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Political Aides & Comey's Dismissal: Further into the Russian Collusion

While obtaining a search warrant for the contents of Facebook accounts associated with Russian operatives trying to undermine the 2016 presidential election, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III followed up on president Trump's former campaign chairman Paul J. Manafort with a house search and plans to indict him on charges of 'secret offshore bank accounts.'

CNN also reported the IRS Criminal Investigation agents had been working with the FBI to investigate Manafort since before the election in a similar probe that centered on possible money laundering and tax fraud issues, according to the sources.

According to Wired, Facebook Company executive Mark Zuckerberg has promised to work closely with the government on this issue. Ads linked to a Russian propaganda group called Internet Research Agency and other Russian Language groups were shared with Mueller's team and Congressional investigators in late September.

"You can see how it's similar in our desire to, sort of, to take down other leaders in other countries in our desire to spread democracy," said Adolpho R. Telles, chairman of the El Paso county Republican party.  "While I encourage the spreading of democracy, it's also in our best interest to spread our own government."

The Federal prosecutor has also expressed sincere interest in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, after ailing to disclose income from Russia-related entities.

Especially income related to Flynn's possible violation of a constitutional provision when he was paid more than $67,000 by Russian companies before the presidential election, including accepting $33,750 from Russia’s government-run television RT, for appearing at a Moscow event in December 2015- only months before working with Trump.

CNN reported that Mueller's team is currently investigating those payments from both Turkey and Russia.

"At this point, the investigation merely highlights the possibility of wide-ranging collusion with foreign agents to rig the elections, but we don't have any evidence thus far that this is correct," said University of Texas at El Paso Professor of Political science, Dr. Rebecca Reid. "It is quite possible that Manafort and Flynn will only be charged for their individual financial and tax crimes, which would not directly impact the administration."

According to Politico, this might be a leading cause into Mueller's authorizing of a Facebook search warrant. This is a definite effort to obtain information about Russian interference in the election and counterintelligence on all official leads.

From 2015 to 2016, Facebook found over $150,000 worth of ads geographically targeted certain regions of the United States with content aimed at stoking racial resentment against blacks and Muslims, immigration and LGBT rights. Wired states that the difficult aspect is the fact that Facebook sold $27 billion in ads in 2016, overall; Combing through that pile of cash for signs of Russian meddling is a tremendously complex, if not impossible, task.

However, writes former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, that opens up Trump associates to criminal liability. Someone is guilty of “aiding and abetting” when they know a crime is being committed and actively help to make it succeed.

If a Trump associate had prior knowledge to foreign contribution, say accepting $33,750 from Russian officials, said person would be charged with criminal conspiracy... if Mueller finds out.

According to the New York Times, the special counsel went so far as to obtain  a subpoena for Paul Manafort’s former lawyer, citing an xception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.

In addition, recent revelations concerning grounds for indictment by the Washington Post reveal less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Manafort offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin.

"However, if the searches uncovered evidence of rigging last year's election and implicates the criminal involvement of other people, then the inquiry could expand dramatically to include several people related to Trump," said Dr. Reid.

According to CNN, Congressional investigators have unearthed an email from a top Trump aide that referenced a previously unreported effort to arrange a meeting last year between Trump campaign officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The email occurred in June of 2016 where Russians with Kremlin ties met with the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Mueller seems to be shaking up White House officials in his investigation into possible Obstruction of Justice concerning the firing of former FBI Director James Comey- especially when recently, the Justice Department refused to permit a Senate committee to interview two FBI officials who were witnesses to Comey's dismissal.

Including the recent revelation that Federal agents (FBI) wiretapped the phone of President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort before and after the 2016 election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who originally appointed Mueller back in May to oversee the investigation, was interviewed over the summer by Mueller and his team about both his role in Russian meddling and Comey's dismissal. As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Special counsel investigators have been probing whether the president might have attempted to obstruct justice leading up to Comey’s firing.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said in his Senate testimony back in June. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Mueller also obtained a letter drafted by President Trump and a top political aide that offered an unvarnished view of Mr. Trump’s thinking days before the dismissal, according to The New York Times.

"That's why everyone is holding their breath to see what the charges are," said Reid.

A prudent prosecutor would want more facts before bringing this case against a president, writes Mariotti. This suggests Trump’s legal team believes Mueller is focused on obstruction. They wouldn’t waste their time otherwise.

On this issue, Trump's legal team sent a memo to Mueller making legal arguments about obstruction and claiming that Comey is not a credible witness, according to politico.com.

"This is not a Republican issue; this is a national issue. Republican, Democrat, or Green Party; there's clearly some things to examine in Russia's involvement. I personally think the investigation is appropriate if [Mueller]  identifies other criminal activity no matter who the individual happens to be. It's important  to file charges and penalize those who are found guilty," said chairman Telles.

 

 

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