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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 has in the past 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 – 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, 2001, terrorist attacks and served under presidential administrations of both parties.

For the inquiry 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 his leading role, 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 on multiple counts, including: conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to the initial charges.

Nearly four months later, on Feb. 22, the pair were hit with additional tax evasion and bank fraud charges. The additional charges involve much of the same conduct Manafort and Gates were initially charged with, but they increase the amount of money Manafort is accused of laundering through offshore accounts to $30 million.

Michael Flynn, the administration’s short-lived national security adviser, was charged in December with 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.

Alex van der Zwaan, an attorney who allegedly lied to investigators in the Russia inquiry, was charged in federal court in February and pleaded guilty a few days later. According to charging documents, van der Zwaan was employed by a law firm hired by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice in 2012. He admitted to lying to investigators about his interactions with Gates. 

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 did not say the actions had 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’s this we keep hearing about a controversy with Mueller’s staff?

The Trump administration has sharply 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 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 the election. He said he is “looking forward” to eventually  being questioned under oath by Mueller.

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

– President Trump

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, 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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GOP Sen. Johnson delays Covid relief bill by forcing all 628 pages be read out loud

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A Republican senator on Thursday severely delayed the passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package by forcing the entire 628-page bill to be read out loud.

In protest of the bill, which had been expected to pass after a marathon round of votes overnight Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., objected to waiving the reading of the legislation.

Two Senate clerks — John Merlino and Mary Anne Clarkson — are expected to take shifts reading the bill. The effort, which began at around 3:30 p.m., could last over 15 hours before lawmakers actually begin debating the provisions in the legislation.

Any member can object to waiving the reading of the bill, a procedural move that is typically skipped. Johnson said in a tweet on Thursday because of its large price tag “we should know what’s in the bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Johnson’s stunt would “accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard day in, day out to help the Senate function.”

The clerk begins reading 628 pages of the Covid Relief bill on the Senate floor of the Capitol on March 4, 2021.NBC News

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted Thursday afternoon to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s relief package in a party-line vote. The bill does not need any Republican support to pass because Democrats are using a special budget process to bypass the filibuster. However, Republicans are expected to raise objections to the bill anyway.

Before a final vote can be taken, there will be a period of lawmakers introducing unlimited amendments, known as a vote-a-rama.

The House passed a version of the Covid-19 relief bill in February. Once the Senate bill is approved, the House will need to vote on it again before it can be sent to the president.



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Whitehall cuts NOW! 'Staggering' salaries of civil servants must be slashed, says Leaver

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BREXITEER Rupert Lowe has demanded “Whitehall cuts” coming just a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed tax changes in his Budget.x

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U.S. Capitol Police request continued National Guard help amid security threats

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The U.S. Capitol Police are asking to keep National Guard troops around for a while longer to help protect the complex, two defense officials confirmed to NBC News.

The police officials’ request of the Department of Defense comes as fears of another assault on the Capitol by extremists went unrealized Thursday and highlights the continued concerns about security at the building.

The request was for a 60-day extension, The Associated Press reported. The nearly 5,000 troops still in Washington, D.C. were slated to return home next week. It’s unclear how many troops the Capitol Police are requesting. The defense officials said the request was an initial ask, with a more detailed request still forthcoming.

The National Guard’s presence at the Capitol was beefed up after the deadly Jan. 6 riot, which saw hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters storm the building in a bid to delay or reject the counting of electoral votes in favor of Joe Biden.

Security was heightened at the Capitol on Thursday after the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI sent a joint intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement officials warning them that some domestic extremist groups have “discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove democratic lawmakers on or about 4 March,” a senior law enforcement official told NBC News.

March 4 is considered the “true inauguration day” by some Trump supporters and believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The bulletin also warned that extremists were emboldened by the success of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, heightening the overall threat they pose. It made clear that “the threat did not begin or end on January 6,” the law enforcement official said.

The aftermath of the attack has resulted in the erection of additional barriers around the Capitol as well as the large troop presence — issues that lawmakers have complained about during recent hearings on security issues and elsewhere. Some Democrats have expressed concern about the true level of safety at the Capitol, while some Republicans have downplayed the need for the enhanced security.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., told The Associated Press that lawmakers have been concerned about the security plan going forward.

“We want to understand what the plan is,” Slotkin said. “None of us like looking at the fencing, the gates, the uniformed presence around the Capitol. We can’t depend on the National Guard for our security.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, however, suggested at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week that the security presence at the Capitol amounted to “political theater” intended to cast Trump supporters in a negative light.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters on Wednesday that she thinks the National Guard should remain at the Capitol “as long as needed.”

Pelosi has tasked retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré with leading a review of the Capitol’s security, and said she hopes to be able to present a draft of the plan to the House next week.

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