An FBI investigation into the Donald Trump election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia was justified and not motivated by political bias against him, a government watchdog has concluded. A report by the justice department’s inspector general demolished three years of claims by the president that he was the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy and that the investigation was based on a dossier compiled by an ex-British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele.
The US justice department has launched a criminal investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry, US media report. An administrative review into the special counsel’s investigation of 2016 election interference began in May. But the switch to a criminal probe means investigators can now issue subpoenas for testimony and documents. President Trump has long alleged Robert Mueller’s probe of reports of collusion with Russia was a “witch hunt”.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller emphasized on Wednesday he had not exonerated Donald Trump of obstruction of justice, as the president has claimed, but his long-awaited congressional testimony did little to add momentum to any Democratic impeachment ambitions and Trump heartily declared victory. In seven hours of congressional testimony, Mueller accused Trump of not always being truthful, called his support for the 2016 release of stolen Democratic emails “problematic” and said Russia would again try to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.
Special counsel Robert Mueller said Wednesday that charging President Donald Trump with a crime was “not an option” because of federal rules, but he used his first public remarks on the Russia investigation to emphasize that he did not exonerate the president. “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller declared. Mueller made clear that his team never considered indicting Trump because the Justice Department prohibits the prosecution of a sitting president.
President Donald Trump directed his former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena Monday, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that maintains McGahn would have immunity from testifying about his work as a close Trump adviser. A lawyer for McGahn said he would follow the president’s wishes and skip a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. McGahn was a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, describing ways in which the president sought to curtail that federal probe.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress, blasting him in a closed-door meeting and later at a news conference. Pelosi’s comments were an apparent reference to Barr’s response last month during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, when the attorney general said he was not aware of any concerns that Mueller’s investigators might have expressed about his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings. Barr’s response appeared to contradict the revelation earlier this week that Mueller himself wrote to the attorney general, saying he was worried that Barr’s summary “threatens to undermine … public confidence” in the Russia probe.
Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday dismissed the findings of the long-awaited report by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and said it had failed to present any evidence of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, Russian news agencies reported. Mueller’s report, released on Thursday, details extensive contacts between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian operatives who, it said, sought to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. The report did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.
US prosecutors say Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, has breached a plea bargain agreement by repeatedly lying to the FBI. Manafort was convicted of financial fraud in August relating to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. Manafort’s lawyers insist that he did not breach the plea deal – however, both sides now agree that there is no reason to delay sentencing.
Responding to allegations that he engaged in ‘clandestine intelligence activities’ on behalf of Russia, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page denied on Sunday that he was an intelligence agent for Russia. President Trump claimed surveillance of the former aide confirmed the Justice Department and FBI ‘misled the courts’ in the early stages of the Russian investigation.
President Trump’s lawyer in the investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election, Ty Cobb, left the case, after having apparently contemplated retirement for some time. Cobb will be replaced by Emmet Flood who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment. Flood is expected to take a more antagonistic approach to the case than Cobb.