Saturday , December 5 2020

First charges approved in Mueller Russia probe

epa06294455 (FILE) - FBI Director Robert Mueller as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 13 June 2013, (reissued 28 October 2017). According to media reports on 28 October 2017 state that first charges have been filed in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russia interference in the 2016 US election.  EPA-EFE/SHAWN THEW


A US grand jury has approved the first charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign, according to multiple news reports.
The charges are sealed under orders from a federal judge and it’s unclear who’s implicated, CNN reported, adding that arrests could come as soon as Monday. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least one person has been charged, citing people familiar with the matter that it didn’t identify.
The developments come as billionaire Paul Singer, president of Elliott Management Corp., has been injected into one of the biggest mysteries of the Trump era: who paid for the much-discussed Russian dossier on the man elected president almost a year ago.
A conservative website said it first hired Fusion GPS, the firm that later produced research on potential ties between Trump and Russia, as part of an effort to seek dirt on what was initially a sprawling field of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls.
The Washington Free Beacon, which is backed by Singer, hired Fusion in October 2015 to research Trump and other Republican candidates, the New York Times reported. But the site’s editor, Matthew Continetti, wrote in a blog post that it had no connection to the salacious dossier on Trump prepared by a former British spy.

Meanwhile, two of the congressional probes into Russian election interference are becoming mired in partisan sniping as Republicans focus on the origin of the dossier, a thread the White House and its allies have used to try to shift the focus away from Trump. A former US intelligence official has denied Republican suggestions that the dossier could have been been sufficient to justify surveillance as part of a US investigation into Trump and his associates.
The former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the dossier didn’t exist as a formal document when the FBI began its investigation in July 2016, and wouldn’t have been used as the sole basis to obtain eavesdropping warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It’s possible, however, that the FBI was made aware of some of the allegations that eventually went into the dossier, and those allegations played a role in the FBI opening its investigation, the former official said.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley are demanding answers about who paid for the dossier, which outlined alleged connections between Russia and Trump and his associates, and whether US agencies relied on its unverified accusations to launch a spy investigation. Some of the allegations in the dossier, including that there were some contacts between Russians and members of the Trump campaign, have since been confirmed.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid millions to a Washington law firm, which in turn paid Fusion GPS to produce at least part of the 35-page dossier prepared by Robert Steele, a former British intelligence officer.
Steele produced a long list of unverified allegations about Trump, then still a candidate, as well as claims that Moscow possesses compromising information about Trump. Trump has denied the dossier’s allegations.
The Free Beacon said that while it had paid Fusion GPS for work earlier, none of that research appears in the Steele dossier, nor did the website pay for the dossier. The conservative site canceled the job in May 2016 when it was becoming clear Trump would win the nomination, the New York Times said.
In a blog post on the Lawfare blog, Robert Litt, who served as general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2009 until January, wrote that the Steele dossier played “absolutely no role” in the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the election.
“That assessment, which was released in unclassified form in January but which contained much more detail in the classified version that has been briefed to Congress, was based entirely on other sources and analysis,” Litt wrote. He added that Trump was briefed on the dossier to warn him of its existence.
The dossier is becoming a cudgel that White House allies are trying to wield against efforts to investigate Trump, including the FBI’s own work. Democrats, meanwhile, decry the line of inquiry as a distraction that does nothing to undercut the seriousness of potential Russian meddling in the election.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said that tensions over the alleged meddling in the election should ease, Interfax reported. “I am firmly convinced that, as journalists like to say, ‘radioactive dust’ will subside, and we will eventually fulfill all of our plans for developing Russian-American relations,” Interfax cited Antonov as saying at a Russian-sponsored youth forum in New York.

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