Open Source Edition
of the
Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election

Complete Report:
Volume I
Volume II
Appendix

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III

Submitted Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c)

Washington, D.C.

March 2019

http://opensourcemuellerreport.com/

(CC) 2019 Ian Dennis Miller

Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Table of Contents

1 Volume I
 Introduction to Volume I
 Executive Summary to Volume I
 I. The Special Counsel’s Investigation
 II. Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign
  A. Structure of the Internet Research Agency
  B. Funding and Oversight from Concord and Prigozhin
  C. The IRA Targets U.S. Elections
   1. The IRA Ramps Up U.S. Operations as Early as 2014
   2. U.S. Operations Through IRA-Controlled Social Media Accounts
   3. U.S. Operations Through Facebook
   4. U.S. Operations Through Twitter
   a. Individualized Accounts
   b. IRA Botnet Activities
   5. U.S. Operations Involving Political Rallies
   6. Targeting and Recruitment of U.S. Persons
   7. Interactions and Contacts with the Trump Campaign
   a. Trump Campaign Promotion of IRA Political Materials
   b. Contact with Trump Campaign Officials in Connection to Rallies
 III. Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations
  A. GRU Hacking Directed at the Clinton Campaign
   1. GRU Units Target the Clinton Campaign
   2. Intrusions into the DCCC and DNC Networks
   a. Initial Access
   b. Implantation of Malware on DCCC and DNC Networks
   c. Theft of Documents from DNC and DCCC Networks
  B. Dissemination of the Hacked Materials
   1. DCLeaks
   2. Guccifer 2.0
   3. Use of WikiLeaks
   a. WikiLeaks’s Expressed Opposition Toward the Clinton Campaign
   b. WikiLeaks’s First Contact with Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks
   c. The GRU’s Transfer of Stolen Materials to WikiLeaks
   d. WikiLeaks Statements Dissembling About the Source of Stolen Materials
   4. Additional GRU Cyber Operations
   a. Summer and Fall 2016 Operations Targeting Democrat-Linked Victims
   5. Intrusions Targeting the Administration of U.S. Elections
  C. Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials
   1. [■■■■■■■■ Harm to Ongoing Matter]
   a. Background
   b. Contacts with the Campaign about WikiLeaks
   c. [■■■■■■■■: Harm to Ongoing Matter]
   d. WikiLeaks’s October 7, 2016 Release of Stolen Podesta Emails
   e. Donald Trump Jr. Interaction with WikiLeaks
   2. Other Potential Campaign Interest in Russian Hacked Materials
   a. Henry Oknyansky (a/k/a Henry Greenberg)
   b. Campaign Efforts to Obtain Deleted Clinton Emails
 IV. Russian Government Links to and Contacts with The Trump Campaign
  A. Campaign Period (September 2015–November 8, 2016)
   1. Trump Tower Moscow Project
   a. Trump Tower Moscow Venture with the Crocus Group (2013–2014)
   b. Communications with I.C. Expert Investment Company and Giorgi Rtskhiladze (Summer and Fall 2015)
   c. Letter of Intent and Contacts to Russian Government (October 2015–January 2016)
     i. Trump Signs the Letter of Intent on behalf of the Trump Organization
     ii. Post-LOI Contacts with Individuals in Russia
   d. Discussions about Russia Travel by Michael Cohen or Candidate Trump (December 2015–June 2016)
     i. Sater’s Overtures to Cohen to Travel to Russia
     ii. Candidate Trump’s Opportunities to Travel to Russia
   2. George Papadopoulos
   a. Origins of Campaign Work
   b. Initial Russia-Related Contacts
   c. March 31 Foreign Policy Team Meeting
   d. George Papadopoulos Learns That Russia Has ”Dirt” in the Form of Clinton Emails
   e. Russia-Related Communications With The Campaign
   f. Trump Campaign Knowledge of ”Dirt”
   g. Additional George Papadopoulos Contact
   3. Carter Page
   a. Background
   b. Origins of and Early Campaign Work
   c. Carter Page’s July 2016 Trip To Moscow
   d. Later Campaign Work and Removal from the Campaign
   4. Dimitri Simes and the Center for the National Interest
   a. CNI and Dimitri Simes Connect with the Trump Campaign
   b. National Interest Hosts a Foreign Policy Speech at the Mayflower Hotel
   c. Jeff Sessions’s Post-Speech Interactions with CNI
   d. Jared Kushner’s Continuing Contacts with Simes
   5. June 9, 2016 Meeting at Trump Tower
   a. Setting Up the June 9 Meeting
     i. Outreach to Donald Trump Jr
     ii. Awareness of the Meeting Within the Campaign
   b. The Events of June 9, 2016
     i. Arrangements for the Meeting
     ii. Conduct of the Meeting
   c. Post-June 9 Events
   6. Events at the Republican National Convention
   a. Ambassador Kislyak’s Encounters with Senator Sessions and J.D. Gordon the Week of the RNC
   b. Change to Republican Party Platform
   7. Post-Convention Contacts with Kislyak
   a. Ambassador Kislyak Invites J.D. Gordon to Breakfast at the Ambassador’s Residence
   b. Senator Sessions’s September 2016 Meeting with Ambassador Kislyak
   8. Paul Manafort
   a. Paul Manafort’s Ties to Russia and Ukraine
     i. Oleg Deripaska Consulting Work
     ii. Political Consulting Work
     iii. Konstantin Kilimnik
   b. Contacts during Paul Manafort’s Time with the Trump Campaign
     i. Paul Manafort Joins the Campaign
     ii. Paul Manafort’s Campaign-Period Contacts
     iii. Paul Manafort’s Two Campaign-Period Meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik in the United States
   c. Post-Resignation Activities
  B. Post-Election and Transition-Period Contacts
   1. Immediate Post-Election Activity
   a. Outreach from the Russian Government
   b. High-Level Encouragement of Contacts through Alternative Channels
   2. Kirill Dmitriev’s Transition-Era Outreach to the Incoming Administration
   a. Background
   b. Kirill Dmitriev’s Post-Election Contacts With the Incoming Administration
   c. Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev Meet in the Seychelles
     i. George Nader and Erik Prince Arrange Seychelles Meeting with Dmitriev
     ii. The Seychelles Meetings
     iii. Erik Prince’s Meeting with Steve Bannon after the Seychelles Trip
   d. Kirill Dmitriev’s Post-Election Contact with Rick Gerson Regarding U.S.–Russia Relations
   3. Ambassador Kislyak’s Meeting with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn in Trump Tower Following the Election
   4. Jared Kushner’s Meeting with Sergey Gorkov
   5. Petr Aven’s Outreach Efforts to the Transition Team
   6. Carter Page Contact with Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich
   7. Contacts With and Through Michael T. Flynn
   a. United Nations Vote on Israeli Settlements
   b. U.S. Sanctions Against Russia
 V. Prosecution and Declination Decisions
  A. Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign
  B. Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations
   1. Section 1030 Computer-Intrusion Conspiracy
   a. Background
   b. Charging Decision As to [■■■■■■■■: Harm to Ongoing Matter]
   2. Potential Section 1030 Violation By [■■■■■■■■: Personal Privacy]
  C. Russian Government Outreach and Contacts
   1. Potential Coordination: Conspiracy and Collusion
   2. Potential Coordination: Foreign Agent Statutes (FARA and 18 U.S.C. § 951)
   a. Governing Law
   b. Application
   3. Campaign Finance
   a. Overview Of Governing Law
   b. Application to June 9 Trump Tower Meeting
     i. Thing-of-Value Element
     ii. Willfulness
     iii. Difficulties in Valuing Promised Information
   c. Application to [■■■■■■■■: HOM]
     i. Questions Over [■■■■■■■■: Harm to Ongoing Matter]
     ii. Willfulness
     iii. Constitutional Considerations
     iv. Analysis [■■■■■■■■: HOM]
   4. False Statements and Obstruction of the Investigation
   a. Overview Of Governing Law
   b. Application to Certain Individuals
     i. George Papadopoulos
     ii. [■■■■■■■■: Personal Privacy]
     iii. Michael Flynn
     iv. Michael Cohen
     v. [■■■■■■■■: HOM]
     vi. Jeff Sessions
     vii. Others Interviewed During the Investigation
2 Volume II
 Introduction to Volume II
 Executive Summary to Volume II
  A. Statutory and Constitutional Defenses
 I. Background Legal and Evidentiary Principles
  A. Legal Framework of Obstruction Of Justice
  B. Investigative and Evidentiary Considerations
 II. Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation
  A. The Campaign’s Response to Reports About Russian Support for Trump
   1. Press Reports Allege Links Between the Trump Campaign and Russia
   2. The Trump Campaign Reacts to WikiLeaks’s Release of Hacked Emails
   3. The Trump Campaign Reacts to Allegations That Russia was Seeking to Aid Candidate Trump
   4. After the Election, Trump Continues to Deny Any Contacts or Connections with Russia or That Russia Aided his Election
  B. The President’s Conduct Concerning the Investigation of Michael Flynn
   1. Incoming National Security Advisor Flynn Discusses Sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak
   2. President-Elect Trump is Briefed on the Intelligence Community’s Assessment of Russian Interference in the Election and Congress Opens Election-Interference Investigations
   3. Flynn Makes False Statements About his Communications with Kislyak to Incoming Administration Officials, the Media, and the FBI
   4. DOJ Officials Notify the White House of Their Concerns About Flynn
   5. McGahn has a Follow-Up Meeting About Flynn with Yates; President Trump has Dinner with FBI Director Comey
   6. Flynn’s Resignation
   7. The President Discusses Flynn with FBI Director Comey
   8. The Media Raises Questions About the President’s Delay in Terminating Flynn
   9. The President Attempts to Have K.T. McFarland Create a Witness Statement Denying that he Directed Flynn’s Discussions with Kislyak
  C. The President’s Reaction to Public Confirmation of the FBI’s Russia Investigation
   1. Attorney General Sessions Recuses From the Russia Investigation
   2. FBI Director Comey Publicly Confirms the Existence of the Russia Investigation in Testimony Before HPSCI
   3. The President Asks Intelligence Community Leaders to Make Public Statements that he had No Connection to Russia
   4. The President Asks Comey to ”Lift the Cloud” Created by the Russia Investigation
  D. Events Leading Up To and Surrounding the Termination of FBI Director Comey
   1. Comey Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Declines to Answer Questions About Whether the President is Under Investigation
   2. The President Makes the Decision to Terminate Comey
  E. The President’s Efforts to Remove the Special Counsel
   1. The Appointment of the Special Counsel and the President’s Reaction
   2. The President Asserts that the Special Counsel has Conflicts of Interest
   3. The Press Reports that the President is Being Investigated for Obstruction of Justice and the President Directs the White House Counsel to Have the Special Counsel Removed
  F. The President’s Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation
   1. The President Asks Corey Lewandowski to Deliver a Message to Sessions to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation
   2. The President Follows Up with Lewandowski
   3. The President Publicly Criticizes Sessions in a New York Times Interview
   4. The President Orders Priebus to Demand Sessions’s Resignation
  G. The President’s Efforts to Prevent Disclosure of Emails About the June 9, 2016 Meeting Between Russians and Senior Campaign Officials
   1. The President Learns About the Existence of Emails Concerning the June 9; 2016 Trump Tower Meeting
   2. The President Directs Communications Staff Not to Publicly Disclose Information About the June 9 Meeting
   3. The President Directs Trump Jr.’s Response to Press Inquiries About the June 9 Meeting
   4. The Media Reports on the June 9, 2016 Meeting
  H. The President’s Further Efforts to Have the Attorney General Take Over the Investigation
   1. The President Again Seeks to Have Sessions Reverse his Recusal
   2. Additional Efforts to Have Sessions Unrecuse or Direct Investigations Covered by his Recusal
  I. The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel
   1. The Press Reports that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel
   2. The President Seeks to Have McGahn Dispute the Press Reports
  J. The President’s Conduct Towards Flynn, Manafort, ■■■■■■■■
   1. Conduct Directed at Michael Flynn
   2. Conduct Directed at Paul Manafort
   3. [: Harm to Ongoing Matter]
  K. The President’s Conduct Involving Michael Cohen
   1. Candidate Trump’s Awareness of and Involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow Project
   2. Cohen Determines to Adhere to a ”Party Line” Distancing Candidate Trump From Russia
   3. Cohen Submits False Statements to Congress Minimizing the Trump Tower Moscow Project in Accordance with the Party Line
   4. The President Sends Messages of Support to Cohen
   5. The President’s Conduct After Cohen Began Cooperating with the Government
  L. Overarching Factual Issues
 III. Legal Defenses to the Application of Obstruction-of-Justice Statutes to the President
  A. Statutory Defenses to the Application of Obstruction-Of-Justice Provisions to the Conduct Under Investigation
   1. The Text of Section 1512(c)(2) Prohibits a Broad Range of Obstructive Acts
   2. Judicial Decisions Support a Broad Reading of Section 1512(c)(2)
   3. The Legislative History of Section 1512(c)(2) Does Not Justify Narrowing Its Texts
   4. General Principles of Statutory Construction Do Not Suggest That Section 1512(c)(2) is Inapplicable to the Conduct in this Investigation
   5. Other Obstruction Statutes Might Apply to the Conduct in this Investigation
  B. Constitutional Defenses to Applying Obstruction-Of-Justice Statutes to Presidential Conduct
   1. The Requirement of a Clear Statement to Apply Statutes to Presidential Conduct Does Not Limit the Obstruction Statutes
   2. Separation-of-Powers Principles Support the Conclusion that Congress May Validly Prohibit Corrupt Obstructive Acts Carried Out Through the President’s Official Powers
   a. The Supreme Court’s Separation-of-Powers Balancing Test Applies In This Contexts
   b. The Effect of Obstruction-of-Justice Statutes on the President’s Capacity to Perform His Article II Responsibilities is Limited
   c. Congress Has Power to Protect Congressional, Grand Jury, and Judicial Proceedings Against Corrupt Acts from Any Source
   3. Ascertaining Whether the President Violated the Obstruction Statutes Would Not Chill his Performance of his Article II Duties
 IV. Conclusion
3 Appendix
 I. Appendix A: Appointment of Special Counsel
 II. Appendix B: Glossary
  A. Referenced Persons
  B. Entities and Organizations
  C. Index of Acronyms
 III. Appendix C: Written Questioning of Donald J. Trump
  A. Introductory Note
  B. WRITTEN QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED UNDER OATH BY PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP
   1. June 9, 2016 Meeting at Trump Tower
   2. Russian Hacking / Russian Efforts Using Social Media / Wikileaks
   3. The Trump Organization Moscow Project
   4. Contacts with Russia and Russia-Related Issues During the Campaign
   5. Contacts with Russia and Russia-Related Issues During the Transition
  C. RESPONSES OF PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP
   1. June 9, 2016 Meeting at Trump Tower
   2. Russian Hacking / Russian Efforts Using Social Media / Wikileaks
   3. The Trump Organization Moscow Project
   4. Contacts with Russia and Russia-Related Issues During the Campaign
   5. Contacts with Russia and Russia-Related Issues During the Transition
 IV. Appendix D: Special Counsel’s Office Transferred, Referred, and Completed Cases
  A. Transfers
  B. Referrals
  C. Completed Prosecutions

Chapter 1
Volume I

Introduction to Volume I

This report is submitted to the Attorney General pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c), which states that, ”[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he … shall provide the Attorney General a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions [the Special Counsel] reached.”

The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016. In June, the Democratic National Committee and its cyber response team publicly announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network. Releases of hacked materials—hacks that public reporting soon attributed to the Russian government—began that same month. Additional releases followed in July through the organization WikiLeaks, with further releases in October and November.

In late July 2016, soon after WikiLeaks’s first release of stolen documents, a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.

That fall, two federal agencies jointly announced that the Russian government ”directed recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including US political organizations,” and, ”[t]hese thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.” After the election, in late December 2016, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election. By early 2017, several congressional committees were examining Russia’s interference in the election.

Within the Executive Branch, these investigatory efforts ultimately led to the May 2017 appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III. The order appointing the Special Counsel authorized him to investigate ”the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.

As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.


Below we describe the evidentiary considerations underpinning statements about the results of our investigation and the Special Counsel’s charging decisions, and we then provide an overview of the two volumes of our report.

The report describes actions and events that the Special Counsel’s Office found to be supported by the evidence collected in our investigation. In some instances, the report points out the absence of evidence or conflicts in the evidence about a particular fact or event. In other instances, when substantial, credible evidence enabled the Office to reach a conclusion with confidence, the report states that the investigation established that certain actions or events occurred. A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.

In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of ”collusion.” In so doing, the Office recognized that the word ”collud[e]” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law. In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump Campaign ”coordinat[ed]”—a term that appears in the appointment order—with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, ”coordination” does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.


The report on our investigation consists of two volumes:

Volume I describes the factual results of the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and its interactions with the Trump Campaign. Section I describes the scope of the investigation. Sections II and III describe the principal ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Section IV describes links between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign. Section V sets forth the Special Counsel’s charging decisions.

Volume II addresses the President’s actions towards the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, and his actions towards the Special Counsel’s investigation. Volume II separately states its framework and the considerations that guided that investigation.

Executive Summary to Volume I

Russian Social Media Campaign

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation—a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______

In mid-2014, the IRA sent employees to the United States on an intelligence-gathering mission with instructions ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed ”information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton. The IRA’s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.

Russian Hacking Operations

At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.

In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas ”DCLeaks” and ”Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks.

The presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (”Trump Campaign” or ”Campaign”) showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton. Beginning in June 2016, ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ ______ ______ ___ ______ forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton. WikiLeaks’s first release came in July 2016. Around the same time, candidate Trump announced that he hoped Russia would recover emails described as missing from a private server used by Clinton when she was Secretary of State (he later said that he was speaking sarcastically). ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ WikiLeaks began releasing Podesta’s stolen emails on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released video considered damaging to candidate Trump. Section III of this Report details the Office’s investigation into the Russian hacking operations, as well as other efforts by Trump Campaign supporters to obtain Clinton-related emails.

Russian Contacts with the Campaign

The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the Campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.–Russian relations. Section IV of this Report details the contacts between Russia and the Trump Campaign during the campaign and transition periods, the most salient of which are summarized below in chronological order.

2015. Some of the earliest contacts were made in connection with a Trump Organization real-estate project in Russia known as Trump Tower Moscow. Candidate Trump signed a Letter of Intent for Trump Tower Moscow by November 2015, and in January 2016 Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen emailed and spoke about the project with the office of Russian government press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The Trump Organization pursued the project through at least June 2016, including by considering travel to Russia by Cohen and candidate Trump.

Spring 2016. Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos made early contact with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who had connections to Russia and traveled to Moscow in April 2016. Immediately upon his return to London from that trip, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had ”dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, in the first week of May 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton. Throughout that period of time and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. No meeting took place.

Summer 2016. Russian outreach to the Trump Campaign continued into the summer of 2016, as candidate Trump was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for President. On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as ”official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as ”part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The written communications setting up the meeting showed that the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer’s presentation did not provide such information.

Days after the June 9 meeting, on June 14, 2016, a cybersecurity firm and the DNC announced that Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on candidate Trump, among other documents.

In July 2016, Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page traveled in his personal capacity to Moscow and gave the keynote address at the New Economic School. Page had lived and worked in Russia between 2003 and 2007. After returning to the United States, Page became acquainted with at least two Russian intelligence officers, one of whom was later charged in 2015 with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of Russia. Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention. The Campaign then distanced itself from Page and, by late September 2016, removed him from the Campaign.

July 2016 was also the month WikiLeaks first released emails stolen by the GRU from the DNC. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. Within days, there was public reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies had ”high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC. And within a week of the release, a foreign government informed the FBI about its May 2016 interaction with Papadopoulos and his statement that the Russian government could assist the Trump Campaign. On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government reporting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.

Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a ”backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.

Fall 2016. On October 7, 2016, the media released video of candidate Trump speaking in graphic terms about women years earlier, which was considered damaging to his candidacy. Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks made its second release: thousands of John Podesta’s emails that had been stolen by the GRU in late March 2016. The FBI and other U.S. government institutions were at the time continuing their investigation of suspected Russian government efforts to interfere in the presidential election. That same day, October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint public statement ”that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Those ”thefts” and the ”disclosures” of the hacked materials through online platforms such as WikiLeaks, the statement continued, ”are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

Post-2016 Election. Immediately after the November 8 election, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts. The Russian Embassy made contact hours after the election to congratulate the President-Elect and to arrange a call with President Putin. Several Russian businessmen picked up the effort from there.

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact with the incoming administration. In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.–Russia relations. During the same period, another business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner who had not served on the Campaign or the Transition Team. Dmitriev and Kushner’s friend collaborated on a short written reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin. The friend gave that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On December 29, 2016, then-President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and asked Russia not to escalate the situation in response to the sanctions. The following day, Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. Hours later, President-Elect Trump tweeted, ”Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” The next day, on December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and Russia had chosen not to retaliate as a result of Flynn’s request.


On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment—drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency—that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.

Between mid-January 2017 and early February 2017, three congressional committees—the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), and the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC)—announced that they would conduct inquiries, or had already been conducting inquiries, into Russian interference in the election. Then-FBI Director James Comey later confirmed to Congress the existence of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference that had begun before the election. On March 20, 2017, in open-session testimony before HPSCI, Comey stated:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. … As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

The investigation continued under then-Director Comey for the next seven weeks until May 9, 2017, when President Trump fired Comey as FBI Director—an action which is analyzed in Volume II of the report.

On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed the Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the investigation that Comey had confirmed in his congressional testimony, as well as matters arising directly from the investigation, and any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a), which generally covers efforts to interfere with or obstruct the investigation.

President Trump reacted negatively to the Special Counsel’s appointment. He told advisors that it was the end of his presidency, sought to have Attorney General Jefferson (Jeff) Sessions unrecuse from the Russia investigation and to have the Special Counsel removed, and engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses. Those and related actions are described and analyzed in Volume II of the report.


The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions

In reaching the charging decisions described in Volume I of the report, the Office determined whether the conduct it found amounted to a violation of federal criminal law chargeable under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. See Justice Manual § 9-27.000 et seq. (2018). The standard set forth in the Justice Manual is whether the conduct constitutes a crime; if so, whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction; and whether prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest that could not be adequately served by prosecution elsewhere or through non-criminal alternatives. See Justice Manual § 9-27.220.

Section V of the report provides detailed explanations of the Office’s charging decisions, which contain three main components.

First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations—violated U.S. criminal law. Many of the individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections, as well as related counts of identity theft. See United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., No. 18-cr-32 (D.D.C.). Separately, Russian intelligence officers who carried out the hacking into Democratic Party computers and the personal email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign conspired to violate, among other federal laws, the federal computer-intrusion statute, and they have been so charged. See United States v. Netyksho, et al., No. 18-cr-215 (D.D.C.).

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ____________ ____________ _________ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______.

Second, while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

Third, the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false-statements statute. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project. ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. And in February 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.


The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information—such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media—in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or ”taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well—numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

I. The Special Counsel’s Investigation

On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein—then serving as Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation following the recusal of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on March 2, 2016—appointed the Special Counsel ”to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters.” Office of the Deputy Att’y Gen., Order No. 3915-2017, Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters, May 17, 2017 (”Appointment Order”). Relying on ”the authority vested” in the Acting Attorney General, ”including 28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 510, and 515,” the Acting Attorney General ordered the appointment of a Special Counsel ”in order to discharge [the Acting Attorney General’s] responsibility to provide supervision and management of the Department of Justice, and to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” Appointment Order (introduction). ”The Special Counsel,” the Order stated, ”is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017,” including:

i
any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
ii
any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
iii
any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

Appointment Order  (b). Section 600.4 affords the Special Counsel ”the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a). The authority to investigate ”any matters that arose … directly from the investigation,” Appointment Order  (b)(ii), covers similar crimes that may have occurred during the course of the FBI’s confirmed investigation before the Special Counsel’s appointment. ”If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate,” the Order further provided, ”the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.” Id.  (c). Finally, the Acting Attorney General made applicable ”Sections 600.4 through 600.10 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations.” Id.  (d).

The Acting Attorney General further clarified the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigatory authority in two subsequent memoranda. A memorandum dated August 2, 2017, explained that the Appointment Order had been ”worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals.” It then confirmed that the Special Counsel had been authorized since his appointment to investigate allegations that three Trump campaign officials—Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos—”committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” The memorandum also confirmed the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate certain other matters, including two additional sets of allegations involving Manafort (crimes arising from payments he received from the Ukrainian government and crimes arising from his receipt of loans from a bank whose CEO was then seeking a position in the Trump Administration); allegations that Papadopoulos committed a crime or crimes by acting as an unregistered agent of the Israeli government; and four sets of allegations involving Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to President Trump.

On October 20, 2017, the Acting Attorney General confirmed in a memorandum the Special Counsel’s investigative authority as to several individuals and entities. First, ”as part of a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” the Special Counsel was authorized to investigate ”the pertinent activities of Michael Cohen, Richard Gates,____ __ _ _ __ __ __ _ ___ _ _ __ __ __ __ , Roger Stone, and____ __ _ _ __ __ __ _ ___ _ _ __ __ __ __ ” ”Confirmation of the authorization to investigate such individuals,” the memorandum stressed, ”does not suggest that the Special Counsel has made a determination that any of them has committed a crime.” Second, with respect to Michael Cohen, the memorandum recognized the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate ”leads relate[d] to Cohen’s establishment and use of Essential Consultants LLC to, inter alia, receive funds from Russian-backed entities.” Third, the memorandum memorialized the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate individuals and entities who were possibly engaged in ”jointly undertaken activity” with existing subjects of the investigation, including Paul Manafort. Finally, the memorandum described an FBI investigation opened before the Special Counsel’s appointment into ”allegations that [then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions] made false statements to the United States Senate[,]” and confirmed the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate that matter.

The Special Counsel structured the investigation in view of his power and authority ”to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States Attorney.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.6. Like a U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Special Counsel’s Office considered a range of classified and unclassified information available to the FBI in the course of the Office’s Russia investigation, and the Office structured that work around evidence for possible use in prosecutions of federal crimes (assuming that one or more crimes were identified that warranted prosecution). There was substantial evidence immediately available to the Special Counsel at the inception of the investigation in May 2017 because the FBI had, by that time, already investigated Russian election interference for nearly 10 months. The Special Counsel’s Office exercised its judgment regarding what to investigate and did not, for instance, investigate every public report of a contact between the Trump Campaign and Russian-affiliated individuals and entities.

The Office has concluded its investigation into links and coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign. Certain proceedings associated with the Office’s work remain ongoing. After consultation with the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office has transferred responsibility for those remaining issues to other components of the Department of Justice and FBI. Appendix D lists those transfers.

Two district courts confirmed the breadth of the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate Russia election interference and links and/or coordination with the Trump Campaign. See United States v. Manafort, 312 F. Supp. 3d 60, 79–83 (D.D.C. 2018); United States v. Manafort, 321 F. Supp. 3d 640, 650–655 (E.D. Va. 2018). In the course of conducting that investigation, the Office periodically identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s authority established by the Acting Attorney General. After consultation with the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office referred that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities, principally other components of the Department of Justice and to the FBI. Appendix D summarizes those referrals.


To carry out the investigation and prosecution of the matters assigned to him, the Special Counsel assembled a team that at its high point included 19 attorneys—five of whom joined the Office from private practice and 14 on detail or assigned from other Department of Justice components. These attorneys were assisted by a filter team of Department lawyers and FBI personnel who screened materials obtained via court process for privileged information before turning those materials over to investigators; a support staff of three paralegals on detail from the Department’s Antitrust Division; and an administrative staff of nine responsible for budget, finance, purchasing, human resources, records, facilities, security, information technology, and administrative support. The Special Counsel attorneys and support staff were co-located with and worked alongside approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, a paralegal, and professional staff assigned by the FBI to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation. Those ”assigned” FBI employees remained under FBI supervision at all times; the matters on which they assisted were supervised by the Special Counsel.1

During its investigation, the Office issued more than 2,800 subpoenas under the auspices of a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia; executed nearly 500 search-and-seizure warrants; obtained more than 230 orders for communications records under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d); obtained almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers; made 13 requests to foreign governments pursuant to Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties; and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, including almost 80 before a grand jury.


From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send—in writing—summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBI HQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results.

II. Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign

The first form of Russian election influence came principally from the Internet Research Agency, LLC (IRA), a Russian organization funded by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and companies he controlled, including Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering (collectively ”Concord”).2 The IRA conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system.3 These operations constituted ”active measures” ( ), a term that typically refers to operations conducted by Russian security services aimed at influencing the course of international affairs.4

The IRA and its employees began operations targeting the United States as early as 2014. Using fictitious U.S. personas, IRA employees operated social media accounts and group pages designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and accounts, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists. Over time, these social media accounts became a means to reach large U.S. audiences. IRA employees travelled to the United States in mid-2014 on an intelligence-gathering mission to obtain information and photographs for use in their social media posts.

IRA employees posted derogatory information about a number of candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton. The IRA made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Some IRA employees, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities, including the staging of political rallies.5 The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.

By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.7

A. Structure of the Internet Research Agency

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______8 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______9 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______10

The organization quickly grew. ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______11 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______12

The growth of the organization also led to a more detailed organizational structure. ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ __ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.13

Two individuals headed the IRA’s management: its general director, Mikhail Bystrov, and its executive director, Mikhail Burchik. ________ ___ _____________ __________ ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______14 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______15

As early as spring of 2014, the IRA began to hide its funding and activities. _________ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.16

The IRA’s U.S. operations are part of a larger set of interlocking operations known as “Project Lakhta,” ________ ___ _____________ __________ ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______17 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______18

B. Funding and Oversight from Concord and Prigozhin

Until at least February 2018, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two Concord companies funded the IRA. Prigozhin is a wealthy Russian businessman who served as the head of Concord. ______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December 2016,19 ________ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______20 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______21 Numerous media sources have reported on Prigozhin’s ties to Putin, and the two have appeared together in public photographs.22

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IRA employees were aware that Prigozhin was involved in the IRA’s U.S. operations, ________ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______29 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______30 In May 2016, IRA employees, claiming to be U.S. social activists and administrators of Facebook groups, recruited U.S. persons to hold signs (including one in front of the White House) that read ”Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss,” as an homage to Prigozhin (whose 55th birthday was on June 1, 2016).31 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______32

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ ________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ ________ _____ _________ ___________ _______ ______ __ ___ ________.

C. The IRA Targets U.S. Elections

1. The IRA Ramps Up U.S. Operations as Early as 2014

The IRA’s U.S. operations sought to influence public opinion through online media and forums. By the spring of 2014, the IRA began to consolidate U.S. operations within a single general department, known internally as the “Translator” () department. ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ IRA subdivided the Translator Department into different responsibilities, ranging from operations on different social media platforms to analytics to graphics and IT.

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IRA employees also traveled to the United States on intelligence-gathering missions. In June 2014, four IRA employees applied to the U.S. Department of State to enter the United States, while lying about the purpose of their trip and claiming to be four friends who had met at a party.38 Ultimately, two IRA employees—Anna Bogacheva and Aleksandra Krylova—received visas and entered the United States on June 4, 2014.

Prior to traveling, Krylova and Bogacheva compiled itineraries and instructions for the trip. ______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______39 ________ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______40 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______41

2. U.S. Operations Through IRA-Controlled Social Media Accounts

Dozens of IRA employees were responsible for operating accounts and personas on different U.S. social media platforms. The IRA referred to employees assigned to operate the social media accounts as ”specialists.”42 Starting as early as 2014, the IRA’s U.S. operations included social media specialists focusing on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.43 The IRA later added specialists who operated on Tumblr and Instagram accounts.44

Initially, the IRA created social media accounts that pretended to be the personal accounts of U.S. persons.45 By early 2015, the IRA began to create larger social media groups or public social media pages that claimed (falsely) to be affiliated with U.S. political and grassroots organizations. In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations. For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, TEN_GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.46 More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as anti-immigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, and other U.S. social and political activists.

The IRA closely monitored the activity of its social media accounts. ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ ____ _________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.47 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______48

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ ________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ ________ _____ _________ ___________ _______ ______ __ ___ ________.

By February 2016, internal IRA documents referred to support for the Trump Campaign and opposition to candidate Clinton.49 For example, ________ ___ _____________ _________ directions to IRA operators ________ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______. “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them).”50 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______

The focus on the U.S. presidential campaign continued through 2016. In _______ 2016 internal _______ reviewing the IRA-controlled Facebook group “Secured Borders,” the author criticized the ”lower number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and reminded the Facebook specialist ”it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”51

IRA employees also acknowledged that their work focused on influencing the U.S. presidential election. ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ _______ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ _____ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ ____ _________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.52

3. U.S. Operations Through Facebook

Many IRA operations used Facebook accounts created and operated by its specialists. ______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______

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______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______53

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.54 The IRA Facebook groups active during the 2016 campaign covered a range of political issues and included purported conservative groups (with names such as ”Being Patriotic,” ”Stop All Immigrants,” ”Secured Borders,” and ”Tea Party News”), purported Black social justice groups (”Black Matters,” ”Blacktivist,” and ”Don’t Shoot Us”), LGBTQ groups (”LGBT United”), and religious groups (”United Muslims of America”).

Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account ”Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a ”pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”55

To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.56

During the U.S. presidential campaign, many IRA-purchased advertisements explicitly supported or opposed a presidential candidate or promoted U.S. rallies organized by the IRA (discussed below). As early as March 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements that overtly opposed the Clinton Campaign. For example, on March 18, 2016, the IRA purchased an advertisement depicting candidate Clinton and a caption that read in part, ”If one day God lets this liar enter the White House as a president – that day would be a real national tragedy.”57 Similarly, on April 6, 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements for its account ”Black Matters” calling for a ”flashmob” of U.S. persons to ”take a photo with #HillaryClintonForPrison2016 or #nohillary2016.”58 IRA-purchased advertisements featuring Clinton were, with very few exceptions, negative.59

IRA-purchased advertisements referencing candidate Trump largely supported his campaign. The first known IRA advertisement explicitly endorsing the Trump Campaign was purchased on April 19, 2016. The IRA bought an advertisement for its Instagram account ”Tea Party News” asking U.S. persons to help them ”make a patriotic team of young Trump supporters” by uploading photos with the hashtag ”#KIDS4TRUMP.”60 In subsequent months, the IRA purchased dozens of advertisements supporting the Trump Campaign, predominantly through the Facebook groups ”Being Patriotic,” ”Stop All Invaders,” and ”Secured Borders.”

Collectively, the IRA’s social media accounts reached tens of millions of U.S. persons. Individual IRA social media accounts attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. For example, at the time they were deactivated by Facebook in mid-2017, the IRA’s ”United Muslims of America” Facebook group had over 300,000 followers, the ”Don’t Shoot Us” Facebook group had over 250,000 followers, the ”Being Patriotic” Facebook group had over 200,000 followers, and the ”Secured Borders” Facebook group had over 130,000 followers.61 According to Facebook, in total the IRA-controlled accounts made over 80,000 posts before their deactivation in August 2017, and these posts reached at least 29 million U.S persons and ”may have reached an estimated 126 million people.”62

4. U.S. Operations Through Twitter

A number of IRA employees assigned to the Translator Department served as Twitter specialists. ______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______63

The IRA’s Twitter operations involved two strategies. First, IRA specialists operated certain Twitter accounts to create individual U.S. personas, ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______64 Separately, the IRA operated a network of automated Twitter accounts (commonly referred to as a bot network) that enabled the IRA to amplify existing content on Twitter.

Individualized Accounts ______ __ ________ ________ _______ ______ _____ ___ ______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______65 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______66 The IRA operated individualized Twitter accounts similar to the operation of its Facebook accounts, by continuously posting original content to the accounts while also communicating with U.S. Twitter users directly (through public tweeting or Twitter’s private messaging).

The IRA used many of these accounts to attempt to influence U.S. audiences on the election. Individualized accounts used to influence the U.S. presidential election included TEN_GOP (described above); jenn_abrams (claiming to be a Virginian Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); Pamela_Moore13 (claiming to be a Texan Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); and America_1st_ (an anti-immigration persona with 24,000 followers).67 In May 2016, the IRA created the Twitter account march_for_trump, which promoted IRA-organized rallies in support of the Trump Campaign (described below).68

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ ________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ ________ _____ _________ ___________ _______ ______ __ ___ ________.

________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ _____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.69

Using these accounts and others, the IRA provoked reactions from users and the media. Multiple IRA-posted tweets gained popularity.70 U.S. media outlets also quoted tweets from IRA-controlled accounts and attributed them to the reactions of real U.S. persons.71 Similarly, numerous high-profile U.S. persons, including former Ambassador Michael McFaul,72 Roger Stone,73 Sean Hannity,74 and Michael Flynn Jr.,75 retweeted or responded to tweets posted to these IRA-controlled accounts. Multiple individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign also promoted IRA tweets (discussed below).

IRA Botnet Activities ______ __ ________ ________ _______ ______ _____ ___ ______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______76

________ ___ ______________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _________________ ___ ______________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.77

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.78

In January 2018, Twitter publicly identified 3,814 Twitter accounts associated with the IRA.79 According to Twitter, in the ten weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, these accounts posted approximately 175,993 tweets, ”approximately 8.4% of which were election-related.”80 Twitter also announced that it had notified approximately 1.4 million people who Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.81

5. U.S. Operations Involving Political Rallies

The IRA organized and promoted political rallies inside the United States while posing as U.S. grassroots activists. First, the IRA used one of its preexisting social media personas (Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, for example) to announce and promote the event. The IRA then sent a large number of direct messages to followers of its social media account asking them to attend the event. From those who responded with interest in attending, the IRA then sought a U.S. person to serve as the event’s coordinator. In most cases, the IRA account operator would tell the U.S. person that they personally could not attend the event due to some preexisting conflict or because they were somewhere else in the United States.82 The IRA then further promoted the event by contacting U.S. media about the event and directing them to speak with the coordinator.83 After the event, the IRA posted videos and photographs of the event to the IRA’s social media accounts.84

The Office identified dozens of U.S. rallies organized by the IRA. The earliest evidence of a rally was a ”confederate rally” in November 2015.85 The IRA continued to organize rallies even after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The attendance at rallies varied. Some rallies appear to have drawn few (if any) participants while others drew hundreds. The reach and success of these rallies was closely monitored ______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ ________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ ________ _____ _________ ___________ _______ ______ __ ___ ________. _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ _______________ _____ ____ ____ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. _____ _____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________. _________ _________ ________ ___ ______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.

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Figure 1.1: *
IRA Poster for Pennsylvania Rallies organized by the IRA

From June 2016 until the end of the presidential campaign, almost all of the U.S. rallies organized by the IRA focused on the U.S. election, often promoting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. Pro-Trump rallies included three in New York; a series of pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016; and a series of pro-Trump rallies in October 2016 in Pennsylvania. The Florida rallies drew the attention of the Trump Campaign, which posted about the Miami rally on candidate Trump’s Facebook account (as discussed below).86

Many of the same IRA employees who oversaw the IRA’s social media accounts also conducted the day-to-day recruiting for political rallies inside the United States. ________ ___ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.87

6. Targeting and Recruitment of U.S. Persons

As early as 2014, the IRA instructed its employees to target U.S. persons who could be used to advance its operational goals. Initially, recruitment focused on U.S. persons who could amplify the content posted by the IRA. ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ ______ _______.

________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.88

IRA employees frequently used __________________ ______________ Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to contact and recruit U.S. persons who followed the group. The IRA recruited U.S. persons from across the political spectrum. For example, the IRA targeted the family of ____________ ____________ _________ _________ and a number of black social justice activists while posing as a grassroots group called ”Black Matters US.”89 In February 2017, the persona ”Black Fist” (purporting to want to teach African-Americans to protect themselves when contacted by law enforcement) hired a self-defense instructor in New York to offer classes sponsored by Black Fist. The IRA also recruited moderators of conservative social media groups to promote IRA-generated content,90 as well as recruited individuals to perform political acts (such as walking around New York City dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask).91

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.92 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.93 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.94

______ __ _________ ________ as the IRA’s online audience became larger, the IRA tracked U.S. persons with whom they communicated and had successfully tasked (with tasks ranging from organizing rallies to taking pictures with certain political messages). ________ ___ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.95

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. _____ _____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________. _________ _________ ________ ___ ______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.

7. Interactions and Contacts with the Trump Campaign

The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. (The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.) First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted—typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting—pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, IRA employees represented themselves as U.S. persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States.

Trump Campaign Promotion of IRA Political Materials Among the U.S. ”leaders of public opinion” targeted by the IRA were various members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign. In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.

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Figure 1.2: *
Screenshot of Trump Facebook Account (from Matt Skiber)

IRA employees monitored the reaction of the Trump Campaign and, later, Trump Administration officials to their tweets. For example, on August 23, 2016, the IRA-controlled persona ”Matt Skiber” Facebook account sent a message to a U.S. Tea Party activist, writing that ”Mr. Trump posted about our event in Miami! This is great!”105 The IRA employee included a screenshot of candidate Trump’s Facebook account, which included a post about the August 20, 2016 political rallies organized by the IRA.

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.106

Contact with Trump Campaign Officials in Connection to Rallies Starting in June 2016, the IRA contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States. In all cases, the IRA contacted the Campaign while claiming to be U.S. political activists working on behalf of a conservative grassroots organization. The IRA’s contacts included requests for signs and other materials to use at rallies,107 as well as requests to promote the rallies and help coordinate logistics.108 While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.


In sum, the investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the ”active measures” social media campaign carried out by the IRA, an organization funded by Prigozhin and companies that he controlled. As explained further in Volume I, Section V.A, infra, the Office concluded (and a grand jury has alleged) that Prigozhin, his companies, and IRA employees violated U.S. law through these operations, principally by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections.

III. Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations

Beginning in March 2016, units of the Russian Federation’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) hacked the computers and email accounts of organizations, employees, and volunteers supporting the Clinton Campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta. Starting in April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU targeted hundreds of email accounts used by Clinton Campaign employees, advisors, and volunteers. In total, the GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks.109 The GRU later released stolen Clinton Campaign and DNC documents through online personas, ”DCLeaks” and ”Guccifer 2.0,” and later through the organization WikiLeaks. The release of the documents was designed and timed to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and undermine the Clinton Campaign.

The Trump Campaign showed interest in the WikiLeaks releases and, in the summer and fall of 2016, ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _____ ___ ________ _________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. WikiLeaks’s first Clinton-related release _______, the Trump Campaign stayed in contact _______ about WikiLeaks’s activities. The investigation was unable to resolve ________ ___ _____________ _________. WikiLeaks’s release of the stolen Podesta emails on October 7, 2016, the same day a video from years earlier was published of Trump using graphic language about women.

A. GRU Hacking Directed at the Clinton Campaign

1. GRU Units Target the Clinton Campaign

Two military units of the GRU carried out the computer intrusions into the Clinton Campaign, DNC, and DCCC: Military Units 26165 and 74455.110 Military Unit 26165 is a GRU cyber unit dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental, and non-governmental organizations outside of Russia, including in the United States.111 The unit was sub-divided into departments with different specialties. One department, for example, developed specialized malicious software ”malware”, while another department conducted large-scale spearphishing campaigns.112 _____________ __________ a bitcoin mining operation to secure bitcoins used to purchase computer infrastructure used in hacking operations.113

Military Unit 74455 is a related GRU unit with multiple departments that engaged in cyber operations. Unit 74455 assisted in the release of documents stolen by Unit 26165, the promotion of those releases, and the publication of anti-Clinton content on social media accounts operated by the GRU. Officers from Unit 74455 separately hacked computers belonging to state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections.114

Beginning in mid-March 2016, Unit 26165 had primary responsibility for hacking the DCCC and DNC, as well as email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign:115

The GRU spearphishing operation enabled it to gain access to numerous email accounts of Clinton Campaign employees and volunteers, including campaign chairman John Podesta, junior volunteers assigned to the Clinton Campaign’s advance team, informal Clinton Campaign advisors, and a DNC employee.118 GRU officers stole tens of thousands of emails from spearphishing victims, including various Clinton Campaign-related communications.

2. Intrusions into the DCCC and DNC Networks

Initial Access By no later than April 12, 2016, the GRU had gained access to the DCCC computer network using the credentials stolen from a DCCC employee who had been successfully spearphished the week before. Over the ensuing weeks, the GRU traversed the network, identifying different computers connected to the DCCC network. By stealing network access credentials along the way (including those of IT administrators with unrestricted access to the system), the GRU compromised approximately 29 different computers on the DCCC network.119

Approximately six days after first hacking into the DCCC network, on April 18, 2016, GRU officers gained access to the DNC network via a virtual private network (VPN) connection120 between the DCCC and DNC networks.121 Between April 18, 2016 and June 8, 2016, Unit 26165 compromised more than 30 computers on the DNC network, including the DNC mail server and shared file server.122

Implantation of Malware on DCCC and DNC Networks Unit 26165 implanted on the DCCC and DNC networks two types of customized malware,123 known as ”X-Agent” and ”X-Tunnel”; Mimikatz, a credential-harvesting tool; and rar.exe, a tool used in these intrusions to compile and compress materials for exfiltration. X-Agent was a multi-function hacking tool that allowed Unit 26165 to log keystrokes, take screenshots, and gather other data about the infected computers (e.g., file directories, operating systems).124 X-Tunnel was a hacking tool that created an encrypted connection between the victim DCCC/DNC computers and GRU-controlled computers outside the DCCC and DNC networks that was capable of large-scale data transfers.125 GRU officers then used X-Tunnel to exfiltrate stolen data from the victim computers.

To operate X-Agent and X-Tunnel on the DCCC and DNC networks, Unit 26165 officers set up a group of computers outside those networks to communicate with the implanted malware.126 The first set of GRU-controlled computers, known by the GRU as ”middle servers,” sent and received messages to and from malware on the DNC/DCCC networks. The middle servers, in turn, relayed messages to a second set of GRU-controlled computers, labeled internally by the GRU as an ”AMS Panel.” The AMS Panel __________________ ______________ served as a nerve center through which GRU officers monitored and directed the malware’s operations on the DNC/DCCC networks.127

The AMS Panel used to control X-Agent during the DCCC and DNC intrusions was housed on a leased computer located near ____ _________ Arizona.128 _____________ ___________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.129

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. _____ _____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________. _________ _________ ________ ___ ______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ______ ______ ________ ___ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ _________. _____________ _____ ________ _________ ____ __________ ____ __ _____ ____ ________ _________ ________ ______ __ ___ ________.

_____________ ___________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. ______ ____ _____ ______ __ _____________ __ __________ ______ ____ _______ _______ __ ______ ______ ________. _____________ _____ ___________ ______________ ______ _____________ ______ ___ ________ _____ _________ ___________ _______ ______ __ ___ ________.

The Arizona-based AMS Panel also stored thousands of files containing keylogging sessions captured through X-Agent. These sessions were captured as GRU officers monitored DCCC and DNC employees’ work on infected computers regularly between April 2016 and June 2016. Data captured in these key logging sessions included passwords, internal communications between employees, banking information, and sensitive personal information.

Theft of Documents from DNC and DCCC Networks Officers from Unit 26165 stole thousands of documents from the DCCC and DNC networks, including significant amounts of data pertaining to the 2016 U.S. federal elections. Stolen documents included internal strategy documents, fundraising data, opposition research, and emails from the work inboxes of DNC employees.130

The GRU began stealing DCCC data shortly after it gained access to the network. On April 14, 2016 (approximately three days after the initial intrusion) GRU officers downloaded rar.exe onto the DCCC’s document server. The following day, the GRU searched one compromised DCCC computer for files containing search terms that included ”Hillary,” ”DNC,” ”Cruz,” and ”Trump.”131 On April 25, 2016, the GRU collected and compressed PDF and Microsoft documents from folders on the DCCC’s shared file server that pertained to the 2016 election.132 The GRU appears to have compressed and exfiltrated over 70 gigabytes of data from this file server.133

The GRU also stole documents from the DNC network shortly after gaining access. On April 22, 2016, the GRU copied files from the DNC network to GRU-controlled computers. Stolen documents included the DNC’s opposition research into candidate Trump.134 Between approximately May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, GRU officers accessed the DNC’s mail server from a GRU-controlled computer leased inside the United States.135 During these connections, Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.136

B. Dissemination of the Hacked Materials

The GRU’s operations extended beyond stealing materials, and included releasing documents stolen from the Clinton Campaign and its supporters. The GRU carried out the anonymous release through two fictitious online personas that it created—DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0—and later through the organization WikiLeaks.

1. DCLeaks

The GRU began planning the releases at least as early as April 19, 2016, when Unit 26165 registered the domain dcleaks.com through a service that anonymized the registrant.137 Unit 26165 paid for the registration using a pool of bitcoin that it had mined.138 The dcleaks.com landing page pointed to different tranches of stolen documents, arranged by victim or subject matter. Other dcleaks.com pages contained indexes of the stolen emails that were being released (bearing the sender, recipient, and date of the email). To control access and the timing of releases, pages were sometimes password-protected for a period of time and later made unrestricted to the public.

Starting in June 2016, the GRU posted stolen documents onto the website dcleaks.com, including documents stolen from a number of individuals associated with the Clinton Campaign. These documents appeared to have originated from personal email accounts (in particular, Google and Microsoft accounts), rather than the DNC and DCCC computer networks. DCLeaks victims included an advisor to the Clinton Campaign, a former DNC employee and Clinton Campaign employee, and four other campaign volunteers.139 The GRU released through dcleaks.com thousands of documents, including personal identifying and financial information, internal correspondence related to the Clinton Campaign and prior political jobs, and fundraising files and information.140

GRU officers operated a Facebook page under the DCLeaks moniker, which they primarily used to promote releases of materials.141 The Facebook page was administered through a small number of preexisting GRU-controlled Facebook accounts.142

GRU officers also used the DCLeaks Facebook account, the Twitter account dcleaks_, and the email account dcleaksprojectgmail.com to communicate privately with reporters and other U.S. persons. GRU officers using the DCLeaks persona gave certain reporters early access to archives of leaked files by sending them links and passwords to pages on the dcleaks.com website that had not yet become public. For example, on July 14, 2016, GRU officers operating under the DCLeaks persona sent a link and password for a non-public DCLeaks webpage to a U.S. reporter via the Facebook account.143 Similarly, on September 14, 2016, GRU officers sent reporters Twitter direct messages from dcleaks_, with a password to another non-public part of the dcleaks.com website.144

The DCLeaks.com website remained operational and public until March 2017.

2. Guccifer 2.0

On June 14, 2016, the DNC and its cyber-response team announced the breach of the DNC network and suspected theft of DNC documents. In the statements, the cyber-response team alleged that Russian state-sponsored actors (which they referred to as ”Fancy Bear”) were responsible for the breach.145 Apparently in response to that announcement, on June 15, 2016, GRU officers using the persona Guccifer 2.0 created a WordPress blog. In the hours leading up to the launch of that WordPress blog, GRU officers logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and searched for a number of specific words and phrases in English, including ”some hundred sheets,” ”illuminati,” and ”worldwide known.” Approximately two hours after the last of those searches, Guccifer 2.0 published its first post, attributing the DNC server hack to a lone Romanian hacker and using several of the unique English words and phrases that the GRU officers had searched for that day.146

That same day, June 15, 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog to begin releasing to the public documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC computer networks. The Guccifer 2.0 persona ultimately released thousands of documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC in a series of blog posts between June 15, 2016 and October 18, 2016.147 Released documents included opposition research performed by the DNC (including a memorandum analyzing potential criticisms of candidate Trump), internal policy documents (such as recommendations on how to address politically sensitive issues), analyses of specific congressional races, and fundraising documents. Releases were organized around thematic issues, such as specific states (e.g., Florida and Pennsylvania) that were perceived as competitive in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Beginning in late June 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release documents directly to reporters and other interested individuals. Specifically, on June 27, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 sent an email to the news outlet The Smoking Gun offering to provide ”exclusive access to some leaked emails linked [to] Hillary Clinton’s staff.”148 The GRU later sent the reporter a password and link to a locked portion of the dcleaks.com website that contained an archive of emails stolen by Unit 26165 from a Clinton Campaign volunteer in March 2016.149 That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.150

The GRU continued its release efforts through Guccifer 2.0 into August 2016. For example, on August 15, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a candidate for the U.S. Congress documents related to the candidate’s opponent.151 On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona transferred approximately 2.5 gigabytes of Florida-related data stolen from the DCCC to a U.S. blogger covering Florida politics.152 On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a U.S. reporter documents stolen from the DCCC pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement.153

The GRU was also in contact through the Guccifer 2.0 persona with ________ _________ a former Trump Campaign member ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ _______ _________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.154 In early August 2016, ________ ___ _____________ _________ Twitter’s suspension of the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account. After it was reinstated, GRU officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 wrote _______ a private message, ”thank u for writing back … do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On August 17, 2016, the GRU added, ”please tell me if i can help u anyhow … it would be a great pleasure to me.” On September 9, 2016, the GRU—again posing as Guccifer 2.0—referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked _______ ”what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” _______ responded, ”pretty standard.”155 The investigation did not identify evidence of other communications between _______ and Guccifer 2.0.

3. Use of WikiLeaks

In order to expand its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks. GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks’s private communication system.

WikiLeaks’s Expressed Opposition Toward the Clinton Campaign WikiLeaks, and particularly its founder Julian Assange, privately expressed opposition to candidate Clinton well before the first release of stolen documents. In November 2015, Assange wrote to other members and associates of WikiLeaks that ”[w]e believe it would be much better for GOP to win…. Dems+Media+liberals woudl [sic] then form a block to reign in their worst qualities…. With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities., dems+media+neoliberals will be mute…. She’s a bright, well connected, sadisitic sociopath.”156

In March 2016, WikiLeaks released a searchable archive of approximately 30,000 Clinton emails that had been obtained through FOIA litigation.157 While designing the archive, one WikiLeaks member explained the reason for building the archive to another associate:

[W]e want this repository to become ”the place” to search for background on hillary’s plotting at the state department during 2009–2013…. Firstly because its useful and will annoy Hillary, but secondly because we want to be seen to be a resource/player in the US election, because eit [sic] may en[]courage people to send us even more important leaks.158

WikiLeaks’s First Contact with Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks Shortly after the GRU’s first release of stolen documents through dcleaks.com in June 2016, GRU officers also used the DCLeaks persona to contact WikiLeaks about possible coordination in the future release of stolen emails. On June 14, 2016, dcleaks_ sent a direct message to WikiLeaks, noting, ”You announced your organization was preparing to publish more Hillary’s emails. We are ready to support you. We have some sensitive information too, in particular, her financial documents. Let’s do it together. What do you think about publishing our info at the same moment? Thank you.”159 _____________ ___________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ ____.

Around the same time, WikiLeaks initiated communications with the GRU persona Guccifer 2.0 shortly after it was used to release documents stolen from the DNC. On June 22, 2016, seven days after Guccifer 2.0’s first releases of stolen DNC documents, WikiLeaks used Twitter’s direct message function to contact the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account and suggest that Guccifer 2.0 ”[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”160

On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing, ”if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, ”ok … i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, ”we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”161

The GRU’s Transfer of Stolen Materials to WikiLeaks Both the GRU and WikiLeaks sought to hide their communications, which has limited the Office’s ability to collect all of the communications between them. Thus, although it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks, ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ _______________ ____.

The Office was able to identify when the GRU (operating through its personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks) transferred some of the stolen documents to WikiLeaks through online archives set up by the GRU. Assange had access to the internet from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England. __________________ _______________ ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ____________162

On July 14, 2016, GRU officers used a Guccifer 2.0 email account to send WikiLeaks an email bearing the subject ”big archive” and the message ”a new attempt.”163 The email contained an encrypted attachment with the name ”wk dnc link1.txt.gpg.”164 Using the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account, GRU officers sent WikiLeaks an encrypted file and instructions on how to open it.165 On July 18, 2016, WikiLeaks confirmed in a direct message to the Guccifer 2.0 account that it had ”the 1 Gb or so archive” and would make a release of the stolen documents ”this week.”166 On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released over 20,000 emails and other documents stolen from the DNC computer networks.167 The Democratic National Convention began three days later.

Similar communications occurred between WikiLeaks and the GRU-operated persona DCLeaks. On September 15, 2016, dcleaks wrote to WikiLeaks, ”hi there! I’m from DC Leaks. How could we discuss some submission-related issues? Am trying to reach out to you via your secured chat but getting no response. I’ve got something that might interest you. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.”168 The WikiLeaks account responded, ”Hi there,” without further elaboration. The dcleaks_ account did not respond immediately.

The same day, the Twitter account guccifer_2 sent dcleaks_ a direct message, which is the first known contact between the personas.169 During subsequent communications, the Guccifer 2.0 persona informed DCLeaks that WikiLeaks was trying to contact DCLeaks and arrange for a way to speak through encrypted emails.170

An analysis of the metadata collected from the WikiLeaks site revealed that the stolen Podesta emails show a creation date of September 19, 2016.171 Based on information about Assange’s computer and its possible operating system, this date may be when the GRU staged the stolen Podesta emails for transfer to WikiLeaks (as the GRU had previously done in July 2016 for the DNC emails).172 The WikiLeaks site also released PDFs and other documents taken from Podesta that were attachments to emails in his account; these documents had a creation date of October 2, 2016, which appears to be the date the attachments were separately staged by WikiLeaks on its site.173

Beginning on September 20, 2016, WikiLeaks and DCLeaks resumed communications in a brief exchange. On September 22, 2016, a DCLeaks email account dcleaksprojectgmail.com sent an email to a WikiLeaks account with the subject ”Submission” and the message ”Hi from DCLeaks.” The email contained a PGP-encrypted message with the filename ”wiki_mail.txt.gpg.”174 _____________ __________ The email, however, bears a number of similarities to the July 14, 2016 email in which GRU officers used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to give WikiLeaks access to the archive of DNC files. On September 22, 2016 (the same day of DCLeaks’ email to WikiLeaks), the Twitter account dcleaks sent a single message to WikiLeaks with the string of characters __________________ _______________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.

The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016. For example, public reporting identified Andrew Müller-Maguhn as a WikiLeaks associate who may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks.175 _____________ ___________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.176

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first emails stolen from the Podesta email account. In total, WikiLeaks released 33 tranches of stolen emails between October 7, 2016 and November 7, 2016. The releases included private speeches given by Clinton;177 internal communications between Podesta and other high-ranking members of the Clinton Campaign;178 and correspondence related to the Clinton Foundation.179 In total, WikiLeaks released over 50,000 documents stolen from Podesta’s personal email account. The last-in-time email released from Podesta’s account was dated March 21, 2016, two days after Podesta received a spearphishing email sent by the GRU.

WikiLeaks Statements Dissembling About the Source of Stolen Materials As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016. The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails. On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter account posted: ”ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.”180 Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, ”Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?” and responded, ”We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged Wikileaks sources.” The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, ”I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.” Assange replied, ”If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected. But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”181

After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking. According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an ”inside job,” and purported to have ”physical proof’ that Russians did not give materials to Assange.182

4. Additional GRU Cyber Operations

While releasing the stolen emails and documents through DCLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, and WikiLeaks, GRU officers continued to target and hack victims linked to the Democratic campaign and, eventually, to target entities responsible for election administration in several states.

Summer and Fall 2016 Operations Targeting Democrat-Linked Victims On July 27 2016, Unit 26165 targeted email accounts connected to candidate Clinton’s personal office ____________ ___________. Earlier that day, candidate Trump made public statements that included the following: ”Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”183 The ”30,000 emails” were apparently a reference to emails described in media accounts as having been stored on a personal server that candidate Clinton had used while serving as Secretary of State.

Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts at the domain ____________ ___________ including an email account belonging to Clinton aide ____________ ___________. The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.184

Unit 26165 officers also hacked into a DNC account hosted on a cloud-computing service ____________ ___________. On September 20, 2016, the GRU began to generate copies of the DNC data ____________ ___________ function designed to allow users to produce backups of databases (referred to ____________ ___________ as “snapshots”). The GRU then stole those snapshots by moving them to ____________ ___________ account that they controlled; from there, the copies were moved to GRU-controlled computers. The GRU stole approximately 300 gigabytes of data from the DNC cloud-based account.185

5. Intrusions Targeting the Administration of U.S. Elections

In addition to targeting individuals involved in the Clinton Campaign, GRU officers also targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of the elections. Victims included U.S. state and local entities, such as state boards of elections (SBOEs), secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities.186 The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration software and electronic polling stations.187 The GRU continued to target these victims through the elections in November 2016. While the investigation identified evidence that the GRU targeted these individuals and entities, the Office did not investigate further. The Office did not, for instance, obtain or examine servers or other relevant items belonging to these victims. The Office understands that the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the states have separately investigated that activity.

By at least the summer of 2016, GRU officers sought access to state and local computer networks by exploiting known software vulnerabilities on websites of state and local governmental entities. GRU officers, for example, targeted state and local databases of registered voters using a technique known as ”SQL injection,” by which malicious code was sent to the state or local website in order to run commands (such as exfiltrating the database contents).188 In one instance in approximately June 2016, the GRU compromised the computer network of the Illinois State Board of Elections by exploiting a vulnerability in the SBOE’s website. The GRU then gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters,189 and extracted data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.190

GRU officers __________________ ______________ scanned state and local websites for vulnerabilities. For example, over a two-day period in July 2016, GRU officers __________________ ___________ _______ ______ ______ ___ ______ for vulnerabilities on websites of more than two dozen states. __________________ _______________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______. Similar __________________ _______________ for vulnerabilities continued through the election.

Unit 74455 also sent spearphishing emails to public officials involved in election administration and personnel at companies involved in voting technology. In August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of ____________ ___________, a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network. Similarly, in November 2016, the GRU sent spearphishing emails to over 120 email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election.191 The spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer.192 The FBI was separately responsible for this investigation. We understand the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government. The Office did not independently verify that belief and, as explained above, did not undertake the investigative steps that would have been necessary to do so.

C. Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials

The Trump Campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016. ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ ______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ______ ___________ ________________ ____________ __________ _____ ___ _______ __ __ _________ _________.

1. [■■■■■■■■ Harm to Ongoing Matter]

Background ______ __ ________ ________ _______ ______ _____ ___ ______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ __ ______ __ ______ ______ ______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.

Contacts with the Campaign about WikiLeaks ______ __ ________ ________ _______ ______ _____ ___ ______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ __ ______ __ ______ ______ ______.193 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ __ ________ _________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. On June 12, 2016, Assange claimed in a televised interview to ”have emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,”194 but provided no additional context.

In debriefings with the Office, former campaign chairman Rick Gates said that, ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ______________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.195 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found.196

Paul Manafort, who would later become campaign chairman, ________ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.197 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.198

Michael Cohen, former executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald J. Trump,199 told the Office that he recalled an incident in which he was in candidate Trump’s office in Trump Tower ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ________ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.200 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.201 Cohen further told the Office that, after WikiLeaks’s subsequent release of stolen DNC emails in July 2016, candidate Trump said to Cohen something to the effect of, ________ ___ _____________ _______.202

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. According to Gates, Manafort expressed excitement about the release ________ ___ _____________ _______203 Manafort, for his part, told the Office that, shortly after Wikileaks’s July 22 release, Manafort also spoke with candidate Trump ________ ___ _____________ __________ ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ____________ ____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.204 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.205 Manafort also ________ ___ _____________ _________ wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch ________ ___ _____________ _________ about future WikiLeaks releases.206

According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.207 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.208 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______ while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport. ________ ___ _____________ __________ ______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______., shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.209

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.210

[■■■■■■■■: Harm to Ongoing Matter] ______ __ ________ ________ _______ ______ _____ ___ ______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ __ ______ __ ______ ______ ______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.211 Corsi is an author who holds a doctorate in political science.212 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.213

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _______ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.214 Corsi told the Office during interviews that he “must have” previously discussed Assange with Malloch.215 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.216 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.217

_______ ______ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. According to Malloch, Corsi asked him to put Corsi in touch with Assange, whom Corsi wished to interview. Malloch recalled that Corsi also suggested that individuals in the ”orbit” of U.K. politician Nigel Farage might be able to contact Assange and asked if Malloch knew them. Malloch told Corsi that he would think about the request but made no actual attempt to connect Corsi with Assange.218

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ __ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.219 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.220

Malloch stated to investigators that beginning in or about August 2016, he and Corsi had multiple FaceTime discussions about WikiLeaks ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ ______ had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day and would be helpful to the Trump Campaign. In one conversation in or around August or September 2016, Corsi told Malloch that the release of the Podesta emails was coming, after which ”we” were going to be in the driver’s seat.221

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.222 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.223 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.224 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.225

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.226 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.227 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.228)

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.229 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.230 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.231 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.232

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.233 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.234 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.235 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.236 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.237 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.238

WikiLeaks’s October 7, 2016 Release of Stolen Podesta Emails On October 7, 2016, four days after the Assange press conference ________ ___ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ ____, the Washington Post published an Access Hollywood video that captured comments by candidate Trump some years earlier and that was expected to adversely affect the Campaign.239 Less than an hour after the video’s publication, WikiLeaks released the first set of emails stolen by the GRU from the account of Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta.

______ __ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.240 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.241 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.242

______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.243 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ __ ________ _________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________. Corsi said that, because he had no direct means of communicating with WikiLeaks, he told members of the news site WND—who were participating on a conference call with him that day—to reach Assange immediately.244 Corsi claimed that the pressure was enormous and recalled telling the conference call the Access Hollywood tape was coming.245 Corsi stated that he was convinced that his efforts had caused WikiLeaks to release the emails when they did.246 In a later November 2018 interview, Corsi stated that he thought that he had told people on a WND conference call about the forthcoming tape and had sent out a tweet asking whether anyone could contact Assange, but then said that maybe he had done nothing.247

The Office investigated Corsi’s allegations about the events of October 7, 2016 but found little corroboration for his allegations about the day.248 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.249 ______ __ _________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ __________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.250 However, the phone records themselves do not indicate that the conversation was with any of the reporters who broke the Access Hollywood story, and the Office has not otherwise been able to identify the substance of the conversation. ________ ___ _____________ __________ _________ _________ ________ ___ ______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ ______.251 However, the Office has not identified any conference call participant, or anyone who spoke to Corsi that day, who says that they received non-public information about the tape from Corsi or acknowledged having contacted a member of WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016 after a conversation with Corsi.

