President Trump claimed in a tweet over the weekend that the controversial Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him, clearing him of the cloud of the Russia investigation that has hung over his administration for a year now.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, if anything, the Mueller investigation appears to have been picking up steam in the past three weeks—and homing in on a series of targets.
Last summer, I wrote an analysis exploring the “known unknowns” of the Russia investigation—unanswered but knowable questions regarding Mueller’s probe. Today, given a week that saw immense sturm und drang over Devin Nunes’ memo—a document that seems purposefully designed to obfuscate and muddy the waters around Mueller’s investigation—it seems worth asking the opposite question: What are the known knowns of the Mueller investigation, and where might it be heading?
The first thing we know is that we know it is large.
We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe.
As special counsel, Mueller has broad authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” a catch-all phrase that allows him to pursue other criminality he may stumble across in the course of the investigation. As the acting attorney general overseeing Mueller, Rod Rosenstein has the ability to grant Mueller the ability to expand his investigation as necessary and has been briefed regularly on how the work is unfolding. Yet even without being privy to those conversations, we have a good sense of the purview of his investigation.
Right now, we know it involves at least five separate investigative angles:
1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering. Business dealings and money laundering related to Trump campaign staff, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates, are a major target of the inquiry. While this phase of the investigation has already led to the indictment of Gates and Manafort, it almost certainly will continue to bear further fruit. Gates appears to be heading toward a plea deal with Mueller, and there is expected to be a so-called “superseding” indictment that may add to or refine the existing charges. Such indictments are common in federal prosecutions, particularly in complicated financial cases where additional evidence may surface. Mueller’s team is believed to have amassed more than 400,000 documents in this part of the investigation alone. There have also been reports—largely advanced through intriguing reporting by Buzzfeed—about suspicious payments flagged by Citibank that passed through the accounts of the Russian embassy in the United States, including an abnormal attempted $150,000 cash withdrawal by the embassy just days after the election.
2. Russian Information Operations. When we speak in shorthand about the “hacking of the election,” we are actually talking about unique and distinct efforts, with varying degrees of coordination, by different entities associated with the Russian government. One of these is the “information operations” (bots and trolls) that swirled around the 2016 election, focused on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, possibly with the coordination or involvement of the Trump campaign’s data team, Cambridge Analytica.
Presumably these so-called active measures were conducted by or with the coordination of what’s known colloquially as the Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, in St. Petersburg. The extent to which these social media efforts impacted the outcome of the election remains an open question, but according to Bloomberg these social media sites are a “red hot” focus of Mueller’s team, and he obtained search warrants to examine the records of companies like Facebook. In recent weeks, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have begun working to notify more than a million users they suspect interacted with Russian trolls and propaganda.
3. Active Cyber Intrusions. Separate from the trolls and bots on social media were a series of active operations and cyber intrusions carried out by Russian intelligence officers at the GRU and the FSB against political targets like John Podesta and the DNC. We know that Russian intelligence also penetrated Republican networks, but none of those emails or documents were made public.* This thread of the investigation may also involve unofficial or official campaign contacts with WikiLeaks or other campaign advisers, like Roger Stone, as well as the warning—via the Australian government—that former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos appeared to have foreknowledge of the hacking of Democratic emails.
Western intelligence, specifically the Dutch intelligence service AIVD, has evidently been monitoring for years the “Advanced Persistent Threats”—government-sponsored hackers who make up the Russia teams known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, which were responsible for the attacks on Democratic targets. AIVD even evidently managed to penetrate a security camera in the workspace of Cozy Bear, near Red Square in Moscow, and take screenshots of those working for the team. According to The Wall Street Journal, there are at least six Russian intelligence officers who may already be identified as personally responsible for at least some of these intrusions. Bringing criminal charges against these individuals would be consistent with the practices established over the past five years by the Justice Department’s National Security Division, which indicted—and in some cases even arrested—specific government and military hackers from nation-states like Iran, China, and Russia.
4. Russian Campaign Contacts. This corner of the investigation remains perhaps the most mysterious aspect of Mueller’s probe, as questions continue to swirl about the links and contacts among Russian nationals and officials and Trump campaign staff, including Carter Page, the subject of the FISA warrant that was the focus of the Nunes memo. Numerous campaign (and now administration) officials have lied about or failed to disclose contacts with both Russian nationals and Russian government officials, from meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to government banker Sergey Gorkov to the infamous Trump Tower meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya.
