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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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'Brexit cost a lot of jobs!' Ken Livingstone slams Farage in big debate 'Still a remoaner'

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FORMER London Mayer Ken Livingston insisted Brexit “has cost jobs” as he squabbled with Nigel Farage over Brexit before demanding the British government invest in jobs for British people.

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In Ohio GOP race, local and national politics square off

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WASHINGTON — Is all politics now national?

Or is some of it still local when it comes to congressional races?

We’ll get an answer from today’s GOP special primary in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District to replace Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who resigned his seat back in April to run Ohio’s chamber of commerce.

Donald Trump has definitely helped nationalize the contest by endorsing coal lobbyist Mike Carey, and a pro-Trump Super PAC is airing this ad for him: “This August 3rd, vote for the only Trump-endorsed, America-First conservative — Mike Carey for Congress.”

On the other hand, Stivers has endorsed his hand-picked successor, state Rep. Jeff LaRe, and the ex-congressman has been running this TV ad: “I’m proud to support Jeff LaRe for Congress. Jeff LaRe is a former law enforcement officer and a strong conservative leader who has fought to make our communities safer.”

So much attention on this Ohio-15 special has been on whether a Trump-backed candidate could lose another race — after last week’s defeat of the Trump-endorsed Susan Wright in Texas.

But is a more important issue here whether local politics can still trump national politics?

After all, the candidate who defeated Wright down in Texas — Jake Ellzey — was a state representative with endorsements from Rick Perry, Joe Barton and Dan Crenshaw.

Now today’s other Ohio special primary election — in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District between Nina Turner and Shontel Brown — is fully nationalized, with it being the latest battle in the Bernie-Dem Establishment War.

But also pay attention to Ohio-15 to see if local politics and local endorsements still matter.

Looking at the ad spending in Ohio

Today’s high-profile special primary elections have made for busy airwaves outside of Cleveland and Columbus.

In the Dems’ 11th District contest, Turner and Brown (plus their outside backers) have gone virtually punch-for-punch in the ad war. Turner has spent $2.3 million on TV, radio and digital advertising through Tuesday, per AdImpact, with her aligned Democratic Action PAC adding another $250,000. That’s matched by the Brown campaign’s $1.3 million on ads, plus an additional $1.1 million chipped in by the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC.

Things are even more crowded among the Republicans in the 15th District contest. The top spenders are businessman Tom Hwang, a self-funder running as an outsider, and the Protect Freedom PAC, which is backing Ron Hood, the state representative backed by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul. Both have spent just over $480,000 on advertisements.

Former Rep. Steve Stivers, who has endorsed Jeff LaRe, has actually spent more on ads than any other candidate besides Hwang, with $344,000. Then the Trump-aligned Make America Great Again PAC has spent $305,000 in support of the candidate Trump has endorsed, lobbyist Mike Carey, with Carey’s campaign spending another $265,000. State Sen. Bob Peterson has spent $265,000, the anti-Carey Conservative Outsider PAC has spent another $241,000, LaRe’s campaign has spent $180,000, and former Columbus NAACP President Ruth Edmonds has spent $107,000.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

35: The average number of new, daily pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations over the last week in Florida.

11 hours: How long New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced questions for from the state’s Attorney General’s office during a harassment probe.

110 million: The amount of Covid vaccines the U.S. government has shipped to 65 other countries, per the Wall Street Journal.

35,202,585: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 168,435 more than yesterday morning.)

617,258: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

346,924,345: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 467,676 since yesterday morning.)

49.7 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

60.6 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

70 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per the CDC, a mark which President Biden had hoped America would hit by the July 4 holiday.

Talking policy with Benjy: Inflated fears of inflation?

A $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure deal. A $3.5 trillion budget plan. And Republicans are confident they have their top counterargument already lined up: It will all raise prices.

Inflation, after all, is up significantly in 2021. The Fed believes it’s mostly temporary, caused by pandemic-specific disruptions like a computer chip shortage that’s sending car prices soaring. So far, the markets mostly agree with them, but critics argue the economy is overheating from too much stimulus spending.

But there are several important factors that could mitigate inflation risk from the $4 trillion in proposed new spending, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports.

First of all, it’s going to be spent much more slowly than the Covid relief bills, over a period of 10 years rather than as immediate relief. Second, unlike Covid spending, Democrats plan to offset the cost by raising taxes on businesses and wealthy individuals. Third, spending on items like better roads, cheaper power and easier commutes could make the economy more productive and thus better able to handle increased demand.

“If the bill is fully paid for, then to a first approximation it would have no impact on inflation,” Jason Furman, a top economic adviser in the Obama administration, told NBC News. “Moreover, if it expanded supply (through infrastructure, more parents working because of childcare, etc.) it might put some downward pressure on inflation.”

Furman is more worried than many of his peers about rising prices, but says little of that has to do with the spending plans, which he calls a “red herring” in the inflation debate that could be checked with higher interest rates if needed

Inflation hawks worry the spending offsets won’t materialize and that the boost to productivity won’t be enough to justify the total spending. The bipartisan infrastructure plan relies on some shaky budget math and the Democratic plan might make its numbers work by funding some features, like the child tax credit, for shorter lengths with the expectation they’ll be extended. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates this would boost the cost from $3.5 trillion to over $5 trillion, which may or may not be offset.

“There is a high probability that there won’t be enough taxes collected,” Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University, said. “Historically, every president has promised to pay for tax cuts or spending increases, but that never happened.”

The biggest fear is that if inflation goes on too long, people will begin to expect more inflation, creating a kind of self-perpetuating cycle in which businesses raise prices and workers keep bargaining for higher wages in order to get ahead of it.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

It’s been two years since the massacre in El Paso.

Some public health experts are questioning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis that led to new masking guidelines.

The GOP chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors rejected a new subpoena, calling the GOP-led “election audit” an ‘adventure in never-never land.’

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Amazon violated labor law after workers at its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse tried to join a union, according to the union.

The Associated Press reports that unaccompanied minors stopped at the U.S-Mexico border by immigration officials hit an all-time high in July.

Axios reports that President Biden and his chief of staff don’t believe pressuring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire would be productive.

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EU power grab: Chilling analysis show how bloc dominates lives of its citizens

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THE European Union is now a “powerful beast” which dominates all aspects of the lives of the 400 million people who live within its member states, a sobering new analysis has shown.

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