Memo: Recommendations to Address Trump’s Obstruction of the Judiciary Committee’s Inquiry into Impeachment
To: House Judiciary Committee
CC: Relevant Congressional Committees and Offices
From: The Moscow Project
Re: Recommendations to Address Trump’s Obstruction of the Judiciary Committee’s Inquiry into Impeachment
Now that the House Judiciary Committee is actively considering articles of impeachment against the president, it faces a challenge of how to conduct that inquiry in the face of continued obstruction by the White House. The Committee is rightly going to court to obtain documents and compel critical witnesses to testify, but that process will take time to play out.
However, as the Chairman himself recently noted, the Committee does not need to wait to start hearings and call witnesses. The Mueller report provides a long list of potential witnesses that cannot cite executive privilege and are physically located in the United States. These witnesses can, and should, be called before the committee without delay.
The House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees have largely divided up responsibilities for Volume I and Volume II of the report, respectively. House Intelligence has largely focused on events that occurred during the campaign, while House Judiciary has focused on the obstructive acts during the administration. The functional result of this is that most of the witnesses the Judiciary Committee has called have cited executive privilege and refused to testify. Now that the Committee is considering impeachment articles, it is responsible for investigating both volumes of the report, which means it should also call the key witnesses in Volume I to come testify.
The following lists include key witnesses mentioned in Volume I that should be compelled to testify in open and public hearings. Too many hearings have been held behind closed doors, making it more difficult to build a public case.
Obtaining testimony from all of these witnesses may prove difficult. Nevertheless, calling them as witnesses is critical to holding the president and his administration accountable for colluding with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
Key witnesses that cannot assert executive privilege:
Donald Trump Jr.
- Relevance: Refused to be interviewed by Special Counsel. Arranged June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower with Russian government-linked figures to get incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. According to Rick Gates, announced at a meeting with other campaign staff that he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton a few days prior. Corresponded with WikiLeaks throughout the election. Travelled to Paris on October 11, 2016, to meet with pro-Kremlin organization on Syria.
- Supporting witnesses: Ike Kaveladse (Los Angeles), Rinat Akhmetshin (Washington D.C.) and Anatoly Samochornov (New York) were attendees at the June 9 meeting and were all interviewed by the Senate Judiciary committee. Additionally, Felix Sater and Michael Cohen; Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Eric Trump, Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, who, according to Gates, were allegedly present for a meeting before the June 9 meeting where Trump Jr. talked about having a lead on damaging information about Clinton.
- Relevance: Spearheaded Trump Organization efforts to develop Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, including outreach to high-ranking Kremlin officials. Claims to have been present for conversations in which Trump received advance knowledge of WikiLeaks. Organized and executed strategy to cover up damaging information on Trump in final month of the election in violation of campaign finance law, to which he pleaded guilty.
- Relevance: Trump campaign chairman with extensive history working for Russia-backed interests in Ukraine. While on campaign, repeatedly shared polling data and discussed campaign strategy with suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik. According to Rick Gates, was present for a meeting in early June where Donald Trump Jr. told campaign officials he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton. Attended June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower. Ultimately left campaign amid scandal related to his work with Ukraine. Pleaded guilty to financial crimes related to prior work in Ukraine, and subsequently lied to investigators about communications with Kilimnik.
- Supporting witnesses: Tony Fabrizio and Bob Ward, pollsters responsible for the information being passed to Kilimnik; Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy who helped share polling data with Kilimnik.
- Relevance: Trump campaign deputy chairman under Paul Manafort and aide to Trump donor and inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack. Participated in the sharing of polling data and campaign strategy with suspected Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik, which continued after Manafort left the Trump campaign. According to Mueller’s report, was present for conversations with Trump about planning campaign strategy around future WikiLeaks releases. Told Mueller that he was present for a meeting in early June where Donald Trump Jr. told campaign officials he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton. Pleaded guilty to financial crimes related to pre-campaign work advancing Kremlin interests in Ukraine.
- Supporting witnesses: Tony Fabrizio and Bob Ward, pollsters responsible for the information being passed to Kilimnik; Paul Manafort, Eric Trump, Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, who, according to Gates, were present for a meeting before the June 9 meeting where Trump Jr. talked about having a lead on damaging information about Clinton.
- Relevance: Friend of Jared Kushner and hedge-fund manager. Gerson appears to be a key figure in the effort to set up a backchannel between the Kremlin and the White House. He met with and communicated with Kirill Dmitriev in November 2016 and stayed in contact throughout the transition, developing “a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia” that he provided to Kushner, who passed it to Steve Bannon and Rex Tillerson. He appears from the report to have given Dmitriev a read out of the White House reaction to Trump’s first call with Putin, despite not being in the White House. According to NBC, travelled to the Seychelles in January 2017.