Donald Trump Jr. Interaction with WikiLeaks Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period. On September 20, 2016, an individual named Jason Fishbein sent WikiLeaks the password for an unlaunched website focused on Trump’s ”unprecedented and dangerous” ties to Russia, PutinTrump.org.252 WikiLeaks publicly tweeted: ’”Let’s bomb Iraq’ Progress for America PAC to launch ”PutinTrump.org’ at 9:30am. Oops pw is ’putintrump’ putintrump.org.” Several hours later, WikiLeaks sent a Twitter direct message to Donald Trump Jr., ”A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ’putintrump.’ See ’About’ for who is behind it. Any comments ?”253

Several hours later, Trump Jr. emailed a variety of senior campaign staff:

Guys I got a weird Twitter DM from wikileaks. See below. I tried the password and it works and the about section they reference contains the next pic in terms of who is behind it. Not sure if this is anything but it seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me as I follow them and it is a DM. Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be? These are just screen shots but it’s a fully built out page claiming to be a PAC let me know your thoughts and if we want to look into it.254

Trump Jr. attached a screenshot of the ”About” page for the unlaunched site PutinTrump.org. The next day (after the website had launched publicly), Trump Jr. sent a direct message to WikiLeaks: ”Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”255

On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr., asking ”you guys” to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated using a drone to target Julian Assange. Trump Jr. responded that he already ”had done so,” and asked, ”what’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”256 WikiLeaks did not respond.

On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again that it was ”great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us wlsearch.tk.”257 WikiLeaks wrote that the link would help Trump in ”digging through” leaked emails and stated, ”we just released Podesta emails Part 4.”258 Two days later, Trump Jr. publicly tweeted the wlsearch.tk link.259

2. Other Potential Campaign Interest in Russian Hacked Materials

Throughout 2016, the Trump Campaign expressed interest in Hillary Clinton’s private email server and whether approximately 30,000 emails from that server had in fact been permanently destroyed, as reported by the media. Several individuals associated with the Campaign were contacted in 2016 about various efforts to obtain the missing Clinton emails and other stolen material in support of the Trump Campaign. Some of these contacts were met with skepticism, and nothing came of them; others were pursued to some degree. The investigation did not find evidence that the Trump Campaign recovered any such Clinton emails, or that these contacts were part of a coordinated effort between Russia and the Trump Campaign.

Henry Oknyansky (a/k/a Henry Greenberg) In the spring of 2016, Trump Campaign advisor Michael Caputo learned through a Florida-based Russian business partner that another Florida-based Russian, Henry Oknyansky (who also went by the name Henry Greenberg), claimed to have information pertaining to Hillary Clinton. Caputo notified Roger Stone and brokered communication between Stone and Oknyansky. Oknyansky and Stone set up a May 2016 in-person meeting.260

Oknyansky was accompanied to the meeting by Alexei Rasin, a Ukrainian associate involved in Florida real estate. At the meeting, Rasin offered to sell Stone derogatory information on Clinton that Rasin claimed to have obtained while working for Clinton. Rasin claimed to possess financial statements demonstrating Clinton’s involvement in money laundering with Rasin’s companies. According to Oknyansky, Stone asked if the amounts in question totaled millions of dollars but was told it was closer to hundreds of thousands. Stone refused the offer, stating that Trump would not pay for opposition research.261

Oknyansky claimed to the Office that Rasin’s motivation was financial. According to Oknyansky, Rasin had tried unsuccessfully to shop the Clinton information around to other interested parties, and Oknyansky would receive a cut if the information was sold.262 Rasin is noted in public source documents as the director and/or registered agent for a number of Florida companies, none of which appears to be connected to Clinton. The Office found no other evidence that Rasin worked for Clinton or any Clinton-related entities.

In their statements to investigators, Oknyansky and Caputo had contradictory recollections about the meeting. Oknyansky claimed that Caputo accompanied Stone to the meeting and provided an introduction, whereas Caputo did not tell us that he had attended and claimed that he was never told what information Oknyansky offered. Caputo also stated that he was unaware Oknyansky sought to be paid for the information until Stone informed him after the fact.263

The Office did not locate Rasin in the United States, although the Office confirmed Rasin had been issued a Florida driver’s license. The Office otherwise was unable to determine the content and origin of the information he purportedly offered to Stone. Finally, the investigation did not identify evidence of a connection between the outreach or the meeting and Russian interference efforts.

Campaign Efforts to Obtain Deleted Clinton Emails After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would ”find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.264 Michael Flynn—who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration—recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.265

Barbara Ledeen and Peter Smith were among the people contacted by Flynn. Ledeen, a long-time Senate staffer who had previously sought the Clinton emails, provided updates to Flynn about her efforts throughout the summer of 2016.266 Smith, an investment advisor who was active in Republican politics, also attempted to locate and obtain the deleted Clinton emails.267

Ledeen began her efforts to obtain the Clinton emails before Flynn’s request, as early as December 2015.268 On December 3, 2015, she emailed Smith a proposal to obtain the emails, stating, ”Here is the proposal I briefly mentioned to you. The person I described to you would be happy to talk with you either in person or over the phone. The person can get the emails which 1. Were classified and 2. Were purloined by our enemies. That would demonstrate what needs to be demonstrated.”269

Attached to the email was a 25-page proposal stating that the ”Clinton email server was, in all likelihood, breached long ago,” and that the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian intelligence services could ”re-assemble the server’s email content.”270 The proposal called for a three-phase approach. The first two phases consisted of open-source analysis. The third phase consisted of checking with certain intelligence sources ”that have access through liaison work with various foreign services” to determine if any of those services had gotten to the server. The proposal noted, ”Even if a single email was recovered and the providence [sic] of that email was a foreign service, it would be catastrophic to the Clinton campaign[.]” Smith forwarded the email to two colleagues and wrote, ”we can discuss to whom it should be referred.”271 On December 16, 2015, Smith informed Ledeen that he declined to participate in her ”initiative.” According to one of Smith’s business associates, Smith believed Ledeen’s initiative was not viable at that time.272

Just weeks after Trump’s July 2016 request to find the Clinton emails, however, Smith tried to locate and obtain the emails himself. He created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and recruited security experts and business associates. Smith made claims to others involved in the effort (and those from whom he sought funding) that he was in contact with hackers with ”ties and affiliations to Russia” who had access to the emails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump Campaign.273

On August 28, 2016, Smith sent an email from an encrypted account with the subject ”Sec. Clinton’s unsecured private email server” to an undisclosed list of recipients, including Campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. The email stated that Smith was ”[j]ust finishing two days of sensitive meetings here in DC with involved groups to poke and probe on the above. It is clear that the Clinton’s home-based, unprotected server was hacked with ease by both State-related players, and private mercenaries. Parties with varying interests, are circling to release ahead of the election.”274

On September 2, 2016, Smith directed a business associate to establish KLS Research LLC in furtherance of his search for the deleted Clinton emails.275 One of the purposes of KLS Research was to manage the funds Smith raised in support of his initiative.276 KLS Research received over $30,000 during the presidential campaign, although Smith represented that he raised even more money.277

Smith recruited multiple people for his initiative, including security experts to search for and authenticate the emails.278 In early September 2016, as part of his recruitment and fundraising effort, Smith circulated a document stating that his initiative was ”in coordination” with the Trump Campaign, ”to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure organization.”279 The document listed multiple individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign, including Flynn, Clovis, Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway.280 The investigation established that Smith communicated with at least Flynn and Clovis about his search for the deleted Clinton emails,281 but the Office did not identify evidence that any of the listed individuals initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.

In September 2016, Smith and Ledeen got back in touch with each other about their respective efforts. Ledeen wrote to Smith, ”wondering if you had some more detailed reports or memos or other data you could share because we have come a long way in our efforts since we last visited…. We would need as much technical discussion as possible so we could marry it against the new data we have found and then could share it back to you ’your eyes only.’”282

Ledeen claimed to have obtained a trove of emails (from what she described as the ”dark web”) that purported to be the deleted Clinton emails. Ledeen wanted to authenticate the emails and solicited contributions to fund that effort. Erik Prince provided funding to hire a tech advisor to ascertain the authenticity of the emails. According to Prince, the tech advisor determined that the emails were not authentic.283

A backup of Smith’s computer contained two files that had been downloaded from WikiLeaks and that were originally attached to emails received by John Podesta. The files on Smith’s computer had creation dates of October 2, 2016, which was prior to the date of their release by WikiLeaks. Forensic examination, however, established that the creation date did not reflect when the files were downloaded to Smith’s computer. (It appears the creation date was when WikiLeaks staged the document for release, as discussed in Volume I, Section III.B.3.c, supra.284) The investigation did not otherwise identify evidence that Smith obtained the files before their release by WikiLeaks.

Smith continued to send emails to an undisclosed recipient list about Clinton’s deleted emails until shortly before the election. For example, on October 28, 2016, Smith wrote that there was a ”tug-of-war going on within WikiLeaks over its planned releases in the next few days,” and that WikiLeaks ”has maintained that it will save its best revelations for last, under the theory this allows little time for response prior to the U.S. election November 8.”285 An attachment to the email claimed that WikiLeaks would release ”All 33k deleted Emails” by ”November 1st.” No emails obtained from Clinton’s server were subsequently released.

Smith drafted multiple emails stating or intimating that he was in contact with Russian hackers. For example, in one such email, Smith claimed that, in August 2016, KLS Research had organized meetings with parties who had access to the deleted Clinton emails, including parties with ”ties and affiliations to Russia.”286 The investigation did not identify evidence that any such meetings occurred. Associates and security experts who worked with Smith on the initiative did not believe that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers and were aware of no such connection.287 The investigation did not establish that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers or that Smith, Ledeen, or other individuals in touch with the Trump Campaign ultimately obtained the deleted Clinton emails.


In sum, the investigation established that the GRU hacked into email accounts of persons affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, as well as the computers of the DNC and DCCC. The GRU then exfiltrated data related to the 2016 election from these accounts and computers, and disseminated that data through fictitious online personas (DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0) and later through WikiLeaks. The investigation also established that the Trump Campaign displayed interest in the WikiLeaks releases, and that ________ ___ _____________ ________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. As explained in Volume I, Section V.B, infra, the evidence was sufficient to support computer-intrusion (and other) charges against GRU officers for their role in election-related hacking. ________ ___ ________ _________ _______ ______ ______ ___ _______ ___________ ___________ _____ ___ ___ ________ _______ __________ ___ ______ __ _______ _______ _______. ___ _______ ____ __________ ________ _____ ________ ____________ _________ _____ __ _____ ___ ________ __ __ _________ _________.

IV. Russian Government Links to and Contacts with The Trump Campaign

The Office identified multiple contacts—”links,” in the words of the Appointment Order—between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts constituted a third avenue of attempted Russian interference with or influence on the 2016 presidential election. In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

This Section describes the principal links between the Trump Campaign and individuals with ties to the Russian government, including some contacts with Campaign officials or associates that have been publicly reported to involve Russian contacts. Each subsection begins with an overview of the Russian contact at issue and then describes in detail the relevant facts, which are generally presented in chronological order, beginning with the early months of the Campaign and extending through the post-election, transition period.

A. Campaign Period (September 2015–November 8, 2016)

Russian-government-connected individuals and media entities began showing interest in Trump’s campaign in the months after he announced his candidacy in June 2015.288 Because Trump’s status as a public figure at the time was attributable in large part to his prior business and entertainment dealings, this Office investigated whether a business contact with Russia-linked individuals and entities during the campaign period—the Trump Tower Moscow project, see Volume I, Section IV.A.1, infra—led to or involved coordination of election assistance.

Outreach from individuals with ties to Russia continued in the spring and summer of 2016, when Trump was moving toward—and eventually becoming—the Republican nominee for President. As set forth below, the Office also evaluated a series of links during this period: outreach to two of Trump’s then-recently named foreign policy advisors, including a representation that Russia had ”dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails (Volume I, Sections IV.A.2 & IV.A.3); dealings with a D.C.-based think tank that specializes in Russia and has connections with its government (Volume I, Section IV.A.4); a meeting at Trump Tower between the Campaign and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on candidate Clinton that was ”part of Russia and its government’s support for [Trump]” (Volume I, Section IV.A.5); events at the Republican National Convention (Volume I, Section IV.A.6); post-Convention contacts between Trump Campaign officials and Russia’s ambassador to the United States (Volume I, Section IV.A.7); and contacts through campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who had previously worked for a Russian oligarch and a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine (Volume I, Section IV.A.8).

1. Trump Tower Moscow Project

The Trump Organization has pursued and completed projects outside the United States as part of its real estate portfolio. Some projects have involved the acquisition and ownership (through subsidiary corporate structures) of property. In other cases, the Trump Organization has executed licensing deals with real estate developers and management companies, often local to the country where the project was located.289

Between at least 2013 and 2016, the Trump Organization explored a similar licensing deal in Russia involving the construction of a Trump-branded property in Moscow. The project, commonly referred to as a ”Trump Tower Moscow” or ”Trump Moscow” project, anticipated a combination of commercial, hotel, and residential properties all within the same building. Between 2013 and June 2016, several employees of the Trump Organization, including then-president of the organization Donald J. Trump, pursued a Moscow deal with several Russian counterparties. From the fall of 2015 until the middle of 2016, Michael Cohen spearheaded the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow project, including by reporting on the project’s status to candidate Trump and other executives in the Trump Organization.290

Trump Tower Moscow Venture with the Crocus Group (2013–2014) The Trump Organization and the Crocus Group, a Russian real estate conglomerate owned and controlled by Aras Agalarov, began discussing a Russia-based real estate project shortly after the conclusion of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.291 Donald J. Trump Jr. served as the primary negotiator on behalf of the Trump Organization; Emin Agalarov (son of Aras Agalarov) and Irakli ”Ike” Kaveladze represented the Crocus Group during negotiations,292 with the occasional assistance of Robert Goldstone.293

In December 2013, Kaveladze and Trump Jr. negotiated and signed preliminary terms of an agreement for the Trump Tower Moscow project.294 On December 23, 2013, after discussions with Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization agreed to accept an arrangement whereby the organization received a flat 3.5% commission on all sales, with no licensing fees or incentives.295 The parties negotiated a letter of intent during January and February 2014.296

From January 2014 through November 2014, the Trump Organization and Crocus Group discussed development plans for the Moscow project. Some time before January 24, 2014, the Crocus Group sent the Trump Organization a proposal for a 800-unit, 194-meter building to be constructed at an Agalarov-owned site in Moscow called ”Crocus City,” which had also been the site of the Miss Universe pageant.297 In February 2014, Ivanka Trump met with Emin Agalarov and toured the Crocus City site during a visit to Moscow.298 _____________ __________ From March 2014 through July 2014, the groups discussed ”design standards” and other architectural elements.299 For example, in July 2014, members of the Trump Organization sent Crocus Group counterparties questions about the ”demographics of these prospective buyers” in the Crocus City area, the development of neighboring parcels in Crocus City, and concepts for redesigning portions of the building.300 In August 2014, the Trump Organization requested specifications for a competing Marriott-branded tower being built in Crocus City.301

Beginning in September 2014, the Trump Organization stopped responding in a timely fashion to correspondence and proposals from the Crocus Group.302 Communications between the two groups continued through November 2014 with decreasing frequency; what appears to be the last communication is dated November 24, 2014.303 The project appears not to have developed past the planning stage, and no construction occurred.

Communications with I.C. Expert Investment Company and Giorgi Rtskhiladze (Summer and Fall 2015) In the late summer of 2015, the Trump Organization received a new inquiry about pursuing a Trump Tower project in Moscow. In approximately September 2015, Felix Sater, a New York-based real estate advisor, contacted Michael Cohen, then-executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald J. Trump.304 Sater had previously worked with the Trump Organization and advised it on a number of domestic and international projects. Sater had explored the possibility of a Trump Tower project in Moscow while working with the Trump Organization and therefore knew of the organization’s general interest in completing a deal there.305 Sater had also served as an informal agent of the Trump Organization in Moscow previously and had accompanied Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to Moscow in the mid-2000s.306

Sater contacted Cohen on behalf of I.C. Expert Investment Company (I.C. Expert), a Russian real-estate development corporation controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov.307 Sater had known Rozov since approximately 2007 and, in 2014, had served as an agent on behalf of Rozov during Rozov’s purchase of a building in New York City.308 Sater later contacted Rozov and proposed that I.C. Expert pursue a Trump Tower Moscow project in which I.C. Expert would license the name and brand from the Trump Organization but construct the building on its own. Sater worked on the deal with Rozov and another employee of I.C. Expert.309

Cohen was the only Trump Organization representative to negotiate directly with I.C. Expert or its agents. In approximately September 2015, Cohen obtained approval to negotiate with I.C. Expert from candidate Trump, who was then president of the Trump Organization. Cohen provided updates directly to Trump about the project throughout 2015 and into 2016, assuring him the project was continuing.310 Cohen also discussed the Trump Moscow project with Ivanka Trump as to design elements (such as possible architects to use for the project311) and Donald J. Trump Jr. (about his experience in Moscow and possible involvement in the project312) during the fall of 2015.

Also during the fall of 2015, Cohen communicated about the Trump Moscow proposal with Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a business executive who previously had been involved in a development deal with the Trump Organization in Batumi, Georgia.313 Cohen stated that he spoke to Rtskhiladze in part because Rtskhiladze had pursued business ventures in Moscow, including a licensing deal with the Agalarov-owned Crocus Group.314 On September 22, 2015, Cohen forwarded a preliminary design study for the Trump Moscow project to Rtskhiladze, adding ”I look forward to your reply about this spectacular project in Moscow.” Rtskhiladze forwarded Cohen’s email to an associate and wrote, ”[i]f we could organize the meeting in New York at the highest level of the Russian Government and Mr. Trump this project would definitely receive the worldwide attention.”315

On September 24, 2015, Rtskhiladze sent Cohen an attachment that he described as a proposed ”[l]etter to the Mayor of Moscow from Trump org,” explaining that ”[w]e need to send this letter to the Mayor of Moscow (second guy in Russia) he is aware of the potential project and will pledge his support.”316 In a second email to Cohen sent the same day, Rtskhiladze provided a translation of the letter, which described the Trump Moscow project as a ”symbol of stronger economic, business and cultural relationships between New York and Moscow and therefore United States and the Russian Federation.”317 On September 27, 2015, Rtskhiladze sent another email to Cohen, proposing that the Trump Organization partner on the Trump Moscow project with ”Global Development Group LLC,” which he described as being controlled by Michail Posikhin, a Russian architect, and Simon Nizharadze.318 Cohen told the Office that he ultimately declined the proposal and instead continued to work with I.C. Expert, the company represented by Felix Sater.319

Letter of Intent and Contacts to Russian Government (October 2015–January 2016)

Trump Signs the Letter of Intent on behalf of the Trump Organization Between approximately October 13, 2015 and November 2, 2015, the Trump Organization (through its subsidiary Trump Acquisition, LLC) and I.C. Expert completed a letter of intent (LOI) for a Trump Moscow property. The LOI, signed by Trump for the Trump Organization and Rozov on behalf of I.C. Expert, was ”intended to facilitate further discussions” in order to ”attempt to enter into a mutually acceptable agreement” related to the Trump-branded project in Moscow.320 The LOI contemplated a development with residential, hotel, commercial, and office components, and called for”[a]pproximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums,” as well as ”[o]ne first class, luxury hotel consisting of approximately 15 floors and containing not fewer than 150 hotel rooms.”321 For the residential and commercial portions of the project, the Trump Organization would receive between 1% and 5% of all condominium sales,322 plus 3% of all rental and other revenue.323 For the project’s hotel portion, the Trump Organization would receive a base fee of 3% of gross operating revenues for the first five years and 4% thereafter, plus a separate incentive fee of 20% of operating profit.324 Under the LOI, the Trump Organization also would receive a $4 million ”up-front fee” prior to groundbreaking.325 Under these terms, the Trump Organization stood to earn substantial sums over the lifetime of the project, without assuming significant liabilities or financing commitments.326

On November 3, 2015, the day after the Trump Organization transmitted the LOI, Sater emailed Cohen suggesting that the Trump Moscow project could be used to increase candidate Trump’s chances at being elected, writing:

Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process…. Michael, Putin gets on stage with Donald for a ribbon cutting for Trump Moscow, and Donald owns the republican nomination. And possibly beats Hillary and our boy is in…. We will manage this process better than anyone. You and I will get Donald and Vladimir on a stage together very shortly. That the game changer.327

Later that day, Sater followed up:

Donald doesn’t stare down, he negotiates and understands the economic issues and Putin only wants to deal with a pragmatic leader, and a successful business man is a good candidate for someone who knows how to negotiate. ”Business, politics, whatever it all is the same for someone who knows how to deal” I think I can get Putin to say that at the Trump Moscow press conference. If he says it we own this election. America’s most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate…. We can own this election. Michael my next steps are very sensitive with Putin’s very very close people, we can pull this off. Michael lets go. 2 boys from Brooklyn getting a USA president elected. This is good really good.328

According to Cohen, he did not consider the political import of the Trump Moscow project to the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the time. Cohen also did not recall candidate Trump or anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign discussing the political implications of the Trump Moscow project with him. However, Cohen recalled conversations with Trump in which the candidate suggested that his campaign would be a significant ”infomercial” for Trump-branded properties.329

Post-LOI Contacts with Individuals in Russia Given the size of the Trump Moscow project, Sater and Cohen believed the project required approval (whether express or implicit) from the Russian national government, including from the Presidential Administration of Russia.330 Sater stated that he therefore began to contact the Presidential Administration through another Russian business contact.331 In early negotiations with the Trump Organization, Sater had alluded to the need for government approval and his attempts to set up meetings with Russian officials. On October 12, 2015, for example, Sater wrote to Cohen that ”all we need is Putin on board and we are golden,” and that a ”meeting with Putin and top deputy is tentatively set for the 14th [of October].”332 ______ _____ this meeting was being coordinated by associates in Russia and that he had no direct interaction with the Russian government.333

Approximately a month later, after the LOI had been signed, Lana Erchova emailed Ivanka Trump on behalf of Erchova’s then-husband Dmitry Klokov, to offer Klokov’s assistance to the Trump Campaign.334 Klokov was at that time Director of External Communications for PJSC Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System, a large Russian electricity transmission company, and had been previously employed as an aide and press secretary to Russia’s energy minister. Ivanka Trump forwarded the email to Cohen.335 He told the Office that, after receiving this inquiry, he had conducted an internet search for Klokov’s name and concluded (incorrectly) that Klokov was a former Olympic weightlifter.336

Between November 18 and 19, 2015, Klokov and Cohen had at least one telephone call and exchanged several emails. Describing himself in emails to Cohen as a ”trusted person” who could offer the Campaign ”political synergy” and ”synergy on a government level,” Klokov recommended that Cohen travel to Russia to speak with him and an unidentified intermediary. Klokov said that those conversations could facilitate a later meeting in Russia between the candidate and an individual Klokov described as ”our person of interest.”337 In an email to the Office, Erchova later identified the ”person of interest” as Russian President Vladimir Putin.338

In the telephone call and follow-on emails with Klokov, Cohen discussed his desire to use a near-term trip to Russia to do site surveys and talk over the Trump Moscow project with local developers. Cohen registered his willingness also to meet with Klokov and the unidentified intermediary, but was emphatic that all meetings in Russia involving him or candidate Trump—including a possible meeting between candidate Trump and Putin—would need to be ”in conjunction with the development and an official visit” with the Trump Organization receiving a formal invitation to visit.339 (Klokov had written previously that ”the visit [by candidate Trump to Russia] has to be informal.”)340

Klokov had also previously recommended to Cohen that he separate their negotiations over a possible meeting between Trump and ”the person of interest” from any existing business track.341 Re-emphasizing that his outreach was not done on behalf of any business, Klokov added in second email to Cohen that, if publicized well, such a meeting could have ”phenomenal” impact ”in a business dimension” and that the ”person of interest[’s]” ”most important support” could have significant ramifications for the ”level of projects and their capacity.” Klokov concluded by telling Cohen that there was ”no bigger warranty in any project than [the] consent of the person of interest.”342 Cohen rejected the proposal, saying that ”[c]urrently our LOI developer is in talks with VP’s Chief of Staff and arranging a formal invite for the two to meet.”343 This email appears to be their final exchange, and the investigation did not identify evidence that Cohen brought Klokov’s initial offer of assistance to the Campaign’s attention or that anyone associated with the Trump Organization or the Campaign dealt with Klokov at a later date. Cohen explained that he did not pursue the proposed meeting because he was already working on the Moscow Project with Sater, who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.344

By late December 2015, however, Cohen was complaining that Sater had not been able to use those connections to set up the promised meeting with Russian government officials. Cohen told Sater that he was ”setting up the meeting myself.”345 On January 11, 2016, Cohen emailed the office of Dmitry Peskov, the Russian government’s press secretary, indicating that he desired contact with Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff. Cohen erroneously used the email address ”Pr_peskovaprpress.gof.ru” instead of ”Pr_peskova@prpress.gov.ru,” so the email apparently did not go through.346 On January 14, 2016, Cohen emailed a different address (infoprpress.gov.ru) with the following message:

Dear Mr. Peskov,

Over the past few months, I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City. Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you; contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon.347

Two days later, Cohen sent an email to Pr_peskovaprpress.gov.ru, repeating his request to speak with Sergei Ivanov.348

Cohen testified to Congress, and initially told the Office, that he did not recall receiving a response to this email inquiry and that he decided to terminate any further work on the Trump Moscow project as of January 2016. Cohen later admitted that these statements were false. In fact, Cohen had received (and recalled receiving) a response to his inquiry, and he continued to work on and update candidate Trump on the project through as late as June 2016.349

On January 20, 2016, Cohen received an email from Elena Poliakova, Peskov’s personal assistant. Writing from her personal email account, Poliakova stated that she had been trying to reach Cohen and asked that he call her on the personal number that she provided.350 Shortly after receiving Poliakova’s email, Cohen called and spoke to her for 20 minutes.351 Cohen described to Poliakova his position at the Trump Organization and outlined the proposed Trump Moscow project, including information about the Russian counterparty with which the Trump Organization had partnered. Cohen requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the project and with financing. According to Cohen, Poliakova asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would need to follow up with others in Russia.352

Cohen could not recall any direct follow-up from Poliakova or from any other representative of the Russian government, nor did the Office identify any evidence of direct follow-up. However, the day after Cohen’s call with Poliakova, Sater texted Cohen, asking him to ”[c]all me when you have a few minutes to chat … It’s about Putin they called today.”353 Sater then sent a draft invitation for Cohen to visit Moscow to discuss the Trump Moscow project,354 along with a note to ”[t]ell me if the letter is good as amended by me or make whatever changes you want and send it back to me.”355 After a further round of edits, on January 25, 2016, Sater sent Cohen an invitation—signed by Andrey Ryabinskiy of the company MHJ—to travel to ”Moscow for a working visit” about the ”prospects of development and the construction business in Russia,” ”the various land plots available suited for construction of this enormous Tower,” and ”the opportunity to co-ordinate a follow up visit to Moscow by Mr. Donald Trump.”356 According to Cohen, he elected not to travel at the time because of concerns about the lack of concrete proposals about land plots that could be considered as options for the project.357

Discussions about Russia Travel by Michael Cohen or Candidate Trump (December 2015–June 2016)

Sater’s Overtures to Cohen to Travel to Russia The late January communication was neither the first nor the last time that Cohen contemplated visiting Russia in pursuit of the Trump Moscow project. Beginning in late 2015, Sater repeatedly tried to arrange for Cohen and candidate Trump, as representatives of the Trump Organization, to travel to Russia to meet with Russian government officials and possible financing partners. In December 2015, Sater sent Cohen a number of emails about logistics for traveling to Russia for meetings.358 On December 19, 2015, Sater wrote:

Please call me I have Evgeney [Dvoskin] on the other line.359 He needs a copy of your and Donald’s passports they need a scan of every page of the passports. Invitations & Visas will be issued this week by VTB Bank to discuss financing for Trump Tower Moscow. Politically neither Putins office nor Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot issue invite, so they are inviting commercially/business. VTB is Russia’s 2 biggest bank and VTB Bank CEO Andrey Kostin, will be at all meetings with Putin so that it is a business meeting not political. We will be invited to Russian consulate this week to receive invite & have visa issued.360

In response, Cohen texted Sater an image of his own passport.361 Cohen told the Office that at one point he requested a copy of candidate Trump’s passport from Rhona Graff, Trump’s executive assistant at the Trump Organization, and that Graff later brought Trump’s passport to Cohen’s office.362 The investigation did not, however, establish that the passport was forwarded to Sater.363

Into the spring of 2016, Sater and Cohen continued to discuss a trip to Moscow in connection with the Trump Moscow project. On April 20, 2016, Sater wrote Cohen, ”[t]he People wanted to know when you are coming?”364 On May 4, 2016, Sater followed up:

I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. I said I believe, but don’t know for sure, that it’s probably after the convention. Obviously the pre-meeting trip (you only) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys where [sic] the question. I said I would confirm and revert…. Let me know about If I was right by saying I believe after Cleveland and also when you want to speak to them and possibly fly over.365

Cohen responded, ”My trip before Cleveland. Trump once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”366

The day after this exchange, Sater tied Cohen’s travel to Russia to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (”Forum”), an annual event attended by prominent Russian politicians and businessmen. Sater told the Office that he was informed by a business associate that Peskov wanted to invite Cohen to the Forum.367 On May 5, 2016, Sater wrote to Cohen:

Peskov would like to invite you as his guest to the St. Petersburg Forum which is Russia’s Davos it’s June 16–19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either Putin or Medvedev, as they are not sure if 1 or both will be there. This is perfect. The entire business class of Russia will be there as well. He said anything you want to discuss including dates and subjects are on the table to discuss[.]368

The following day, Sater asked Cohen to confirm those dates would work for him to travel; Cohen wrote back, ”[w]orks for me.”369

On June 9, 2016, Sater sent Cohen a notice that he (Sater) was completing the badges for the Forum, adding, ”Putin is there on the 17th very strong chance you will meet him as well.”370 On June 13, 2016, Sater forwarded Cohen an invitation to the Forum signed by the Director of the Roscongress Foundation, the Russian entity organizing the Forum.371 Sater also sent Cohen a Russian visa application and asked him to send two passport photos.372 According to Cohen, the invitation gave no indication that Peskov had been involved in inviting him. Cohen was concerned that Russian officials were not actually involved or were not interested in meeting with him (as Sater had alleged), and so he decided not to go to the Forum.373 On June 14, 2016, Cohen met Sater in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York and informed him that he would not be traveling at that time.374

Candidate Trump’s Opportunities to Travel to Russia The investigation identified evidence that, during the period the Trump Moscow project was under consideration, the possibility of candidate Trump visiting Russia arose in two contexts.

