A number of strains of inquiry that Particular Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI — to not point out numerous journalists and novice Web sleuths — had reportedly been pursuing went unaddressed within the copious doc. | Alex Wong/Getty Pictures
Over 448 pages, particular counsel Robert Mueller’s closing report coated an enormous quantity of floor, from Trump marketing campaign contacts with Russian operatives to President Donald Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s probe.
However whereas Mueller discovered that the Trump marketing campaign didn’t conspire with the Russian authorities, he didn’t resolve each thriller surrounding the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference scheme.
Story Continued Beneath
A number of strains of inquiry that Mueller and the FBI — to not point out numerous journalists and novice Web sleuths — had reportedly been pursuing went unaddressed within the copious doc. They embrace mysterious interactions between the Trump Group and Alfa Financial institution laptop servers; the internal workings of the information mining agency Cambridge Analytica; and influence-peddling by Center Japanese nations focusing on Trump’s fledgling administration. Different avenues, like whether or not compromising tapes exist of the president and what a Russian oligarch did with the inner Trump marketing campaign polling information he was given, had been left open-ended.
It’s potential that some or all of those matters are being examined by federal prosecutors unbiased of Mueller’s workplace. Mueller revealed in his report that overseas intelligence and counterintelligence info was usually transferred to FBI headquarters or subject workplaces. Mueller additionally made 14 prison referrals to the Justice Division and bureau. Solely two of these referrals — involving Trump’s former private lawyer Michael Cohen and former Obama White Home counsel Greg Craig — are publicly recognized.
POLITICO Playbook e-newsletter
Join at this time to obtain the #1-rated e-newsletter in politics
By signing up you conform to obtain electronic mail newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You possibly can unsubscribe at any time.
It appears clear that none of these subplots prompted Mueller’s staff to think about bringing prison fees. However whereas Mueller’s unique mandate directed him to pursue each a counterintelligence investigation and a prison probe, his report incorporates no categorised info, leaving unknown to the general public something he might need found in that class.
Listed here are 5 of the largest unresolved subplots of the Russia investigation:
Did a secret laptop hyperlink exist between the Trump Group and Moscow’s Alfa Financial institution?
Even earlier than Mueller was appointed, the FBI was analyzing why a pc server for Alfa Financial institution, Russia’s largest business financial institution — led by oligarchs with shut ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — had 1000’s of contacts with a server utilized by the Trump Group between Might and September of 2016. A Slate report on the contacts primarily based on analysis by laptop scientists brought on a web based sensation simply days earlier than the election, till the New York Instances reported that the FBI had concluded there may very well be what the paper referred to as an “innocuous rationalization” for the exercise, like a advertising and marketing electronic mail or spam.
Many unbiased cybersecurity researchers and consultants, lots of whom labored at senior ranges within the Pentagon, White Home, and intelligence neighborhood, have continued to insist that the timing and frequency of the server exercise was not in step with an automatic course of. “The timing of the communication was not random, and it wasn’t regular-periodic,” one researcher instructed instructed the New Yorker final October. “It was a greater match for human exercise.”
Innocuous or not, the server exercise isn’t addressed within the Mueller report in any respect. The one dialogue of Alfa Financial institution comes inside the context of efforts by its CEO, Petr Aven, to attach with the Trump transition staff in December 2016. These efforts had been apparently unsuccessful, in line with Mueller, which can have led the particular counsel’s workplace to dismiss the pc server exercise as inconsequential. However there’s nonetheless no conclusive rationalization for the pinging, or why the Trump area that Alfa was contacting abruptly disappeared two days after the New York Instances notified Alfa’s representatives in Washington of the server exercise.
Did Cambridge Analytica have ties to Russia or WikiLeaks?
One of many greatest subplots of the investigations into Russian election interference is the function the information mining agency Cambridge Analytica. However the controversial firm didn’t seem as soon as within the report, regardless of indications that Mueller had questioned and subpoenaed former workers.
The Trump marketing campaign employed Cambridge Analytica in the summertime of 2016, and it performed a key function in attempting to sway voters utilizing pilfered Fb information in the course of the election.
Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American who labored on the College of Cambridge, helped the agency harvest the uncooked information of as much as 87 million Fb profiles starting in 2014, which the corporate then used to micro-target political advertisements. There’s a WikiLeaks connection, too: Alexander Nix, the corporate’s CEO, has acknowledged reaching out to Assange in the summertime of 2016 to supply his assist in organizing any Hillary Clinton-related emails WikiLeaks deliberate to launch.
Mueller subpoenaed Brittany Kaiser, the previous enterprise growth director for the agency, earlier this yr. She instructed The Guardian that she was totally cooperating. Sam Patten, a Washington-based operative who started cooperating with Mueller’s probe final yr after pleading responsible to an unrelated cost, labored on the Oregon workplace of Cambridge Analytica’s father or mother firm, SCL Group, in runup to the 2014 midterm elections. And Mueller quizzed a number of digital consultants who labored on Trump’s marketing campaign concerning the big-data agency, in line with ABC.
Just like the NRA, nevertheless, Cambridge Analytica isn’t talked about in any respect in Mueller’s report. As such, it’s nonetheless unclear what, if something, the corporate knew about WikiLeaks’ plans or whether or not its micro-targeting efforts had been coordinated with the Russian’s info warfare marketing campaign.
