WASHINGTON, Nov 9 — One year after Donald Trump stunned the United States by winning the presidential election, the probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russian meddling continues to cloud that victory.
Investigations by special prosecutor Robert Mueller and three congressional committees have unveiled many more links between the campaign and Russia than were originally known, and charges against three figures at the end of October raised expectations of more revelations.
Where the investigation’s key targets stand:
Nothing yet has linked the president directly to the Russians. But his firing of FBI director James Comey smells like obstruction of justice to investigators. Analysts expect Mueller won’t go after Trump until he has finished with most everyone else on his radar.
Trump’s one-time campaign chairman was arrested on October 30 on money laundering and tax-related charges in relation to his work for Moscow-backed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort could be looking at a heavy jail sentence, unless he cooperates with Mueller on the Russia side of the investigation.
Manafort’s partner in Ukraine and a Trump campaign deputy chair, Gates was also arrested on October 30. Analysts say he could be expected to offer evidence against others related to Russia collusion in exchange for lighter treatment.
The first person convicted in Mueller’s investigation, Papadopoulos was one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisors. He developed his official Russian contacts and tried to arrange a Trump trip to Russia or a meeting with Putin. He also told his supervisors that he was offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Emails indicate his work drew the attention and support of top campaign officials. In a deal that made clear Papadopoulos is actively assisting Mueller, he pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI.
According to NBC, the former White House national security advisor and his son, Mike Flynn, Jr, could be Mueller’s next targets. Flynn drew suspicion for his repeated discussions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, his paid appearances for Russian firms and his unreported lobbying for Turkey. NBC said initial charges could be linked to the lobbying and money laundering.
Another member of the campaign’s foreign policy team, Page has a long association with Russia that raises suspicions. He says trips he made to Moscow before and after the election were for personal and academic reasons. But in a July 2016 email to top campaign officials, he indicated he had contacts with Russian legislators and senior members of President Vladimir Putin’s administration. He also proposed a Trump trip to Moscow.
Trump’s son-in-law is believed to be a major target of the Mueller probe for his contacts with Kislyak, with a powerful Russian banker and with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton. His possible role in firing Comey and other White House moves also likely interest investigators chasing obstruction suspicions.
Donald Trump Jr
Trump’s son helped arrange and then attended the Veselnitskaya meeting and has been involved in the Trump organization’s Russia-related real estate projects.
The former senator and now attorne-general has aroused suspicion with his lack of candor about meetings with Kislyak. He was also responsible for the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisors, whose Russian contacts and meeting proposals likely came to his attention. — AFP