First, in interviews with the Office, Cohen stated that he discussed the subject of traveling to Russia with Trump twice: once in late 2015; and again in spring 2016.375 According to Cohen, Trump indicated a willingness to travel if it would assist the project significantly. On one occasion, Trump told Cohen to speak with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to coordinate the candidate’s schedule. Cohen recalled that he spoke with Lewandowski, who suggested that they speak again when Cohen had actual dates to evaluate. Cohen indicated, however, that he knew that travel prior to the Republican National Convention would be impossible given the candidate’s preexisting commitments to the Campaign.376

Second, like Cohen, Trump received and turned down an invitation to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. In late December 2015, Mira Duma—a contact of Ivanka Trump’s from the fashion industry—first passed along invitations for Ivanka Trump and candidate Trump from Sergei Prikhodko, a Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.377 On January 14, 2016, Rhona Graff sent an email to Duma stating that Trump was ”honored to be asked to participate in the highly prestigious” Forum event, but that he would ”have to decline” the invitation given his ”very grueling and full travel schedule” as a presidential candidate.378 Graff asked Duma whether she recommended that Graff ”send a formal note to the Deputy Prime Minister” declining his invitation; Duma replied that a formal note would be ”great.”379

It does not appear that Graff prepared that note immediately. According to written answers from President Trump,380 Graff received an email from Deputy Prime Minister Prikhodko on March 17, 2016, again inviting Trump to participate in the 2016 Forum in St. Petersburg.381 Two weeks later, on March 31, 2016, Graff prepared for Trump’s signature a two-paragraph letter declining the invitation.382 The letter stated that Trump’s ”schedule has become extremely demanding” because of the presidential campaign, that he ”already ha[d] several commitments in the United States” for the time of the Forum, but that he otherwise ”would have gladly given every consideration to attending such an important event.”383 Graff forwarded the letter to another executive assistant at the Trump Organization with instructions to print the document on letterhead for Trump to sign.384

At approximately the same time that the letter was being prepared, Robert Foresman—a New York-based investment banker—began reaching out to Graff to secure an in-person meeting with candidate Trump. According to Foresman, he had been asked by Anton Kobyakov, a Russian presidential aide involved with the Roscongress Foundation, to see if Trump could speak at the Forum.385 Foresman first emailed Graff on March 31, 2016, following a phone introduction brokered through Trump business associate Mark Burnett (who produced the television show The Apprentice). In his email, Foresman referenced his long-standing personal and professional expertise in Russia and Ukraine, his work setting up an early ”private channel” between Vladimir Putin and former U.S. President George W. Bush, and an ”approach” he had received from ”senior Kremlin officials” about the candidate. Foresman asked Graff for a meeting with the candidate, Corey Lewandowski, or ”another relevant person” to discuss this and other ”concrete things” Foresman felt uncomfortable discussing over ”unsecure email.”386 On April 4, 2016, Graff forwarded Foresman’s meeting request to Jessica Macchia, another executive assistant to Trump.387

With no response forthcoming, Foresman twice sent reminders to Graff—first on April 26 and again on April 30, 2016.388 Graff sent an apology to Foresman and forwarded his April 26 email (as well as his initial March 2016 email) to Lewandowski.389 On May 2, 2016, Graff forwarded Foresman’s April 30 email—which suggested an alternative meeting with Donald Trump Jr. or Eric Trump so that Foresman could convey to them information that ”should be conveyed to [the candidate] personally or [to] someone [the candidate] absolutely trusts”—to policy advisor Stephen Miller.390

No communications or other evidence obtained by the Office indicate that the Trump Campaign learned that Foresman was reaching out to invite the candidate to the Forum or that the Campaign otherwise followed up with Foresman until after the election, when he interacted with the Transition Team as he pursued a possible position in the incoming Administration.391 When interviewed by the Office, Foresman denied that the specific ”approach” from ”senior Kremlin officials” noted in his March 31, 2016 email was anything other than Kobyakov’s invitation to Roscongress. According to Foresman, the ”concrete things” he referenced in the same email were a combination of the invitation itself, Foresman’s personal perspectives on the invitation and Russia policy in general, and details of a Ukraine plan supported by a U.S. think tank (EastWest Institute). Foresman told the Office that Kobyakov had extended similar invitations through him to another Republican presidential candidate and one other politician. Foresman also said that Kobyakov had asked Foresman to invite Trump to speak after that other presidential candidate withdrew from the race and the other politician’s participation did not work out.392 Finally, Foresman claimed to have no plans to establish a back channel involving Trump, stating the reference to his involvement in the Bush–Putin back channel was meant to burnish his credentials to the Campaign. Foresman commented that he had not recognized any of the experts announced as Trump’s foreign policy team in March 2016, and wanted to secure an in-person meeting with the candidate to share his professional background and policy views, including that Trump should decline Kobyakov’s invitation to speak at the Forum.393

2. George Papadopoulos

George Papadopoulos was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump Campaign from March 2016 to early October 2016.394 In late April 2016, Papadopoulos was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, immediately after Mifsud’s return from a trip to Moscow, that the Russian government had obtained ”dirt” on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.

Papadopoulos shared information about Russian ”dirt” with people outside of the Campaign, and the Office investigated whether he also provided it to a Campaign official. Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials with whom he interacted told the Office that they did not recall that Papadopoulos passed them the information. Throughout the relevant period of time and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. That meeting never came to pass.

Origins of Campaign Work In March 2016, Papadopoulos became a foreign policy advisor to the Trump Campaign.395 As early as the summer of 2015, he had sought a role as a policy advisor to the Campaign but, in a September 30, 2015 email, he was told that the Campaign was not hiring policy advisors.396 In late 2015, Papadopoulos obtained a paid position on the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson.397

Although Carson remained in the presidential race until early March 2016, Papadopoulos had stopped actively working for his campaign by early February 2016.398 At that time, Papadopoulos reached out to a contact at the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP), which billed itself as a ”unique institution … comprising high-level professional international law practitioners, dedicated to the advancement of global legal knowledge and the practice of international law.”399 Papadopoulos said that he had finished his role with the Carson campaign and asked if LCILP was hiring.400 In early February, Papadopoulos agreed to join LCILP and arrived in London to begin work.401

As he was taking his position at LCILP, Papadopoulos contacted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski via LinkedIn and emailed campaign official Michael Glassner about his interest in joining the Trump Campaign.402 On March 2, 2016, Papadopoulos sent Glassner another message reiterating his interest.403 Glassner passed along word of Papadopoulos’s interest to another campaign official, Joy Lutes, who notified Papadopoulos by email that she had been told by Glassner to introduce Papadopoulos to Sam Clovis, the Trump Campaign’s national co-chair and chief policy advisor.404

At the time of Papadopoulos’s March 2 email, the media was criticizing the Trump Campaign for lack of experienced foreign policy or national security advisors within its ranks.405 To address that issue, senior Campaign officials asked Clovis to put a foreign policy team together on short notice.406 After receiving Papadopoulos’s name from Lutes, Clovis performed a Google search on Papadopoulos, learned that he had worked at the Hudson Institute, and believed that he had credibility on energy issues.407 On March 3, 2016, Clovis arranged to speak with Papadopoulos by phone to discuss Papadopoulos joining the Campaign as a foreign policy advisor, and on March 6, 2016, the two spoke.408 Papadopoulos recalled that Russia was mentioned as a topic, and he understood from the conversation that Russia would be an important aspect of the Campaign’s foreign policy.409 At the end of the conversation, Clovis offered Papadopoulos a role as a foreign policy advisor to the Campaign, and Papadopoulos accepted the offer.410

Initial Russia-Related Contacts Approximately a week after signing on as a foreign policy advisor, Papadopoulos traveled to Rome, Italy, as part of his duties with LCILP.411 The purpose of the trip was to meet officials affiliated with Link Campus University, a for-profit institution headed by a former Italian government official.412 During the visit, Papadopoulos was introduced to Joseph Mifsud.

Mifsud is a Maltese national who worked as a professor at the London Academy of Diplomacy in London, England.413 Although Mifsud worked out of London and was also affiliated with LCILP, the encounter in Rome was the first time that Papadopoulos met him.414 Mifsud maintained various Russian contacts while living in London, as described further below. Among his contacts was __________________ __________,415 a one-time employee of the IRA, the entity that carried out the Russian social media campaign (see Volume I, Section II, supra). In January and February 2016, Mifsud and _____________ __________ discussed __________________ ______________ possibly meeting in Russia. The investigation did not identify evidence of them meeting. Later, in the spring of 2016, __________________ ______________ was also in contact __________________ ______________ that was linked to an employee of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and that account had overlapping contacts with a group of Russian military-controlled Facebook accounts that included accounts used to promote the DCLeaks releases in the course of the GRU’s hack-and-release operations (see Volume I, Section III.B.1, supra).

According to Papadopoulos, Mifsud at first seemed uninterested in Papadopoulos when they met in Rome.416 After Papadopoulos informed Mifsud about his role in the Trump Campaign, however, Mifsud appeared to take greater interest in Papadopoulos.417 The two discussed Mifsud’s European and Russian contacts and had a general discussion about Russia; Mifsud also offered to introduce Papadopoulos to European leaders and others with contacts to the Russian government.418 Papadopoulos told the Office that Mifsud’s claim of substantial connections with Russian government officials interested Papadopoulos, who thought that such connections could increase his importance as a policy advisor to the Trump Campaign.419

On March 17, 2016, Papadopoulos returned to London.420 Four days later, candidate Trump publicly named him as a member of the foreign policy and national security advisory team chaired by Senator Jeff Sessions, describing Papadopoulos as ”an oil and energy consultant” and an ”[e]xcellent guy.”421

On March 24, 2016, Papadopoulos met with Mifsud in London.422 Mifsud was accompanied by a Russian female named Olga Polonskaya. Mifsud introduced Polonskaya as a former student of his who had connections to Vladimir Putin.423 Papadopoulos understood at the time that Polonskaya may have been Putin’s niece but later learned that this was not true.424 During the meeting, Polonskaya offered to help Papadopoulos establish contacts in Russia and stated that the Russian ambassador in London was a friend of hers.425 Based on this interaction, Papadopoulos expected Mifsud and Polonskaya to introduce him to the Russian ambassador in London, but that did not occur.426

Following his meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos sent an email to members of the Trump Campaign’s foreign policy advisory team. The subject line of the message was ”Meeting with Russian leadership – including Putin.”427 The message stated in pertinent part:

I just finished a very productive lunch with a good friend of mine, Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy – who introduced me to both Putin’s niece and the Russian Ambassador in London – who also acts as the Deputy Foreign Minister.428

The topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.–Russia ties under President Trump. They are keen to host us in a ”neutral” city, or directly in Moscow. They said the leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us and Mr. Trump should there be interest. Waiting for everyone’s thoughts on moving forward with this very important issue.429

Papadopoulos’s message came at a time when Clovis perceived a shift in the Campaign’s approach toward Russia—from one of engaging with Russia through the NATO framework and taking a strong stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine, _________ ____430

Clovis’s response to Papadopoulos, however, did not reflect that shift. Replying to Papadopoulos and the other members of the foreign policy advisory team copied on the initial email, Clovis wrote:

This is most informative. Let me work it through the campaign. No commitments until we see how this plays out. My thought is that we probably should not go forward with any meetings with the Russians until we have had occasion to sit with our NATO allies, especially France, Germany and Great Britain. We need to reassure our allies that we are not going to advance anything with Russia until we have everyone on the same page.

More thoughts later today. Great work.431

March 31 Foreign Policy Team Meeting The Campaign held a meeting of the foreign policy advisory team with Senator Sessions and candidate Trump approximately one week later, on March 31, 2016, in Washington, D.C.432 The meeting—which was intended to generate press coverage for the Campaign433—took place at the Trump International Hotel.434 Papadopoulos flew to Washington for the event. At the meeting, Senator Sessions sat at one end of an oval table, while Trump sat at the other. As reflected in the photograph below (which was posted to Trump’s Instagram account), Papadopoulos sat between the two, two seats to Sessions’s left:


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Figure 1.3: *
March 31, 2016 Meeting of Foreign Policy Team, with Papadopoulos (Fourth from Right of Candidate Trump

During the meeting, each of the newly announced foreign policy advisors introduced themselves and briefly described their areas of experience or expertise.435 Papadopoulos spoke about his previous work in the energy sector and then brought up a potential meeting with Russian officials.436 Specifically, Papadopoulos told the group that he had learned through his contacts in London that Putin wanted to meet with candidate Trump and that these connections could help arrange that meeting.437

Trump and Sessions both reacted to Papadopoulos’s statement. Papadopoulos and Campaign advisor J.D. Gordon—who told investigators in an interview that he had a ”crystal clear” recollection of the meeting—have stated that Trump was interested in and receptive to the idea of a meeting with Putin.438 Papadopoulos understood Sessions to be similarly supportive of his efforts to arrange a meeting.439 Gordon and two other attendees, however, recall that Sessions generally opposed the proposal, though they differ in their accounts of the concerns he voiced or the strength of the opposition he expressed.440

George Papadopoulos Learns That Russia Has ”Dirt” in the Form of Clinton Emails Whatever Sessions’s precise words at the March 31 meeting, Papadopoulos did not understand Sessions or anyone else in the Trump Campaign to have directed that he refrain from making further efforts to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. To the contrary, Papadopoulos told the Office that he understood the Campaign to be supportive of his efforts to arrange such a meeting.441 Accordingly, when he returned to London, Papadopoulos resumed those efforts.442

Throughout April 2016, Papadopoulos continued to correspond with, meet with, and seek Russia contacts through Mifsud and, at times, Polonskaya.443 For example, within a week of her initial March 24 meeting with him, Polonskaya attempted to send Papadopoulos a text message—which email exchanges show to have been drafted or edited by Mifsud—addressing Papadopoulos’s ”wish to engage with the Russian Federation.”444 When Papadopoulos learned from Mifsud that Polonskaya had tried to message him, he sent her an email seeking another meeting.445 Polonskaya responded the next day that she was ”back in St. Petersburg” but ”would be very pleased to support [Papadopoulos’s] initiatives between our two countries” and ”to meet [him] again.”446 Papadopoulos stated in reply that he thought ”a good step” would be to introduce him to ”the Russian Ambassador in London,” and that he would like to talk to the ambassador, ”or anyone else you recommend, about a potential foreign policy trip to Russia.”447

Mifsud, who had been copied on the email exchanges, replied on the morning of April 11, 2016. He wrote, ”This is already been agreed. I am flying to Moscow on the 18th for a Valdai meeting, plus other meetings at the Duma. We will talk tomorrow.”448 The two bodies referenced by Mifsud are part of or associated with the Russian government: the Duma is a Russian legislative assembly,449 while ”Valdai” refers to the Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based group that ”is close to Russia’s foreign-policy establishment.”450 Papadopoulos thanked Mifsud and said that he would see him ”tomorrow.”451 For her part, Polonskaya responded that she had ”already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request,” that ”we are all very excited [about] the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” and that ”[t]he Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”452

Papadopoulos’s and Mifsud’s mentions of seeing each other ”tomorrow” referenced a meeting that the two had scheduled for the next morning, April 12, 2016, at the Andaz Hotel in London. Papadopoulos acknowledged the meeting during interviews with the Office,453 and records from Papadopoulos’s UK cellphone and his internet-search history all indicate that the meeting took place.454

Following the meeting, Mifsud traveled as planned to Moscow.455 On April 18, 2016, while in Russia, Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos over email to Ivan Timofeev, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).456 Mifsud had described Timofeev as having connections with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA),457 the executive entity in Russia responsible for Russian foreign relations.458 Over the next several weeks, Papadopoulos and Timofeev had multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting ”the groundwork” for a ”potential” meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.459 Papadopoulos told the Office that, on one Skype call, he believed that his conversation with Timofeev was being monitored or supervised by an unknown third party, because Timofeev spoke in an official manner and Papadopoulos heard odd noises on the line.460 Timofeev also told Papadopoulos in an April 25, 2016 email that he had just spoken ”to Igor Ivanov[,] the President of RIAC and former Foreign Minister of Russia,” and conveyed Ivanov’s advice about how best to arrange a ”Moscow visit.”461

After a stop in Rome, Mifsud returned to England on April 25, 2016.462 The next day, Papadopoulos met Mifsud for breakfast at the Andaz Hotel (the same location as their last meeting).463 During that meeting, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that he had met with high-level Russian government officials during his recent trip to Moscow. Mifsud also said that, on the trip, he learned that the Russians had obtained ”dirt” on candidate Hillary Clinton. As Papadopoulos later stated to the FBI, Mifsud said that the ”dirt” was in the form of ”emails of Clinton,” and that they ”have thousands of emails.”464 On May 6, 2016, 10 days after that meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.465

Russia-Related Communications With The Campaign While he was discussing with his foreign contacts a potential meeting of campaign officials with Russian government officials, Papadopoulos kept campaign officials apprised of his efforts. On April 25, 2016, the day before Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the emails, Papadopoulos wrote to senior policy advisor Stephen Miller that ”[t]he Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,” and that ”[t]he advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ’neutral’ cities.”466 On April 27, 2016, after his meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos wrote a second message to Miller stating that ”some interesting messages [were] coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”467 The same day, Papadopoulos sent a similar email to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, telling Lewandowski that Papadopoulos had ”been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host [Trump] and the team when the time is right. ”468

Papadopoulos’s Russia-related communications with Campaign officials continued throughout the spring and summer of 2016. On May 4, 2016, he forwarded to Lewandowski an email from Timofeev raising the possibility of a meeting in Moscow, asking Lewandowski whether that was ”something we want to move forward with.”469 The next day, Papadopoulos forwarded the same Timofeev email to Sam Clovis, adding to the top of the email ”Russia update.”470 He included the same email in a May 21, 2016 message to senior Campaign official Paul Manafort, under the subject line ”Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump,” stating that ”Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss.”471 Manafort forwarded the message to another Campaign official, without including Papadopoulos, and stated: ”Let[’]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the Campaign so as not to send any signal.”472

On June 1, 2016, Papadopoulos replied to an earlier email chain with Lewandowski about a Russia visit, asking if Lewandowski ”want[ed] to have a call about this topic” and whether ”we were following up with it.”473 After Lewandowski told Papadopoulos to ”connect with” Clovis because he was ”running point,” Papadopoulos emailed Clovis that ”the Russian MFA” was asking him ”if Mr. Trump is interested in visiting Russia at some point.”474 Papadopoulos wrote in an email that he ”[w]anted to pass this info along to you for you to decide what’s best to do with it and what message I should send (or to ignore).”475

After several email and Skype exchanges with Timofeev,476 Papadopoulos sent one more email to Lewandowski on June 19, 2016, Lewandowski’s last day as campaign manager.477 The email stated that ”[t]he Russian ministry of foreign affairs” had contacted him and asked whether, if Mr. Trump could not travel to Russia, a campaign representative such as Papadopoulos could attend meetings.478 Papadopoulos told Lewandowski that he was ”willing to make the trip off the record if it’s in the interest of Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people.”479

Following Lewandowski’s departure from the Campaign, Papadopoulos communicated with Clovis and Walid Phares, another member of the foreign policy advisory team, about an off-the-record meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials or with Papadopoulos’s other Russia connections, Mifsud and Timofeev.480 Papadopoulos also interacted directly with Clovis and Phares in connection with the summit of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counterterrorism (TAG), a group for which Phares was co-secretary general.481 On July 16, 2016, Papadopoulos attended the TAG summit in Washington, D.C., where he sat next to Clovis (as reflected in the photograph below).482


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Figure 1.4: *
George Papadopoulos (far right) and Sam Clovis (second from right)

Although Clovis claimed to have no recollection of attending the TAG summit,483 Papadopoulos remembered discussing Russia and a foreign policy trip with Clovis and Phares during the event.484 Papadopoulos’s recollection is consistent with emails sent before and after the TAG summit. The pre-summit messages included a July 11, 2016 email in which Phares suggested meeting Papadopoulos the day after the summit to chat,485 and a July 12 message in the same chain in which Phares advised Papadopoulos that other summit attendees ”are very nervous about Russia. So be aware.”486 Ten days after the summit, Papadopoulos sent an email to Mifsud listing Phares and Clovis as other ”participants” in a potential meeting at the London Academy of Diplomacy.487

Finally, Papadopoulos’s recollection is also consistent with handwritten notes from a journal that he kept at the time.488 Those notes, which are reprinted in part below, appear to refer to potential September 2016 meetings in London with representatives of the ”office of Putin,” and suggest that Phares, Clovis, and Papadopoulos (”Walid/Sam me”) would attend without the official backing of the Campaign (”no official letter/no message from Trump”).489

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Figure 1.5: *

September:

Have an exploratory meeting to or lose. In September—if allowed they will blast Mr. Trump.

We want the meeting in London/England

Walid/Sam me

No official letter/no message from Trump

They are talking to us.

-It is a lot of risk.

-Office of Putin.

-Explore: we are a campaign.

off Israel! EGYPT

Willingness to meet the FM sp with Walid/Sam

-FM coming

-Useful to have a session with him.

Later communications indicate that Clovis determined that he (Clovis) could not travel. On August 15, 2016, Papadopoulos emailed Clovis that he had received requests from multiple foreign governments, ”even Russia[],” for ”closed door workshops/consultations abroad,” and asked whether there was still interest for Clovis, Phares, and Papadopoulos ”to go on that trip.”490 Clovis copied Phares on his response, which said that he could not ”travel before the election” but that he ”would encourage [Papadopoulos] and Walid to make the trips, if it is feasible.”491

Papadopoulos was dismissed from the Trump Campaign in early October 2016, after an interview he gave to the Russian news agency Interfax generated adverse publicity.492

Trump Campaign Knowledge of ”Dirt” Papadopoulos admitted telling at least one individual outside of the Campaign—specifically, the then-Greek foreign minister—about Russia’s obtaining Clinton-related emails.493 In addition, a different foreign government informed the FBI that, 10 days after meeting with Mifsud in late April 2016, Papadopoulos suggested that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.494 (This conversation occurred after the GRU spearphished Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta and stole his emails, and the GRU hacked into the DCCC and DNC, see Volume I, Sections III.A & III.B, supra.) Such disclosures raised questions about whether Papadopoulos informed any Trump Campaign official about the emails.

When interviewed, Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials who interacted with him told the Office that they could not recall Papadopoulos’s sharing the information that Russia had obtained ”dirt” on candidate Clinton in the form of emails or that Russia could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information about Clinton. Papadopoulos stated that he could not clearly recall having told anyone on the Campaign anyone on the Campaign and wavered about whether he accurately remembered an incident in which Clovis had been upset after hearing Papadopoulos tell Clovis that Papadopoulos thought ”they have her emails.”495 The Campaign officials who interacted or corresponded with Papadopoulos have similarly stated, with varying degrees of certainty, that he did not tell them. Senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, for example, did not remember hearing anything from Papadopoulos or Clovis about Russia having emails of or dirt on candidate Clinton.496 Clovis stated that he did not recall anyone, including Papadopoulos, having given him non-public information that a foreign government might be in possession of material damaging to Hillary Clinton.497

_______ _____498 ______ _____499

No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.

Additional George Papadopoulos Contact The Office investigated another Russia-related contact with Papadopoulos. The Office was not fully able to explore the contact because the individual at issue—Sergei Millian—remained out of the country since the inception of our investigation and declined to meet with members of the Office despite our repeated efforts to obtain an interview.

Papadopoulos first connected with Millian via LinkedIn on July 15, 2016, shortly after Papadopoulos had attended the TAG Summit with Clovis.500 Millian, an American citizen who is a native of Belarus, introduced himself ”as president of [the] New York-based Russian American Chamber of Commerce,” and claimed that through that position he had ”insider knowledge and direct access to the top hierarchy in Russian politics.”501 Papadopoulos asked Timofeev whether he had heard of Millian.502 Although Timofeev said no,503 Papadopoulos met Millian in New York City.504 The meetings took place on July 30 and August 1, 2016.505 Afterwards, Millian invited Papadopoulos to attend—and potentially speak at—two international energy conferences, including one that was to be held in Moscow in September 2016.506 Papadopoulos ultimately did not attend either conference.

On July 31, 2016, following his first in-person meeting with Millian, Papadopoulos emailed Trump Campaign official Bo Denysyk to say that he had been contacted ”by some leaders of Russian-American voters here in the US about their interest in voting for Mr. Trump,” and to ask whether he should ”put you in touch with their group (US–Russia chamber of commerce).”507 Denysyk thanked Papadopoulos ”for taking the initiative,” but asked him to ”hold off with outreach to Russian-Americans” because ”too many articles” had already portrayed the Campaign, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and candidate Trump as ”being pro-Russian.”508

On August 23, 2016, Millian sent a Facebook message to Papadopoulos promising that he would ”share with you a disruptive technology that might be instrumental in your political work for the campaign.”509 Papadopoulos claimed to have no recollection of this matter.510

On November 9, 2016, shortly after the election, Papadopoulos arranged to meet Millian in Chicago to discuss business opportunities, including potential work with Russian ”billionaires who are not under sanctions.”511 The meeting took place on November 14, 2016, at the Trump Hotel and Tower in Chicago.512 According to Papadopoulos, the two men discussed partnering on business deals, but Papadopoulos perceived that Millian’s attitude toward him changed when Papadopoulos stated that he was only pursuing private-sector opportunities and was not interested in a job in the Administration.513 The two remained in contact, however, and had extended online discussions about possible business opportunities in Russia.514 The two also arranged to meet at a Washington, D.C. bar when both attended Trump’s inauguration in late January 2017.515

3. Carter Page

Carter Page worked for the rump Campaign from January 2016 to September 2016. He was formally and publicly announced as a foreign policy advisor by the candidate in March 2016.516 Page had lived and worked in Russia, and he had been approached by Russian intelligence officers several years before he volunteered for the Trump Campaign. During his time with the Campaign, Page advocated pro-Russia foreign policy positions and traveled to Moscow in his personal capacity. Russian intelligence officials had formed relationships with Page in 2008 and 2013 and Russian officials may have focused on Page in 2016 because of his affiliation with the Campaign. However, the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Background Before he began working for the Campaign in January 2016, Page had substantial prior experience studying Russian policy issues and living and working in Moscow. From 2004 to 2007, Page was the deputy branch manager of Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office.517 There, he worked on transactions involving the Russian energy company Gazprom and came to know Gazprom’s deputy chief financial officer, Sergey Yatsenko.518

In 2008, Page founded Global Energy Capital LLC (GEC), an investment management and advisory firm focused on the energy sector in emerging markets.519 ______ _____520 The company otherwise had no sources of income, and Page was forced to draw down his life savings to support himself and pursue his business venture.521 Page asked Yatsenko to work with him at GEC as a senior advisor on a contingency basis, _________ ____522

In 2008, Page met Alexander Bulatov, a Russian government official who worked at the Russian Consulate in New York.523 Page later learned that Bulatov was a Russian intelligence officer, _________ ____524

In 2013, Victor Podobnyy, another Russian intelligence officer working covertly in the United States under diplomatic cover, formed a relationship with Page.525 Podobnyy met Page at an energy symposium in New York City and began exchanging emails with him.526 Podobnyy and Page also met in person on multiple occasions, during which Page offered his outlook on the future of the energy industry and provided documents to Podobnyy about the energy business.527 In a recorded conversation on April 8, 2013, Podobnyy told another intelligence officer that Page was interested in business opportunities in Russia.528 In Podobnyy’s words, Page ”got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could … rise up. Maybe he can…. [I]t’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money.”529 Podobnyy said that he had led Page on by ”feed[ing] him empty promises” that Podobnyy would use his Russian business connections to help Page.530 Podobnyy told the other intelligence officer that his method of recruiting foreign sources was to promise them favors and then discard them once he obtained relevant information from them.531

In 2015, Podobnyy and two other Russian intelligence officers were charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.532 The criminal complaint detailed Podobnyy’s interactions with and conversations about Page, who was identified only as ”Male-1.”533 Based on the criminal complaint’s description of the interactions, Page was aware that he was the individual described as ”Male-1.”534 Page later spoke with a Russian government official at the United Nations General Assembly and identified himself so that the official would understand he was ”Male-1” from the Podobnyy complaint. 535 Page told the official that he ”didn’t do anything” _________ ____536

In interviews with the FBI before the Office’s opening, Page acknowledged that he understood that the individuals he had associated with were members of the Russian intelligence services, but he stated that he had only provided immaterial non-public information to them and that he did not view this relationship as a backchannel.537 Page told investigating agents that ”the more immaterial non-public information I give them, the better for this country.”538

Origins of and Early Campaign Work In January 2016, Page began volunteering on an informal, unpaid basis for the Trump Campaign after Ed Cox, a state Republican Party official, introduced Page to Trump Campaign officials.539 Page told the Office that his goal in working on the Campaign was to help candidate Trump improve relations with Russia.540 To that end, Page emailed Campaign officials offering his thoughts on U.S.–Russia relations, prepared talking points and briefing memos on Russia, and proposed that candidate Trump meet with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.541

In communications with Campaign officials, Page also repeatedly touted his high-level contacts in Russia and his ability to forge connections between candidate Trump and senior Russian governmental officials. For example, on January 30, 2016, Page sent an email to senior Campaign officials stating that he had ”spent the past week in Europe and ha[d] been in discussions with some individuals with close ties to the Kremlin” who recognized that Trump could have a ”game-changing effect … in bringing the end of the new Cold War.”542 The email stated that ”[t]hrough [his] discussions with these high level contacts,” Page believed that ”a direct meeting in Moscow between Mr[.] Trump and Putin could be arranged.”543 Page closed the email by criticizing U.S. sanctions on Russia.544 ______ _____545

On March 21, 2016, candidate Trump formally and publicly identified Page as a member of his foreign policy team to advise on Russia and the energy sector.546 Over the next several months, Page continued providing policy-related work product to Campaign officials. For example, in April 2016, Page provided feedback on an outline for a foreign policy speech that the candidate gave at the Mayflower Hotel,547 see Volume I, Section IV.A.4, infra. In May 2016, Page prepared an outline of an energy policy speech for the Campaign and then traveled to Bismarck, North Dakota, to watch the candidate deliver the speech.548 Chief policy advisor Sam Clovis expressed appreciation for Page’s work and praised his work to other Campaign officials.549

Carter Page’s July 2016 Trip To Moscow Page’s affiliation with the Trump Campaign took on a higher profile and drew the attention of Russian officials after the candidate named him a foreign policy advisor. As a result, in late April 2016, Page was invited to give a speech at the July 2016 commencement ceremony at the New Economic School (NES) in Moscow.550 The NES commencement ceremony generally featured high-profile speakers; for example, President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address at the school in 2009.551 NES officials told the Office that the interest in inviting Page to speak at NES was based entirely on his status as a Trump Campaign advisor who served as the candidate’s Russia expert.552 Andrej Krickovic, an associate of Page’s and assistant professor at the Higher School of Economics in Russia, recommended that NES rector Shlomo Weber invite Page to give the commencement address based on his connection to the Trump Campaign.553 Denis Klimentov, an employee of NES, said that when Russians learned of Page’s involvement in the Trump Campaign in March 2016, the excitement was palpable.554 Weber recalled that in summer 2016 there was substantial interest in the Trump Campaign in Moscow, and he felt that bringing a member of the Campaign to the school would be beneficial.555

Page was eager to accept the invitation to speak at NES, and he sought approval from Trump Campaign officials to make the trip to Russia.556 On May 16, 2016, while that request was still under consideration, Page emailed Clovis, J.D. Gordon, and Walid Phares and suggested that candidate Trump take his place speaking at the commencement ceremony in Moscow.557 On June 19, 2016, Page followed up again to request approval to speak at the NES event and to reiterate that NES ”would love to have Mr. Trump speak at this annual celebration” in Page’s place.558 Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded the same day, saying, ”If you want to do this, it would be out side [sic] of your role with the DJT for President campaign. I am certain Mr. Trump will not be able to attend.559

In early July 2016, Page traveled to Russia for the NES events. On July 5, 2016, Denis Klimentov, copying his brother, Dmitri Klimentov,560 emailed Maria Zakharova, the Director of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Information and Press Department, about Page’s visit and his connection to the Trump Campaign.561 Denis Klimentov said in the email that he wanted to draw the Russian government’s attention to Page’s visit in Moscow.562 His message to Zakharova continued: ”Page is Trump’s adviser on foreign policy. He is a known businessman; he used to work in Russia…. If you have any questions, I will be happy to help contact him.”563 Dmitri Klimentov then contacted Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov about Page’s visit to see if Peskov wanted to introduce Page to any Russian government officials.564 The following day, Peskov responded to what appears to have been the same Denis Klimentov–Zakharova email thread. Peskov wrote, ”I have read about [Page]. Specialists say that he is far from being the main one. So I better not initiate a meeting in the Kremlin.”565

On July 7, 2016, Page delivered the first of his two speeches in Moscow at NES.566 In the speech, Page criticized the U.S. government’s foreign policy toward Russia, stating that ”Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”567 On July 8, 2016, Page delivered a speech during the NES commencement.568 After Page delivered his commencement address, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and NES board member Arkady Dvorkovich spoke at the ceremony and stated that the sanctions the United States had imposed on Russia had hurt the NES.569 Page and Dvorkovich shook hands at the commencement ceremony, and Weber recalled that Dvorkovich made statements to Page about working together in the future.570 ______ _____571

Page said that, during his time in Moscow, he met with friends and associates he knew from when he lived in Russia, including Andrey Baranov, a former Gazprom employee who had become the head of investor relations at Rosneft, a Russian energy company.572 Page stated that he and Baranov talked about ”immaterial non-public” information.573 Page believed he and Baranov discussed Rosneft president Igor Sechin, and he thought Baranov might have mentioned the possibility of a sale of a stake in Rosneft in passing.574 Page recalled mentioning his involvement in the Trump Campaign with Baranov, although he did not remember details of the conversation.575 Page also met with individuals from Tatneft, a Russian energy company, to discuss possible business deals, including having Page work as a consultant.576

On July 8, 2016, while he was in Moscow, Page emailed several Campaign officials and stated he would send ”a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential Administration here.”577 On July 9, 2016, Page emailed Clovis, writing in pertinent part:

Russian Deputy Prime minister and NES board member Arkady Dvorkovich also spoke before the event. In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems. Based on feedback from a diverse array of other sources close to the Presidential Administration, it was readily apparent that this sentiment is widely held at all levels of government.578

Despite these representations to the Campaign, _________ ____579 __________ ____580 __________ ____581 __________ ____582 The Office was unable to obtain additional evidence or testimony about who Page may have met or communicated with in Moscow; thus, Page’s activities in Russia—as described in his emails with the Campaign—were not fully explained.

