BuzzFeed News sued the US government for the right to see all the work that Mueller’s team kept secret. We published the second installment of the FBI’s summaries of interviews with key witnesses.

Last updated on December 2, 2019, at 6:38 p.m. ET

Posted on December 2, 2019, at 5:07 p.m. ET

The report from former special counsel Robert Mueller, detailing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump administration’s efforts to obstruct the inquiry, was the most hotly anticipated prosecutorial document in a generation. But at 448 pages, it reflected only a tiny fraction of the primary-source documents that the government amassed over the course of its two-year investigation.

[Here’s the second installment of documents.]

Using the Freedom of Information Act, BuzzFeed News sued to gain access to those documents, which are key to understanding this important chapter in American history.

On Monday, in response to a court order, the Justice Department has released the second installment: summaries of FBI interviews spanning hundreds of pages. These summaries, known as “302 reports,” are some of the most important and highly sought-after documents from Mueller’s investigation. They contain numerous redactions, which BuzzFeed News will challenge in our ongoing lawsuit.

[Make more work like this possible: Become a BuzzFeed News member today.]

Some takeaways from the newest documents:

In February 2017, Trump wanted Comey to know “I really like him.” Comey was fired about three months later.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told investigators that Trump wanted him to talk to then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 and tell him “I really like him. Tell him he’s part of the team. I really like him.”

Comey, who was leading the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, was fired in May 2017.

Christie didn’t make the call, saying it was “nonsensical” and because it “would have been uncomfortable.”

“He would not put Comey in the position of having to receive that telephone call,” Christie’s interview notes with the FBI read.

Relevant document on pgs. 165-166:

On May 8 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the FBI he was brought into the White House for a meeting and left with the understanding that Comey would soon be fired. During that meeting, he was tasked with writing a memo outlining his concerns about Comey.

That memo largely focused on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. Rosenstein told investigators he was concerned about how the White House would take the memo since it was “not consistent” with Trump’s comments on the campaign.

Rosenstein said his memo rationalizing firing James Comey had to be 100 percent accurate “so he could stand behind it” and didn’t get much sleep that night.

Relevant document on pg. 115:

Rosenstein also said that no one from the White House influenced his writing of the memo.

But he had assumed that either he, or then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would be the ones to fire Comey. On May 9th, Rosenstein requested that Comey be brought in, only to find out that the then-FBI director had been fired over email. Rosenstein said he was “angry, ashamed, horrified, and embarrassed,” as well as surprised to read in media reports that firing Comey had been his idea.

Rosenstein called Mueller the next day — already thinking about appointing a special counsel. Rosenstein had learned from an FBI briefing that Trump was not a suspect, and said he appointed Mueller due to how the public would react to the firing.

Following Comey’s firing, Christie told investigators that Trump called him and complained that he was “getting murdered,” presumably in the press, for the firing. Christie asked Trump whether he’d fired Comey because of Rosenstein’s memo, to which Trump replied “yes.” Christie then recommended that Trump “get Rod out there” to defend the decision. Trump said he liked the idea and would call Rosenstein.

Relevant document on pgs. 167-168:

The same evening Comey was fired, then-Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Flores relayed a message from the White House to Rosenstein. Though the memos do not make clear what that message was, Rosenstein said he told her that the Justice Department “cannot participate in putting out a false story.”

Flores then told Rosenstein that the White House wanted him to participate in a press conference about the firing, but he refused.

Christie laughed when Trump said “the Russia thing is over” after Michael Flynn left office.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was was removed from office in February 2017 after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. He later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Christie was having lunch with Trump on Valentine’s Day 2017 when Trump told him, “Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.”

Christie told the FBI he laughed. “No way,” he responded. “We’ll be here on Valentine’s Day 2018 talking about this.”

Relevant document on page 164 to 165:

More on the Mueller report’s secret memos

The cache released last month included 302s from key players like Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates, and former White House official Steve Bannon. They contained explosive details that were not cited in Mueller’s report. For example, in an April 2018 interview with the special counsel’s office, Gates told investigators that while Paul Manafort was running Trump’s campaign, he had pushed the unfounded theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers. That theory has been thoroughly debunked by the US intelligence community, but Trump still cites it — most notably during the July 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the heart of the current impeachment investigation.

[We want your help! If you see something in these memos, you can email reporter Jason Leopold at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com or reach us securely at tips.buzzfeed.com.]

The 302s are just the beginning. BuzzFeed News is pursuing five separate lawsuits to pry loose all the subpoenas and search warrants that Mueller’s team executed, as well as all emails, memos, letters, talking points, legal opinions, and financial records it generated. In short, we asked for all communications of any kind that passed through the special counsel’s office. We also requested all the documents that would reveal the discussions among Attorney General Bill Barr, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, and other high-ranking officials about whether to charge Trump with obstruction.

In response, Justice Department lawyers claimed the volume of records requested could total 18 billion pages and take centuries to produce.

For Monday’s installment, the government processed 506 pages, produced 231 pages, and redacted the records citing ongoing investigations, grand jury proceedings, and numerous other FOIA exemptions.

Here’s the full file:

Our full coverage of the Mueller Report’s secret memos

Source link

About the Author:

Leave a Reply