Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe
The Department of Justice on Monday released a new collection of documents summarizing FBI interviews conducted as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.
The records, which were obtained by BuzzFeed News and CNN in response to Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, include revelations from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former White House communications director Hope Hicks, among others.
The second batch of documents includes 295 pages of heavily redacted witness memoranda and notes from FBI interviews, CNN reported. The Justice Department is expected to release a new tranche of memos at the beginning of each month for the next eight years.
A summary of Cohen’s interview sheds new light on efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow amid the 2016 campaign and how much Trump knew about the negotiations.
“Cohen told Trump he spoke with a woman from the Kremlin who had asked specific and great questions about Trump Tower Moscow, and that he wished Trump Organization had assistants that were that good and competent,” an FBI summary said, according to BuzzFeed News.
Cohen also alleged to the FBI that he told Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow that there was key information missing in a statement he was providing Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations.
Sekulow said it was “not necessary to elaborate or include those details because the transaction did not take place.” Per a summary of the interview, Sekulow also said that “Cohen should not contradict Trump and that it was time to move on.”
Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In addition, the new documents show that Rosenstein and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed replacing forming FBI Director James Comey amid Trump’s presidential transition in late 2016 and early 2017.
Rosenstein also told FBI interviewers that he was “angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed” over the handling of Comey’s ouster in May 2017. He said that by May 9 he had come to the realization that White House officials’ narrative regarding Comey’s firing was “inconsistent with my experience and personal knowledge.”
He claimed that he refused to attend a press conference on Comey’s dismissal. He also said he emphasized to a Justice Department official that the department could not “participate in putting out a false story.”
Hicks told investigators that Trump was “angry, surprised, and frustrated” after Rosenstein appointed Mueller as a special counsel after Comey’s dismissal.
The Justice Department in April released a 448-page report detailing Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. The investigation did not establish that there was a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election.
But the report noted that the former special counsel was unable to “conclusively determine” whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.
The first batch of documents released in November included a host of revelations about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Rick Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, told investigators in April 2018 that Manafort promoted a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, initiated the hack of the Democratic National Committee.
That theory has gained increased attention amid the House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Trump appeared to reference it during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Former administration officials have dismissed the allegations. Tom Bossert, who served in the administration between 2017 and 2018, said in September that he once told Trump the claim is a “completely debunked” conspiracy theory.