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Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know


Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

President Donald Trump and the Kremlin have denied allegations that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded in the 2016 presidential election – but the probe into Russia’s meddling is forging ahead.

A special counsel was appointed to investigate potential wrongdoing, and his team has already brought multiple charges against people associated with the presidential campaign. 

Read on for a breakdown of what’s happened in the Russia investigation thus far and what it means for the administration.  

What exactly is being investigated?

Multiple investigators are looking into just how wide the scope of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election is and if the foreign nation had any interaction with the Trump campaign.

Investigators are also looking at the financial ties between some Trump associates and the Kremlin.

Who is in charge of the investigations?

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey arrive at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington. A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery of an exchange of text messages seen as potentially anti-President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Robert Mueller was tasked to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

 (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Multiple congressional committees have launched probes into Russia’s attempts to influence the election.

And the Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller as its special counsel overseeing its investigation in May 2017.

Mueller was appointed after Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions, the first Republican senator to endorse Trump, recused himself from the investigation. His appointment also followed a growing Democratic outcry for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the probe.

Trump has been critical of Mueller and called his friendship with fired FBI Director James Comey “very bothersome.” Multiple investigators on Mueller’s team face questions about their potential biases – and one was reassigned from the probe.

Has anyone been charged yet?

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC18AD95AAE0

Paul Manafort is one of President Trump’s former campaign officials who has been charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

 (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Mueller’s investigation has led to multiple charges – although none are directly related to misconduct from the campaign.

Paul Manafort and his associate, Richard Gates, turned themselves over to federal authorities in October 2017 and were charged with 12 counts – ranging from conspiracy against the U.S. to conspiracy to launder money.  

As special counsel, Mueller took over the criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings dating back prior to the election. Manafort worked for controversial former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russia politician who was ousted from power twice, and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In 2005, Manafort came up with a plan to influence U.S. politics, business dealings and the media in order to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according to the Associated Press.

Manafort joined Trump’s campaign ahead of the Republican National Convention to help wrangle delegates before becoming the campaign chairman. He resigned in August 2016.

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2017 file photo, tne-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. Flynn has opened a new consulting firm called Resilient Patriot, LLC that is advising private equity firms, according to one of his brothers, who says Flynn is “moving on with his life." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during a White House press briefing.

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has also been charged in connection with Mueller’s probe. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one charge of lying to the FBI – reportedly about his talks with a Russian ambassador.

Flynn was Trump’s national security adviser only for a short time, but his connection to the White House was rife with controversy that still bedevils the administration. Flynn resigned after less than a month in the position.

At issue was his contact with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington. Flynn and the Russian appear to have discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia late in 2016, raising questions about whether he was freelancing on foreign policy while former President Barack Obama was still in office and whether he misled Trump officials about the calls.

Additionally, George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI about his connections with Russian officials.

During his time on the campaign, Papadopoulos attempted to set up meetings between campaign officials and Russians on numerous occasions. He also interacted with a professor “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials” who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, according to court documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Does anyone else on Trump’s team have connections to Russians or the investigation?

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) talks with his son Donald Trump Jr. (R) after his debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Joe Raedle/POOL - RC1687AB1960

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. She was supposed to have damning information about Hillary Clinton.

 (Reuters/Joe Raedle)

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, got the administration into some hot water when it was revealed that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign who was supposed to have damning information about Clinton.

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an email about the meeting said in part.

Trump Jr. maintained that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not have any information to share and instead wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions.

Manafort and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, were also at the meeting.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump stand together after John Kelly was sworn in as White House Chief of Staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC17A1619640

Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, has been under FBI scrutiny as well.

 (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Kushner, too, has been under FBI scrutiny. Married to Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, Kushner may possess substantial information relevant to the investigation, officials have said.

Although he’s denied colluding with Russians or knowing of anyone who did so, Kushner has had private meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the controversial meeting with Veselnitskya that occurred in the summer of 2016. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have accused him of not being forthcoming in the information divulged.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist, has agreed to meet with Mueller as part of his investigation, potentially  avoiding appearing under subpoena in front of a grand jury.

What about Trump?

Aside from his associates’ connections to Russians, the president has also found himself under scrutiny for certain interactions in office.

Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017 – less than two months after Comey publicly proclaimed the agency was investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

The White House maintained Comey was let go due to his handling of an investigation into Clinton’s private email server used during her tenure as secretary of state. But Trump has alluded that he considered the Russian investigation when he fired Comey. 

Comey also informed a Senate intelligence committee that Trump had asked for the FBI to drop its investigation into Flynn; the White House said Trump was not attempting to influence his FBI director.

Comey, too, informed the committee that he offered Trump repeated reassurances that he was not under an FBI investigation.

After Comey’s dismissal, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time, where he shared classified information regarding ISIS threats, the Washington Post reported.

Trump told those officials that firing Comey – who he allegedly called a “nut job” – took “great pressure” off of him, The New York Times later reported

How did the Russian meddling allegations begin?

Before Trump ever took office, tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials connected to Clinton were leaked.

Those emails – released in July 2016 – purportedly showed the party favoring Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and led to the resignation of party chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

But more than just ousting Wasserman Schultz, intelligence officials concluded those responsible for leaking the emails were connected to the Russian government. In its assessment of the hack, the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump secure the presidency.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

Source: Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

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