The TAKE with Rick Klein
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The official position is that the White House expects the independent counsel’s inquiry to “conclude soon.”
But this phase of the Trump presidency is not controlled by President Donald Trump; it is controlled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is acting like he’s just getting started – and like he already has the goods.
The two-pronged legal attack unveiled by Mueller was a show of force, not the tentative initial bid many expected. He already has an indictment handed down of a former Trump campaign manager and his top deputy, plus a guilty plea of a lower-level operative with quite a story to tell.
In a tale filled with incremental developments, the George Papadopoulos case is a big one. It suggests Mueller may already be able to prove collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
The tale he tells and questions raised could prove more significant than anything that comes out of the prosecutions of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
Who at the campaign approved of his contacts with Russia?
What emails did they think they could get?
Are there others caught lying to the FBI?
Did Papadopoulos wear a wire?
Mueller is now taking Trump and the rest of Washington on a wild ride that will lead in unpredictable directions. The roadmap outlined by his first moves suggest that he’s operating with enough confidence that no one – not peripheral players, not Democrats, and certainly not the president himself – can feel off-limits.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
Today on Capitol Hill, a reminder that ‘the Russia investigation’ is multifaceted…to say the least.
While the Special Counsel’s team dissects whether Russian officials got in with American campaigns, congressional investigators are focused on how the Russia government infiltrated American phones and computers through everyday social media sites.
Lawyers from top U.S. tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google, will take the hot seat today and tomorrow during back-to-back hearings in both the Senate and the House.
The Silicon Valley reps will face questions about what, if anything, their teams knew at the time about the Russian government’s attempt to influence American voters using their popular platforms.
Did their companies profit off of Russia’s sway campaign? How widespread and how targeted were the Kremlin-paid-for ads, fake accounts and bogus posts?
Earlier this month, Facebook turned over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional investigators and admitted that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to fake Russian accounts during presidential election. ABC News has learned the company today plans to testify that Russian officials set up 120 fake Facebook pages, which in turn posted more than 80,000 pieces of content between January 2015 and August 2017.
Facebook’s best estimate is that 126 million people may have been seen a stories from these fake accounts during the crucial period leading up to the election. For context, approximately 137.5 million Americans voted in total last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
It will be harder for those Republicans who continue to call investigations into Russian meddling a witch hunt to dismiss the testimony from these companies.
If Facebook posts and ads did not have at least the potential to impact voters then why would so many of their own campaigns have paid for them?
The TIP with Mya Green
On a day in which bombshell indictments against former Trump campaign officials and their associates rocked Washington political circles, former FBI Director James Comey quietly updated his private Twitter account.
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary,” he tweeted from his Reinhold Niebuhr? @FormerBu account.
He has also added a photograph of himself and a biography that reads: “Former FBI Director, current husband and father, writing and speaking about ethical leadership, wears running shoes to exercise, taller and funnier in person.”
Comey, who President Donald Trump fired amidst an ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling, confirmed last week that he is the person behind the Rienhold Niebuhr Twitter account.
One of several pictures posted out of Iowa to that account shows Comey standing in the middle of a country road. Comey wrote in the post, “Goodbye Iowa. On the road home. Gotta get back to writing. Will try to tweet in useful ways.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY:
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“[Monday’s] announcement has nothing to do with the President, has nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity.” –White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responding to new charges in the special counsel’s probe.
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