Later Campaign Work and Removal from the Campaign In July 2016, after returning from Russia, Page traveled to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.583 While there, Page met Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak; that interaction is described in Volume I, Section IV.A.6.a, infra.584 Page later emailed Campaign officials with feedback he said he received from ambassadors he had met at the Convention, and he wrote that Ambassador Kislyak was very worried about candidate Clinton’s world views.585 ______ _____586

Following the Convention, Page’s trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russia foreign policy drew the media’s attention and began to generate substantial press coverage. The Campaign responded by distancing itself from Page, describing him as an ”informal foreign policy advisor” who did ”not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”587 On September 23, 2016, Yahoo! News reported that U.S. intelligence officials were investigating whether Page had opened private communications with senior Russian officials to discuss U.S. sanctions policy under a possible Trump Administration.588 A Campaign spokesman told Yahoo! News that Page had ”no role” in the Campaign and that the Campaign was ”not aware of any of his activities, past or present.”589 On September 24, 2016, Page was formally removed from the Campaign.590

Although Page had been removed from the Campaign, after the election he sought a position in the Trump Administration.591 On November 14, 2016, he submitted an application to the Transition Team that inflated his credentials and experiences, stating that in his capacity as a Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor he had met with ”top world leaders” and ”effectively responded to diplomatic outreach efforts from senior government officials in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, [and] the Americas.”592 Page received no response from the Transition Team. When Page took a personal trip to Moscow in December 2016, he met again with at least one Russian government official. That interaction and a discussion of the December trip are set forth in Volume I, Section IV.B.6, infra.

4. Dimitri Simes and the Center for the National Interest

Members of the Trump Campaign interacted on several occasions with the Center for the National Interest (CNI), principally through its President and Chief Executive Officer, Dimitri Simes. CNI is a think tank with expertise in and connections to the Russian government. Simes was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. In April 2016, candidate Trump delivered his first speech on foreign policy and national security at an event hosted by the National Interest, a publication affiliated with CNI. Then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Kislyak both attended the event and, as a result, it gained some attention in relation to Sessions’s confirmation hearings to become Attorney General. Sessions had various other contacts with CNI during the campaign period on foreign-policy matters, including Russia. Jared Kushner also interacted with Simes about Russian issues during the campaign. The investigation did not identify evidence that the Campaign passed or received any messages to or from the Russian government through CNI or Simes.

CNI and Dimitri Simes Connect with the Trump Campaign CNI is a Washington-based non-profit organization that grew out of a center founded by former President Richard Nixon.593 CNI describes itself ”as a voice for strategic realism in U.S. foreign policy,” and publishes a bi-monthly foreign policy magazine, the National Interest.594 CNI is overseen by a board of directors and an advisory council that is largely honorary and whose members at the relevant time included Sessions, who served as an advisor to candidate Trump on national security and foreign policy issues.595

Dimitri Simes is president and CEO of CNI and the publisher and CEO of the National Interest.596 Simes was born in the former Soviet Union, emigrated to the United States in the early 1970s, and joined CNI’s predecessor after working at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.597 Simes personally has many contacts with current and former Russian government officials,598 as does CNI collectively. As CNI stated when seeking a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in 2015, CNI has ”unparalleled access to Russian officials and politicians among Washington think tanks,”599 in part because CNI has arranged for U.S. delegations to visit Russia and for Russian delegations to visit the United States as part of so-called ”Track 11” diplomatic efforts.600

On March 14, 2016, CNI board member Richard Plepler organized a luncheon for CNI and its honorary chairman, Henry Kissinger, at the Time Warner Building in New York.601 The idea behind the event was to generate interest in CNI’s work and recruit new board members for CNI.602 Along with Simes, attendees at the event included Jared Kushner, son-in-law of candidate Trump.603 Kushner told the Office that the event came at a time when the Trump Campaign was having trouble securing support from experienced foreign policy professionals and that, as a result, he decided to seek Simes’s assistance during the March 14 event.604

Simes and Kushner spoke again on a March 24, 2016 telephone call,605 three days after Trump had publicly named the team of foreign policy advisors that had been put together on short notice.606 On March 31, 2016, Simes and Kushner had an in-person, one-on-one meeting in Kushner’s New York office.607 During that meeting, Simes told Kushner that the best way to handle foreign-policy issues for the Trump Campaign would be to organize an advisory group of experts to meet with candidate Trump and develop a foreign policy approach that was consistent with Trump’s voice.608 Simes believed that Kushner was receptive to that suggestion.609

Simes also had contact with other individuals associated with the Trump Campaign regarding the Campaign’s foreign policy positions. For example, on June 17, 2016, Simes sent J.D. Gordon an email with a ”memo to Senator Sessions that we discussed at our recent meeting” and asked Gordon to both read it and share it with Sessions. The memorandum proposed building a ”small and carefully selected group of experts” to assist Sessions with the Campaign, operating under the assumption ”that Hillary Clinton is very vulnerable on national security and foreign policy issues.” The memorandum outlined key issues for the Campaign, including a ”new beginning with Russia.”610

National Interest Hosts a Foreign Policy Speech at the Mayflower Hotel During both their March 24 phone call and their March 31 in-person meeting, Simes and Kushner discussed the possibility of CNI hosting a foreign policy speech by candidate Trump.611 Following those conversations, Simes agreed that he and others associated with CNI would provide behind-the-scenes input on the substance of the foreign-policy speech and that CNI officials would coordinate the logistics of the speech with Sessions and his staff, including Sessions’s chief of staff, Rick Dearborn.612

In mid-April 2016, Kushner put Simes in contact with senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and forwarded to Simes an outline of the foreign-policy speech that Miller had prepared.613 Simes sent back to the Campaign bullet points with ideas for the speech that he had drafted with CNI Executive Director Paul Saunders and board member Richard Burt.614 Simes received subsequent draft outlines from Miller, and he and Saunders spoke to Miller by phone about substantive changes to the speech.615 It is not clear, however, whether CNI officials received an actual draft of the speech for comment; while Saunders recalled having received an actual draft, Simes did not, and the emails that CNI produced to this Office do not contain such a draft.616

After board members expressed concern to Simes that CNI’s hosting the speech could be perceived as an endorsement of a particular candidate, CNI decided to have its publication, the National Interest, serve as the host and to have the event at the National Press Club.617 Kushner later requested that the event be moved to the Mayflower Hotel, which was another venue that Simes had mentioned during initial discussions with the Campaign, in order to address concerns about security and capacity.618

On April 25, 2016, Saunders booked event rooms at the Mayflower to host both the speech and a VIP reception that was to be held beforehand.619 Saunders understood that the reception—at which invitees would have the chance to meet candidate Trump—would be a small event.620 Saunders decided who would attend by looking at the list of CNI’s invitees to the speech itself and then choosing a subset for the reception.621 CNI’s invitees to the reception included Sessions and Kislyak.622 The week before the speech Simes had informed Kislyak that he would be invited to the speech, and that he would have the opportunity to meet Trump.623

When the pre-speech reception began on April 27, a receiving line was quickly organized so that attendees could meet Trump.624 Sessions first stood next to Trump to introduce him to the members of Congress who were in attendance.625 After those members had been introduced, Simes stood next to Trump and introduced him to the CNI invitees in attendance, including Kislyak.626 Simes perceived the introduction to be positive and friendly, but thought it clear that Kislyak and Trump had just met for the first time.627 Kislyak also met Kushner during the pre-speech reception. The two shook hands and chatted for a minute or two, during which Kushner recalled Kislyak saying, ”we like what your candidate is saying … it’s refreshing.”628

Several public reports state that, in addition to speaking to Kushner at the pre-speech reception, Kislyak also met or conversed with Sessions at that time.629 Sessions stated to investigators, however, that he did not remember any such conversation.630 Nor did anyone else affiliated with CNI or the National Interest specifically recall a conversation or meeting between Sessions and Kislyak at the pre-speech reception.631 It appears that, if a conversation occurred at the pre-speech reception, it was a brief one conducted in public view, similar to the exchange between Kushner and Kislyak.

The Office found no evidence that Kislyak conversed with either Trump or Sessions after the speech, or would have had the opportunity to do so. Simes, for example, did not recall seeing Kislyak at the post-speech luncheon,632 and the only witness who accounted for Sessions’s whereabouts stated that Sessions may have spoken to the press after the event but then departed for Capitol Hill.633 Saunders recalled, based in part on a food-related request he received from a Campaign staff member, that Trump left the hotel a few minutes after the speech to go to the airport.634

Jeff Sessions’s Post-Speech Interactions with CNI In the wake of Sessions’s confirmation hearings as Attorney General, questions arose about whether Sessions’s campaign-period interactions with CNI apart from the Mayflower speech included any additional meetings with Ambassador Kislyak or involved Russian-related matters. With respect to Kislyak contacts, on May 23, 2016, Sessions attended CNI’s Distinguished Service Award dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.635 Sessions attended a pre-dinner reception and was seated at one of two head tables for the event.636 A seating chart prepared by Saunders indicates that Sessions was scheduled to be seated next to Kislyak, who appears to have responded to the invitation by indicating he would attend the event.637 Sessions, however, did not remember seeing, speaking with, or sitting next to Kislyak at the dinner.638 Although CNI board member Charles Boyd said he may have seen Kislyak at the dinner,639 Simes, Saunders, and Jacob Heilbrunn—editor of the National Interest—all had no recollection of seeing Kislyak at the May 23 event.640 Kislyak also does not appear in any of the photos from the event that the Office obtained.

In the summer of 2016, CNI organized at least two dinners in Washington, D.C. for Sessions to meet with experienced foreign policy professionals.641 The dinners included CNI-affiliated individuals, such as Richard Burt and Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and the person who had introduced Trump before the April 27, 2016 foreign-policy speech.642 Khalilzad also met with Sessions one-on-one separately from the dinners.643 At the dinners and in the meetings, the participants addressed U.S. relations with Russia, including how U.S. relations with NATO and European countries affected U.S. policy toward Russia.644 But the discussions were not exclusively focused on Russia.645 Khalilzad, for example, recalled discussing ”nation-building” and violent extremism with Sessions.646 In addition, Sessions asked Saunders (of CNI) to draft two memoranda not specific to Russia: one on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy shortcomings and another on Egypt.647

Jared Kushner’s Continuing Contacts with Simes Between the April 2016 speech at the Mayflower Hotel and the presidential election, Jared Kushner had periodic contacts with Simes.648 Those contacts consisted of both in-person meetings and phone conversations, which concerned how to address issues relating to Russia in the Campaign and how to move forward with the advisory group of foreign policy experts that Simes had proposed.649 Simes recalled that he, not Kushner, initiated all conversations about Russia, and that Kushner never asked him to set up back-channel conversations with Russians.650 According to Simes, after the Mayflower speech in late April, Simes raised the issue of Russian contacts with Kushner, advised that it was bad optics for the Campaign to develop hidden Russian contacts, and told Kushner both that the Campaign should not highlight Russia as an issue and should handle any contacts with Russians with care.651 Kushner generally provided a similar account of his interactions with Simes.652

Among the Kushner–Simes meetings was one held on August 17, 2016, at Simes’s request, in Kushner’s New York office. The meeting was to address foreign policy advice that CNI was providing and how to respond to the Clinton Campaign’s Russia-related attacks on candidate Trump.653 In advance of the meeting, Simes sent Kushner a ”Russia Policy Memo” laying out ”what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.”654 In a cover email transmitting that memo and a phone call to set up the meeting, Simes mentioned ”a well-documented story of highly questionable connections between Bill Clinton” and the Russian government, ”parts of [which]” (according to Simes) had even been ”discussed with the CIA and the FBI in the late 1990s and shared with the [Independent Counsel] at the end of the Clinton presidency.”655 Kushner forwarded the email to senior Trump Campaign officials Stephen Miller, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates, with the note ”suggestion only.”656 Manafort subsequently forwarded the email to his assistant and scheduled a meeting with Simes.657 (Manafort was on the verge of leaving the Campaign by the time of the scheduled meeting with Simes, and Simes ended up meeting only with Kushner).

During the August 17 meeting, Simes provided Kushner the Clinton-related information that he had promised.658 Simes told Kushner that, ____________ ___________659 Simes claimed that he had received this information from former CIA and Reagan White House official Fritz Ermarth, who claimed to have learned it from U.S. intelligence sources, not from Russians.660

Simes perceived that Kushner did not find the information to be of interest or use to the Campaign because it was, in Simes’s words, ”old news.”661 When interviewed by the Office, Kushner stated that he believed that there was little chance of something new being revealed about the Clintons given their long career as public figures, and that he never received from Simes information that could be ”operationalized” for the Trump Campaign.662 Despite Kushner’s reaction, Simes believed that he provided the same information at a small group meeting of foreign policy experts that CNI organized for Sessions.663

5. June 9, 2016 Meeting at Trump Tower

On June 9, 2016, senior representatives of the Trump Campaign met in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney expecting to receive derogatory information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The meeting was proposed to Donald Trump Jr. in an email from Robert Goldstone, at the request of his then-client Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian real-estate developer Aras Agalarov. Goldstone relayed to Trump Jr. that the ”Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as ”part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. immediately responded that ”if it’s what you say I love it,” and arranged the meeting through a series of emails and telephone calls.

Trump Jr. invited campaign chairman Paul Manafort and senior advisor Jared Kushner to attend the meeting, and both attended. Members of the Campaign discussed the meeting before it occurred, and Michael Cohen recalled that Trump Jr. may have told candidate Trump about an upcoming meeting to receive adverse information about Clinton, without linking the meeting to Russia. According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at the time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting—or its Russian connection-before it occurred.

The Russian attorney who spoke at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had previously worked for the Russian government and maintained a relationship with that government throughout this period of time. She claimed that funds derived from illegal activities in Russia were provided to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Trump Jr. requested evidence to support those claims, but Veselnitskaya did not provide such information. She and her associates then turned to a critique of the origins of the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 statute that imposed financial and travel sanctions on Russian officials and that resulted in a retaliatory ban on adoptions of Russian children. Trump Jr. suggested that the issue could be revisited when and if candidate Trump was elected. After the election, Veselnitskaya made additional efforts to follow up on the meeting, but the Trump Transition Team did not engage.

Setting Up the June 9 Meeting

Outreach to Donald Trump Jr Aras Agalarov is a Russian real-estate developer with ties to Putin and other members of the Russian government, including Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yuri Chaika.664 Aras Agalarov is the president of the Crocus Group, a Russian enterprise that holds substantial Russian government construction contracts and that—as discussed above, Volume I, Section IV.A.I, supra—worked with Trump in connection with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and a potential Trump Moscow real-estate project.665 The relationship continued over time, as the parties pursued the Trump Moscow project in 2013–2014 and exchanged gifts and letters in 2016.666 For example, in April 2016, Trump responded to a letter from Aras Agalarov with a handwritten note.667 Aras Agalarov expressed interest in Trump’s campaign, passed on ”congratulations” for winning in the primary and—according to one email drafted by Goldstone—an ”offer” of his ”support and that of many of his important Russian friends and colleagues[,] especially with reference to U.S./Russian relations.”668

On June 3, 2016, Emin Agalarov called Goldstone, Emin’s then-publicist.669 Goldstone is a music and events promoter who represented Emin Agalarov from approximately late 2012 until late 2016.670 While representing Emin Agalarov, Goldstone facilitated the ongoing contact between the Trumps and the Agalarovs—including an invitation that Trump sent to Putin to attend the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.671 __________ ____672 Goldstone understood _________ _______ a Russian political connection, and Emin Agalarov indicated that the attorney was a prosecutor.673 Goldstone recalled that the information that might interest the Trumps involved Hillary Clinton ______ _____674 ______ _____675

The _________ _______ mentioned by Emin Agalarov was Natalia Veselnitskaya.676 From approximately 1998 until 2001, Veselnitskaya worked as a prosecutor for the Central Administrative District of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office,677 and she continued to perform government-related work and maintain ties to the Russian government following her departure.678 She lobbied and testified about the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials and which was named for a Russian tax specialist who exposed a fraud and later died in a Russian prison.679 Putin called the statute ”a purely political, unfriendly act,” and Russia responded by barring a list of current and former U.S. officials from entering Russia and by halting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.680 Veselnitskaya performed legal work for Denis Katsyv,681 the son of Russian businessman Peter Katsyv, and for his company Prevezon Holdings Ltd., which was a defendant in a civil-forfeiture action alleging the laundering of proceeds from the fraud exposed by Magnitsky.682 She also appears to have been involved in an April 2016 approach to a U.S. congressional delegation in Moscow offering ”confidential information” from ”the Prosecutor General of Russia” about ”interactions between certain political forces in our two countries.”683

Shortly after his June 3 call with Emin Agalarov, Goldstone emailed Trump Jr.684 The email stated:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very Interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered lo provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this Info to your father via Rhona, but it Is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

Within minutes of this email, Trump Jr. responded, emailing back: ”Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?”685 Goldstone conveyed Trump Jr.’s interest to Emin Agalarov, emailing that Trump Jr. ”wants to speak personally on the issue.”686

On June 6, 2016, Emin Agalarov asked Goldstone if there was ”[a]ny news,” and Goldstone explained that Trump Jr. was likely still traveling for the ”final elections … where [T]rump will be ’crowned’ the official nominee.”687 On the same day, Goldstone again emailed Trump Jr. and asked when Trump Jr. was ”free to talk with Emin about this Hillary info.”688 Trump Jr. asked if they could ”speak now,” and Goldstone arranged a call between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov.689 On June 6 and June 7, Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov had multiple brief calls.690

Also on June 6, 2016, Aras Agalarov called Ike Kaveladze and asked him to attend a meeting in New York with the Trump Organization.691 Kaveladze is a Georgia-born, naturalized U.S. citizen who worked in the United States for the Crocus Group and reported to Aras Agalarov.692 Kaveladze told the Office that, in a second phone call on June 6, 2016, Aras Agalarov asked Kaveladze if he knew anything about the Magnitsky Act, and Aras sent him a short synopsis for the meeting and Veselnitskaya’s business card. According to Kaveladze, Aras Agalarov said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Magnitsky Act, and he asked Kaveladze to translate.693

Awareness of the Meeting Within the Campaign On June 7, Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. and said that ”Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and [t]he Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”694 Trump Jr. replied that Manafort (identified as the ”campaign boss”), Jared Kushner, and Trump Jr. would likely attend.695 Goldstone was surprised to learn that Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner would attend.696 Kaveladze _________ _______ ”puzzled” by the list of attendees and that he checked with one of Emin Agalarov’s assistants, Roman Beniaminov, who said that the purpose of the meeting was for Veselnitskaya to convey ”negative information on Hillary Clinton.”697 Beniaminov, however, stated that he did not recall having known or said that.698

Early on June 8, 2016 Kushner emailed his assistant, asking her to discuss a 3:00 p.m. meeting the following day with Trump Jr.699 Later that day, Trump Jr. forwarded the entirety of his email correspondence regarding the meeting with Goldstone to Manafort and Kushner, under the subject line ”FW: Russia—Clinton—private and confidential,” adding a note that the ”[m]eeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.”700 Kushner then sent his assistant a second email, informing her that the ”[m]eeting with don jr is 4pm now.”701 Manafort responded, ”See you then. P.”702

Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the Office that in the days before June 9, 2016 Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation.703 Gates believed that Trump Jr. said the information was coming from a group in Kyrgyzstan and that he was introduced to the group by a friend.704 Gates recalled that the meeting was attended by Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and, joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. According to Gates, Manafort warned the group that the meeting likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful.705 Hicks denied any knowledge of the June 9 meeting before 2017,706 and Kushner did not recall if the planned June 9 meeting came up at all earlier that week.707

Michael Cohen recalled being in Donald J. Trump’s office on June 6 or 7 when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse information about Clinton was going forward.708 Cohen did not recall Trump Jr. stating that the meeting was connected to Russia.709 From the tenor of the conversation, Cohen believed that Trump Jr. had previously discussed the meeting with his father, although Cohen was not involved in any such conversation.710 In an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, Trump Jr. stated that he did not inform his father about the emails or the upcoming meeting.711 Similarly, neither Manafort nor Kushner recalled anyone informing candidate Trump of the meeting, including Trump Jr.712 President Trump has stated to this Office, in written answers to questions, that he has ”no recollection of learning at the time” that his son, Manafort, or ”Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton.”713

The Events of June 9, 2016

Arrangements for the Meeting Veselnitskaya was in New York on June 9, 2016, for appellate proceedings in the Prevezon civil forfeiture litigation.714 That day, Veselnitskaya called Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet-born U.S. lobbyist, ______ _____ and when she learned that he was in New York, invited him to lunch.715 Akhmetshin told the Office that he had worked on issues relating to the Magnitsky Act and had worked on the Prevezon litigation.716 Kaveladze and Anatoli Samochornov, a Russian-born translator who had assisted Veselnitska [in the] Prevezon case, also attended the lunch.717 ______ _____ Veselnitskaya said she was meeting _________ _______ and asked Akhmetshin what she should tell him.718 According to several participants in the lunch, Veselnitskaya showed Akhmetshin a document alleging financial misconduct by Bill Browder and the Ziff brothers (Americans with business in Russia), and those individuals subsequently making political donations to the DNC.719 ______ _____720

The group then went to Trump Tower for the meeting.721

Conduct of the Meeting Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner participated on the Trump side, while Kaveladze, Samochomov, Akhmetshin, and Goldstone attended with Veselnitskaya.722 The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr., the latter of whom declined to be voluntarily interviewed by the Office _________ _______

The meeting lasted approximately 20 minutes.723 ______ _____724 ______ _____ Goldstone recalled that Trump Jr. invited Veselnitskaya to begin but did not say anything about the subject of the meeting.725 Participants agreed that Veselnitskaya stated that the Ziff brothers had broken Russian laws and had donated their profits to the DNC or the Clinton Campaign.726 She asserted that the Ziff brothers had engaged in tax evasion and money laundering in both the United States and Russia,727 ______ _____728 According to Akhmetshin, Trump Jr. asked follow-up questions about how the alleged payments could be tied specifically to the Clinton Campaign, but Veselnitskaya indicated that she could not trace the money once it entered the United States.729 Kaveladze similarly recalled that Trump Jr. asked what they have on Clinton, and Kushner became aggravated and asked ”[w]hat are we doing here?”730

Akhmetshin then spoke about U.S. sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act and Russia’s response prohibiting U.S. adoption of Russian children.731 Several participants recalled that Trump Jr. commented that Trump is a private citizen, and there was nothing they could do at that time.732 Trump Jr. also said that they could revisit the issue if and when they were in government.733 Notes that Manafort took on his phone reflect the general flow of the conversation, although not all of its details.734

At some point in the meeting, Kushner sent an iMessage to Manafort stating ”waste of time,” followed immediately by two separate emails to assistants at Kushner Companies with requests that they call him to give him an excuse to leave.735 Samochornov recalled that Kushner departed the meeting before it concluded; Veselnitskaya recalled the same when interviewed by the press in July 2017.736

Veselnitskaya’s press interviews and written statements to Congress differ materially from other accounts. In a July 2017 press interview, Veselnitskaya claimed that she has no connection to the Russian government and had not referred to any derogatory information concerning the Clinton Campaign when she met with Trump Campaign officials.737 Veselnitskaya’s November 2017 written submission to the Senate Judiciary Committee stated that the purpose of the June 9 meeting was not to connect with ”the Trump Campaign” but rather to have ”a private meeting with Donald Trump Jr.—a friend of my good acquaintance’s son on the matter of assisting me or my colleagues in informing the Congress members as to the criminal nature of manipulation and interference with the legislative activities of the US Congress.”738 In other words, Veselnitskaya claimed her focus was on Congress and not the Campaign. No witness, however, recalled any reference to Congress during the meeting. Veselnitskaya also maintained that she ”attended the meeting as a lawyer of Denis Katsyv,” the previously mentioned owner of Prevezon Holdings, but she did not ”introduce [her]self in this capacity.”739

In a July 2017 television interview, Trump Jr. stated that while he had no way to gauge the reliability, credibility, or accuracy of what Goldstone had stated was the purpose of the meeting, if ”someone has information on our opponent … maybe this is something. I should hear them out.”740 Trump Jr. further stated in September 2017 congressional testimony that he thought he should ”listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say.”741 Depending on what, if any, information was provided, Trump Jr. stated he could then ”consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it any further consideration.”742

After the June 9 meeting, Goldstone apologized to Trump Jr.743 According to Goldstone, he told Trump Jr. _________ ____744 and told Emin Agalarov in a phone call that the meeting was about adoption _________ ____745 __________ ____746 Aras Agalarov asked Kaveladze to report in after the meeting, but before Kaveladze could call, Aras Agalarov called him.747 With Veselnitskaya next to him, Kaveladze reported that the meeting had gone well, but he later told Aras Agalarov that the meeting about the Magnitsky Act had been a waste of time because it was not with lawyers and they were ”preaching to the wrong crowd.”748

Post-June 9 Events Veselnitskaya and Aras Agalarov made at least two unsuccessful attempts after the election to meet with Trump representatives to convey similar information about Browder and the Magnitsky Act.749 On November 23, 2016, Kaveladze emailed Goldstone about setting up another meeting ”with T people” and sent a document bearing allegations similar to those conveyed on June 9.750 Kaveladze followed up with Goldstone, stating that ”Mr. A,” which Goldstone understood to mean Aras Agalarov, called to ask about the meeting.751 Goldstone emailed the document to Rhona Graff, saying that ”Aras Agalarov has asked me to pass on this document in the hope it can be passed on to the appropriate team. If needed, a lawyer representing the case is in New York currently and happy to meet with any member of his transition team.”752 According to Goldstone, around January 2017, Kaveladze contacted him again to set up another meeting, but Goldstone did not make the request.753 The investigation did not identify evidence of the transition team following up.

Participants in the June 9, 2016 meeting began receiving inquiries from attorneys representing the Trump Organization starting in approximately June 2017.754 On approximately June 2, 2017, Goldstone spoke with Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, about his participation in the June 9 meeting.755 The same day, Goldstone emailed Veselnitskaya’s name to Garten, identifying her as the ”woman who was the attorney who spoke at the meeting from Moscow.”756 Later in June 2017, Goldstone participated in a lengthier call with Garten and Alan Futerfas, outside counsel for the Trump Organization (and, subsequently, personal counsel for Trump Jr.).757 On June 27, 2017, Goldstone emailed Emin Agalarov with the subject ”Trump attorneys” and stated that he was ”interviewed by attorneys” about the June 9 meeting who were ”concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia—which he has always denied meeting.”758 Goldstone stressed that he ”did say at the time this was an awful idea and a terrible meeting.”759 Emin Agalarov sent a screenshot of the message to Kaveladze.760

The June 9 meeting became public in July 2017. In a July 9, 2017 text message to Emin Agalarov, Goldstone wrote ”I made sure I kept you and your father out of [t]his story,”761 and ”[i]f contacted I can do a dance and keep you out of it.”762 Goldstone added, ”FBI now investigating,” and ”I hope this favor was worth for your dad—it could blow up.”763 On July 12, 2017 Emin Agalarov c[ommented] to Kaveladze that his father, Aras, ”never listens” to him and that their relationship with ”mr T has been thrown down the drain.”764 The next month, Goldstone commented to Emin Agalarov about the volume of publicity the June 9 meeting had generated, stating that his ”reputation [was] basically destroyed by this dumb meeting which your father insisted on even though Ike and Me told him would be bad news and not to do.”765 Goldstone added, ”I am not able to respond out of courtesy to you and your father. So am painted as some mysterious link to Putin.”766

After public reporting on the June 9 meeting began, representatives from the Trump Organization again reached out to participants. On July 10, 2017, Futerfas sent Goldstone an email with a proposed statement for Goldstone to issue, which read:

As the person who arranged the meeting, I can definitively state that the statements I have read by Donald Trump Jr. are 100% accurate. The meeting was a complete waste of time and Don was never told Ms. Veselnitskaya’s name prior to the meeting. Ms. Veselnitskaya mostly talked about the Magnitsky Act and Russian adoption laws and the meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes at most. There was never any follow up and nothing ever came of the meeting.767

_______ _____ the statement drafted by Trump Organization representatives was _________ ____768 He proposed a different statement, asserting that he had been asked ”by [his] client in Moscow—Emin Agalarov—to facilitate a meeting between a Russian attorney (Natalia Veselnitzkaya [sic]) and Donald Trump Jr. The lawyer had apparently stated that she had some information regarding funding to the DNC from Russia, which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find interesting.”769 Goldstone never released either statement.770

On the Russian end, there were also communications about what participants should say about the June 9 meeting. Specifically, the organization that hired Samochornov—an anti-Magnitsky Act group controlled by Veselnitskaya and the owner of Prevezon—offered to pay $90,000 of Samochornov’s legal fees.771 At Veselnitskaya’s request, the organization sent Samochornov a transcript of a Veselnitskaya press interview, and Samochornov understood that the organization would pay his legal fees only if he made statements consistent with Veselnitskaya’s.772 Samochornov declined, telling the Office that he did not want to perjure himself.773 The individual who conveyed Veselnitskaya’s request to Samochornov stated that he did not expressly condition payment on following Veselnitskaya’s answers but, in hindsight, recognized that by sending the transcript, Samochornov could have interpreted the offer of assistance to be conditioned on his not contradicting Veselnitskaya’s account.774

Volume II, Section 11.G, infra, discusses interactions between President Trump, Trump Jr., and others in June and July 2017 regarding the June 9 meeting.

6. Events at the Republican National Convention

Trump Campaign officials met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the week of the Republican National Convention. The evidence indicates that those interactions were brief and non-substantive. During platform committee meetings immediately before the Convention, J.D. Gordon, a senior Campaign advisor on policy and national security, diluted a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform expressing support for providing ”lethal” assistance to Ukraine in response to Russian aggression. Gordon requested that platform committee personnel revise the proposed amendment to state that only ”appropriate” assistance be provided to Ukraine. The original sponsor of the ”lethal” assistance amendment stated that Gordon told her (the sponsor) that he was on the phone with candidate Trump in connection with his request to dilute the language. Gordon denied making that statement to the sponsor, although he acknowledged it was possible he mentioned having previously spoken to the candidate about the subject matter. The investigation did not establish that Gordon spoke to or was directed by the candidate to make that proposal. Gordon said that he sought the change because he believed the proposed language was inconsistent with Trump’s position on Ukraine.

Ambassador Kislyak’s Encounters with Senator Sessions and J.D. Gordon the Week of the RNC In July 2016, Senator Sessions and Gordon spoke at the Global Partners in Diplomacy event, a conference co-sponsored by the State Department and the Heritage Foundation held in Cleveland, Ohio the same week as the Republican National Convention (RNC or ”Convention”).775 Approximately 80 foreign ambassadors to the United States, including Kislyak, were invited to the conference.776

On July 20, 2016, Gordon and Sessions delivered their speeches at the conference.777 In his speech, Gordon stated in pertinent part that the United States should have better relations with Russia.778 During Sessions’s speech, he took questions from the audience, one of which may have been asked by Kislyak.779 When the speeches concluded, several ambassadors lined up to greet the speakers.780 Gordon shook hands with Kislyak and reiterated that he had meant what he said in the speech about improving U.S.–Russia relations.781 Sessions separately spoke with between six and 12 ambassadors, including Kislyak.782 Although Sessions stated during interviews with the Office that he had no specific recollection of what he discussed with Kislyak, he believed that the two spoke for only a few minutes and that they would have exchanged pleasantries and said some things about U.S.–Russia relations.783

Later that evening, Gordon attended a reception as part of the conference.784 Gordon ran into Kislyak as the two prepared plates of food, and they decided to sit at the same table to eat.785 They were joined at that table by the ambassadors from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and by Trump Campaign advisor Carter Page.786 As they ate, Gordon and Kislyak talked for what Gordon estimated to have been three to five minutes, during which Gordon again mentioned that he meant what he said in his speech about improving U.S.–Russia relations.787

Change to Republican Party Platform In preparation for the 2016 Convention, foreign policy advisors to the Trump Campaign, working with the Republican National Committee, reviewed the 2012 Convention’s foreign policy platform to identify divergence between the earlier platform and candidate Trump’s positions.788 The Campaign team discussed toning down language from the 2012 platform that identified Russia as the country’s number one threat, given the candidate’s belief that there needed to be better U.S. relations with Russia.789 The RNC Platform Committee sent the 2016 draft platform to the National Security and Defense Platform Subcommittee on July 10, 2016, the evening before its first meeting to propose amendments.790

Although only delegates could participate in formal discussions and vote on the platform, the Trump Campaign could request changes, and members of the Trump Campaign attended committee meetings.791 John Mashburn, the Campaign’s policy director, helped oversee the Campaign’s involvement in the platform committee meetings.792 He told the Office that he directed Campaign staff at the Convention, including J.D. Gordon, to take a hands-off approach and only to challenge platform planks if they directly contradicted Trump’s wishes.793

On July 11, 2016, delegate Diana Denman submitted a proposed platform amendment that included provision of armed support for Ukraine.794 The amendment described Russia’s ”ongoing military aggression” in Ukraine and announced ”support” for ”maintaining (and, if warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored” and for ”providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning.”795 Gordon reviewed the proposed platform changes, including Denman’s.796 Gordon stated that he flagged this amendment because of Trump’s stated position on Ukraine, which Gordon personally heard the candidate say at the March 31 foreign policy meeting—namely, that the Europeans should take primary responsibility for any assistance to Ukraine, that there should be improved U.S.–Russia relations, and that he did not want to start World War III over that region.797 Gordon told the Office that Trump’s statements on the campaign trail following the March meeting underscored those positions to the point where Gordon felt obliged to object to the proposed platform change and seek its dilution.798

On July 11, 2016, at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Platform Subcommittee, Denman offered her amendment.799 Gordon and another Campaign staffer, Matt Miller, approached a committee co-chair and asked him to table the amendment to permit further discussion.800 Gordon’s concern with the amendment was the language about providing ”lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.”801 Miller did not have any independent basis to believe that this language contradicted Trump’s views and relied on Gordon’s recollection of the candidate’s views.802

According to Denman, she spoke with Gordon and Matt Miller, and they told her that they had to clear the language and that Gordon was ”talking to New York.”803 Denman told others that she was asked by the two Trump Campaign staffers to strike ”lethal defense weapons” from the proposal but that she refused.804 Demnan recalled Gordon saying that he was on the phone with candidate Trump, but she was skeptical whether that was true.805 Gordon denied having told Denman that he was on the phone with Trump, although he acknowledged it was possible that he mentioned having previously spoken to the candidate about the subject matter.806 Gordon’s phone records reveal a call to Sessions’s office in Washington that afternoon, but do not include calls directly to a number associated with Trump.807 And according to the President’s written answers to the Office’s questions, he does not recall being involved in the change in language of the platform amendment.808

Gordon stated that he tried to reach Rick Dearborn, a senior foreign policy advisor, and Mashburn, the Campaign policy director. Gordon stated that he connected with both of them (he could not recall if by phone or in person) and apprised them of the language he took issue with in the proposed amendment. Gordon recalled no objection by either Dearborn or Mashburn and that all three Campaign advisors supported the alternative formulation (”appropriate assistance”).809 Dearborn recalled Gordon warning them about the amendment, but not weighing in because Gordon was more familiar with the Campaign’s foreign policy stance.810 Mashburn stated that Gordon reached him, and he told Gordon that Trump had not taken a stance on the issue and that the Campaign should not intervene.811

When the amendment came up again in the committee’s proceedings, the subcommittee changed the amendment by striking the ”lethal defense weapons” language and replacing it with ”appropriate assistance.”812 Gordon stated that he and the subcommittee co-chair ultimately agreed to replace the language about armed assistance with ”appropriate assistance.”813 The subcommittee accordingly approved Denman’s amendment but with the term ”appropriate assistance.”814 Gordon stated that, to his recollection, this was the only change sought by the Campaign.815 Sam Clovis, the Campaign’s national co-chair and chief policy advisor, stated he was surprised by the change and did not believe it was in line with Trump’s stance.816 Mashburn stated that when he saw the word ”appropriate assistance,” he believed that Gordon had violated Mashburn’s directive not to intervene.817

7. Post-Convention Contacts with Kislyak

Ambassador Kislyak continued his efforts to interact with Campaign officials with responsibility for the foreign-policy portfolio—among them Sessions and Gordon—in the weeks after the Convention. The Office did not identify evidence in those interactions of coordination between the Campaign and the Russian government.

