October 18, 2017

Lewandowski Interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee

Former Trump campaign manager Lewandowski is interviewed in a closed session by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as Special Counsel to oversee the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia on May 17, 2017. Prior to his appointment, Mueller accrued an impressive record of serving his country, dating back to his time as a Marine in Vietnam, for which he received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He was appointed to lead the FBI by President George Bush, and was unanimously confirmed twice for this position, becoming the longest-tenured head of the agency since J. Edgar Hoover.

Calls for a Special Counsel began after Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation into the 2016 election after concerns were raised over his Russian contacts; Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a registered Republican, then stepped in to oversee the investigation and appointed Mueller, who is also a Republican.

Congressional Republicans initially praised Mueller’s appointment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that he had “a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated that he “[welcomed Mueller’s] role at the Department of Justice.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said in reference to the Russia investigation: “I see it as a positive thing, especially having Bob Mueller involved. It brings a lot of public credibility to whatever process they go through.”

Republican began criticizing Mueller in late 2017. In November 2017, three Republican lawmakers introduced a bill calling for Mueller to step down, alleging that he was unable to be sufficiently impartial as a result of his previous post at the FBI. Further criticism came in December 2017, when it was revealed that two former Mueller investigators had sent anti-Trump texts to one another, sparking allegations that, although the agents were no longer on Mueller’s team and had criticized Democratic officials as well, the investigation was compromised. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently testified before the House Judiciary Committee; he fielded questions about the these former members of Mueller’s team, and stated that he did not believe there was currently good cause to fire Mueller or shut down the investigation.

Trump has made several statements that suggest that he has considered firing Mueller or may otherwise attempt to prematurely end the investigation. For example, in July 2017, Trump told The New York Times that he believes his finances are outside the scope of Mueller’s probe, and that investigating the Trump Organization would be a “violation.” In December, however, Trump announced he had no plans to fire Mueller; he also told The New York Times he he is “going to be treated fairly,” but that he believes the investigation makes the U.S. look “very bad.” Trump has also bragged of his “complete power to pardon,” which many interpreted as a sign that he may pardon any campaign or administration officials caught up in the probe; however, he has yet to issue any pardons related to the Mueller indictments.

Despite Republican attempts to discredit the Mueller investigation, the results of Mueller’s effort speak volumes. The federal grand jury impaneled by the Mueller investigation approved its first charges in October, 2017, and has acted twice more since:

  • On October 5, 2017, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian-linked individuals during the campaign. Papadopoulos pursued these contacts with the intention of connecting the Trump team to Russian government officials.
  • On October 27, 2017, Mueller indicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate and senior Trump aide Rick Gates on charges of conspiracy against the United States for their work with pro-Russian parties in Ukraine. Manafort and Gates were indicted on twelve charges, including counts of conspiracy and money laundering that link to Manafort’s lobbying work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician. Both men pleaded not guilty and are currently under house arrest. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition period. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak represented “a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump’s aides to create foreign policy before they were in power.”

As The New York Times summed it up, Trump’s “former campaign chairman, two other campaign aides and his former national security adviser have now all been charged with felonies.”

Congressional Investigations
Trump Administration