At least two members of the campaign—Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn—have already pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about these contacts. But many other Trump aides face scrutiny, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. Some of these contacts may go back years; Page himself originally surfaced in January 2015 as “Male #1” in the indictment of three Russian SVR agents, working undercover in New York City, who had tried to recruit Page, an oil and gas adviser, as an intelligence asset, only to decide that he was too scatterbrained to be a useful source.
5. Obstruction of Justice. This is the big kahuna—the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice by pressuring FBI director James Comey to “look past” the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn and whether his firing in May was in any way tied to Comey’s refusal to stop the investigation. This thread, as far as we know from public reporting, remains the only part of the investigation that stretches directly into the Oval Office. It likely focuses not only on the President and the FBI director but also on a handful of related questions about the FBI investigation of Flynn and the White House’s statements about the Trump Tower meeting. The president himself has said publicly that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”
There’s fresh reason to believe that this is an active criminal investigation; lost amid the news of the Nunes memo on Friday was a court ruling in a lawsuit where I and a handful of other reporters from outlets like CNN and Daily Caller are suing the Justice Department to release the “Comey memos”: The ruling held that, based on the FBI’s private testimony to the court—including evidence from Michael Dreeben, one of the leaders of the special counsel’s office—releasing the memos would compromise the investigation. “Having heard this, the Court is now fully convinced that disclosure ‘could reasonably be expected to interfere’ with that ongoing investigation,” the judge wrote in our case.
Even the most generous interpretation of the Nunes memo—which has been widely debunked by serious analysts—raises questions only around the fourth thread of this investigation, insofar as it focuses on Carter Page, the one-time foreign policy adviser who appears to be ancillary to most of the rest of the Russia probes. All of the other avenues remain unsullied by the Nunes memo.
The second thing that we know is that large parts of the investigation remain out of sight. While we’ve seen four indictments or guilty pleas, they only involve threads one (money laundering) and four (Russian campaign contacts). We haven’t seen any public moves or charges by Mueller’s team regarding the information operations, the active cyber intrusions, or the obstruction of justice investigation.
We also know there’s significant relevant evidence that’s not yet public: Both Flynn and Papadopoulos traded cooperation and information as part of their respective plea deals, and none of the information that they provided has become public yet.
We also know that, despite the relative period of quiet since Flynn’s guilty plea in December, Mueller is moving fast. While parts of the case will likely unfold and continue for years, particularly if some defendants head for trial, Mueller has in recent weeks been interviewing senior and central figures, like Comey and Sessions. He’s also begun working to interview President Trump himself. Given that standard procedure would be to interview the central figure in an investigation last—when all the evidence is gathered—it seems likely that such interest means that Mueller is confident he knows what he needs to know for the obstruction case, at least.
All of these pieces of public evidence, the “known knowns,” point to one conclusion: Bob Mueller has a busy few weeks ahead of him—and the sturm und drang of the last week will likely only intensify as more of the investigation comes into public view.
What happens if Robert Mueller gets fired? The investigation won't suddenly stop, that's for sure
Despite the hype, the Nunes memo ended up not saying much at all
Then again, the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign was always disingenuous at best
*Editor's note: This article has been revised to clarify that the current Republican National Committee was not penetrated by Russian hackers. The hackers penetrated Republican networks.
If you like our content help us with a share… or two …
Also - I have some free stuff for you .......
Nr 1. In This FREE Report you can Discover:
Secrets to acquiring the freshest, hottest leads via YouTube In-Stream ads quickly and easily! Best secret tips for the most effective targeting for your ads! Totally legal, but little-known method for literally stealing traffic from your competitors! Get more traffic to your videos and landing pages without spending a fortune! And much more - all within this special FREE report!
Nr 2. Did you know you can Absolutely EXPLODE YOUR EMAIL LIST FOR FREE with UNTOUCHED offline sources?
Nr 3. The #1 secret to becoming an affiliate superstar - Earn your first $100 online – without a dime to invest.
If you’re still looking to “make it online – I have just the thing for you. It’s a video series that shows how to make your first $100 online – even if you don’t have a dime to invest. Yes – nothing. Free. Nada. Is this possible? You bet. It’s the most powerful system used by those “in the know”. Good things don’t have to be difficult. And they don’t only come to those who wait. Have A Look
Nr 4. Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes. Which of these mistakes do you make?
Nr 5. You can learn about : The hottest social networking site that will send an unlimited stampede of traffic to your site - for FREE! How to quickly locate a swarm of hungry buyers using "information portals"! The fast and easy way to use simple images to siphon targeted traffic, on command! Learn how to get the most possible traffic from Instagram, and make sure that traffic converts! And much more ...
