Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign advisers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos were announced by special counsel Robert Mueller yesterday, the charges were made as part of Muller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manafort and Gates surrendered to the F.B.I. yesterday and Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. weeks ago and has been cooperating with investigators for months. Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Matthew Rosenberg report at the New York Times.
Papadopoulos’s plea describes extensive efforts to establish links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, in a January 2017 interview with the F.B.I. Papadopoulos said that a London-based professor claimed he had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails.” Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post, revealing how much Trump campaign officials knew about Papadopoulos’s attempts to broker relationships.
Papadopoulos’s guilty plea is a “small part” of a “large-scale ongoing investigation,” a spokesperson for Mueller’s office, Aaron Zelinsky, said yesterday, Katelyn Polantz reporting at CNN.
The charges against former Trump campaign officials “has nothing to do with the president,” the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday in a daily briefing, adding that the indictments do not change the fact there has been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and played down Papadopoulos’s role in the campaign. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.
The indictments demonstrate the wide scope of the Mueller investigation, the charges against Manafort and Gates relate to tax and money-laundering while they were working in Ukraine, and the Papadopoulos guilty plea shows that Mueller has the ability to “flip” people without it being leaked. Joe Palazzalo and Jacob Gershman report at the Wall Street Journal.
Republican senators said yesterday that legislation protecting Mueller is not necessary because they do not believe Trump would fire the special counsel, Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
The prominent Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta has stepped down from his lobbying group as Mueller’s team investigate his connections to Manafort, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday. Mark Honseball and Ginger Gibson report at Reuters.
Trump was “seething” when he found out about the indictments, according to a Republican source close to the White House and the President hit out at the Mueller investigation in a series of tweets yesterday. Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak report at CNN.
Republicans have tried to avoid discussing the Mueller indictments and sought to distance themselves when probed, Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan report at the Washington Post.
The indictments could upset the congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, neither of the intelligence committees have met with Papadopoulos and it is unclear whether Manafort and Gates can engage with Congress. Elana Schor, Kyle Cheney and Ali Watkins report at POLITICO.
Who is George Papadopoulos? Alex Johnson explains at NBC News.
The key questions raised by Papadopoulos’s cooperation with the F.B.I. and what we know already are set out by Aaron Blake at the Washington Post.
The campaign officials described in the Papadopoulos plea are explained by Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post.
The unexpected Papadopoulos guilty plea may have significant implications as it relates directly to allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the plea revealed plenty of new information. Just Security Editors Kate Brennan and Ryan Goodman set out the key takeaways at Just Security.
A timeline of Manafort’s relationship with Trump and the Trump campaign is set out by Joanna Walters at the Guardian.
The charges against Manafort are very likely to relate to Russian intelligence operations through his work for Ukraine’s government and his work with the Russia-friendly Ukrainian Party of Regions. Just Security editor John Reed writes at Just Security.
Gates was a former business associate of Manafort and remained part of the Trump campaign after Manafort was kicked out, taking a central role in Trump’s inaugural committee and a lobbying group created to advance the president’s agenda. Eileen Sullivan provides a background to the campaign adviser at the New York Times.
The views of legal experts on the indictments are set out by Joe Palazzalo and Jacob Gershman at the Wall Street Journal.
What will be the focus of Mueller’s investigation following the indictments? POLITICO Magazine sets out the views of eleven legal experts.
The White House should be concerned about the indictments, Trump’s links to the unscrupulous Manafort and the Papadopoulos plea indicating that more of Trump’s associates should be “afraid of being ensnared in Mr. Mueller’s spreading net.” The New York Times editorial board writes.
Trump should be worried as Mueller has shown he is willing to use his mandate widely, Betsy Woodruff writes at The Daily Beast.
The Manafort indictment does not involve the 2016 election campaign and relates to his work for Ukraine; Mueller has provided no evidence to back up the claims made in Papadopoulos’ plea that the Trump campaign worked with Russian operatives and Congress members should push for the whole story, including the Democrats’ role in the Fusion GPS-commissioned dossier on alleged Trump-Russia connections. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The real investigation on Russia’s role in the 2016 election is being carried out by the House Intelligence Committee and its chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), particularly its efforts to uncover the truth behind the dossier alleging Trump-Russia connections, which was compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. William McGurn writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Around 126 million people saw Russia-propagated content on Facebook before and after the 2016 U.S. election, according to sources familiar with the matter, prepared testimony ahead of today’s hearing before congressional investigators and a statement by the social media company. Google and Twitter also disclosed further information about Russia propaganda efforts on their platforms, Deepa Seetharaman and Georgia Wells report at the Wall Street Journal.
Russian-backed Facebook accounts organized directly with U.S. activists on divisive issues to sow discord and, according to a review by the Wall Street Journal, this included at least 60 rallies, protests and marches publicized or financed by eight Russia-backed accounts. Deepa Seetharaman reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The Ukraine warned Facebook and U.S. officials in 2015 about Russia’s “aggressive behavior” in spreading disinformation on social media, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said today. Hannah Kuchler and Roman Olearchyk report at the Financial Times.
“Without a single piece of proof, we are as you know being accused of meddling not only in the U.S. election, but also in those in European states,” the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency today. Reuters reporting.