Unanswered Questions for Mueller and Congress
The latest predictions of an end to the Mueller investigation seem to be producing more smoke than usual: According to sources speaking to both CNN and The Washington Post, Attorney General William Barr is preparing for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to file a report on his investigation soon. As we wait to see what form that report takes, and what the public learns about the end of Mueller’s investigation, what we’ve seen already raises important unanswered questions.
Is President Donald Trump compromised by his financial relationships with Russian oligarchs?
- Save for Michael Cohen’s guilty plea re: Trump Tower Moscow, Mueller has been relatively quiet about Trump and the Trump Organization’s decades-long financial relationships with the Kremlin and its oligarchs.
- That history forms the backbone of Trump’s relationship with Russia, which means “following the money” should be the backbone of the investigation.
- What other corrupt dealings does Trump have that might leave him vulnerable to kompromat, from not just Russia but also the many other countries where he’s done business?
- And where does Deutsche Bank—the only financial institution willing to lend to Trump and a known vehicle for Russian money laundering—fit in?
Was there any coordination of online messaging between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin?
- Last February, Mueller indicted 13 alleged Russian operatives and three Russian companies, accusing them of carrying out a large-scale social-media campaign to support Trump.
- Since then, we haven’t heard much about it from Mueller, but the mystery has only grown as more has come to light about the Trump campaign’s shady social-media operations—not to mention Cambridge Analytica’s secret contacts with Russian oligarchs and illegal activities
- In their dozens of meetings during the campaign, did Russia and the Trump campaign coordinate their online messaging?
- And what exactly was going on with the mysterious connection between servers at the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank?
Have Trump’s corrupt entanglements with Russia led him to put the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the American people?
- As then-FBI Director James Comey testified in March 2017, the Russia investigation began as a counterintelligence probe. Mueller has since dropped multiple hints about a potential quid pro quo involving the lifting of sanctions on Russia in exchange for their help winning the 2016 election.
- Meanwhile, the ongoing investigation—most infamously, the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence operatives on the eve of the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki—has underscored Trump’s unprecedented obeisance to the authoritarian leader of a hostile foreign power.
- Has Trump’s abandonment of America’s closest allies, including NATO, been driven by the Kremlin trying to weaken the Western democratic alliance?
- Has Trump taken other specific actions that have placed the Kremlin’s interests ahead of those of the American people?
What steps have Trump and those in his inner circle taken to obstruct justice?
- If Trump had never fired Comey—and bragged about it on national television, and to Russian officials in the Oval Office, that he did it to stop the Russia investigation—Mueller may never have been appointed Special Counsel in the first place.
- Since then, five of Trump’s advisers have been charged with or pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.
- According to Mueller’s team, at least one, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, did so in hopes of getting a pardon from Trump, while a disputed report from BuzzFeed News claimed Trump specifically directed Cohen to lie to Congress.
- Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly suggested, both publicly and privately, that he may pardon members of his inner circle who refuse to cooperate with investigators.
- What else have Trump and his inner circle done to impede the investigation and prevent the American people from learning the truth?
What did Trump know, and when did he know it?
- It’s impossible to believe that Trump, who famously micromanaged his company and campaign, was out of the loop on the campaign’s decision to collude with Russia.
- We’ve already seen evidence that Trump directed one form of illegal behavior: hush-money payments for at least two mistresses to keep them quiet until after the election, a case Mueller’s team handed off to prosecutors at the Southern District of New York.
- What evidence, if any, does Mueller have of Trump’s personal involvement in the Russia scandal?
Ultimately, the end of Mueller’s probe will be far from the end of the Russia investigation.
With the House now in Democratic hands, committee chairs will prioritize pursuing the truth instead of simply running interference for the president, as Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes did for the last two years.
With or without a formal Mueller investigation, it is time for Congress to begin the public hearings necessary to answer the above questions and many more. Further, they must share that information with the American people so we can understand the urgent national-security threat our compromised president poses.