Robert Mueller

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Thursday Marks One Year Since Mueller Investigation Began

May 17, 2018 - 2:55 pm
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- Thursday marked one year since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to take over the Justice Department's investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

The 12 months since have yielded a flurry of criminal indictments and guilty pleas, tense court appearances, angry tweets from the president and speculation over what the ever-taciturn Mueller already knows and what he'll investigate next.

“I think the central question – you know, did the president’s campaign coordinate with Russia to influence the 2016 election – that remains largely unanswered, although we have lots of hints about contacts between campaign and administration folks and Russians,” Washington Post National Security Reporter Matt Zapotosky told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace.

Meanwhile, speaking to WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot and Paul Murnane Thursday, CBS News Justice Correspondent Paula Reid said there could be another indictment coming in the probe.

“(Mueller) is calling new witnesses before the grand jury, and that’s significant, because he only calls witnesses when he’s about to indict someone. So there could be another indictment,” she said.

Meanwhile, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is set to go to trial in a couple of months, and the question remains as to whether President Trump will sit down with Mueller himself.

Trump commemorated the one-year anniversary on Twitter Thursday morning, tweeting "Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest witch hunt in American history..."

Based on a New York Times report, Trump also suggested in a tweet that the FBI had spies inside the Trump campaign, CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy reported.

Hundreds of pages of court filings, and public statements from witnesses, have to an extent pulled back the curtain on an extraordinarily secretive investigation. But much remains hidden from view.

In the course of the investigation, a veritable who's who of current and former White House officials, as well as foreign businessmen and top campaign and transition staffers have been questioned.

Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was questioned last fall about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump's White House counsel, Don McGahn, has been in to see Mueller's team, as have former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former communications director Hope Hicks, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, California real estate developer and longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack — and dozens of other witnesses.

In a reflection of the wide-angle nature of the investigation, and its ongoing examination of foreign influence on the Trump administration, a grand jury in Washington has heard from a Lebanese-American businessman who joined a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving top Trump aides and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

A Russian American lobbyist who attended a June 2016 meeting at which Trump's eldest son expected to receive damaging information about his father's opponent, Hillary Clinton, also has provided testimony.

Meanwhile, a total of 19 people and three Russian companies have either been indicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charged in the investigation.

Among those charged are Manafort, who is awaiting trial in Virginia and the District of Columbia, and Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI and has been cooperating with Mueller's investigation. Other cooperators include deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who lied to the FBI is serving a 30-day prison sentence for lying to special counsel prosecutors and the FBI, and a California man who unwittingly sold bank accounts to Russians has also pleaded guilty.

The single largest criminal case involves 13 Russians and three Russian companies, accused of conspiring together to fund a hidden but effective social media campaign to exploit American divisions on race and other hot-button topics as well as favor Trump over Clinton.

But it appears that Mueller has decided Trump himself cannot be indicted, Reid said.

Reid said she spoke with new Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday night, and he told her that in a conversation with Mueller, he was told Mueller was not sure he could indict a president.

“But then, Rudy Giuliani was subsequently contacted by some of Mueller’s assistants, who said, ‘Actually, we believe that we are bound by this opinion of the Justice Department that says a sitting president can’t be indicted. So for Mueller or the Justice Department, if they find criminal evidence against the president, they can refer that to Congress for possible impeachment proceedings,” Reid said.

Trump at times has expressed a desire to be questioned by the special counsel team, though his mood toward the investigators soured considerably following an April 9 raid targeting his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — an offshoot investigation in New York City that poses its own legal peril for the president.

Mueller has dozens of questions he'd like to put before the president, largely focused on obstruction but also on the underpinning issue of possible campaign collusion.

As to the time the probe has taken, Zapotosky said he is not surprised that it is still going a year in. He said the arguably less complex investigation focusing on President Bill Clinton took much longer.

“So comparing this to the Clinton special prosecutor; the Clinton independent counsel as it was called back then, you know, I looked at that, and a year in, they had charged nobody. That investigation sort of became known as Whitewater. It was about real estate deals initially,” Zapotosky said, “and one year in, no one had been charged.”

The legal team initially said it hoped to make a decision on an interview by Thursday, but lawyer Giuliani told CBS News he hopes to have a final decision about whether Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller before the president heads to Singapore for the highly anticipated North Korea summit in mid-June.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)