- Relevance: Emailed Trump assistant Rhona Graff about Trump appearing at St. Petersburg Economic Forum; talked to Flynn about Kislyak during transition; spoke with Sergei Gorkov in Moscow just before Gorkov traveled to New York to meet with Jared Kushner.
- Supporting witnesses: Rhona Graff; Jessica Macchia, Trump executive assistant who was party to emails from Foresman.
- Relevance: One of five Trump campaign foreign policy aides named during March 2016 interview with The Washington Post. Previously the subject of recruitment efforts by a Russian spy ring in New York, who described him as an “idiot” but said “his enthusiasm works for” them. Traveled to Russia twice in 2016, once in July and once in December, meeting with high-ranking Russian officials both times. Received explicit approval from the Trump campaign for July trip.
- Supporting witness: Sam Clovis, campaign official who hired Page; Ed Cox, Republican operative who introduced Page to the campaign; Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski, who gave Page approval to travel to Russia during the campaign and corresponded with him via email.
- Relevance: Informal Trump campaign adviser who, during the 2016 campaign and transition, repeatedly met with high-ranking members of Trump’s team, most notably Steve Bannon. Traveled to the Seychelles to meet with Kirill Dmitriev, George Nader, and Mohammed Bin Zayed. Has been criminally referred to the Department of Justice for lying to the House Intelligence Committee about the meeting.
- Supporting witnesses: Steve Bannon, Steve Mnuchin, and Wilbur Ross, with whom Prince met during the transition; George Nader, who helped arrange the January 2017 meeting between Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles.
- Relevance: One of Trump’s longest-time political advisers. Allegedly served as a backchannel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Repeatedly bragged in public about his communications with WikiLeaks and Russian operatives during the campaign. Indicted for lying to Congress and for attempting to intimidate witnesses (has pleaded not guilty).
- Supporting witnesses; Jerome Corsi and Ted Malloch, with whom Stone formed his backchannel to WikiLeaks; Steve Bannon, who repeatedly communicated with Stone about WikiLeaks.
- Relevance: One of five Trump campaign foreign policy aides named during March 2016 interview with The Washington Post. Received advance warning that Russia had stolen and planned to anonymously publish emails from Trump’s political opponents, which he then told to officials from the Greek and Australian governments. Repeatedly communicated with high-ranking campaign officials about his contacts with Kremlin-linked operatives, including invitations for Trump to travel to Moscow during the campaign. Pleaded guilty for lying about his contacts.
- Supporting witnesses: Sam Clovis, campaign official responsible for hiring Papadopoulos; Corey Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions, and Stephen Miller, campaign officials with whom Papadopoulos communicated about his contacts with Russia during the campaign; Bo Denysyk, campaign official Papadopoulos emailed about meetings with “some leaders of Russian-American voters here in the US about their interest in voting for Mr. Trump;” Michael Glassner, Trump campaign official whom Papadopoulos contacted to get on the campaign, and Joy Lutes, who responded to Papadopoulos on the campaign’s behalf.
- Relevance: Longtime business partner of the Trump Organization who has helped secure funding from sources from Russia and the former Soviet Union. Was part of multiple attempts to develop Trump Tower Moscow, including spearheading efforts during the 2016 campaign alongside Michael Cohen.
- Supporting witness: Michael Cohen; Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump, who worked and corresponded with Sater at various points as part of role in Trump Organization.
- Relevance: Trump’s first campaign chairman. Was looped into numerous internal conversations regarding contacts with Russia, including with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. After Trump took office, served as an informal adviser, a role that included acting as an intermediary in Trump’s efforts to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself and rein in the Russia investigation.
- Relevance: Former business partner of Donald Trump who ran Trump’s inaugural committee. According to the Mueller report, helped convince the Trump campaign to hire Paul Manafort. According to documents released by the House Oversight Committee, sent drafts of Trump energy speeches to officials from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. for edits while he was simultaneously working on business projects involving those countries.
Other potentially important witnesses that cannot assert executive privilege:
Tony Fabrizio, Trump campaign pollster, close to Chairman Paul Manafort
- Relevance: His polls were sent to Konstantin Kilimnik by Rick Gates. He could describe the content of the polling information that he put together and whether he was aware what Manafort and Gates were doing.
- Supporting witness: Bob Ward, longtime business partner of Fabrizio who was copied on many of the emails between Fabrizio, Manafort, and Gates.
