National Security

Mueller investigated whether Trump misled him on WikiLeaks question in Russia probe

Former special counsel Robert Mueller probed whether President Trump misled him in his Russia investigation, according to newly unredacted portions of Mueller’s report that were re-released Friday. 

One portion of the report, which summarizes Mueller’s findings from his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, suggests that Trump’s written answer on a question about WikiLeaks and former adviser Roger Stone was misleading.

According to the report, Trump had said he did not remember talking with Stone about WikiLeaks. But Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had separately recounted to Mueller that he “recalled a conversation in which Roger Stone told Trump that WikiLeaks planned to release information soon [and] Trump had asked him [Cohen] to stay in touch with Stone about WikiLeaks.”

“It is possible that, by the time the President submitted his written answers two years after the relevant events had occurred, he no longer had clear recollections of his discussions with Stone or his knowledge of Stone’s asserted communications with WikiLeaks,” Mueller’s report reads.

“But the President’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the President’s denials and would link the President to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks,” the report states, suggesting the special counsel had considered this as potential obstruction.

Mueller is clear to note in his report, however, that it was possible the president was not seeking to be misleading but simply forgot the events. 

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws by facilitating payments to two women who accused Trump of having extramarital affairs with them and to lying to Congress about his efforts to help build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2016.

The lawyer has been serving his sentence and was recently moved to home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new details come as the Department of Justice (DOJ) removed redactions from the Mueller report on Friday amid a court battle over information withheld from the report when it was initially made public. The developments came in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits from the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and news outlets Buzzfeed and CNN.

The redactions were originally put in place as Stone underwent his trial over charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering. He was convicted of all seven charges against him and was sentenced earlier this year to more than three years in prison.

Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange communicated during the 2016 campaign, in part regarding damaging information Assange’s anti-secrecy site published about then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Their discussions were part of Mueller’s investigation as he probed whether Trump campaign officials sought foreign interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller ultimately did not establish that Trump or members of his campaign coordinated or conspired with Moscow to affect the 2016 presidential election, but he and his team declined to reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice.

Updated 8:40 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Investigation Julian Assange Michael Cohen Mueller Mueller report Obstruction of justice Robert Mueller Roger Stone Roger Stone Russia Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections Special counsel Special Counsel investigation Trump WikiLeaks
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