Intriguingly, although, a lot of the portion of Mueller’s report coping with Russia’s Web Analysis Company — which tasked web “trolls” with spreading disinformation and propaganda in the course of the election — was redacted within the closing report due to potential hurt to ongoing investigations.
What was the NRA’s relationship with the Trump marketing campaign, and with Russia?
For the reason that election, there have been quite a few however imprecise information factors indicating the Russians is likely to be attempting to infiltrate the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation as a method to join with Republicans and Trump’s marketing campaign.
Mueller’s report, nevertheless, didn’t shed any mild on the topic, regardless of media reviews that the particular counsel was poking round on the topic.
The primary indication of Mueller’s curiosity within the potential ties got here earlier this yr, when former Trump marketing campaign adviser Sam Nunberg instructed CNN the particular counsel’s staff had requested him concerning the marketing campaign’s relationship with the NRA and the circumstances of a Trump speech there in 2015. The investigators continued asking witnesses concerning the marketing campaign’s ties to the NRA as just lately as December 2018, in line with CNN.
And final July’s indictment of Maria Butina, a Russian nationwide who sought to infiltrate each the Trump marketing campaign and the NRA in the course of the election, additionally raised questions concerning the group’s standing as a possible middleman between Trump and the Russians. Butina was charged with performing as an agent of a overseas authorities with out notifying the Justice Division.
Butina was the primary individual to ask Trump in public about his place on Russian sanctions throughout a 2015 occasion in Las Vegas, and tried to dealer a gathering between Trump and her Russian handler, Alexander Torshin, at an NRA conference in Might 2016.
McClatchy later reported that FBI counterintelligence investigators had been investigating whether or not Torshin laundered cash from Russia into the NRA to assist fund Trump’s marketing campaign — the NRA spent $30 million to assist Trump in 2016, triple what it spent on supporting Mitt Romney in 2012.
Regardless of the investigators’ curiosity, nevertheless, the gun-rights group was not talked about a single time in Mueller’s report. And her case was dealt with by prosecutors in Washington, D.C., not by Mueller’s staff.
What did WikiLeaks know concerning the supply of the stolen emails?
Mueller did reply one lingering query about Russian election hacking — how Kremlin brokers received their digitally pilfered emails to WikiLeaks.
However he didn’t tackle the extra doubtlessly damning query: Did WikiLeaks understand it was getting the fabric from Russian cutouts?
In his report, Mueller outlines intimately how Russia’s army intelligence company, the GRU, hacked Democrats in the course of the marketing campaign. Between March and April of 2016, the report says, “the GRU stole a whole lot of 1000’s of paperwork from the compromised electronic mail accounts and networks” and disseminated them each by way of GRU brokers posing as unbiased hackers — together with “Guccifer 2.zero” and DCLeaks.com — and WikiLeaks.
In accordance with Mueller’s report, the GRU used these pretend on-line personas to shuttle a few of their stolen cache to WikiLeaks. By way of DCLeaks, the GRU initiated a dialog with WikiLeaks about transferring stolen paperwork on June 16, 2016. Eight days later, WikiLeaks reached out to Guccifer 2.zero through Twitter and requested for “any new materials.”
Mueller famous that Assange and WikiLeaks tried to obscure the supply of the hacked supplies by claiming in public statements that the DNC hack was an “inside job” carried out by Seth Wealthy, a murdered committee staffer, fairly than by Russia.
However the particular counsel’s workplace both wouldn’t or couldn’t clarify what WikiLeaks knew concerning the true identification of the hackers.
“Each the GRU and WikiLeaks sought to cover their communications, which has restricted the Workplace’s capacity to gather all the communications between them,” the report says, pointing to their use of encryption.
That info may very well be related to figuring out whether or not WikiLeaks acted in a journalistic capability, as its founder Julian Assange has maintained, or as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” abetted by Russia, as then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo claimed in April 2017.
Assange was arrested in London earlier this month after Ecuador withdrew his asylum. He faces U.S. prison fees for allegedly attempting to assist former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack into a pc storing delicate authorities recordsdata in 2010.
What concerning the notorious video tape alleged within the Steeele file?
Maybe no aspect of the Trump-Russia scandal was as sensational because the declare, contained in an unverified file assembled in the course of the marketing campaign by former British spy Christopher Steele, that the Russians had kompromat on Trump within the former of video capturing him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow lodge room.
Though the alleged tape consumed huge public consideration over the previous two years, Mueller mentions it solely briefly. His report states that Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze texted Michael Cohen on October 30, 2016 and mentioned: “Stopped stream of tapes from Russia however undecided if there’s anything. Simply so you realize …. ” Rtskhiladze instructed investigators that “tapes” referred to derogatory tapes of Trump rumored to be within the possession of the Agalarovs—a Russian-Azerbaijani household that hosted the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.
Rtskhiladze instructed Mueller that he believed the tapes had been pretend. However for no matter purpose, he didn’t inform that to Cohen, in line with the report. Mueller doesn’t draw a conclusion come what may. It stays unclear who might need been creating or disseminating such tapes, what their motive might need been — and whether or not anybody on Mueller’s staff ever noticed a number of of them.
This text tagged underneath:
Lacking out on the most recent scoops? Join POLITICO Playbook and get the most recent information, each morning — in your inbox.