- BuzzFeed News on Saturday published the first installment of documents released by the US Justice Department comprised of all the materials from the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- Over the course of their two-year investigation, Mueller’s team amassed billions of primary source documents, according to the Justice Department.
- After BuzzFeed News pursued five Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the US government, the department was court-ordered to begin releasing the secret Mueller memos.
- The first drop includes hundreds of pages of “302” reports, which are summaries of interviews with key players in President Donald Trump’s campaign, including Stephen Bannon, Michael Cohen, and Rick Gates.
- A new document drop will occur monthly for at least the next eight years.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
BuzzFeed News published the first document drop related to then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 US presidential election on Saturday, after a court ordered the US Justice Department to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by BuzzFeed.
The Mueller report itself was a 448-page document, but according to the Justice Department, billions of pages of subpoenas, search warrants, emails, memos, letters, talking points, legal opinions, and interview transcripts were produced during the two-year probe.
Each month for at least the next eight years, the Justice Department will release those secret documents. The first drop contains hundreds of pages of “302” reports, meaning summaries of interviews with key figures in President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Those key figures include former White House official and Trump’s campaign manager Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and high-ranking Trump campaign aide Rick Gates.
Already, the documents reveal bombshell elements of the Mueller investigation. For one, former political consultant Paul Manafort was still advising Trump’s campaign in the days leading up to the 2016 election, despite having already resigned.
Specifically, in an email, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner asked Bannon his opinion on a memo forwarded to the Trump campaign by Manafort. Bannon advised that the campaign avoid Manafort “like the plague” because of the optics around his connection to Ukraine and Russia. Manafort is now serving a prison sentence due to tax and bank fraud in connection with his foreign lobbying efforts.
“They are going to try to say the Russians worked with wiki leaks [sic] to give this victory to us,” Bannon wrote in the email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
In addition, Gates told investigators that Manafort pushed the unfounded conspiracy theory to the Trump campaign that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails as early as 2016. The theory has persisted in right-wing and alt-right online communities, and Trump even said, “The server, they say Ukraine has it” on his July phone call with Ukraine’s president that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.
Cohen had to “keep Trump out of the messaging related to Russia” before the lawyer testified under oath to Congress, according to notes from his FBI interview. In February, Cohen told Congress that “In his way, he was telling me to lie,” about Trump’s directives to him concerning the timing of his negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Gates also said the Trump campaign was “very happy” that a foreign government interfered in the election to release the DNC emails. Gates told the Mueller team that the email hack provided a distraction from Trump’s sinking poll numbers after his comments about Senator Ted Cruz’s father during the Republican National Convention.
In addition, Trump told Gates that “more leaks were coming” after the initial DNC hack, although the Mueller investigation did not conclusively find evidence to charge Trump with collusion.
BuzzFeed News is soliciting help from readers to comb through the documents and send in tips.
- Read more:
- In a massive win for Democrats, a federal judge ordered the DOJ to turn over Mueller’s grand-jury material to Congress
- House Democrats say the Justice Department is orchestrating ‘political revenge’ for Trump amid reports it is opening a criminal investigation into the Mueller probe
- Trump pressed Australia’s prime minister to help AG Barr investigate the origins of the Russia probe
- Corey Lewandowski admits he lied on national TV about Trump’s command to tell Jeff Sessions to interfere in the Russia investigation