- Relevance: Longtime associate and business partner of Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik. Pleaded guilty to illegally arranging a deal where a Ukrainian oligarch provided donations to Trump’s inaugural committee in exchange for tickets to and access during Trump’s inauguration.
- Relevance: Member of Trump’s foreign policy team during 2016 campaign. Was primarily responsible for the campaign’s push to weaken language in the Republican Party platform related to providing lethal-weapons assistance to Ukraine. Was in repeated contact during the campaign with Maria Butina.
- Supporting witness: Matt Miller, campaign staffer who worked with Gordon on Ukraine amendment.
- Relevance: Longtime conservative activist and conspiracy theorist who, according to the Mueller report and the indictment of Roger Stone, was part of Stone’s efforts to establish a backchannel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Was offered a draft plea agreement with the Special Counsel’s Office for lying about his role, but did not accept it.
- Relevance: Conservative operative who, according to the Mueller report and the indictment of Roger Stone, was part of Stone’s efforts to establish a backchannel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks.
- Supporting witnesses: Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, with whom Malloch formed a backchannel to WikiLeaks.
- Relevance: Current Senate staffer who in 2016 was tasked by Michael Flynn with helping to track down emails they believed had been stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Claimed to have tracked down a trove of deleted emails from the Dark Web, but a “tech advisor determined that the emails were not authentic.” Corresponded with Peter Smith, now-deceased Republican operative who claimed to have been in touch with Russians about the emails. Wife of Michael Ledeen, who served on Trump transition and communicated with Michael Flynn surrounding phone calls with Russian ambassador.
- Supporting witnesses: Michael Flynn, who reached out to Ledeen about the emails; Erik Prince, who funded the tech advisor who tried to authenticate the emails.
Administration officials relevant to the campaign or transition who are not able to assert executive privilege over their work during the campaign and transition:
- Relevance: Top foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, later becoming his first National Security Adviser. Prior to joining the campaign, routinely made paid appearances on Russian state-run TV networks, often failing to disclose to the U.S. government payments he received. Attended RT Gala in December 2015, where he sat with Putin. Was tasked by Trump campaign with working to track down emails from Hillary Clinton’s servers. During the transition, called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to undermine Obama administration’s efforts to sanction Russia as punishment for Russian interference. Pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the substance of his phone calls with Kislyak.
- Supporting witness: K.T. McFarland, designated Deputy National Security Adviser with whom Flynn was in contact while making phone calls to Kislyak during the transition; Michael Ledeen, transition team member with whom Flynn spoke between phone calls; Tom Bossert and Reince Priebus, transition-team members with whom McFarland spoke during Flynn’s phone calls; Steve Bannon, whom Flynn updated on his phone calls after the fact; Barbara Ledeen, who searched for Clinton’s emails on Flynn’s behalf.
- Relevance: Trumps’ son-in-law and senior adviser. Involved in several important contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, including the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower and meetings with Sergey Kislyak and Sergei Gorkov during the transition. Ran the Trump campaign’s digital operations, a role that included hiring and overseeing the work of Cambridge Analytica, which ran the Trump team’s digital operations and had multiple reported contacts with the Russian government and its cutouts, including an offer from its CEO to help WikiLeaks coordinate the release of stolen emails. According to Rick Gates, was present for a meeting in early June where Donald Trump Jr. told campaign officials he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton.
- Supporting witness: Brad Parscale, who led Cambridge Analytica’s work during the 2016 campaign; Avi Berkowitz; Catherine Vargas, aide whom he emailed about June 9 meeting, other meetings with Russian officials.
- Relevance: Trump’s campaign CEO for the final months of the campaign. Communicated repeatedly with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks during the campaign. According to the Mueller report, Erik Prince claims he provided Bannon updates about his meeting in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, although Bannon denies this. Also spoke with Flynn after Flynn’s phone calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. While serving in the White House, was present for multiple conversations surrounding Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice by firing investigators or constraining the investigation.
- Relevance: Received Russia-related policy proposal drafted by Gerson and Dmitriev during the transition. In office, was present for meetings between Trump and Putin, including at times being the only U.S. official present other than a translator.
- Relevance: Chaired Trump’s foreign policy team during the campaign, which included Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Attended foreign policy team meeting where Papadopoulos discusses his conversations with Mifsud. Met with Sergey Kislyak multiple times during the campaign. As attorney general, was one of the main focuses of Trump’s efforts to restrain the Russia investigation. During confirmation process, falsely claimed not only that he had not had any contacts with Russians in his capacity as a campaign adviser but also that he did not know of anybody who did.
