For more than a year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has questioned witnesses broadly about their interactions with well-connected Russians. But three sources familiar with Mueller’s probe told The Daily Beast that his team is now zeroing in on Trumpworld figures who may have attempted to shape the administration’s foreign policy by offering to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.
The Special Counsel’s Office is preparing court filings that are expected to detail Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief—and spell out how those offers and counter-proposals were characterized to top figures on the campaign and in the administration, those same sources said.
The new details would not only bookend a multi-year investigation by federal prosecutors into whether and how Trump associates seriously considered requests by Moscow to ease the financial measures. The new court filings could also answer a central question of the so-called “Russia investigation”: What specific policy changes, if any, did the Kremlin hope to get in return from its political machinations?
“During his investigation Mueller has shown little proclivity for chasing dead ends,” said Paul Pelletier, a former senior Department of Justice official. “His continued focus on the evidence that members of the Trump campaign discussed sanction relief with Russians shows that his evidence of a criminal violation continues to sharpen. This has to come as especially bad news for the President.”
Mueller’s interest in sanctions arose, at least in part, out of his team’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The Special Counsel’s Office noted in a court filing last week that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak concerning U.S. sanctions. But other portions of this court filing were left redacted.
Mueller’s team is looking closely at evidence—some of it provided by witnesses—from the transition period, two individuals with knowledge of the probe said.
“Sanctions conversations that happened after November are more serious,” said Angela Stent, a former national intelligence officer for Russia under President George W. Bush. “At that point Flynn, for example, would have already known he was going to be part of the administration and those conversations would have included plans for what might happen [next].” Finish: Mueller Ready to Pounce on Trumpworld Concessions to Moscow