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Mueller’s Russia investigation: What to know

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The investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election continues – with Special Counsel Robert Mueller at its helm.

Mueller, 73, took over the federal government’s probe into alleged collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials in May 2017. Already, his investigation has led to charges for four U.S. citizens and indictments against more than a dozen Russian nationals.

Trump expressed willingness to testify under oath as part of Mueller’s investigations and has repeatedly denied any “collusion” with Russians.

Why is Mueller overseeing the Russia investigation?

FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election.

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Department of Justice announced the appointment of Mueller to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election in May 2017.

The appointment came after a growing cry – mostly from Democrats – mounted for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had already recused himself from the investigation. 

Mueller led the FBI through the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served under presidential administrations of both parties.

For the probe into the 2016 election, Mueller has the authority to prosecute any crimes uncovered during this investigation, and he was given wide authority to investigate whether Trump or his associates colluded with the Kremlin to win the White House.

Has anyone been charged?

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, one focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, hides behind his car visor as he leaves his home in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1F89D175A0

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, one focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, hides behind a car visor as he leaves his home in Alexandria, Va., after being asked to surrender to federal authorities.

 (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

In leading the probe, Mueller took over an ongoing investigation into Paul Manafort’s financial dealings in Ukraine.

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Richard Gates were indicted on Oct. 27, 2017 on 12 counts, including: conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, false statements and multiple counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s Office told Fox News.

Michael Flynn, the administration’s short-lived national security adviser, was charged in December for lying to the FBI about certain conversations he had with a Russian ambassador. He pleaded guilty. 

Additionally, George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to one count of making false statements to investigating FBI agents, according to court documents. Papadopoulos was a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign.

Three Russian entities and 13 Russian nationals were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 16 for allegedly interfering in the election. Mueller’s case alleges those involved had a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” on the U.S.

However, the Justice Department said the actions did not have an impact on the outcome of the election. Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein said, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.”

What is the controversy with Mueller’s staff?

The Trump administration heavily criticized Mueller’s investigation as several of his attorneys on staff donated to Democratic campaigns, including to Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

Additionally, two FBI officials – Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – are under fire for the anti-Trump text messages they exchanged during the election. Strzok was part of Mueller’s team but was removed from the probe after the text messages were revealed.

What has Trump said about Mueller’s investigation?

Trump has oftentimes dismissed the allegations that he colluded with Russia during his presidential election. He said he is “looking forward” to being questioned eventually under oath by Mueller.

He’s said the allegations are a “fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”

“I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one…”

– President Trump

“I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one, which is what the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve and what all Americans who want a better future want and deserve,” Trump said at a rally in West Virginia last year.

The president also warned Mueller to stay within certain boundaries as he investigates.

Trump and Mueller have sent messages “back and forth,” according to Trump’s outside counsel. A spokesman for Mueller told Fox News that the messages have been “very professional.”

Fox News’ Madeline Farber and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.



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German election frontrunner Olaf Scholz: Who is the man likely to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel? | World News

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After 16 years of Angela Merkel in the chancellorship, Germany can be said to value leaders who are regarded as strong and steady.

It is something the leading contender in Sunday’s election, Olaf Scholz, is counting on as he bids to become the natural successor to the outgoing leader – despite being from a different party.

The pair know each other well – Social Democrat Mr Scholz has been Ms Merkel’s finance minister and vice chancellor in the uneasy “grand coalition” of conservatives and members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) she had to bring together to form a government in 2017.

Before entering government, when he was an MP, Mr Scholz was often seen around then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Pic: AP
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Before entering government, when he was an MP, Mr Scholz was often seen around then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Pic: AP

The latest polls suggest Mr Scholz has come from behind in his bid to replace her, while the main conservative candidate Armin Laschet has fallen behind.

If Mr Scholz wins, it will be a vindication of his attempt to follow in Ms Merkel’s footsteps.

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Germany election: What’s at stake?

Although frequently labelled “boring”, the 63-year-old finance minister has been keen to present himself as a man of action who can be trusted to get things done.

And, despite promising continuity and stability, Mr Scholz has distanced himself from his former conservative partners in the coalition, claiming they are too cozy with business.

A lawyer by background, he is a widely experienced politician having served in some of the highest offices at local and national level.

He first entered the German parliament at the age of 40 in 1998, and, amid spells of various lengths within the government of the city-state of Hamburg, has been high up in the federal government or SPD for the last 20 years.

Mr Scholz served as minister for labour in Angela Merkel's first cabinet after his appointment in 2007. Pic: AP
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Mr Scholz served as minister for labour in Angela Merkel’s first cabinet after his appointment in 2007. Pic: AP

He was mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 but has also held the position of SPD chief whip, SPD deputy leader, and minister of labour and social affairs in Ms Merkel’s first government, as well as his current roles.

During the pandemic, Mr Scholz won praise from the International Monetary Fund for his measures, having ditched a balanced budget at home to protect the German economy and helped create the EU’s COVID recovery fund, despite Ms Merkel’s initial resistance.