Ambassador Kislyak Invites J.D. Gordon to Breakfast at the Ambassador’s Residence On August 3, 2016, an official from the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the United States wrote to Gordon ”[o]n behalf of” Ambassador Kislyak inviting Gordon ”to have breakfast/tea with the Ambassador at his residence” in Washington, D.C. the following week.818 Gordon responded five days later to decline the invitation. He wrote, ”[t]hese days are not optimal for us, as we are busily knocking down a constant stream of false media stories while also preparing for the first debate with HRC. Hope to take a raincheck for another time when things quiet down a bit. Please pass along my regards to the Ambassador.”819 The investigation did not identify evidence that Gordon made any other arrangements to meet (or met) with Kislyak after this email.

Senator Sessions’s September 2016 Meeting with Ambassador Kislyak Also in August 2016, a representative of the Russian Embassy contacted Sessions’s Senate office about setting up a meeting with Kislyak.820 At the time, Sessions was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and would meet with foreign officials in that capacity.821 But Sessions’s staff reported, and Sessions himself acknowledged, that meeting requests from ambassadors increased substantially in 2016, as Sessions assumed a prominent role in the Trump Campaign and his name was mentioned for potential cabinet-level positions in a future Trump Administration.822

On September 8, 2016, Sessions met with Kislyak in his Senate office.823 Sessions said that he believed he was doing the Campaign a service by meeting with foreign ambassadors, including Kislyak.824 He was accompanied in the meeting by at least two of his Senate staff: Sandra Luff, his legislative director; and Pete Landrum, who handled military affairs.825 The meeting lasted less than 30 minutes.826 Sessions voiced concerns about Russia’s sale of a missile-defense system to Iran, Russian planes buzzing U.S. military assets in the Middle East, and Russian aggression in emerging democracies such as Ukraine and Moldova.827 Kislyak offered explanations on these issues and complained about NATO land forces in former Soviet-bloc countries that border Russia.828 Landrum recalled that Kislyak referred to the presidential campaign as ”an interesting campaign,”829 and Sessions also recalled Kislyak saying that the Russian government was receptive to the overtures Trump had laid out during his campaign.830 None of the attendees, though, remembered any discussion of Russian election interference or any request that Sessions convey information from the Russian government to the Trump Campaign.831

During the meeting, Kislyak invited Sessions to further discuss U.S.–Russia relations with him over a meal at the ambassador’s residence.832 Sessions was non-committal when Kislyak extended the invitation. After the meeting ended, Luff advised Sessions against accepting the one-on-one meeting with Kislyak, whom she assessed to be an ”old school KGB guy.”833 Neither Luff nor Landrum recalled that Sessions followed up on the invitation or made any further effort to dine or meet with Kislyak before the November 2016 election.834 Sessions and Landrum recalled that, after the election, some efforts were made to arrange a meeting between Sessions and Kislyak.835 According to Sessions, the request came through CNI and would have involved a meeting between Sessions and Kislyak, two other ambassadors, and the Governor of Alabama.836 Sessions, however, was in New York on the day of the anticipated meeting and was unable to attend.837 The investigation did not identify evidence that the two men met at any point after their September 8 meeting.

8. Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort served on the Trump Campaign, including a period as campaign chairman, from March to August 2016.838 Manafort had connections to Russia through his prior work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and later through his work for a pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. Manafort stayed in touch with these contacts during the campaign period through Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort employee who previously ran Manafort’s office in Kiev and who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the Campaign and a longtime employee,839 to provide Kilimnik with updates on the Trump Campaign—including internal polling data, although Manafort claims not to recall that specific instruction. Manafort expected Kilimnik to share that information with others in Ukraine and with Deripaska. Gates periodically sent such polling data to Kilimnik during the campaign.

Manafort also twice met Kilimnik in the United States during the campaign period and conveyed campaign information. The second meeting took place on August 2, 2016, in New York City. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a message from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was then living in Russia. The message was about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a ”backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine. Several months later, after the presidential election, Kilimnik wrote an email to Manafort expressing the view—which Manafort later said he shared—that the plan’s success would require U.S. support to succeed: ”all that is required to start the process is a very minor ’wink’ (or slight push) from [Donald Trump].”840 The email also stated that if Manafort were designated as the U.S. representative and started the process, Yanukovych would ensure his reception in Russia ”at the very top level.”

Manafort communicated with Kilimnik about peace plans for Ukraine on at least four occasions after their first discussion of the topic on August 2: December 2016 (the Kilimnik email described above); January 2017; February 2017; and again in the spring of 2018. The Office reviewed numerous Manafort email and text communications, and asked President Trump about the plan in written questions.841 The investigation did not uncover evidence of Manafort’s passing along information about Ukrainian peace plans to the candidate or anyone else in the Campaign or the Administration. The Office was not, however, able to gain access to all of Manafort’s electronic communications (in some instances, messages were sent using encryption applications). And while Manafort denied that he spoke to members of the Trump Campaign or the new Administration about the peace plan, he lied to the Office and the grand jury about the peace plan and his meetings with Kilimnik, and his unreliability on this subject was among the reasons that the district judge found that he breached his cooperation agreement.842

The Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing with Kilimnik during the campaign period. Manafort _________ _______ did not see a downside to sharing campaign information, and told Gates that his role in the Campaign would be ”good for business” and potentially a way to be made whole for work he previously completed in the Ukraine. As to Deripaska, Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a ”disagreement”—a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits. Because of questions about Manafort’s credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it. The Office did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort’s sharing polling data and Russia’s interference in the election, which had already been reported by U.S. media outlets at the time of the August 2 meeting. The investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference efforts.

Paul Manafort’s Ties to Russia and Ukraine Manafort’s Russian contacts during the campaign and transition periods stem from his consulting work for Deripaska from approximately 2005 to 2009 and his separate political consulting work in Ukraine from 2005 to 2015, including through his company DMP International LLC (DMI). Kilimnik worked for Manafort in Kiev during this entire period and continued to communicate with Manafort through at least June 2018. Kilimnik, who speaks and writes Ukrainian and Russian, facilitated many of Manafort’s communications with Deripaska and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Oleg Deripaska Consulting Work In approximately 2005, Manafort began working for Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who has a global empire involving aluminum and power companies and who is closely aligned with Vladimir Putin.843 A memorandum describing work that Manafort performed for Deripaska in 2005 regarding the post-Soviet republics referenced the need to brief the Kremlin and the benefits that the work could confer on ”the Putin Government.”844 Gates described the work Manafort did for Deripaska as ”political risk insurance,” and explained that Deripaska used Manafort to install friendly political officials in countries where Deripaska had business interests.845 Manafort’s company earned tens of millions of dollars from its work for Deripaska and was loaned millions of dollars by Deripaska as well.846

In 2007, Deripaska invested through another entity in Pericles Emerging Market Partners L.P. (”Pericles”), an investment fund created by Manafort and former Manafort business partner Richard Davis. The Pericles fund was established to pursue investments in Eastern Europe.847 Deripaska was the sole investor.848 Gates stated in interviews with the Office that the venture led to a deterioration of the relationship between Manafort and Deripaska.849 In particular, when the fund failed, litigation between Manafort and Deripaska ensued. Gates stated that, by 2009, Manafort’s business relationship with Deripaska had ”dried up.”850 According to Gates, various interactions with Deripaska and his intermediaries over the past few years have involved trying to resolve the legal dispute.851 As described below, in 2016, Manafort, Gates, Kilimnik, and others engaged in efforts to revive the Deripaska relationship and resolve the litigation.

Political Consulting Work Through Deripaska, Manafort was introduced to Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian oligarch who hired Manafort as a political consultant.852 In 2005, Akhmetov hired Manafort to engage in political work supporting the Party of Regions,853 a political party in Ukraine that was generally understood to align with Russia. Manafort assisted the Party of Regions in regaining power, and its candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, won the presidency in 2010. Manafort became a close and trusted political advisor to Yanukovych during his time as President of Ukraine. Yanukovych served in that role until 2014, when he fled to Russia amidst popular protests.854

Konstantin Kilimnik Kilimnik is a Russian national who has lived in both Russia and Ukraine and was a longtime Manafort employee.855 Kilimnik had direct and close access to Yanukovych and his senior entourage, and he facilitated communications between Manafort and his clients, including Yanukovych and multiple Ukrainian oligarchs.856 Kilimnik also maintained a relationship with Deripaska’s deputy, Viktor Boyarkin,857 a Russian national who previously served in the defense attach office of the Russian Embassy to the United States.858

Manafort told the Office that he did not believe Kilimnik was working as a Russian ”spy.”859 The FBI, however, assesses that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence.860 Several pieces of the Office’s evidence—including witness interviews and emails obtained through court-authorized search warrants—support that assessment:

_____________ __________

Contacts during Paul Manafort’s Time with the Trump Campaign

Paul Manafort Joins the Campaign Manafort served on the Trump Campaign from late March to August 19, 2016. On March 29, 2016, the Campaign announced that Manafort would serve as the Campaign’s ”Convention Manager.”871 On May 19, 2016, Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist, and Gates, who had been assisting Manafort on the Campaign, was appointed deputy campaign chairman.872

Thomas Barrack and Roger Stone both recommended Manafort to candidate Trump.873 In early 2016, at Manafort’s request, Barrack suggested to Trump that Manafort join the Campaign to manage the Republican Convention.874 Stone had worked with Manafort from approximately 1980 until the mid-1990s through various consulting and lobbying firms. Manafort met Trump in 1982 when Trump hired the Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly lobbying firm.875 Over the years, Manafort saw Trump at political and social events in New York City and at Stone’s wedding, and Trump requested VIP status at the 1988 and 1996 Republican conventions worked by Manafort.876

According to Gates, in March 2016, Manafort traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to meet with Trump. Trump hired him at that time.877 Manafort agreed to work on the Campaign without pay. Manafort had no meaningful income at this point in time, but resuscitating his domestic political campaign career could be financially beneficial in the future. Gates reported that Manafort intended, if Trump won the Presidency, to remain outside the Administration and monetize his relationship with the Administration.878

Paul Manafort’s Campaign-Period Contacts Immediately upon joining the Campaign, Manafort directed Gates to prepare for his review separate memoranda addressed to Deripaska, Akhmetov, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and Boris Kolesnikov,879 the last three being Ukrainian oligarchs who were senior Opposition Bloc officials.880 The memoranda described Manafort’s appointment to the Trump Campaign and indicated his willingness to consult on Ukrainian politics in the future. On March 30, 2016, Gates emailed the memoranda and a press release announcing Manafort’s appointment to Kilimnik for translation and dissemination.881 Manafort later followed up with Kilimnik to ensure his messages had been delivered, emailing on April 11, 2016 to ask whether Kilimnik had shown ”our friends” the media coverage of his new role.882 Kilimnik replied, ”Absolutely. Every article.” Manafort further asked: ”How do we use to get whole. Has Ovd [Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska] operation seen?” Kilimnik wrote back the same day, ”Yes, I have been sending everything to Victor [Boyarkin, Deripaska’s deputy], who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD.”883

Gates reported that Manafort said that being hired on the Campaign would be ”good for business” and increase the likelihood that Manafort would be paid the approximately $2 million he was owed for previous political consulting work in Ukraine.884 Gates also explained to the Office that Manafort thought his role on the Campaign could help ”confirm” that Deripaska had dropped the Pericles lawsuit, and that Gates believed Manafort sent polling data to Deripaska (as discussed further below) so that Deripaska would not move forward with his lawsuit against Manafort.885 Gates further stated that Deripaska wanted a visa to the United States, that Deripaska could believe that having Manafort in a position inside the Campaign or Administration might be helpful to Deripaska, and that Manafort’s relationship with Trump could help Deripaska in other ways as well.886 Gates stated, however, that Manafort never told him anything specific about what, if anything, Manafort might be offering Deripaska.887

Gates also reported that Manafort instructed him in April 2016 or early May 2016 to send Kilimnik Campaign internal polling data and other updates so that Kilimnik, in turn, could share it with Ukrainian oligarchs.888 Gates understood that the information would also be shared with Deripaska, _________ ____.889 Gates reported to the Office that he did not know why Manafort wanted him to send polling information, but Gates thought it was a way to showcase Manafort’s work, and Manafort wanted to open doors to jobs after the Trump Campaign ended.890 Gates said that Manafort’s instruction included sending internal polling data prepared for the Trump Campaign by pollster Tony Fabrizio.891 Fabrizio had worked with Manafort for years and was brought into the Campaign by Manafort. Gates stated that, in accordance with Manafort’s instruction, he periodically sent Kilimnik polling data via WhatsApp; Gates then deleted the communications on a daily basis.892 Gates further told the Office that, after Manafort left the Campaign in mid-August, Gates sent Kilimnik polling data less frequently and that the data he sent was more publicly available information and less internal data.893

Gates’s account about polling data is consistent _________ ____894 ______ _____ with multiple emails that Kilimnik sent to U.S. associates and press contacts between late July and mid-August of 2016. Those emails referenced ”internal polling,” described the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s role in it, and assessed Trump’s prospects for victory.895 Manafort did not acknowledge instructing Gates to send Kilimnik internal data, _________ ____896

The Office also obtained contemporaneous emails that shed light on the purpose of the communications with Deripaska and that are consistent with Gates’s account. For example, in response to a July 7, 2016, email from a Ukrainian reporter about Manafort’s failed Deripaska-backed investment, Manafort asked Kilimnik whether there had been any movement on ”this issue with our friend.”897 Gates stated that ”our friend” likely referred to Deripaska,898 and Manafort told the Office that the ”issue” (and ”our biggest interest,” as stated below) was a solution to the Deripaska–Pericles issue.899 Kilimnik replied:

I am carefully optimistic on the question of our biggest interest.

Our friend [Boyarkin] said there is lately significantly more attention to the campaign in his boss’ [Deripaska’s] mind, and he will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon, understanding all the time sensitivity. I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship with V.’s boss [Deripaska].900

Eight minutes later, Manafort replied that Kilimnik should tell Boyarkin’s ”boss,” a reference to Deripaska, ”that if he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”901 Manafort has alleged to the Office that he was willing to brief Deripaska only on public campaign matters and gave an example: why Trump selected Mike Pence as the Vice-Presidential running mate.902 Manafort said he never gave Deripaska a briefing.903 Manafort noted that if Trump won, Deripaska would want to use Manafort to advance whatever interests Deripaska had in the United States and elsewhere.904

Paul Manafort’s Two Campaign-Period Meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik in the United States Manafort twice met with Kilimnik in person during the campaign period—once in May and again in August 2016. The first meeting took place on May 7, 2016, in New York City.905 In the days leading to the meeting, Kilimnik had been working to gather information about the political situation in Ukraine. That included information gleaned from a trip that former Party of Regions official Yuriy Boyko had recently taken to Moscow—a trip that likely included meetings between Boyko and high-ranking Russian officials.906 Kilimnik then traveled to Washington, D.C. on or about May 5, 2016; while in Washington, Kilimnik had pre-arranged meetings with State Department employees.907

Late on the evening of May 6, Gates arranged for Kilimnik to take a 3:00 a.m. train to meet Manafort in New York for breakfast on May 7.908 According to Manafort, during the meeting, he and Kilimnik talked about events in Ukraine, and Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the Trump Campaign, expecting Kilimnik to pass the information back to individuals in Ukraine and elsewhere.909 Manafort stated that Opposition Bloc members recognized Manafort’s position on the Campaign was an opportunity, but Kilimnik did not ask for anything.910 Kilimnik spoke about a plan of Boyko to boost election participation in the eastern zone of Ukraine, which was the base for the Opposition Bloc.911 Kilimnik returned to Washington, D.C. right after the meeting with Manafort.

Manafort met with Kilimnik a second time at the Grand Havana Club in New York City on the evening of August 2, 2016. The events leading to the meeting are as follows. On July 28, 2016, Kilimnik flew from Kiev to Moscow.912 The next day, Kilimnik wrote to Manafort requesting that they meet, using coded language about a conversation he had that day.913 In an email with a subject line ”Black Caviar,” Kilimnik wrote:

I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago. We spent about 5 hours talking about his story, and I have several important messages from him to you. He asked me to go and brief you on our conversation. I said I have to run it by you first, but in principle I am prepared to do it…. It has to do about the future of his country, and is quite interesting.914

Manafort identified ”the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar” as Yanukovych. He explained that, in 2010, he and Yanukovych had lunch to celebrate the recent presidential election. Yanukovych gave Manafort a large jar of black caviar that was worth approximately $30,000 to $40,000.915 Manafort’s identification of Yanukovych as ”the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar” is consistent with Kilimnik being in Moscow—where Yanukovych resided—when Kilimnik wrote ”I met today with a guy,” and with a December 2016 email in which Kilimnik referred to Yanukovych as ”BG,” _________ ____916 Manafort replied to Kilimnik’s July 29 email, ”Tuesday [August 2] is best … Tues or weds in NYC.”917

Three days later, on July 31, 2016, Kilimnik flew back to Kiev from Moscow, and on that same day, wrote to Manafort that he needed ”about 2 hours” for their meeting ”because it is a long caviar story to tell.”918 Kilimnik wrote that he would arrive at JFK on August 2 at 7:30 p.m., and he and Manafort agreed to a late dinner that night.919 Documentary evidence—including flight, phone, and hotel records, and the timing of text messages exchanged920—confirms the dinner took place as planned on August 2.921

As to the contents of the meeting itself, the accounts of Manafort and Gates—who arrived late to the dinner—differ in certain respects. But their versions of events, when assessed alongside available documentary evidence and what Kilimnik told business associate Sam Patten, indicate that at least three principal topics were discussed.

First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a ”backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.924 Manafort initially said that, if he had not cut off the discussion, Kilimnik would have asked Manafort in the August 2 meeting to convince Trump to come out in favor of the peace plan, and Yanukovych would have expected Manafort to use his connections in Europe and Ukraine to support the plan.925 Manafort also initially told the Office that he had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy, that the discussion ended, and that he did not recall Kilimnik asking Manafort to reconsider the plan after their August 2 meeting.926 Manafort said _________ _______ that he reacted negatively to Yanukovych sending—years later—an ”urgent” request when Yanukovych needed him.927 When confronted with an email written by Kilimnik on or about December 8, 2016, however, Manafort acknowledged Kilimnik raised the peace plan again in that email.928 Manafort ultimately acknowledged Kilimnik also raised the peace plan in January and February 2017 meetings with Manafort _________ ____929

Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of ”battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.931 Manafort did not refer explicitly to ”battle ground” states in his telling of the August 2 discussion, ______ _____932

Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Manafort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.933

After the meeting, Gates and Manafort both stated that they left separately from Kilimnik because they knew the media was tracking Manafort and wanted to avoid media reporting on his connections to Kilimnik.934

Post-Resignation Activities Manafort resigned from the Trump Campaign in mid-August 2016, approximately two weeks after his second meeting with Kilimnik, amidst negative media reporting about his political consulting work for the pro-Russian Party of Regions in Ukraine. Despite his resignation, Manafort continued to offer advice to various Campaign officials through the November election. Manafort told Gates that he still spoke with Kushner, Bannon, and candidate Trump,935 and some of those post-resignation contacts are documented in emails. For example, on October 21, 2016, Manafort sent Kushner an email and attached a strategy memorandum proposing that the Campaign make the case against Clinton ”as the failed and corrupt champion of the establishment” and that ”Wikileaks provides the Trump campaign the ability to make the case in a very credible way—by using the words of Clinton, its campaign officials and DNC members.”936 Later, in a November 5, 2016 email to Kushner entitled ”Securing the Victory,” Manafort stated that he was ”really feeling good about our prospects on Tuesday and focusing on preserving the victory,” and that he was concerned the Clinton Campaign would respond to a loss by ”mov[ing] immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.”937

Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016. Manafort told the Office that, in the wake of Trump’s victory, he was not interested in an Administration job. Manafort instead preferred to stay on the ”outside,” and monetize his campaign position to generate business given his familiarity and relationship with Trump and the incoming Administration.938 Manafort appeared to follow that plan, as he traveled to the Middle East, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, and China and was paid to explain what a Trump presidency would entail.939

Manafort’s activities in early 2017 included meetings relating to Ukraine and Russia. The first meeting, which took place in Madrid, Spain in January 2017, was with Georgiy Oganov. Oganov, who had previously worked at the Russian Embassy in the United States, was a senior executive at a Deripaska company and was believed to report directly to Deripaska.940 Manafort initially denied attending the meeting. When he later acknowledged it, he claimed that the meeting had been arranged by his lawyers and concerned only the Pericles lawsuit.941 Other evidence, however, provides reason to doubt Manafort’s statement that the sole topic of the meeting was the Pericles lawsuit. In particular, text messages to Manafort from a number associated with Kilimnik suggest that Kilimnik and Boyarkin—not Manafort’s counsel—had arranged the meeting between Manafort and Oganov.942 Kilimnik’s message states that the meeting was supposed to be ”not about money or Pericles” but instead ”about recreating [the] old friendship”—ostensibly between Manafort and Deripaska—”and talking about global politics.”943 Manafort also replied by text that he ”need[s] this finished before Jan. 20,”944 which appears to be a reference to resolving Pericles before the inauguration.

On January 15, 2017, three days after his return from Madrid, Manafort emailed K.T. McFarland, who was at that time designated to be Deputy National Security Advisor and was formally appointed to that position on January 20, 2017.945 Manafort’s January 15 email to McFarland stated: ”I have some important information I want to share that I picked up on my travels over the last month.”946 Manafort told the Office that the email referred to an issue regarding Cuba, not Russia or Ukraine, and Manafort had traveled to Cuba in the past month.947 Either way, McFarland—who was advised by Flynn not to respond to the Manafort inquiry—appears not to have responded to Manafort.948

Manafort told the Office that around the time of the Presidential Inauguration in January, he met with Kilimnik and Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia.949 During this meeting, Kilimnik again discussed the Yanukovych peace plan that he had broached at the August 2 meeting and in a detailed December 8, 2016 message found in Kilimnik’s DMP email account.950 In that December 8 email, which Manafort acknowledged having read,951 Kilimnik wrote, ”[a]ll that is required to start the process is a very minor ’wink’ (or slight push) from DT”—an apparent reference to President-elect Trump—”and a decision to authorize you to be a ’special representative’ and manage this process.” Kilimnik assured Manafort, with that authority, he ”could start the process and within 10 days visit Russia [Yanukovych] guarantees your reception at the very top level,” and that ”DT could have peace in Ukraine basically within a few months after inauguration.”952

As noted above, _________ _______ and statements to the Office, Manafort sought to qualify his engagement on and support for the plan. _________ ____953 __________ ____954 __________ ____955 ______ _____

On February 26, 2017, Manafort met Kilimnik in Madrid, where Kilimnik had flown from Moscow.956 In his first two interviews with the Office, Manafort denied meeting with Kilimnik on his Madrid trip and then—after being confronted with documentary evidence that Kilimnik was in Madrid at the same time as him—recognized that he met him in Madrid. Manafort said that Kilimnik had updated him on a criminal investigation into so-called ”black ledger” payments to Manafort that was being conducted by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau.957 ______ _____958

Manafort remained in contact with Kilimnik throughout 2017 and into the spring of 2018. Those contacts included matters pertaining to the criminal charges brought by the Office,959 and the Ukraine peace plan. In early 2018, Manafort retained his longtime polling firm to craft a draft poll in Ukraine, sent the pollsters a three-page primer on the plan sent by Kilimnik, and worked with Kilimnik to formulate the polling questions.960 The primer sent to the pollsters specifically called for the United States and President Trump to support the Autonomous Republic of Donbas with Yanukovych as Prime Minister,961 and a series of questions in the draft poll asked for opinions on Yanukovych’s role in resolving the conflict in Donbas.962 (The poll was not solely about Donbas; it also sought participants’ views on leaders apart from Yanukovych as they pertained to the 2019 Ukraine presidential election.)

The Office has not uncovered evidence that Manafort brought the Ukraine peace plan to the attention of the Trump Campaign or the Trump Administration. Kilimnik continued his efforts to promote the peace plan to the Executive Branch (e.g., U.S. Department of State) into the summer of 2018.963

B. Post-Election and Transition-Period Contacts

Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016. Beginning immediately after the election, individuals connected to the Russian government started contacting officials on the Trump Campaign and Transition Team through multiple channels—sometimes through Russian Ambassador Kislyak and at other times through individuals who sought reliable contacts through U.S. persons not formally tied to the Campaign or Transition Team. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts. The investigation did not establish that these efforts reflected or constituted coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia in its election-interference activities.

1. Immediate Post-Election Activity

As soon as news broke that Trump had been elected President, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new Administration. They appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect. As explained below, those efforts entailed both official contact through the Russian Embassy in the United States and outreaches—sanctioned at high levels of the Russian government—through business rather than political contacts.

Outreach from the Russian Government At approximately 3 a.m. on election night, Trump Campaign press secretary Hope Hicks received a telephone call on her personal cell phone from a person who sounded foreign but was calling from a number with a DC area code.964 Although Hicks had a hard time understanding the person, she could make out the words ”Putin call.”965 Hicks told the caller to send her an email.966

The following morning, on November 9, 2016, Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy to the United States, emailed Hicks from his Gmail address with the subject line, ”Message from Putin.”967 Attached to the email was a message from Putin, in both English and Russian, which Kuznetsov asked Hicks to convey to the President-Elect.968 In the message, Putin offered his congratulations to Trump for his electoral victory, stating he ”look[ed] forward to working with [Trump] on leading Russian–American relations out of crisis.”969

Hicks forwarded the email to Kushner, asking, ”Can you look into this? Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!”970 Kushner stated in Congressional testimony that he believed that it would be possible to verify the authenticity of the forwarded email through the Russian Ambassador, whom Kushner had previously met in April 2016.971 Unable to recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, Kushner emailed Dimitri Simes of CNI, whom he had consulted previously about Russia, see Volume I, Section IV.A.4, supra, and asked, ”What is the name of Russian ambassador?”972 Kushner forwarded Simes’s response—which identified Kislyak by name—to Hicks.973 After checking with Kushner to see what he had learned, Hicks conveyed Putin’s letter to transition officials.974 Five days later, on November 14, 2016, Trump and Putin spoke by phone in the presence of Transition Team members, including incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.975

High-Level Encouragement of Contacts through Alternative Channels As Russian officials in the United States reached out to the President-Elect and his team, a number of Russian individuals working in the private sector began their own efforts to make contact. Petr Aven, a Russian national who heads Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank, described to the Office interactions with Putin during this time period that might account for the flurry of Russian activity.976

Aven told the Office that he is one of approximately 50 wealthy Russian businessmen who regularly meet with Putin in the Kremlin; these 50 men are often referred to as ”oligarchs.”977 Aven told the Office that he met on a quarterly basis with Putin, including in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2016, shortly after the U.S. presidential election.978 Aven said that he took these meetings seriously and understood that any suggestions or critiques that Putin made during these meetings were implicit directives, and that there would be consequences for Aven if he did not follow through.979 As was typical, the 2016 Q4 meeting with Putin was preceded by a preparatory meeting with Putin’s chief of staff, Anton Vaino.980

According to Aven, at his Q4 2016 one-on-one meeting with Putin,981 Putin raised the prospect that the United States would impose additional sanctions on Russian interests, including sanctions against Aven and/or Alfa-Bank.982 Putin suggested that Aven needed to take steps to protect himself and Alfa-Bank.983 Aven also testified that Putin spoke of the difficulty faced by the Russian government in getting in touch with the incoming Trump Administration.984 According to Aven, Putin indicated that he did not know with whom formally to speak and generally did not know the people around the President-Elect.985

Aven _________ _______ told Putin he would take steps to protect himself and the Alfa-Bank shareholders from potential sanctions, and one of those steps would be to try to reach out to the incoming Administration to establish a line of communication.986 Aven described Putin responding with skepticism about Aven’s prospect for success.987 According to Aven, although Putin did not expressly direct him to reach out to the Trump Transition Team, Aven understood that Putin expected him to try to respond to the concerns he had raised.988 Aven’s efforts are described in Volume I, Section IV.B.5, infra.