- Supporting witnesses: Sandra Luff and Pete Landrum, staffers who were present at meeting with Kislyak.
- Relevance: Trump’s daughter and senior adviser. Was involved in negotiations regarding Trump Tower Moscow, including contacts with people claiming connections to high-ranking Russian officials. According to Rick Gates, was present for a meeting in early June where Donald Trump Jr. told campaign officials he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton.
- Relevance: Trump’s campaign manager for the last few months of the election. Was aware of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, including Donald Trump Jr.’s direct message conversations over Twitter with WikiLeaks. Was one of several officials with whom Erik Prince was in contact while acting as an informal adviser to the campaign.
- Relevance: Trump campaign press secretary who later became White House Communications Director. Was part of multiple contacts between Trump campaign and Kremlin-linked operatives, including outreach that appears to have come directly from the Kremlin in the immediate aftermath of the election. According to Rick Gates, was present for a meeting in early June where Donald Trump Jr. told campaign officials he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton. Issued blanket denial of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- Relevance: Hired George Papadopoulos and Carter Page to work as Trump’s foreign policy advisers during the 2016 campaign. According to the Mueller report, received updates from Papadopoulos about his conversations with Joseph Mifsud, the Kremlin-linked professor who gave Papadopoulos advance notice that Russia had hacked and was planning to release emails from Trump’s political opponents.
- Relevance: Jared Kushner’s longtime friend and aide who has worked with him during the campaign, transition, and administration. According to the Mueller report, was involved in the planning of Kushner’s transition-period meetings with Russian officials, including Sergey Kislyak and Sergei Gorkov, and met with Gorkov himself. Provided testimony to the Special Counsel that contradicted Kushner’s.
- Relevance: Trump senior policy adviser during campaign, transition, and administration. Communicated on multiple occasions with George Papadopoulos, including working together to write a foreign policy speech for Trump. Identified in Papadopoulos indictment as a transition official whom Papadopoulos told about his contacts with Joseph Mifsud and other Kremlin-linked operatives.
- Supporting witness: George Papadopoulos
Additional and supporting witnesses:
- Michael Flynn Jr.: Son of Michael Flynn who served as an adviser during transition; listed as among public figures who promoted IRA accounts.
- Eric Trump: According to the Gates, was present for meeting where Donald Trump Jr. announced prior to the June 9 meeting that he “had a lead on negative information about” Clinton.
- Jason Fishbein: American political operative who sent WikiLeaks the page/password for PutinTrump.org, which WikiLeaks subsequently provided to Donald Trump Jr.
- Michael Caputo: Campaign adviser who communicated with a Russian who claimed to have damaging information on Clinton and set up a meeting with him and Roger Stone.
- Walid Phares: Member of Trump’s foreign policy team alongside Page and Papadopoulos.
- Sergei Millian: Real-estate broker with longtime relationship with the Trump Organization; repeatedly corresponded with Papadopoulos about business issues during the campaign and transition.
- Dimitri Simes: Head of Center for National Interest who hosted event at which Trump gave his campaign foreign policy speech; helped write speech and advised campaign on Russia and other foreign policy issues. (may not be possible; frequently located in Russia)
- Paul Saunders: Official at the Center for National Interest who helped Simes draft and arrange Trump’s foreign policy speech.
- Richard Burt: Official at the Center for National Interest who helped Simes draft foreign policy speech for Trump; has ongoing business ties to Alfa Bank and Gazprom. Pulled aside by Alfa Bank head Petr Aven to make contact with Trump team during the transition.
- Catherine Vargas: Kushner aide with whom he emailed about June 9 meeting, other meetings with Russian officials.
- Alan Garten: Trump Organization outside counsel with whom Rob Goldstone spoke after the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower was revealed.
- Alan Futerfas: Trump Organization outside counsel with whom Rob Goldstone spoke after the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower was revealed.
- John Mashburn: Campaign policy director who communicated with George Papadopoulos during the campaign.
- Sandra Luff and Pete Landrum: Sessions staffers at meeting with Kislyak.
- Wilbur Ross: Met with Prince in Trump Tower in January 2017.
- Steve Mnuchin: Met with Prince in Trump Tower in January 2017.
- Reince Priebus: RNC chairman during the campaign who later became Trump’s chief of staff; knew about Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak from McFarland.
- Tom Bossert: Transition adviser who later joined administration; knew about Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak from McFarland.
- Michael Ledeen: Transition adviser with whom Flynn communicated between phone calls with Kislyak and husband of Barbara Ledeen.