partly what we know. We also know that Mueller has never indicted any members of Trump's family – the closest circle to his entourage was Cohen. But there may be things we do not know.

It would not have been difficult for Mueller to obtain Trump's tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. Trump has worked hard to keep his taxes out of public view – maybe Mueller's report will change that. Otherwise, it will be the turn of Democrats in the House who are impatient to do so.

Mueller will he reverse the conspiracies left?

A cottage industry of left – wing conspiracy theorists flourished in the Mueller era.

The anti-Trump conspiracy sites began appearing in 2017, rivaling their right-wing counterparts like Infowars. Academics with little or no knowledge of the Mueller Inquiry have been stunted by Trump-Russia theories, creating viral discussions on Twitter that were barely connected to reality.

On a few occasions, these uninformed influential people have reported that Trump's impending arrest, his explosive surveillance plays, or that dozens of new indictments have been approved against his family. Of course, none of this was true.

Mueller is required to explain why he filed a complaint against certain people and why he did not prosecute other people. There is no need to delve into these dark corners of the internet. But if it does not overthrow any of these conspiracies, they will continue to bounce back forever.

How many related investigations are still in progress?

Mueller's work has spawned an entire ecosystem of related investigations. Some of these investigations are completed, others are ongoing and others may still be unknown to the public.

Manhattan prosecutors have taken up the torch in the Cohen case and are heading to jail this spring for a three-year stay. Prosecutors also have charges in a foreign lobbying investigation against Greg Craig, a partner in Manafort, who previously served as White House lawyer under President Barack Obama.
Michael Flynn, Trump's ephemeral national security adviser, reached an agreement with Mueller and provided evidence against one of his former lobbying partners. Bijan Kian has been charged with unlawful lobbying for Turkey and must be tried this summer. He pleaded not guilty.

Other key players – such as long-time Manafort MP Rick Gates and DC's influential lobbyist Sam Patten – have been working with Mueller for some time. Gates was a senior official of Trump's inaugural committee, which is now under scrutiny by federal investigators in Manhattan.

The same office of the US Attorney in Manhattan seeks separately to speak to the leaders of the organization Trump, although the reason for these interviews has not yet been revealed.

Prosecutors say that Gates, Patten, Cohen and Flynn have been useful beyond the investigations of special advocates. But the redactions have kept the details secret. Mueller's team has worked closely with prosecutors who will remain in the Department of Justice and can continue these cases.

In addition, Mueller aggressively sought evidence from a public limited company whose owner is a foreign country. The battle around this summons was referred to the Supreme Court. Now that the investigation is over, will they continue to fight? And what does it mean that Mueller was able to conclude without having any proof of this mystery society?

Mueller's investigation never focused solely on Russia. An entire component looked at how Middle Eastern countries might possibly attempt to improperly influence the Trump team, perhaps through emissaries like the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince. Mueller did not bring any charges of this part of the probe, although some parts could have been entrusted to other investigators.

Katelyn Polantz from CNN contributed to this report.


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