2. Kirill Dmitriev’s Transition-Era Outreach to the Incoming Administration

Aven’s description of his interactions with Putin is consistent with the behavior of Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian national who heads Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and is closely connected to Putin. Dmitriev undertook efforts to meet members of the incoming Trump Administration in the months after the election. Dmitriev asked a close business associate who worked for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal court, George Nader, to introduce him to Trump transition officials, and Nader eventually arranged a meeting in the Seychelles between Dmitriev and Erik Prince, a Trump Campaign supporter and an associate of Steve Bannon.989 In addition, the UAE national security advisor introduced Dmitriev to a hedge fund manager and friend of Jared Kushner, Rick Gerson, in late November 2016. In December 2016 and January 2017, Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin. Gerson provided that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Background Dmitriev is a Russian national who was appointed CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), when it was founded in 2011.990 Dmitriev reported directly to Putin and frequently referred to Putin as his ”boss.”991

RDIF has co-invested in various projects with UAE sovereign wealth funds.992 Dmitriev regularly interacted with Nader, a senior advisor to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (Crown Prince Mohammed), in connection with RDIF’s dealings with the UAE.993 Putin wanted Dmitriev to be in charge of both the financial and the political relationship between Russia and the Gulf states, in part because Dmitriev had been educated in the West and spoke English fluently.994 Nader considered Dmitriev to be Putin’s interlocutor in the Gulf region, and would relay Dmitriev’s views directly to Crown Prince Mohammed.995

Nader developed contacts with both U.S. presidential campaigns during the 2016 election, and kept Dmitriev abreast of his efforts to do so.996 According to Nader, Dmitriev said that his and the government of Russia’s preference was for candidate Trump to win and asked Nader to assist him in meeting members of the Trump Campaign.997 ______ _____998 Nader did not introduce Dmitriev to anyone associated with the Trump Campaign before the election.999

_______ _____1000 ______ _____1001 ______ _____1002 ______ _____1003 ______ _____1004

Erik Prince is a businessman who had relationships with various individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, including Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr., and Roger Stone.1005 Prince did not have a formal role in the Campaign, although he offered to host a fundraiser for Trump and sent unsolicited policy papers on issues such as foreign policy, trade, and Russian election interference to Bannon.1006

After the election, Prince frequently visited transition offices at Trump Tower, primarily to meet with Bannon but on occasion to meet Michael Flynn and others.1007 Prince and Bannon would discuss, inter alia, foreign policy issues and Prince’s recommendations regarding who should be appointed to fill key national security positions.1008 Although Prince was not formally affiliated with the transition, Nader _________ _______ received assurances _________ _______ that the incoming Administration considered Prince a trusted associate.1009

Kirill Dmitriev’s Post-Election Contacts With the Incoming Administration Soon after midnight on election night, Dmitriev messaged __________________ ______________ who was traveling to New York to attend the 2016 World Chess Championship. __________________ ______________ Dmitry Peskov, the Russian Federation’s press secretary, who was also attending the World Chess Championship.1010 _____________ __________1011 _____________ __________1012 _____________ __________1013

At approximately 2:40 a.m. on November 9, 2016, news reports stated that candidate Clinton had called President-Elect Trump to concede. At __________________ __________1014 _____________ __________ wrote to Dmitriev, “Putin has won.”1015

Later that morning, Dmitriev contacted Nader, who was in New York, to request a meeting with the ”key people” in the incoming Administration as soon as possible in light of the ”[g]reat results.”1016 He asked Nader to convey to the incoming Administration that ”we want to start rebuilding the relationship in whatever is a comfortable pace for them. We understand all of the sensitivities and are not in a rush.”1017 Dmitriev and Nader had previously discussed Nader introducing him to the contacts Nader had made within the Trump Campaign.1018 Dmitriev also told Nader that he would ask Putin for permission to travel to the United States, where he would be able to speak to media outlets about the positive impact of Trump’s election and the need for reconciliation between the United States and Russia.1019

Later that day, Dmitriev flew to New York, where Peskov was separately traveling to attend the chess tournament.1020 Dmitriev invited Nader to the opening of the tournament and noted that, if there was ”a chance to see anyone key from Trump camp,” he “would love to start building for the future.”1021 Dmitriev also asked Nader to invite Kushner to the event so that he (Dmitriev) could meet him.1022 Nader did not pass along Dmitriev’s invitation to anyone connected with the incoming Administration.1023 Although one World Chess Federation official recalled hearing from an attendee that President-Elect Trump had stopped by the tournament, the investigation did not establish that Trump or any Campaign or Transition Team official attended the event.1024 And the President’s written answers denied that he had.1025

Nader stated that Dmitriev continued to press him to set up a meeting with transition officials, and was particularly focused on Kushner and Trump Jr.1026 Dmitriev told Nader that Putin would be very grateful to Nader and that a meeting would make history.1027 ______ _____1028 ______ _____1029 According to Nader, Dmitriev was very anxious to connect with the incoming Administration and told Nader that he would try other routes to do so besides Nader himself.1030 Nader did not ultimately introduce Dmitriev to anyone associated with the incoming Administration during Dmitriev’s post-election trip to New York.1031

In early December 2016, Dmitriev again broached the topic of meeting incoming Administration officials with Nader in January or February.1032 Dmitriev sent Nader a list of publicly available quotes of Dmitriev speaking positively about Donald Trump ”in case they [were] helpful.”1033

Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev Meet in the Seychelles

George Nader and Erik Prince Arrange Seychelles Meeting with Dmitriev Nader traveled to New York in early January 2017 and had lunchtime and dinner meetings with Erik Prince on January 3, 2017.1034 Nader and Prince discussed Dmitriev.1035 Nader informed Prince that the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump Administration.1036 ______ _____ he told Prince that Dmitriev had been pushing Nader to introduce him to someone from the incoming Administration _________ ____.1037 ______ _____ Nader suggested, in light of Prince’s and Dmitriev meet[ing] to discuss issues of mutual concern.1038 Prince told Nader that he needed to think further about it and to check with Transition Team officials.1039

After his dinner with Prince, Nader sent Prince a link to a Wikipedia entry about Dmitriev, and sent Dmitriev a message stating that he had just met ”with some key people within the family and inner circle”—a reference to Prince—and that he had spoken at length and positively about Dmitriev.1040 Nader told Dmitriev that the people he met had asked for Dmitriev’s bio, and Dmitriev replied that he would update and send it.1041 Nader later received from Dmitriev two files concerning Dmitriev: one was a two-page biography, and the other was a list of Dmitriev’s positive quotes about Donald Trump.1042

The next morning, Nader forwarded the message and attachments Dmitriev had sent him to Prince.1043 Nader wrote to Prince that these documents were the versions ”to be used with some additional details for them” (with ”them” referring to members of the incoming Administration).1044 Prince opened the attachments at Trump Tower within an hour of receiving them.1045 Prince stated that, while he was at Trump Tower that day, he spoke with Kellyanne Conway, Wilbur Ross, Steve Mnuchin, and others while waiting to see Bannon.1046 Cell-site location data for Prince’s mobile phone indicates that Prince remained at Trump Tower for approximately three hours.1047 Prince said that he could not recall whether, during those three hours, he met with Bannon and discussed Dmitriev with him.1048 ______ _____.1049

Prince booked a ticket to the Seychelles on January 7, 2017.1050 The following day, Nader wrote to Dmitriev that he had a ”pleasant surprise” for him, namely that he had arranged for Dmitriev to meet ”a Special Guest” from ”the New Team,” referring to Prince.1051 Nader asked Dmitriev if he could come to the Seychelles for the meeting on January 12, 2017, and Dmitriev agreed.1052

The following day, Dmitriev sought assurance from Nader that the Seychelles meeting would be worthwhile.1053 ______ _____ Dmitriev was not enthusiastic about the idea of meeting with Prince, and that Nader assured him that Prince wielded influence with the incoming Administration.1054 Nader wrote to Dmitriev, ”This guy [Prince] is designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you! I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team. His sister is now a Minister of Education.”1055 According to Nader, Prince had led him to believe that Bannon was aware of Prince’s upcoming meeting with Dmitriev, and Prince acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team.1056 Bannon, however, told the Office that Prince did not tell him in advance about his meeting with Dmitriev.1057

The Seychelles Meetings Dmitriev arrived with his wife in the Seychelles on January 11, 2017, and checked into the Four Seasons Resort where Crown Prince Mohammed and Nader were staying.1058 Prince arrived that same day.1059 Prince and Dmitriev met for the first time that afternoon in Nader’s villa, with Nader present.1060 The initial meeting lasted approximately 30–45 minutes.1061

_______ _____1062 Prince described the eight years of the Obama Administration in negative terms, and stated that he was looking forward to a new era of cooperation and conflict resolution.1063 According to Prince, he told Dmitriev that Bannon was effective if not conventional, and that Prince provided policy papers to Bannon.1064

_______ _____1065 ______ _____1066 ______ _____1067 ______ _____1068 The topic of Russian interference in the 2016 election did not come up.1069

_______ _____1070 Prince added that he would inform Bannon about his meeting with Dmitriev, and that if there was interest in continuing the discussion, Bannon or someone else on the Transition Team would do so.1071 __________ ____1072

Afterwards, Prince returned to his room, where he learned that a Russian aircraft carrier had sailed to Libya, which led him to call Nader and ask him to set up another meeting with Dmitriev.1073 According to Nader, Prince called and said he had checked with his associates back home and needed to convey to Dmitriev that Libya was ”off the table.”1074 Nader wrote to Dmitriev that Prince had ”received an urgent message that he needs to convey to you immediately,” and arranged for himself, Dmitriev, and Prince to meet at a restaurant on the Four Seasons property.1075

At the second meeting, Prince told Dmitriev that the United States could not accept any Russian involvement in Libya, because it would make the situation there much worse.1076 ______ _____1077

After the brief second meeting concluded, Nader and Dmitriev discussed what had transpired.1078 Dmitriev told Nader that he was disappointed in his meetings with Prince for two reasons: first, he believed the Russians needed to be communicating with someone who had more authority within the incoming Administration than Prince had.1079 Second, he had hoped to have a discussion of greater substance, such as outlining a strategic roadmap for both countries to follow.1080 Dmitriev told Nader that _________ _______ Prince’s comments _________ _______ were insulting _________ ____1081

Hours after the second meeting, Prince sent two text messages to Bannon from the Seychelles.1082 As described further below, investigators were unable to obtain the content of these or other messages between Prince and Bannon, and the investigation also did not identify evidence of any further communication between Prince and Dmitriev after their meetings in the Seychelles.

Erik Prince’s Meeting with Steve Bannon after the Seychelles Trip After the Seychelles meetings, Prince told Nader that he would inform Bannon about his discussion with Dmitriev and would convey that someone within the Russian power structure was interested in seeking better relations with the incoming Administration.1083 On January 12, 2017, Prince contacted Bannon’s personal assistant to set up a meeting for the following week.1084 Several days later, Prince messaged her again asking about Bannon’s schedule.1085

Prince said that he met Bannon at Bannon’s home after returning to the United States in mid-January and briefed him about several topics, including his meeting with Dmitriev.1086 Prince told the Office that he explained to Bannon that Dmitriev was the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund and was interested in improving relations between the United States and Russia.1087 Prince had on his cellphone a screenshot of Dmitriev’s Wikipedia page dated January 16, 2017, and Prince told the Office that he likely showed that image to Bannon.1088 Prince also believed he provided Bannon with Dmitriev’s contact information.1089 According to Prince, Bannon instructed Prince not to follow up with Dmitriev, and Prince had the impression that the issue was not a priority for Bannon.1090 Prince related that Bannon did not appear angry, just relatively uninterested.1091

Bannon, by contrast, told the Office that he never discussed with Prince anything regarding Dmitriev, RDIF, or any meetings with Russian individuals or people associated with Putin.1092 Bannon also stated that had Prince mentioned such a meeting, Bannon would have remembered it, and Bannon would have objected to such a meeting having taken place.1093

The conflicting accounts provided by Bannon and Prince could not be independently clarified by reviewing their communications, because neither one was able to produce any of the messages they exchanged in the time period surrounding the Seychelles meeting. Prince’s phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages.1094 Prince denied deleting any messages but claimed he did not know why there were no messages on his device before March 2017.1095 Bannon’s devices similarly contained no messages in the relevant time period, and Bannon also stated he did not know why messages did not appear on his device.1096 Bannon told the Office that, during both the months before and after the Seychelles meeting, he regularly used his personal Blackberry and personal email for work-related communications (including those with Prince), and he took no steps to preserve these work communications.1097

Kirill Dmitriev’s Post-Election Contact with Rick Gerson Regarding U.S.–Russia Relations Dmitriev’s contacts during the transition period were not limited to those facilitated by Nader. In approximately late November 2016, the UAE national security advisor introduced Dmitriev to Rick Gerson, a friend of Jared Kushner who runs a hedge fund in New York.1098 Gerson stated he had no formal role in the transition and had no involvement in the Trump Campaign other than occasional casual discussions about the Campaign with Kushner.1099 After the election, Gerson assisted the transition by arranging meetings for transition officials with former UK prime minister Tony Blair and a UAE delegation led by Crown Prince Mohammed.1100

When Dmitriev and Gerson met, they principally discussed potential joint ventures between Gerson’s hedge fund and RDIF.1101 Dmitriev was interested in improved economic cooperation between the United States and Russia and asked Gerson who he should meet with in the incoming Administration who would be helpful towards this goal.1102 Gerson replied that he would try to figure out the best way to arrange appropriate introductions, but noted that confidentiality would be required because of the sensitivity of holding such meetings before the new Administration took power, and before Cabinet nominees had been confirmed by the Senate.1103 Gerson said he would ask Kushner and Michael Flynn who the ”key person or people” were on the topics of reconciliation with Russia, joint security concerns, and economic matters.1104

Dmitriev told Gerson that he had been tasked by Putin to develop and execute a reconciliation plan between the United States and Russia. He noted in a text message to Gerson that if Russia was ”approached with respect and willingness to understand our position, we can have Major Breakthroughs quickly.”1105 Gerson and Dmitriev exchanged ideas in December 2016 about what such a reconciliation plan would include.1106 Gerson told the Office that the Transition Team had not asked him to engage in these discussions with Dmitriev, and that he did so on his own initiative and as a private citizen.1107

On January 9, 2017, the same day he asked Nader whether meeting Prince would be worthwhile, Dmitriev sent his biography to Gerson and asked him if he could ”share it with Jared (or somebody else very senior in the team)—so that they know that we are focused from our side on improving the relationship and my boss asked me to play a key role in that.”1108 Dmitriev also asked Gerson if he knew Prince, and if Prince was somebody important or worth spending time with.1109 After his trip to the Seychelles, Dmitriev told Gerson that Bannon had asked Prince to meet with Dmitriev and that the two had had a positive meeting.1110

On January 16, 2017, Dmitriev consolidated the ideas for U.S.–Russia reconciliation that he and Gerson had been discussing into a two-page document that listed five main points: (1) jointly fighting terrorism; (2) jointly engaging in anti-weapons of mass destruction efforts; (3) developing ”win-win” economic and investment initiatives; (4) maintaining an honest, open, and continual dialogue regarding issues of disagreement; and (5) ensuring proper communication and trust by ”key people” from each country.1111 On January 18, 2017, Gerson gave a copy of the document to Kushner.1112 Kushner had not heard of Dmitriev at that time.1113 Gerson explained that Dmitriev was the head of RDIF, and Gerson may have alluded to Dmitriev’s being well connected.1114 Kushner placed the document in a file and said he would get it to the right people.1115 Kushner ultimately gave one copy of the document to Bannon and another to Rex Tillerson; according to Kushner, neither of them followed up with Kushner about it.1116 On January 19, 2017, Dmitriev sent Nader a copy of the two-page document, telling him that this was ”a view from our side that I discussed in my meeting on the islands and with you and with our friends. Please share with them—we believe this is a good foundation to start from.”1117

Gerson informed Dmitriev that he had given the document to Kushner soon after delivering it.1118 On January 26, 2017, Dmitriev wrote to Gerson that his ”boss”—an apparent reference to Putin—was asking if there had been any feedback on the proposal.1119 Dmitriev said, ”[w]e do not want to rush things and move at a comfortable speed. At the same time, my boss asked me to try to have the key US meetings in the next two weeks if possible.”1120 He informed Gerson that Putin and President Trump would speak by phone that Saturday, and noted that that information was ”very confidential.”1121

The same day, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that he had seen his ”boss” again yesterday who had ”emphasized that this is a great priority for us and that we need to build this communication channel to avoid bureaucracy.”1122 On January 28, 2017, Dmitriev texted Nader that he wanted ”to see if I can confirm to my boss that your friends may use some of the ideas from the 2 pager I sent you in the telephone call that will happen at 12 EST,”1123 an apparent reference to the call scheduled between President Trump and Putin. Nader replied, ”Definitely paper was so submitted to Team by Rick and me. They took it seriously!”1124 After the call between President Trump and Putin occurred, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that ”the call went very well. My boss wants me to continue making some public statements that us [sic] Russia cooperation is good and important.”1125 Gerson also wrote to Dmitriev to say that the call had gone well, and Dmitriev replied that the document they had drafted together ”played an important role.”1126

Gerson and Dmitriev appeared to stop communicating with one another in approximately March 2017, when the investment deal they had been working on together showed no signs of progressing.1127

3. Ambassador Kislyak’s Meeting with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn in Trump Tower Following the Election

On November 16, 2016, Catherine Vargas, an executive assistant to Kushner, received a request for a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.1128 That same day, Vargas sent Kushner an email with the subject, ”MISSED CALL: Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak….”1129 The text of the email read, ”RE: setting up a time to meet w/you on 12/1. LMK how to proceed.” Kushner responded in relevant part, ”I think I do this one – confirm with Dimitri [Simes of CNI] that this is the right guy.”1130 After reaching out to a colleague of Simes at CNI, Vargas reported back to Kushner that Kislyak was ”the best go-to guy for routine matters in the US,” while Yuri Ushakov, a Russian foreign policy advisor, was the contact for ”more direct/substantial matters.”1131

Bob Foresman, the UBS investment bank executive who had previously tried to transmit to candidate Trump an invitation to speak at an economic forum in Russia, see Volume I, Section IV.A.l.d.ii, supra, may have provided similar information to the Transition Team. According to Foresman, at the end of an early December 2016 meeting with incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his designated deputy (K.T. McFarland) in New York, Flynn asked Foresman for his thoughts on Kislyak. Foresman had not met Kislyak but told Flynn that, while Kislyak was an important person, Kislyak did not have a direct line to Putin.1132 Foresman subsequently traveled to Moscow, inquired of a source he believed to be close to Putin, and heard back from that source that Ushakov would be the official channel for the incoming U.S. national security advisor.1133 Foresman acknowledged that Flynn had not asked him to undertake that inquiry in Russia but told the Office that he nonetheless felt obligated to report the information back to Flynn, and that he worked to get a face-to-face meeting with Flynn in January 2017 so that he could do so.1134 Email correspondence suggests that the meeting ultimately went forward,1135 but Flynn has no recollection of it or of the earlier December meeting.1136 (The investigation did not identify evidence of Flynn or Kushner meeting with Ushakov after being given his name.1137)

In the meantime, although he had already formed the impression that Kislyak was not necessarily the right point of contact,1138 Kushner went forward with the meeting that Kislyak had requested on November 16. It took place at Trump Tower on November 30, 2016.1139 At Kushner’s invitation, Flynn also attended; Bannon was invited but did not attend.1140 During the meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, Kushner expressed a desire on the part of the incoming Administration to start afresh with U.S.–Russian relations.1141 Kushner also asked Kislyak to identify the best person (whether Kislyak or someone else) with whom to direct future discussions—someone who had contact with Putin and the ability to speak for him.1142

The three men also discussed U.S. policy toward Syria, and Kislyak floated the idea of having Russian generals brief the Transition Team on the topic using a secure communications line.1143 After Flynn explained that there was no secure line in the Transition Team offices, Kushner asked Kislyak if they could communicate using secure facilities at the Russian Embassy.1144 Kislyak quickly rejected that idea.1145

4. Jared Kushner’s Meeting with Sergey Gorkov

On December 6, 2016, the Russian Embassy reached out to Kushner’s assistant to set up a second meeting between Kislyak and Kushner.1146 Kushner declined several proposed meeting dates, but Kushner’s assistant indicated that Kislyak was very insistent about securing a second meeting.1147 Kushner told the Office that he did not want to take another meeting because he had already decided Kislyak was not the right channel for him to communicate with Russia, so he arranged to have one of his assistants, Avi Berkowitz, meet with Kislyak in his stead.1148 Although embassy official Sergey Kuznetsov wrote to Berkowitz that Kislyak thought it ”important” to ”continue the conversation with Mr. Kushner in person,”1149 Kislyak nonetheless agreed to meet instead with Berkowitz once it became apparent that Kushner was unlikely to take a meeting.

Berkowitz met with Kislyak on December 12, 2016, at Trump Tower.1150 The meeting lasted only a few minutes, during which Kislyak indicated that he wanted Kushner to meet someone who had a direct line to Putin: Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-government-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB).

Kushner agreed to meet with Gorkov.1151 The one-on-one meeting took place the next day, December 13, 2016, at the Colony Capital building in Manhattan, where Kushner had previously scheduled meetings.1152 VEB was (and is) the subject of Department of Treasury economic sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.1153 Kushner did not, however, recall any discussion during his meeting with Gorkov about the sanctions against VEB or sanctions more generally.1154 Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one on the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.1155

At the start of the meeting, Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts: a painting and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner’s family originated.1156

The accounts from Kushner and Gorkov differ as to whether the meeting was diplomatic or business in nature. Kushner told the Office that the meeting was diplomatic, with Gorkov expressing disappointment with U.S.–Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for improved relations with the incoming Administration.1157 According to Kushner, although Gorkov told Kushner a little bit about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy, the two did not discuss Kushner’s companies or private business dealings of any kind.1158 (At the time of the meeting, Kushner Companies had a debt obligation coming due on the building it owned at 666 Fifth Avenue, and there had been public reporting both about efforts to secure lending on the property and possible conflicts of interest for Kushner arising out of his company’s borrowing from foreign lenders.1159)

In contrast, in a 2017 public statement, VEB suggested Gorkov met with Kushner in Kushner’s capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies for the purpose of discussing business, rather than as part of a diplomatic effort. In particular, VEB characterized Gorkov’s meeting with Kushner as part of a series of ”roadshow meetings” with ”representatives of major US banks and business circles,” which included ”negotiations” and discussion of the ”most promising business lines and sectors.”1160

Foresman, the investment bank executive mentioned in Volume l, Sections IV.A.I and IV.B.3, supra, told the Office that he met with Gorkov and VEB deputy chairman Nikolay Tsekhomsky in Moscow just before Gorkov left for New York to meet Kushner.1161 According to Foresman, Gorkov and Tsekhomsky told him that they were traveling to New York to discuss post-election issues with U.S. financial institutions, that their trip was sanctioned by Putin, and that they would be reporting back to Putin upon their return.1162

The investigation did not resolve the apparent conflict in the accounts of Kushner and Gorkov or determine whether the meeting was diplomatic in nature (as Kushner stated), focused on business (as VEB’s public statement indicated), or whether it involved some combination of those matters or other matters. Regardless, the investigation did not identify evidence that Kushner and Gorkov engaged in any substantive follow-up after the meeting.

Rather, a few days after the meeting, Gorkov’s assistant texted Kushner’s assistant, ”Hi, please inform your side that the information about the meeting had a very positive response!”1163 Over the following weeks, the two assistants exchanged a handful of additional cordial texts.1164 On February 8, 2017, Gorkov’s assistant texted Kushner’s assistant (Berkowitz) to try to set up another meeting, and followed up by text at least twice in the days that followed.1165 According to Berkowitz, he did not respond to the meeting request in light of the press coverage regarding the Russia investigation, and did not tell Kushner about the meeting request.1166

5. Petr Aven’s Outreach Efforts to the Transition Team

In December 2016, weeks after the one-on-one meeting with Putin described in Volume I, Section IV.B.1.b, supra, Petr Aven attended what he described as a separate ”all-hands” oligarch meeting between Putin and Russia’s most prominent businessmen.1167 As in Aven’s one-on-one meeting, a main topic of discussion at the oligarch meeting in December 2016 was the prospect of forthcoming U.S. economic sanctions.1168

After the December 2016 all-hands meeting, Aven tried to establish a connection to the Trump team. Aven instructed Richard Burt to make contact with the incoming Trump Administration. Burt was on the board of directors for LetterOne (L1), another company headed by Aven, and had done work for Alfa-Bank.1169 Burt had previously served as U.S. ambassador to Germany and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, and one of his primary roles with Alfa-Bank and Ll was to facilitate introductions to business contacts in the United States and other Western countries.1170

While at a L1 board meeting held in Luxembourg in late December 2016, Aven pulled Burt aside and told him that he had spoken to someone high in the Russian government who expressed interest in establishing a communications channel between the Kremlin and the Trump Transition Team.1171 Aven asked for Burt’s help in contacting members of the Transition Team.1172 Although Burt had been responsible for helping Aven build connections in the past, Burt viewed Aven’s request as unusual and outside the normal realm of his dealings with Aven.1173

Burt, who is a member of the board of CNI (discussed at Volume I, Section IV.A.4, supra),1174 decided to approach CNI president Dimitri Simes for help facilitating Aven’s request, recalling that Simes had some relationship with Kushner.1175 At the time, Simes was lobbying the Trump Transition Team, on Burt’s behalf, to appoint Burt U.S. ambassador to Russia.1176

Burt contacted Simes by telephone and asked if he could arrange a meeting with Kushner to discuss setting up a high-level communications channel between Putin and the incoming Administration.1177 Simes told the Office that he declined and stated to Burt that setting up such a channel was not a good idea in light of the media attention surrounding Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election.1178 According to Simes, he understood that Burt was seeking a secret channel, and Simes did not want CNI to be seen as an intermediary between the Russian government and the incoming Administration.1179 Based on what Simes had read in the media, he stated that he already had concerns that Trump’s business connections could be exploited by Russia, and Simes said that he did not want CNI to have any involvement or apparent involvement in facilitating any connection.1180

In an email dated December 22, 2016, Burt recounted for Aven his conversation with Simes:

Through a trusted third party, I have reached out to the very influential person I mentioned in Luxembourg concerning Project A. There is an interest and an understanding for the need to establish such a channel. But the individual emphasized that at this moment, with so much intense interest in the Congress and the media over the question of cyber-hacking (and who ordered what), Project A was too explosive to discuss. The individual agreed to discuss it again after the New Year. I trust the individual’s instincts on this.

If this is unclear or you would like to discuss, don’t hesitate to call.1181

According to Burt, the ”very influential person” referenced in his email was Simes, and the reference to a ”trusted third party” was a fabrication, as no such third party existed. ”Project A” was a term that Burt created for Aven’s effort to help establish a communications channel between Russia and the Trump team, which he used in light of the sensitivities surrounding what Aven was requesting, especially in light of the recent attention to Russia’s influence in the U.S. presidential election.1182 According to Burt, his report that there was ”interest” in a communications channel reflected Simes’s views, not necessarily those of the Transition Team, and in any event, Burt acknowledged that he added some ”hype” to that sentence to make it sound like there was more interest from the Transition Team than may have actually existed.1183

Aven replied to Burt’s email on the same day, saying ”Thank you. All clear.”1184 According to Aven, this statement indicated that he did not want the outreach to continue.1185 Burt spoke to Aven some time thereafter about his attempt to make contact with the Trump team, explaining that the current environment made it impossible, _________ ____1186 Burt did not recall discussing Aven’s request with Simes again, nor did he recall speaking to anyone else about the request.1187

In the first quarter of 2017, Aven met again with Putin and other Russian officials.1188 At that meeting, Putin asked about Aven’s attempt to build relations with the Trump Administration and Aven recounted his lack of success.1189 __________ ____1190 Putin continued to inquire about Aven’s efforts to connect to the Trump Administration in several subsequent quarterly meetings.1191

Aven also told Putin’s chief of staff that he had been subpoenaed by the FBI.1192 As part of that conversation, he reported that he had been asked by the FBI about whether he had worked to create a back channel between the Russian government and the Trump Administration.1193

According to Aven, the official showed no emotion in response to this report and did not appear to care.1194

6. Carter Page Contact with Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich

In December 2016, more than two months after he was removed from the Trump Campaign, former Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page again visited Moscow in an attempt to pursue business opportunities.1195 ______ _____1196 According to Konstantin Kilimnik, Paul Manafort’s associate, Page also gave some individuals in Russia the impression that he had maintained his connections to President-Elect Trump. In a December 8, 2016 email intended for Manafort, Kilimnik wrote, ”Carter Page is in Moscow today, sending messages he is authorized to talk to Russia on behalf of DT on a range of issues of mutual interest, including Ukraine.”1197

On December 9, 2016, Page went to dinner with NES employees Shlomo Weber and Andrej Krickovic.1198 Weber had contacted Dvorkovich to let him know that Page was in town and to invite him to stop by the dinner if he wished to do so, and Dvorkovich came to the restaurant for a few minutes to meet with Page.1199 Dvorkovich congratulated Page on Trump’s election and expressed interest in starting a dialogue between the United States and Russia.1200 Dvorkovich asked Page if he could facilitate connecting Dvorkovich with individuals involved in the transition to be in a discussion of future cooperation.1201 ______ _____1202 ______ _____1203

_______ _____ Dvorkovich separately discussed working together in the future by forming an academic partnership.1204 ______ _____1205 ______ _____1206

7. Contacts With and Through Michael T. Flynn

Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was the Transition Team’s primary conduit for communications with the Russian Ambassador and dealt with Russia on two sensitive matters during the transition period: a United Nations Security Council vote and the Russian government’s reaction to the United States’s imposition of sanctions for Russian interference in the 2016 election.1207 Despite Kushner’s conclusion that Kislyak did not wield influence inside the Russian government, the Transition Team turned to Flynn’s relationship with Kislyak on both issues. As to the sanctions, Flynn spoke by phone to K.T. McFarland, his incoming deputy, to prepare for his call to Kislyak; McFarland was with the President-Elect and other senior members of the Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago at the time. Although transition officials at Mar-a-Lago had some concern about possible Russian reactions to the sanctions, the investigation did not identify evidence that the President-Elect asked Flynn to make any request to Kislyak. Flynn asked Kislyak not to escalate the situation in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on December 29, 2016, and Kislyak later reported to Flynn that Russia acceded to that request.

United Nations Vote on Israeli Settlements On December 21, 2016, Egypt submitted a resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling on Israel to cease settlement activities in Palestinian territory.1208 The Security Council, which includes Russia, was scheduled to vote on the resolution the following day.1209 There was speculation in the media that the Obama Administration would not oppose the resolution.1210

According to Flynn, the Transition Team regarded the vote as a significant issue and wanted to support Israel by opposing the resolution.1211 On December 22, 2016, multiple members of the Transition Team, as well as President-Elect Trump, communicated with foreign government officials to determine their views on the resolution and to rally support to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.1212 Kushner led the effort for the Transition Team; Flynn was responsible for the Russian government.1213 Minutes after an early morning phone call with Kushner on December 22, Flynn called Kislyak.1214 According to Flynn, he informed Kislyak about the vote and the Transition Team’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.1215 Later that day, President-Elect Trump spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the vote.1216 Ultimately, Egypt postponed the vote.1217

On December 23, 2016, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, and Venezuela resubmitted the resolution.1218 Throughout the day, members of the Transition Team continued to talk with foreign leaders about the resolution, with Flynn continuing to lead the outreach with the Russian government through Kislyak.1219 When Flynn again spoke with Kislyak, Kislyak informed Flynn that if the resolution came to a vote, Russia would not vote against it.1220 The resolution later passed 14–0, with the United States abstaining.1221

U.S. Sanctions Against Russia Flynn was also the Transition Team member who spoke with the Russian government when the Obama Administration imposed sanctions and other measures against Russia in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. On December 28, 2016, then-President Obama signed Executive Order 13757, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. the following day and imposed sanctions on nine Russian individuals and entities.1222 On December 29, 2016, the Obama Administration also expelled 35 Russian government officials and closed two Russian government-owned compounds in the United States.1223

During the rollout of the sanctions, President-Elect Trump and multiple Transition Team senior officials, including McFarland, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus, were staying at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Flynn was on vacation in the Dominican Republic,1224 but was in daily contact with McFarland.1225

The Transition Team and President-Elect Trump were concerned that these sanctions would harm the United States’s relationship with Russia.1226 Although the details and timing of sanctions were unknown on December 28, 2016, the media began reporting that retaliatory measures from the Obama Administration against Russia were forthcoming.1227 When asked about imposing sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, President-Elect Trump told the media, ”I think we ought to get on with our lives.”1228

Russia initiated the outreach to the Transition Team. On the evening of December 28, 2016, Kislyak texted Flynn, ”can you kindly call me back at your convenience.”1229 Flynn did not respond to the text message that evening. Someone from the Russian Embassy also called Flynn the next morning, at 10:38 a.m., but they did not talk.1230

The sanctions were announced publicly on December 29, 2016.1231 At 1:53 p.m. that day, McFarland began exchanging emails with multiple Transition Team members and advisors about the impact the sanctions would have on the incoming Administration.1232 At 2:07 p.m., a Transition Team member texted Flynn a link to a New York Times article about the sanctions.1233 At 2:29 p.m., McFarland called Flynn, but they did not talk.1234 Shortly thereafter, McFarland and Bannon discussed the sanctions.1235 According to McFarland, Bannon remarked that the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia, and that Russian escalation would make things more difficult.1236 McFarland believed she told Bannon that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak later that night.1237 McFarland also believed she may have discussed the sanctions with Priebus, and likewise told him that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak that night.1238 At 3:14 p.m., Flynn texted a Transition Team member who was assisting McFarland, ”Time for a call???”1239 The Transition Team member responded that McFarland was on the phone with Tom Bossert, a Transition Team senior official, to which Flynn responded, ”Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today.”1240

Flynn recalled that he chose not to communicate with Kislyak about the sanctions until he had heard from the team at Mar-a-Lago.1241 He first spoke with Michael Ledeen,1242 a Transition Team member who advised on foreign policy and national security matters, for 20 minutes.1243 Flynn then spoke with McFarland for almost 20 minutes to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions.1244 On that call, McFarland and Flynn discussed the sanctions, including their potential impact on the incoming Trump Administration’s foreign policy goals.1245 McFarland and Flynn also discussed that Transition Team members in Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.1246 They both understood that Flynn would relay a message to Kislyak in hopes of making sure the situation would not get out of hand.1247

Immediately after speaking with McFarland, Flynn called and spoke with Kislyak.1248 Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East.1249 With respect to the sanctions, Flynn requested that Russia not escalate the situation, not get into a ”tit for tat,” and only respond to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner.1250

Multiple Transition Team members were aware that Flynn was speaking with Kislyak that day. In addition to her conversations with Bannon and Reince Priebus, at 4:43 p.m., McFarland sent an email to Transition Team members about the sanctions, informing the group that ”Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.”1251 Less than an hour later, McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump. Bannon, Priebus, Sean Spicer, and other Transition Team members were present.1252 During the briefing, President-Elect Trump asked McFarland if the Russians did ”it,” meaning the intrusions intended to influence the presidential election.1253 McFarland said yes, and President-Elect Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.1254 McFarland also discussed potential Russian responses to the sanctions, and said Russia’s response would be an indicator of what the Russians wanted going forward.1255 President-Elect Trump opined that the sanctions provided him with leverage to use with the Russians.1256 McFarland recalled that at the end of the meeting, someone may have mentioned to President-Elect Trump that Flynn was speaking to the Russian ambassador that evening.1257

After the briefing, Flynn and McFarland spoke over the phone.1258 Flynn reported on the substance of his call with Kislyak, including their discussion of the sanctions.1259 According to McFarland, Flynn mentioned that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration.1260 McFarland also gave Flynn a summary of her recent briefing with President-Elect Trump.1261

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions.1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time.1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, ”Great move on delay (by V. Putin).”1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members.1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak.1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267

On December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and that Russia had chosen not to retaliate to the sanctions in response to the request.1268 Two hours later, Flynn spoke with McFarland and relayed his conversation with Kislyak.1269 According to McFarland, Flynn remarked that the Russians wanted a better relationship and that the relationship was back on track.1270 Flynn also told McFarland that he believed his phone call had made a difference.1271 McFarland recalled congratulating Flynn in response.1272 Flynn spoke with other Transition Team members that day, but does not recall whether they discussed the sanctions.1273 Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions with Bannon the next day and that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak.1274 Bannon, for his part, recalled meeting with Flynn that day, but said that he did not remember discussing sanctions with him.1275

Additional information about Flynn’s sanctions-related discussions with Kislyak, and the handling of those discussions by the Transition Team and the Trump Administration, is provided in Volume II of this report.