Amid soaring German inflation and pressure from his conservative adversaries, he has been keen to keep the activities of the European Central Bank (ECB) separate to the government’s handling of the German economy, pointing to the need to respect the ECB’s independence, following the lead of his chancellor.

As mayor of Hamburg, one of the events Mr Scholtz presided over was hosting then prime minister David Cameron on an official visit to Germany just before a vital EU summit in 2016
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As mayor of Hamburg, one of the events Mr Scholz presided over was hosting then prime minister David Cameron on an official visit to Germany just before a vital EU summit in 2016

He also cooperated with France to drive forward efforts to introduce a global minimum rate of corporate tax and new tax rules for tech giants.

His combination of prudence and vital assistance amid the crisis have paid off.

A snap poll after the last TV debate showed Mr Scholz won a clean sweep, despite conservative candidate Armin Laschet attacking his record on tackling money laundering.

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Is Germany as green as it would like to think?

From the moderate wing of his party and thoroughly versed in the realities of German government, if he wins he will set about the task of building a coalition, probably with the Greens, but perhaps of the grand coalition type that Ms Merkel has lived happily with repeatedly, alongside her CDU party.

During the COVID era, he has underwritten his left-of-centre credentials with a significant stimulus package but, in opposition to some on the left of his party – which is similar to the UK’s Labour movement – he wants Germany to rein in debt by 2023, reintroducing strict limits on federal and state government spending.

Olaf Scholz (L) is said to have won all three TV debates against the Greens' chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and CDU's candidate Armin Laschet. Pic: AP
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Olaf Scholz (L) is said to have won all three TV debates against the Greens’ chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock and CDU’s candidate Armin Laschet. Pic: AP

His claim to be as calm and collected as his potential predecessor may be on shakier ground than he admits, having shown a tetchiness in the past in his dealings with the media and rioters during the Hamburg G20 event, but he is adamant he is driven by pragmatism, not personality.

“I’m applying for chancellor, not to be a circus ringmaster,” he told women’s magazine Brigitte.

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Taliban prisons chief says the group will resume executions and amputations as punishment | World News

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One of the founders of the Taliban has said that the group will resume executions and amputations as punishment.

Mullah Nooruddin Turabi warned the world against interfering in the plans, which come just weeks after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western troops.

Mr Turabi, who was chief enforcer of the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law when they last ruled the country in the late 1990s, said: “Everyone criticised us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments.

“No one will tell us what our laws should be.

“We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

Taliban fighters outside Kabul University, Afghanistan. Pic: AP
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The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August. Pic: AP

Previously, convicted murderers were shot in the head by the victim’s family who also had the choice of accepting money and allowing the offender to live.

Convicted thieves had their hand amputated and highway robbers had a hand and a foot amputated.

Mr Turabi told the Associated Press that amputating hands “is very necessary for security”, adding that during the Taliban’s previous rule, such harsh punishments helped bring “complete safety” to the country.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday that the punishments “would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights”.

“We stand firm with the international community to hold perpetrators of these, of any such abuses, accountable,” he added.

“We are watching very closely, and not just listening to the announcements that come out but watching very closely as the Taliban conducts itself.”

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How popular is the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Taliban fighters have already revived an old punishment of public humiliation for men accused of small thefts.

At least twice in the past week men in Kabul have reportedly been put on the back of a pickup truck, their hands tied, and driven around the city.

But despite the revival of the old punishments, Mr Turabi insisted: “We are changed from the past.”

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Previously, the judiciary was heavily-influenced by hardline Islamic clerics but Mr Turabi said judges, including women, would adjudicate future cases.

He also said the Taliban would allow technology such as mobile phones, TV, photos and video “because this is the necessity of the people and we are serious about it.”

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Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou released after reaching agreement with US prosecutors | Science & Tech News

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Huawei’s chief financial officer has reached a deal with US prosecutors that allows her to return to China.

Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei, has been in Canada since she was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018.

Her arrest followed an extradition warrant issued by the US for a range of charges relating to alleged breaches of sanctions against Iran.

But the deal means the US Department of Justice will drop its request to extradite her to the US and fraud charges against her will be dismissed in December 2022 – exactly four years after her arrest.

This will depend on her complying with certain conditions, including accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng’s defence lawyer Michelle Levin said she expected Meng to adhere to the conditions, adding: “We’re very pleased that in the meantime she can go home to her family”.

The details were confirmed during a court hearing, with Meng appearing via video from the Vancouver mansion where she was bailed after her arrest.

The court revoked all bail conditions, and Meng left for China shortly afterwards.

Before she left, Meng said: “Over the last three years my life has been turned upside down.

“It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and as a company executive.

“But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life.

“I will never forget all the good wishes I received.”

About an hour after Meng’s departure, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said that two Canadians arrested by Chinese authorities were also on their way home.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor had been accused of spying and were arrested in China in December 2018 – shortly after Meng was arrested in Canada.

Mr Trudeau said: “These two men have been through an unbelievably difficult ordeal. For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that.”

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