WASHINGTON (TNS) — It’s been one year since Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as special counsel to probe Russian interference in the presidential election. His work has spawned a web of investigations digging deeper into President Trump’s inner circle. Here’s a look at how the cases have developed and how politicians have reacted to them.
May 17, 2017: Mueller appointed
Robert S. Mueller III is appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. The appointment comes a little more than a week after Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director. Although his administration says Comey was dismissed for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Trump later tells Lester Holt of NBC News that “this Russia thing” was on his mind when he made the decision.
June 2017: Trump tries to fire Mueller
Frustrated by the Russia investigation, Trump reportedly orders the firing of Mueller. But White House Counsel Don McGahn refuses to relay the order to the Department of Justice and threatens to quit. Trump backs down, leaving Mueller in place.
July 2017: A meeting exposed
Trump helps draft a misleading statement about a meeting that took place at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. At the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. expected a Russian lawyer to provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attend.
Oct. 5, 2017: The first guilty plea
George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, pleads guilty to lying about his contacts with Russians who claimed to have “thousands of emails” on Clinton. The guilty plea, the first secured by Mueller, is not revealed until Oct. 30.
Oct. 30, 2017: Campaign leaders indicted
Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, are indicted on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Though Manafort ran Trump’s campaign and Gates was his deputy, the charges involve their work in Ukraine and are unrelated to the presidential race. Both plead not guilty.
November 2017: Cohen investigated
The special counsel’s office begins contacting corporations that hired Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, including pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis and telecommunications giant AT&T. Cohen was paid through Essential Consultants LLC, a company he created in Delaware to funnel $130,000 in hush money to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels three weeks before the election.
Dec. 1, 2017: Another guilty plea
Michael T. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and Trump’s former national security adviser, pleads guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. Flynn and the ambassador discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russia’s election interference. Flynn agrees to help prosecutors.
Dec. 13, 2017: Mueller defended
Rosenstein, testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, rejects Republican concerns that Mueller’s team is biased against Trump. “The special counsel’s investigation is not a witch hunt,” he says.
Feb. 2, 2018: Republicans target investigation
House Republicans release a memo that accuses the Justice Department of improperly eavesdropping on Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy aide, during the presidential campaign. Some information in the application for a warrant to surveil Page, the memo says, came from Democratic-funded opposition research.
Feb. 16, 2018: Mueller indicts Russians
Thirteen Russians are indicted on a charge of allegedly interfering in the presidential campaign with stolen identities, fake campaign events and social media accounts. Mueller also charges three Russian companies, including the St. Petersburg-based internet Research Agency, which is considered to be a “troll factory” connected to the Kremlin. The indictments do not include any allegations that Trump aides were involved, but a California man, Richard Pinedo, pleads guilty to identity theft for selling information to Russians.
Feb. 20, 2018: Another guilty plea
Alex van der Zwaan, a former lawyer at a prestigious law firm, pleads guilty to lying to federal agents about his work with Manafort and Gates on a controversial report used to defend the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine against accusations that it had improperly prosecuted a political opponent. He is later sentenced to 30 days behind bars.
Feb. 23, 2018: Gates flips
Gates pleads guilty to charges of conspiracy and lying to federal agents, and he agrees to cooperate with the special counsel’s office. Prosecutors file additional charges against Manafort alleging bank fraud and undisclosed lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity. He faces two trials, one in Virginia and one in Washington.
Feb. 24, 2018: Democrats fire back
Democrats release their own memo defending the decision to start surveillance on Page. The judges who approved the warrant and renewed it three times knew some information in the application came from sources with political motivations, the Democrats point out. It also says “valuable intelligence” was obtained.
March 2018: Interview negotiations
After conversations with the special counsel’s office about a potential presidential interview, Trump’s lawyers draft about four dozen questions they expect prosecutors may ask. The list, which is leaked to the media on May 1, includes a number of inquiries that could factor into an obstruction of justice investigation, such as “What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?”
April 9, 2018: Cohen raided
Using information passed along by Mueller, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan launches raids on Cohen’s home, hotel room and office. Trump called the raids “disgraceful.” Prosecutors later tell the court that Cohen is the subject of a “months-long investigation” into “criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.” He has not been charged.
April 19, 2018: Manafort connection?
Prosecutors tell a judge they began scrutinizing Manafort because they wanted to know if his longtime ties to Moscow provided a “back channel to Russia.” He has not been charged with any campaign-related crimes.
April 20, 2018: Democrats sue Trump campaign
The Democratic National Committee files a federal lawsuit accusing Trump’s campaign, the Russian government and WikiLeaks of conspiring to sway the election. The suit echoes a similar one after the Watergate burglary, which was settled after President Nixon resigned from office in 1974.
May 8, 2018: Cohen payments exposed
The lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, releases a document saying Cohen was paid $500,000 by Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Payments from other corporations that sought Cohen’s insight into the Trump administration are also revealed.
© 2018, Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.