clear
Thursday November 23rd, 2017 6:17AM

Collusion question remains after first Mueller indictments

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, commentators and officials describing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia have used words such as "collusion" and "coordination" to summarize the complicated federal probe.

President Donald Trump himself has latched onto the terms, declaring on Twitter last week that there had been "NO COLLUSION" after criminal charges were unveiled against three of his ex-campaign aides.

But the words by themselves do little to explain how campaign officials might be prosecuted for contacts with Russian operatives, according to legal experts. That raises questions about which crimes Mueller's prosecutors will use to bring criminal cases stemming from what began as a FBI counterintelligence investigation 15 months ago.

"Conspiracy itself is not a crime: You've got to conspire to commit a crime," said Kate Stith, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Yale Law School. "The question is, what crimes are they looking at?"

____

WHAT CHARGES HAVE BEEN FILED?

That question was partially answered when a judge unsealed an indictment against onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, who were charged with violating federal money laundering, foreign lobbying and banking laws for behavior occurring as far back as 2012.

Both men have pleaded not guilty. The court documents make no mention of contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign.

Mueller had the authority to bring the case since his mission is to investigate any "links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump," plus any matters that arise from that inquiry, according to a May letter from the deputy attorney general.

But how Mueller's prosecutors will handle other Trump campaign aides who have had contact with Russians — an act that, by itself, doesn't necessarily constitute a crime — remains only partially answered.

George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy aide who according to court papers discussed with Russians Hillary Clinton's emails and the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was charged with lying to FBI agents about his contacts, not the contacts themselves.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators.

"Talking to foreign officials is not by itself a crime. Investing in foreign ventures including Russian ventures is not a crime," said Joel Brenner, a former top lawyer at the NSA and DNI. "Mueller, in order to prove a conspiracy involving any such activities, would have to show that the activities were part of something criminal such as trading changes in public policy for commercial benefits."

____

WHAT ABOUT ELECTION MEDDLING?

Mueller's probe into connections between Trump's campaign and Russia comes against the backdrop of a much broader Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, more evidence of which was disclosed publicly last week.

The Associated Press reported that the Russian hacking effort that targeted Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman was part of a much broader hacking campaign; and congressional testimony by lawyers for social media companies revealed that millions of Americans viewed politically divisive ads pumped into their social media feeds by the Russians.

Counterintelligence officers investigating the case must determine whether any aspect of that influence effort was coordinated or facilitated via campaign officials, experts said.

Frank Montoya, a former top FBI counterintelligence agent, said Mueller investigators working simultaneously on criminal and counterintelligence probes are likely exchanging notes as they look for signs of a two-way conspiracy to break laws such as those statutes covering campaign finance, fraud, theft or financial dealings.

"Conspiracy is going to be a big part of the investigative lines because that's how you tie everybody together," he said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP World News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Catalonia strike is muted but protesters block roads, trains
A general strike in Catalonia has been muted, but pro-independence protesters blocked roads and stopped trains in Spain's northeastern region to protest the jailing of ousted Catalan government officials and secessionist activists
12:47PM ( 13 minutes ago )
New Virginia governor: Win sends message against hatred
Democrat Ralph Northam says his victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor sends a message against hatred and bigotry
12:39PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Ex-President Barack Obama shows up in Chicago for jury duty
Former President Barack Obama, free of a job that forced him to move to Washington for eight years, showed up to a downtown Chicago courthouse for jury duty
12:35PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Russian journalist says attacker was intent on killing her
A Russian journalist who narrowly survived a stabbing attack last month says the attacker was intent on killing her
12:11PM ( 49 minutes ago )
New looks come to Snapchat and Twitter in bid for more users
A pair of struggling social-media darlings have decided they need new looks if they want to prosper
11:59AM ( 1 hour ago )
Police: Pennsylvania trooper saves own life with tourniquet
A Pennsylvania State Police trooper who was shot several times during a traffic stop remains hospitalized in critical condition as authorities release more details of the violent confrontation along a busy highway
11:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
The Latest: Trump calls welcome to Beijing 'unforgettable'
President Donald Trump says his welcome to Beijing was "unforgettable."
10:10AM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump to push China on trade, North Korea during 2-day visit
President Donald Trump will push China on trade and North Korea during a two-day visit in which he will alternately cajole, flatter and scold the rising Pacific power
9:14AM ( 3 hours ago )
Virginia rejects 'Trumpism' as Dems score major victories
Democrat Ralph Northam beat back a late charge from Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor in a contest that tested the power of President Donald Trump's fiery nationalism against the energy of the Trump resistance
9:10AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: CBO says tax bill would add $259B more to debt
A new government analysis of the House GOP tax bill says its true costs to the nation's debt are at least $259 billion greater over the coming decade
12:23PM ( 37 minutes ago )
FBI again finds itself unable to unlock a gunman's cellphone
The Texas church massacre is providing a familiar frustration for law enforcement: the FBI says it can't unlock the gunman's encrypted cellphone
11:36AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Ryan says GOP must succeed on tax overhaul
House Speaker Paul Ryan says the GOP drubbing in Tuesday night's off-year elections "just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through" on the party's drive to overhaul the tax code
11:16AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: CBO sees less savings in health mandate repeal
Congress' nonpartisan budgetary analysts say ending the requirement that most people buy health insurance would save less money than was estimated earlier
10:11AM ( 2 hours ago )
Swiss prosecutors won't pursue Polanski rape case
Swiss prosecutors say they won't pursue an investigation of Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski over allegations by a German woman that he raped her when she was a teenager 45 years ago
10:07AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Pro-secession protesters pack Barcelona square
Several thousand pro-independence protesters have packed a central square in Barcelona as part of a general strike in Catalonia to protest the jailing of members of the ousted Catalan government and secessionist activists
7:26AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Catalonia strike is muted but protesters block roads, trains
A general strike in Catalonia has been muted, but pro-independence protesters blocked roads and stopped trains in Spain's northeastern region to protest the jailing of ousted Catalan government officials and secessionist activists
12:47PM ( 13 minutes ago )
New Virginia governor: Win sends message against hatred
Democrat Ralph Northam says his victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor sends a message against hatred and bigotry
12:39PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Ex-President Barack Obama shows up in Chicago for jury duty
Former President Barack Obama, free of a job that forced him to move to Washington for eight years, showed up to a downtown Chicago courthouse for jury duty
12:35PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Texas can pay most for Otani, followed by Yankees and Twins
Texas, the New York Yankees and Minnesota can pay the most to a young international free agent as highly touted pitcher-outfielder Shohei Otani prepares to enter the market
12:28PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Commentary on killings draws strength through repetition
After mass killings, the satirical website the Onion repeats a feature with numbing regularity
12:28PM ( 32 minutes ago )