Nr 6. It’s no secret… Facebook is an incredible place to get tons of free, viral traffic. But… most people are going about it all wrong. How many of these mistakes are you making? Download the free report to find out.
Nr 7. Special free report . It's called "Operation Midas Touch" and you can download it here...
The report features a surefire method for generating at least $1000 per week online,without a website or product of your own!
Nr 8. Instagram is still one of the hottest ways to get a LOT of traffic fast. All by sharing images. Sounds easy enough, yeah? Well, yes and no. If you want to really start driving a lot of traffic and making sales using Instagram then you should download this report.
Nr 9. When it comes to creating a product online there are so many ways to approach it. Wouldn’t it be great to just get the meat of it all so you can get started faster? Well, the good news is, today you can download a guide called the Product Creation Formula Quickstart Guide. It’s as the title suggests - a Quickstart guide. You’ll get a list of action steps to take right away. Download your copy today !
Nr 10. Would you like to finally USE all of that dusty PLR you have sitting around on your harddrive? Or maybe find the resources for the best PLR available - at the best prices? What about how to use that PLR to make you money with just a few minutes of work. Well, you’re not going to want to miss this!
Nr 11. Buzzfeed’s top post has more than 21 million views. Think about that for a sec… ONE of their articles has had over 21 million people who have read it! And they have thousands of articles... what would you do with that kind of traffic? A friend of mine hacked their method and was able to use it to get 11,592 targeted new subscribers in 2 weeks on their very first attempt!
Nr 12. Push notifications are one of today's hottest trends in website traffic and conversions, and for good reason. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of people will opt-in for push notifications, which is about TEN TIMES the rate of people who opt-in for emails! That’s huge! Not only that, but they're also highly effective at pulling clicks, as well. Some studies have shown CTR at an average of around 40%, with highs of as much as 80%! Again, that’s huge!
Nr 13. Would you like to know how to get more money from the exact same number of website visitors you’re currently getting? Even if you’re website is getting as few as 1-2 visitors a day, this report will show you how to increase your profits using these few handy hacks.
Nr 14. People have now realised that it's not the size of the list which matters, it's the quality. ... and the only way to create a quality list is by launching your own products. Let it be $7 ebooks, $17 info products, $27 video training product or software's... all of these work. My good friend Kevin Fahey has is revealing how he's launched over 20 products in the past 4 years, many of them top sellers. Needless to say he's banked a handsome amount in this time.
Nr 15. Do you ever feel that the man you like or even love, just doesn't see you or desire you in way you want him to? Or... maybe you're able to get a man's attention though not the right kind of attention? Or... maybe you're still single because you wait and wait for men to approach you first? What you may not know is that the way we flirt will either attract the "wrong" man for us or the "right" man.
Nr 16. When it comes to getting sales and leads online, there is ONE thing that 95% of marketers use... it's called a LIST. My friend Jimmy just released a free book that explains WHY a list is important and how YOU can build your own list. It's available right here (and it won't cost you a penny)
Nr 17. If you have tried everything, and still aren't able to get your Ex back, then you need to pay attention.
Nr 18. What if I told you that you could make ANY woman WANT to do ANYTHING for you? Would you think I'm crazy? Well... what If I told you that you could also make her LOVE every minute of it and come back for more?
Nr 19. I have a special free plugin for you today. It's called "Covert Hover Mini"
This plugin will triple your blog traffic by compelling your visitors to share your images on social media. This is some really clever stuff and it works like a charm. After you grab your free plugin, don't forget to read the free bonus report as it will show exactly how and why this strategy works like crazy.
Nr 20. The days of being able to get away with a basic WP theme and a pic or two are gone, your site needs to look good. Even Google are looking for you to have engaging graphics on your site. But getting good quality graphics made for your site is a pain, AND it will cost you both time and money (if you outsource it). But I have a special free download for you today. A virtual treasure chest of over 21K profit pulling graphics you can start sing today to generate more traffic & sales!
Nr 21. 20 professional full HD background videos. These background videos are perfect for giving your videos that extra kick they need to stand out from the crowd Oh yeah they are in full 1080p HD too, I hope you'll enjoy them.
Nr 23. No doubt, you've seen all of the video launches lately! There is a reason for it... Video marketing is a GREAT way to make money, and with the recent creation tools making it super accessable for anyone to get started... It's no surprise that more people are making videos. However... there is a missing element to most video marketing products...
Nr 24. For the first time ever... You can get the straight scoop on how someone is selling over $1,000,000/year of t-shirts on Facebook!Use them .... and have fun !