RUSSIAN COLLUSION UPDATE: Special Counsel Mueller’s questions for Trump focus on criminal intent

UPDATE — 5/2, 10:50 a.m. EDT: On Monday, The New York Times published a list of over 45 questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking answers to regarding Donald Trump’s knowledge of Russia’s covert involvement in the 2016 election and his role in the subsequent federal investigation.

According to law experts, Mueller’s line of questioning leaked to the press reveals the special counsel is focused on learning if Trump had any criminal intent in going along with Russian efforts to illegally undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump responded in typical vitriolic fashion Tuesday and Wednesday, calling Mueller’s inquiry a “Witch Hunt”, and accused investigators of fabricating a “phony crime, Collusion, that never existed”. Trump later threatened to fire Mueller, citing “powers granted to the Presidency”.

 

A report issued Friday by the GOP-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the government of Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

A 253-page heavily redacted report written by committee Republicans asserts Russia conducted a series of cyberattacks against U.S. political institutions beginning in late 2015 until 2016.

Drawing the conclusion after a year-long inquiry into the matter, the report stated:

“While the committee found no evidence the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns.”

The report did specifically find fault with the campaign over its representatives taking a meeting with a Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with officials at New York’s Trump Tower in 2016.  In an interview with NBC News late last week, Veselnitskaya admitted to being “an informant.”

“Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general,” she said.

The report censured the Clinton campaign, scolding the 2016 Democratic nominee’s team and the DNC for its involvement with Russia during the presidential campaign.

“(The Clinton campaign) used a series of cutouts and intermediaries to obscure their roles, paid for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources, including a litany of claims by high-ranking current and former Russian government officials,” the report judged.

The report also reserved criticism for U.S. intelligence services, determining “tradecraft failings” which “undermined confidence” in intelligence concerning the alleged strategic objectives of Russian President Vladimir Putin to play havoc with the presidential election.

The report also rebuked the Obama administration for its failure to inform the Trump campaign for its members potentially becoming “counter-intelligence” concerns.

Following the report’s release the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) blasted his GOP counterparts, saying Republicans did not conduct a serious investigation.

“Throughout the investigation, Committee Republicans chose not to seriously investigate — or even see, when in plain sight — evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, instead adopting the role of defense counsel for key investigation witnesses,” Schiff said.

Schiff, who as recently as March 2018 said committee Democrats have irrefutable evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia vowed to press on with investigations.

Neither Schiff nor the Democrats have produced such evidence, but did release a counter-document alleging the majority-written report “reflects a lack of seriousness and interest in pursuing the truth.”

Pleased with the report’s deductions and the wrapping up of the probe, President Trump announced on Twitter the Russia probes must end.

Shortly after tweeting his approval, Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House and expressed his satisfaction with the House panel’s opinion.

A Senate panel is also currently investigating the matter, as is Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

 

[CNBC] [Vox] [Fox News] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy AP/E. Vucci via Deutsche Welle]

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