Ian Eppler  //  11/5/17  //  Topic Update

The pardon power could allow President Trump to interfere with Mueller’s investigation in ways that are difficult to check beyond public backlash, writesMichael C. Dorf for Take Care.  

President Trump tells New York Times reporters he is “not angry at anybody” and insists the indictment of Manafort has nothing to do with his administration (NYTimes).

  • President Trump is resisting pressure from Bannon to fight Mueller (WaPo).

Judge asks for motions to change bail conditions for Manafort and Gates after prosecution filings argue they are flight risks (Politico).

Mueller’s investigation will not be able to explain Russia’s intentions in meddling in the United States election, writes Ivan Krastev for the New York Times.

The Manafort and Gates indictments do not add any public evidence of criminal conspiracy with Russia, but do show poor judgment from President Trump, writes Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post.

Senators press social media companies on what actions could be taken to prevent Russian interference in elections (The Hill).

Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) offer differing perspectives on Russia’s role in the 2016 election during a hearing with executives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter (NYTimes)

Collusion itself is not a crime, but Mueller’s first indictments indicate some higher up members of the Trump Administration may be charged with conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (WaPo).

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to interview White House Communications Director Hope Hicks (Politico).

  • Russian officials dismissed arguments that the Special Counsel indictments proved Russian interference in the 2016 election (WaPo).

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow claimed that “pardons are not on the table” in the wake of the Special Counsel’s indictments (Politico).

Coverage of the Special Counsel’s indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates continued.

  • According to several criminal defense lawyers, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s invocation of the “crime-fraud” exception to attorney-client privilege is indicative of an aggressive and sophisticated investigation, report Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky in the Washington Post.
  • The logic behind the indictment of Manafort and Gates likely applies equally to former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and the indictment thus may push Flynn to cooperate, reports Vera Bergengruen for Buzzfeed.
  • The Special Counsel’s indictment of Paul Manafort is likely an effort to push him to cooperate with the investigation, suggests Barbara McQuade in the Daily Beast.
  • The indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates is indicative of systemic weaknesses in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, argues Lydia Dennett at POGO Blog.
  • The indictment of Rick Gates, who made several visits to the White House, is evidence of the need for a return to the Obama-era policy of releasing White House visitor logs, writes Andrea Peterson at POGO Blog.
  • Washington lobbyists are concerned following the inclusion of FARA violations in the indictment, as FARA violations are fairly common in lobbying, report John Hudson and Zoe Tillman in Buzzfeed.
  • President Trump should not pardon Manafort, argues John Yoo in the New York Times.

Coverage of the plea agreement by former Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos also continued.

  • Sam Clovis, a former Trump senior campaign official who supervised George Papadopoulos and was implicitly named in Papadopoulos’ plea agreement, has spoken with Special Counsel investigators and testified before the grand jury (NBC News).
  • In a tweet, President Trump claimed that Papadopoulos was merely a “low level volunteer,” and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Papadopoulos was only arrested thanks to White House cooperation (NYTimesPolitico).
  • But court documents indicate that Papadopoulos spoke on several occasions with high level campaign officials, including former campaign managers Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, regarding outreach to Russian officials (WaPo).
  • A professor discussed in the plea agreement had private meetings with Vladimir Putin (WaPo).
  • The events described in the plea agreement are typical of cultivation efforts by spies, notes Steve Hall, former director of Russia operations for the CIA, in the Washington Post.

Several Senate Republicans expressed opposition to legislative proposals that would defund or curtail Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation (WaPo).

  • But they also seemed reluctant to back legislation that would limit President Trump’s ability to fire Mueller (Politico)

Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Russian influence operations on their platforms during the 2016 election (Ars TechnicaNYTimesPolitico).

  • Written testimony, and video of the hearing, is available at Lawfare.

Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s business associate and fellow campaign official, were indicted on 12 counts, including charges of money laundering and tax fraud (NYTWaPoWSJLA TimesPolitico).

  • A copy of the complaint is available here.
  • The indictment grew out of records obtained in the search of Manafort’s home that had previously been concealed from investigators, reports Michael Isikoff.
  • The Washington Post examines Gates’ background.
  • Lawfare writes that the charges are just Mueller’s opening salvo.
  • John Reed looks at what Manafort’s indictment says about Russian election interference.
  • The charges against Manafort and Gates are bad news for President Trump, writeNorm Eisen, Noah Bookbinder, and Barry Berke.
  • This prosecution could be the most significant ever under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, writes the Atlantic.
  • Mark Greenberg and Harry Litman examine whether President Trump could pardon Manafort of crimes charged by the Mueller investigation.
  • Manafort likely could have continued his money laundering activities without legal jeopardy had he not joined the Trump campaign, writes Ken Vogel.

George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty on charges of making false statements to the FBI regarding contacts with Russian nationals (NYTWaPoWSJLA TimesPolitico).

  • Read the court documents here, including the criminal informationplea agreementand statement of the offense.
  • The transcript of the arraignment/plea agreement hearing can be found here.
  • The New York Times analyzes the special counsel’s case against Papadopoulos.
  • New information in Papadopoulos’ plea agreement changes the timeline for Russian election interference (Business Insider).
  • Just Security summarizes the main takeaways from the plea agreement.
  • The Washington Post examines Papadopoulos’ background.
  • Harry Litman argues Papadopoulos’ plea is more dangerous for Trump than the indictment of Manafort.
  • Chris Geidner notes that Papadopoulos’ lawyer hinted at the large scope of the Mueller investigation during the plea agreement hearing.

An unsealed court opinion reveals that prosecutors were able to convince a federal judge to compel an attorney for Manafort and Gates to testify before a grand jury, citing an exception to attorney client privilege (Politico).

  • Read the court opinion here.

Tony Podesta, a Democratic lobbyist, announced his resignation from the Podesta Group after the firm was indirectly referenced in the charges against Manafort and Gates regarding work performed on behalf of the Ukrainian government (WaPoPolitico).

Mueller has the authority to name President Trump as an “unindicted co-conspirator,” writes Ryan Goodman at Just Security.

The Mueller investigation is likely to close in further on President Trump’s inner circle, several legal experts tell Politico.

  • The announcement of the guilty plea and indictment was intended to send a message, writes the Washington Post.

The White House denied that there discussions about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, reported the Washington Post.

  • But President Trump is concerned that Mueller’s investigation could move include his family’s personal dealings, reports the AP.

Parallel investigations of Manafort by state and local prosecutors lie outside of President Trump’s power to pardon, writes the New York Times.

Facebook will testify that content produced and circulated by Russian operatives may have reached 126 million users, much more than previously disclosed, reports the Washington Post.

Updates | The Week of February 19, 2018

2/25/18  //  Daily Update

Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed a new charge against Paul Manafort while Richard Gates pled guilty. Meanwhile, President Trump's proposal to arm teachers drew controversy in Washington.

Jacob Miller

Harvard Law School

Updates | The Week of February 5, 2018

2/11/18  //  Daily Update

The Nunes memo set off aftershocks; agencies scrambled to implement the Trump Administration's policies to mixed effect; and Congress passes a budget after a brief overnight shutdown.

Updates | The Week of January 22, 2018

1/28/18  //  Daily Update

President Trump attempted to fire Special Counsel Mueller in June 2017 over his obstruction of justice probe, but refrained after White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.