In sum, the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away. Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.

V. Prosecution and Declination Decisions

The Appointment Order authorized the Special Counsel’s Office “to prosecute federal crimes arising from [its] investigation” of the matters assigned to it. In deciding whether to exercise this prosecutorial authority, the Office has been guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution set forth in the Justice (formerly U.S. Attorney’s) Manual. In particular, the Office has evaluated whether the conduct of the individuals considered for prosecution constituted a federal offense and whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction for such an offense. Justice Manual § 9-27.220 (2018). Where the answer to those questions was yes, the Office further considered whether the prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest, the individuals were subject to effective prosecution in another jurisdiction, and there existed an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution. Id.

As explained below, those considerations led the Office to seek charges against two sets of Russian nationals for their roles in perpetrating the active-measures social media campaign and computer-intrusion operations. ________ ___ _____________ _________ The Office similarly determined that the contacts between Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals either did not involve the commission of a federal crime or, in the case of campaign-finance offenses, that our evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction. At the same time, the Office concluded that the Principles of Federal Prosecution supported charging certain individuals connected to the Campaign with making false statements or otherwise obstructing this investigation or parallel congressional investigations.

A. Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign

On February 16, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities—including the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and Concord Management and Consulting LLC (Concord)—with violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes.1276 The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States (Count One), three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud (Count Two), and five defendants with aggravated identity theft (Counts Three through Eight). Internet Research Agency Indictment. Concord, which is one of the entities charged in the Count One conspiracy, entered an appearance through U.S. counsel and moved to dismiss the charge on multiple grounds. In orders and memorandum opinions issued on August 13 and November 15, 2018, the district court denied Concord’s motions to dismiss. United States v. Concord Management & Consulting LLC, 347 F. Supp. 3d 38 (D.D.C. 2018). United States v. Concord Management & Consulting LLC, 317 F. Supp. 3d 598 (D.D.C. 2018). As of this writing, the prosecution of Concord remains ongoing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The other defendants remain at large.

Although members of the IRA had contact with individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign, the indictment does not charge any Trump Campaign official or any other U.S. person with participating in the conspiracy. That is because the investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. person who coordinated or communicated with the IRA knew that he or she was speaking with Russian nationals engaged in the criminal conspiracy. The Office therefore determined that such persons did not have the knowledge or criminal purpose required to charge them in the conspiracy to defraud the United States (Count One) or in the separate count alleging a wire- and bank-fraud conspiracy involving the IRA and two individual Russian nationals (Count Two). The Office did, however, charge one U.S. national for his role in supplying false or stolen bank account numbers that allowed the IRA conspirators to access U.S. online payment systems by circumventing those systems’ security features. On February 12, 2018, Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty, pursuant to a single-count information, to identity fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7) and (b)(1)(D). Plea Agreement, United States v. Richard Pinedo, No. 1:18-cr-24 (D.D.C. Feb. 12, 2018), Doc. 10. The investigation did not establish that Pinedo was aware of the identity of the IRA members who purchased bank account numbers from him. Pinedo’s sales of account numbers enabled the IRA members to anonymously access a financial network through which they transacted with U.S. persons and companies. See Gov’t Sent. Mem. at 3, United States v. Richard Pinedo, No. 1:18-cr-24 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2018), Doc. 24. On October 10, 2018, Pinedo was sentenced to six months of imprisonment, to be followed by six months of home confinement, and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

B. Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations

1. Section 1030 Computer-Intrusion Conspiracy

Background On July 13, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU with conspiring to hack into various U.S. computers used by the Clinton Campaign, DNC, DCCC, and other U.S. persons, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030 and 371 (Count One); committing identity theft and conspiring to commit money laundering in furtherance of that hacking conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A and 1956(h) (Counts Two through Ten); and a separate conspiracy to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities responsible for the administration of the 2016 U.S. election, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030 and 371 (Count Eleven). Netyksho Indictment.1277 As of this writing, all 12 defendants remain at large.

The Netyksho indictment alleges that the defendants conspired with one another and with others to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere in the election. Netyksho Indictment  2. The indictment also describes how, in staging the releases, the defendants used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to disseminate documents through WikiLeaks. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released over 20,000 emails and other documents that the hacking conspirators had stolen from the DNC. Netyksho Indictment  48. In addition, on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing emails that some conspirators had stolen from Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta after a successful spearphishing operation. Netyksho Indictment  49.

______ __ ________ ________

______ _____

______ __ ________ ________

Charging Decision As to [■■■■■■■■: Harm to Ongoing Matter] ______ __ ________ _______1278

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________1279

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________

______ __ _________ ________

2. Potential Section 1030 Violation By [■■■■■■■■: Personal Privacy]

_________ ________

_________ ________ See United States v. Willis, 476 F.3d 1121, 1125 n.1 (10th Cir. 2007) (explaining that the 1986 amendments to Section 1030 reflect Congress’s desire to reach “intentional acts of unauthorized access—rather than mistaken, inadvertent, or careless ones”) (quoting S. Rep. 99-432, at 5 (1986)). In addition, the computer ____________ ___________ likely qualifies as a “protected” one under the statute, which reaches “effectively all computers with Internet access.” United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854, 859 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc). ____________ ___________

Applying the Principles of Federal Prosecution, however, the Office determined that prosecution of this potential violation was not warranted. Those Principles instruct prosecutors to consider, among other things, the nature and seriousness of the offense, the person’s culpability in connection with the offense, and the probable sentence to be imposed if the prosecution is successful. Justice Manual § 9-27.230. ____________ ________

C. Russian Government Outreach and Contacts

As explained in Section IV above, the Office’s investigation uncovered evidence of numerous links (i.e., contacts) between Trump Campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government. The Office evaluated the contacts under several sets of federal laws, including conspiracy laws and statutes governing foreign agents who operate in the United States. After considering the available evidence, the Office did not pursue charges under these statutes against any of the individuals discussed in Section IV above—with the exception of FARA charges against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates based on their activities on behalf of Ukraine. One of the interactions between the Trump Campaign and Russian-affiliated individuals—the June 9, 2016 meeting between high-ranking campaign officials and Russians promising derogatory information on Hillary Clinton—implicates an additional body of law: campaign finance statutes. Schemes involving the solicitation or receipt of assistance from foreign sources raise difficult statutory and constitutional questions. As explained below, the Office evaluated those questions in connection with the June 9 meeting ________ ___ ________ ________. The Office ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law. Finally, although the evidence of contacts between Campaign officials and Russian-affiliated individuals may not have been sufficient to establish or sustain criminal charges, several U.S. persons connected to the Campaign made false statements about those contacts and took other steps to obstruct the Office’s investigation and those of Congress. This Office has therefore charged some of those individuals with making false statements and obstructing justice.

1. Potential Coordination: Conspiracy and Collusion

As an initial matter, this Office evaluated potentially criminal conduct that involved the collective action of multiple individuals not under the rubric of “collusion,” but through the lens of conspiracy law. In so doing, the Office recognized that the word “collud[e]” appears in the Acting Attorney General’s August 2, 2017 memorandum; it has frequently been invoked in public reporting; and it is sometimes referenced in antitrust law, see, e.g., Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 509 U.S. 209, 227 (1993). But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the U.S. Code; nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. To the contrary, even as defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371. See Black’s Law Dictionary 321 (10th ed. 2014) (collusion is “[a]n agreement to defraud another or to do or obtain something forbidden by law”); 1 Alexander Burrill, A Law Dictionary and Glossary 311 (1871) (“An agreement between two or more persons to defraud another by the forms of law, or to employ such forms as means of accomplishing some unlawful object.”); 1 Bouvier’s Law Dictionary 352 (1897) (“An agreement between two or more persons to defraud a person of his rights by the forms of law, or to obtain an object forbidden by law.”).

For that reason, this Office’s focus in resolving the question of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law, not the commonly discussed term “collusion.” The Office considered in particular whether contacts between Trump Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals could trigger liability for the crime of conspiracy—either under statutes that have their own conspiracy language (e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349, 1951(a)), or under the general conspiracy statute (18 U.S.C. § 371). The investigation did not establish that the contacts described in Volume I, Section IV, supra, amounted to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law—including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws, both of which are discussed further below. The Office therefore did not charge any individual associated with the Trump Campaign with conspiracy to commit a federal offense arising from Russia contacts, either under a specific statute or under Section 371’s offenses clause.

The Office also did not charge any campaign official or associate with a conspiracy under Section 371’s defraud clause. That clause criminalizes participating in an agreement to obstruct a lawful function of the U.S. government or its agencies through deceitful or dishonest means. See Dennis v. United States, 384 U.S. 855, 861 (1966); Hammerschmidt v. United States, 2605 U.S. 182, 188 (1924); see also United States v. Concord Mgmt. & Consulting LLC, 347 F. Supp. 3d 38, 46 (D.D.C. 2018). The investigation did not establish any agreement among Campaign officials—or between such officials and Russia-linked individuals—to interfere with or obstruct a lawful function of a government agency during the campaign or transition period. And, as discussed in Volume I, Section V.A, supra, the investigation did not identify evidence that any Campaign official or associate knowingly and intentionally participated in the conspiracy to defraud that the Office charged, namely, the active-measures conspiracy described in Volume I, Section II, supra. Accordingly, the Office did not charge any Campaign associate or other U.S. person with conspiracy to defraud the United States based on the Russia-related contacts described in Section IV above.

2. Potential Coordination: Foreign Agent Statutes (FARA and 18 U.S.C. § 951)

The Office next assessed the potential liability of Campaign-affiliated individuals under federal statutes regulating actions on behalf of, or work done for, a foreign government.

Governing Law Under 18 U.S.C. § 951, it is generally illegal to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without providing notice to the Attorney General. Although the defendant must act on behalf of a foreign government (as opposed to other kinds of foreign entities), the acts need not involve espionage; rather, acts of any type suffice for liability. See United States v. Duran, 596 F.3d 1283, 1293–94 (11th Cir. 2010); United States v. Latchin, 554 F.3d 709, 715 (7th Cir. 2009); United States v. Dumeisi, 424 F.3d 566, 581 (7th Cir. 2005). An “agent of a foreign government” is an “individual” who “agrees to operate” in the United States “subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official.” 18 U.S.C. § 951(d).

The crime defined by Section 951 is complete upon knowingly acting in the United States as an unregistered foreign-government agent. 18 U.S.C. § 951(a). The statute does not require willfulness, and knowledge of the notification requirement is not an element of the offense. United States v. Campa, 529 F.3d 980, 998–99 (11th Cir. 2008); Duran, 596 F.3d at 1291–94; Dumeisi, 424 F.3d at 581.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) generally makes it illegal to act as an agent of a foreign principal by engaging in certain (largely political) activities in the United States without registering with the Attorney General. 22 U.S.C. §§ 611–621. The triggering agency relationship must be with a foreign principal or “a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal.” 22 U.S.C. § 611(c)(1). That includes a foreign government or political party and various foreign individuals and entities. 22 U.S.C. § 611(b). A covered relationship exists if a person “acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant” or “in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the [foreign principal’s] direction or control.” 22 U.S.C. § 611(c)(1). It is sufficient if the person “agrees, consents, assumes or purports to act as, or who is or holds himself out to be, whether or not pursuant to contractual relationship, an agent of a foreign principal.” 22 U.S.C. § 611(c)(2).

The triggering activity is that the agent “directly or through any other person” in the United States (1) engages in “political activities for or in the interests of [the] foreign principal,” which includes attempts to influence federal officials or the public; (2) acts as “public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal”; (3) “solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal”; or (4) “represents the interests of such foreign principal” before any federal agency or official. 22 U.S.C. § 611(c)(1).

It is a crime to engage in a “[w]illful violation of any provision of the Act or any regulation thereunder.” 22 U.S.C. § 618(a)(1). It is also a crime willfully to make false statements or omissions of material facts in FARA registration statements or supplements. 22 U.S.C. § 618(a)(2). Most violations have a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. 22 U.S.C. § 618.

Application The investigation uncovered extensive evidence that Paul Manafort’s and Richard Gates’s pre-campaign work for the government of Ukraine violated FARA. Manafort and Gates were charged for that conduct and admitted to it when they pleaded guilty to superseding criminal informations in the District of Columbia prosecution.1280 The evidence underlying those charges is not addressed in this report because it was discussed in public court documents and in a separate prosecution memorandum submitted to the Acting Attorney General before the original indictment in that case. In addition, the investigation produced evidence of FARA violations involving Michael Flynn. Those potential violations, however, concerned a country other than Russia (i.e., Turkey) and were resolved when Flynn admitted to the underlying facts in the Statement of Offense that accompanied his guilty plea to a false-statements charge. Statement of Offense, United States v. Michael T. Flynn, No. 1:17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Dec. 1, 2017), Doc. 4 (“Flynn Statement of Offense”).1281 The investigation did not, however, yield evidence sufficient to sustain any charge that any individual affiliated with the Trump Campaign acted as an agent of a foreign principal within the meaning of FARA or, in terms of Section 951, subject to the direction or control of the government of Russia, or any official thereof. In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government—or at its direction, control, or request—during the relevant time period.1282 _________ ________ As a result, the Office did not charge ____ any other Trump Campaign official with violating FARA or Section 951, or attempting or conspiring to do so, based on contacts with the Russian government or a Russian principal.

Finally, the Office investigated whether one of the above campaign advisors—George Papadopoulos—acted as an agent of, or at the direction and control of, the government of Israel. While the investigation revealed significant ties between Papadopoulos and Israel (and search warrants were obtained in part on that basis), the Office ultimately determined that the evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction under FARA or Section 951.

3. Campaign Finance

Several areas of the Office’s investigation involved efforts or offers by foreign nationals to provide negative information about candidate Clinton to the Trump Campaign or to distribute that information to the public, to the anticipated benefit of the Campaign. As explained below, the Office considered whether two of those efforts in particular—the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower ________ ___ _____________ _________—constituted prosecutable violations of the campaign-finance laws. The Office determined that the evidence was not sufficient to charge either incident as a criminal violation.

Overview Of Governing Law “[T]he United States has a compelling interest … in limiting the participation of foreign citizens in activities of democratic self-government, and in thereby preventing foreign influence over the U.S. political process.” Bluman v. FEC, 800 F. Supp. 2d 281, 288 (D.D.C. 2011) (Kavanaugh, J., for three-judge court), aff’d, 565 U.S. 1104 (2012). To that end, federal campaign finance law broadly prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions, donations, expenditures, or other disbursements in connection with federal, state, or local candidate elections, and prohibits anyone from soliciting, accepting, or receiving such contributions or donations. As relevant here, foreign nationals may not make—and no one may “solicit, accept, or receive” from them—“a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” or “an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.” 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (a)(1)(A), (a)(2).1283 The term “contribution,” which is used throughout the campaign-finance law, “includes” “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(A)(i). It excludes, among other things, “the value of [volunteer] services.” 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(B)G).

Foreign nationals are also barred from making “an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication.” 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(1)(C). The term “expenditure” “includes” “any purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value, made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” 52 U.S.C. § 30101(9)(A)(i). It excludes, among other things, news stories and non-partisan get-out-the-vote activities. 52 U.S.C. § 30101(9)(B)(i)–(ii). An “independent expenditure” is an expenditure “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate” and made independently of the campaign. 52 U.S.C. § 30101(17). An “electioneering communication” is a broadcast communication that “refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office” and is made within specified time periods and targeted at the relevant electorate.

The statute defines “foreign national” by reference to FARA and the Immigration and Nationality Act, with minor modification. 52 U.S.C. § 30121(b) (cross-referencing 22 U.S.C. § 611(b)(1)–(3) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(20), (22)). That definition yields five, sometimes overlapping categories of foreign nationals, which include all of the individuals and entities relevant for present purposes—namely, foreign governments and political parties, individuals outside of the U.S. who are not legal permanent residents, and certain non-U.S., entities located outside of the U.S.

A “knowing[] and willful[]” violation involving an aggregate of $25,000 or more in a calendar year is a felony. 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1)(A)(i); see Bluman, 800 F. Supp. 2d at 292 (noting that a willful violation will require some “proof of the defendant’s knowledge of the law”); United States v. Danielczyk, 917 F. Supp. 2d 573, 577 (E.D. Va. 2013) (applying willfulness standard drawn from Bryan v. United States, 524 U.S. 184, 191–92 (1998)); see also Wagner v. FEC, 793 F.3d 1, 19 n.23 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (en banc) (same).

A “knowing[] and willful[]” violation involving an aggregate of $2,000 or more in a calendar year, but less than $25,000, is a misdemeanor. 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1)(A)(ii).

Application to June 9 Trump Tower Meeting The Office considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting described in Volume I, Section IV.A.5, supra. The Office concluded that, in light of the government’s substantial burden of proof on issues of intent (“knowing” and “willful”), and the difficulty of establishing the value of the offered information, criminal charges would not meet the Justice Manual standard that “the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.” Justice Manual § 9-27.220.

In brief, the key facts are that, on June 3, 2016, Robert Goldstone emailed Donald Trump Jr., to pass along from Emin and Aras Agalarov an “offer” from Russia’s “Crown prosecutor” to “the Trump campaign” of “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [Trump Jr.’s] father.” The email described this as “very high level and sensitive information” that is “part of Russia and its government’s support to Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.” Trump Jr. responded: “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov had follow-up conversations and, within days, scheduled a meeting with Russian representatives that was attended by Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner. The communications setting up the meeting and the attendance by high-level Campaign representatives support an inference that the Campaign anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information from official Russian sources that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects.

This series of events could implicate the federal election-law ban on contributions and donations by foreign nationals, 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(1)(A). Specifically, Goldstone passed along an offer purportedly from a Russian government official to provide “official documents and information” to the Trump Campaign for the purposes of influencing the presidential election. Trump Jr. appears to have accepted that offer and to have arranged a meeting to receive those materials. Documentary evidence in the form of email chains supports the inference that Kushner and Manafort were aware of that purpose and attended the June 9 meeting anticipating the receipt of helpful information to the Campaign from Russian sources.

The Office considered whether this evidence would establish a conspiracy to violate the foreign contributions ban, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; the solicitation of an illegal foreign source contribution; or the acceptance or receipt of “an express or implied promise to make a [foreign-source] contribution,” both in violation of 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(1)(A), (a)(2). There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would constitute a “thing of value” within the meaning of these provisions, but the Office determined that the government would not be likely to obtain and sustain a conviction for two other reasons: first, the Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted “willfully,” i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct; and, second, the government would likely encounter difficulty in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised information exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation, see 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1)(A)G).

Thing-of-Value Element A threshold legal question is whether providing to a campaign “documents and information” of the type involved here would constitute a prohibited campaign contribution. The foreign contribution ban is not limited to contributions of money. It expressly prohibits “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value.” 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a)(1)(A), (a)(2) (emphasis added). And the term “contribution” is defined throughout the campaign-finance laws to “include[]” “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value.” 52 U.S.C. § 30101(8)(A)(i) (emphasis added). The phrases “thing of value” and “anything of value” are broad and inclusive enough to encompass at least some forms of valuable information. Throughout the United States Code, these phrases serve as “term[s] of art” that are construed “broad[ly].” United States v. Nilsen, 967 F.2d 539, 542 (11th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (“thing of value” includes “both tangibles and intangibles”); see also, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 201(b)(1), 666(a)(2) (bribery statutes); id. § 641 (theft of government property). For example, the term “thing of value” encompasses law enforcement reports that would reveal the identity of informants, United States v. Girard, 601 F.2d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1979); classified materials, United States v. Fowler, 932 F.2d 306, 310 (4th Cir. 1991); confidential information about a competitive bid, United States v. Matzkin, 14 F.3d 1014, 1020 (4th Cir. 1994); secret grand jury information, United States v. Jeter, 775 F.2d 670, 680 (6th Cir. 1985); and information about a witness’s whereabouts, United States v. Sheker, 618 F.2d 607, 609 (9th Cir. 1980) (per curiam). And in the public corruption context, “ ‘thing of value’ is defined broadly to include the value which the defendant subjectively attaches to the items received.” United States v. Renzi, 769 F.3d 731, 744 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations recognize the value to a campaign of at least some forms of information, stating that the term “anything of value” includes “the provision of any goods or services without charge,” such as “membership lists” and “mailing lists.” 11 C.F.R. § 100.52(d)(1). The FEC has concluded that the phrase includes a state-by-state list of activists. See Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. FEC, 475 F.3d 337, 338 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (describing the FEC’s findings). Likewise, polling data provided to a campaign constitutes a “contribution.” FEC Advisory Opinion 1990-12 (Strub), 1990 WL 153454 (citing 11 C.F.R. § 106.4(b)). And in the specific context of the foreign-contributions ban, the FEC has concluded that “election materials used in previous Canadian campaigns,” including “flyers, advertisements, door hangers, tri-folds, signs, and other printed material,” constitute “anything of value,” even though “the value of these materials may be nominal or difficult to ascertain.” FEC Advisory Opinion 2007-22 (Hurysz), 2007 WL 5172375, at 5. These authorities would support the view that candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply. A campaign can be assisted not only by the provision of funds, but also by the provision of derogatory information about an opponent. Political campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money or tangible things of value. At the same time, no judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law. Such an interpretation could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban, see 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a) (imposing monetary limits on campaign contributions), and raise First Amendment questions. Those questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts. It is uncertain how courts would resolve those issues.

Willfulness Even assuming that the promised “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” constitute a “thing of value” under campaign-finance law, the government would encounter other challenges in seeking to obtain and sustain a conviction. Most significantly, the government has not obtained admissible evidence that is likely to establish the scienter requirement beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove that a defendant acted “knowingly and willfully,” the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses 123 (8th ed. Dec. 2017) (“Election Offenses”); see Bluman, 800 F. Supp. 2d at 292 (noting that a willful violation requires “proof of the defendant’s knowledge of the law”); Danielczyk, 917 F. Supp. 2d at 577 (“knowledge of general unlawfulness”). “This standard creates an elevated scienter element requiring, at the very least, that application of the law to the facts in question be fairly clear. When there is substantial doubt concerning whether the law applies to the facts of a particular matter, the offender is more likely to have an intent defense.” Election Offenses 123. On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context. The government does not have strong evidence of surreptitious behavior or efforts at concealment at the time of the June 9 meeting. While the government has evidence of later efforts to prevent disclosure of the nature of the June 9 meeting that could circumstantially provide support for a showing of scienter, see Volume II, Section II.G, infra, that concealment occurred more than a year later, involved individuals who did not attend the June 9 meeting, and may reflect an intention to avoid political consequences rather than any prior knowledge of illegality. Additionally, in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law. Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.

Difficulties in Valuing Promised Information The Office would also encounter difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised documents and information exceeds the $2,000 threshold for a criminal violation, as well as the $25,000 threshold for felony punishment. See 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1). The type of evidence commonly used to establish the value of non-monetary contributions—such as pricing the contribution on a commercial market or determining the upstream acquisition cost or the cost of distribution—would likely be unavailable or ineffective in this factual setting. Although damaging opposition research is surely valuable to a campaign, it appears that the information ultimately delivered in the meeting was not valuable. And while value in a conspiracy may well be measured by what the participants expected to receive at the time of the agreement, see, e.g., United States v. Tombrello, 666 F.2d 485, 489 (11th Cir. 1982), Goldstone’s description of the offered material here was quite general. His suggestion of the information’s value—i.e., that it would “incriminate Hillary” and “would be very useful to [Trump Jr.’s] father”—was nonspecific and may have been understood as being of uncertain worth or reliability, given Goldstone’s lack of direct access to the original source. The uncertainty over what would be delivered could be reflected in Trump Jr.’s response (“if it’s what you say I love it”) (emphasis added). Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting.

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Willfulness As discussed, to establish a criminal campaign-finance violation, the government must prove that the defendant acted “knowingly and willfully.” 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1)(A)(i). That standard requires proof that the defendant knew generally that his conduct was unlawful. Election Offenses 123. Given the uncertainties noted above, the “willfulness” requirement would pose a substantial barrier to prosecution.

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4. False Statements and Obstruction of the Investigation

The Office determined that certain individuals associated with the Campaign lied to investigators about Campaign contacts with Russia and have taken other actions to interfere with the investigation. As explained below, the Office therefore charged some U.S. persons connected to the Campaign with false statements and obstruction offenses.

Overview Of Governing Law False Statements. The principal federal statute criminalizing false statements to government investigators is 18 U.S.C. § 1001. As relevant here, under Section 1001(a)(2), it is a crime to knowingly and willfully “make[] any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive … branch of the Government.” An FBI investigation is a matter within the Executive Branch’s jurisdiction. United States v. Rodgers, 466 U.S. 475, 479 (1984). The statute also applies to a subset of legislative branch actions—viz., administrative matters and “investigation[s] or review[s]” conducted by a congressional committee or subcommittee. 18 U.S.C. § 1001(c)(1) and (2); see United States v. Pickett, 353 F.3d 62, 66 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

Whether the statement was made to law enforcement or congressional investigators, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the same basic non-jurisdictional elements: the statement was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; the defendant knew both that it was false and that it was unlawful to make a false statement; and the false statement was material. See, e.g., United States v. Smith, 831 F.3d 1207, 1222 n.27 (9th Cir. 2017) (listing elements); see also Ninth Circuit Pattern Instruction 8.73 & cmt. (explaining that the Section 1001 jury instruction was modified in light of the Department of Justice’s position that the phrase “knowingly and willfully” in the statute requires the defendant’s knowledge that his or her conduct was unlawful). In the D.C. Circuit, the government must prove that the statement was actually false; a statement that is misleading but “literally true” does not satisfy Section 1001(a)(2). See United States v. Milton, 8 F.3d 39, 45 (D.C. Cir. 1993); United States v. Dale, 991 F.2d 819, 832–33 & n.22 (D.C. Cir. 1993). For that false statement to qualify as “material,” it must have a natural tendency to influence, or be capable of influencing, a discrete decision or any other function of the agency to which it is addressed. See United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 509 (1995); United States v. Moore, 612 F.3d 698, 701 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

Perjury. Under the federal perjury statutes, it is a crime for a witness testifying under oath before a grand jury to knowingly make any false material declaration. See 18 U.S.C. § 1623. The government must prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction under Section 1623(a): the defendant testified under oath before a federal grand jury; the defendant’s testimony was false in one or more respects; the false testimony concerned matters that were material to the grand jury investigation; and the false testimony was knowingly given. United States v. Bridges, 717 F.2d 1444, 1449 n.30 (D.C. Cir. 1983). The general perjury statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1621, also applies to grand jury testimony and has similar elements, except that it requires that the witness have acted willfully and that the government satisfy “strict common-law requirements for establishing falsity.” See Dunn v. United States, 442 U.S. 100, 106 & n.6 (1979) (explaining “the two-witness rule” and the corroboration that it demands).

Obstruction of Justice. Three basic elements are common to the obstruction statutes pertinent to this Office’s charging decisions: an obstructive act; some form of nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding; and criminal (i.e., corrupt) intent. A detailed discussion of those elements, and the law governing obstruction of justice more generally, is included in Volume II of the report.

Application to Certain Individuals

George Papadopoulos Investigators approached Papadopoulos for an interview based on his role as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump Campaign and his suggestion to a foreign government representative that Russia had indicated that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton. On January 27, 2017, Papadopoulos agreed to be interviewed by FBI agents, who informed him that the interview was part of the investigation into potential Russian government interference in the 2016 presidential election. During the interview, Papadopoulos lied about the timing, extent, and nature of his communications with Joseph Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya, and Ivan Timofeev. With respect to timing, Papadopoulos acknowledged that he had met Mifsud and that Mifsud told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” But Papadopoulos stated multiple times that those communications occurred before he joined the Trump Campaign and that it was a “very strange coincidence” to be told of the “dirt” before he started working for the Campaign. This account was false. Papadopoulos met Mifsud for the first time on approximately March 14, 2016, after Papadopoulos had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign. Mifsud showed interest in Papadopoulos only after learning of his role on the Campaign. And Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the Russians possessing “dirt” on candidate Clinton in late April 2016, more than a month after Papadopoulos had joined the Campaign and been publicly announced by candidate Trump. Statement of Offense ¶¶ 25–26, United States v. George Papadopoulos, No. 1:17-cr-182 (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017), Doc. 19 (“Papadopoulos Statement of Offense”). Papadopoulos also made false statements in an effort to minimize the extent and importance of his communications with Mifsud. For example, Papadopoulos stated that “[Mifsud]’s a nothing,” that he thought Mifsud was “just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something,” and that he believed Mifsud was “BS’ing to be completely honest with you.” In fact, however, Papadopoulos understood Mifsud to have substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials and that Mifsud spoke with some of those officials in Moscow before telling Papadopoulos about the “dirt.” Papadopoulos also engaged in extensive communications over a period of months with Mifsud about foreign policy issues for the Campaign, including efforts to arrange a “history making” meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials. In addition, Papadopoulos failed to inform investigators that Mifsud had introduced him to Timofeev, the Russian national who Papadopoulos understood to be connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite being asked if he had met with Russian nationals or “[a]nyone with a Russian accent” during the campaign. Papadopoulos Statement of Offense ¶¶ 27–29.

Papadopoulos also falsely claimed that he met Polonskaya before he joined the Campaign, and falsely told the FBI that he had “no” relationship at all with her. He stated that the extent of their communications was her sending emails—“Just, ‘Hi, how are you?’ That’s it.” In truth, however, Papadopoulos met Polonskaya on March 24, 2016, after he had joined the Campaign; he believed that she had connections to high-level Russian government officials and could help him arrange a potential foreign policy trip to Russia. During the campaign he emailed and spoke with her over Skype on numerous occasions about the potential foreign policy trip to Russia. Papadopoulos Statement of Offense ¶¶ 30–31.

Papadopoulos’s false statements in January 2017 impeded the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Most immediately, those statements hindered investigators’ ability to effectively question Mifsud when he was interviewed in the lobby of a Washington, D.C. hotel on February 10, 2017. See Gov’t Sent. Mem. at 6, United States v. George Papadopoulos, No. 1:17-cr-182 (D.D.C. Aug. 18, 2017), Doc. 44. During that interview, Mifsud admitted to knowing Papadopoulos and to having introduced him to Polonskaya and Timofeev. But Mifsud denied that he had advance knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails damaging to candidate Clinton, stating that he and Papadopoulos had discussed cybersecurity and hacking as a larger issue and that Papadopoulos must have misunderstood their conversation. Mifsud also falsely stated that he had not seen Papadopoulos since the meeting at which Mifsud introduced him to Polonskaya, even though emails, text messages, and other information show that Mifsud met with Papadopoulos on at least two other occasions—April 12 and April 26, 2016. In addition, Mifsud omitted that he had drafted (or edited) the follow-up message that Polonskaya sent to Papadopoulos following the initial meeting and that, as reflected in the language of that email chain (“Baby, thank you!”), Mifsud may have been involved in a personal relationship with Polonskaya at the time. The false information and omissions in Papadopoulos’s January 2017 interview undermined investigators’ ability to challenge Mifsud when he made these inaccurate statements.

Given the seriousness of the lies and omissions and their effect on the FBI’s investigation, the Office charged Papadopoulos with making false statements to the FBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Information, United States v. George Papadopoulos, No. 1:17-cr-182 (D.D.C. Oct. 3, 2017), Doc. 8. On October 7, 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to that charge pursuant to a plea agreement. On September 7, 2018, he was sentenced to 14 days of imprisonment, a $9,500 fine, and 200 hours of community service.

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Michael Flynn Michael Flynn agreed to be interviewed by the FBI on January 24, 2017, four days after he had officially assumed his duties as National Security Advisor to the President. During the interview, Flynn made several false statements pertaining to his communications with the Russian ambassador. First, Flynn made two false statements about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak in late December 2016, at a time when the United States had imposed sanctions on Russia for interfering with the 2016 presidential election and Russia was considering its response. See Flynn Statement of Offense. Flynn told the agents that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the United States’s imposition of sanctions. That statement was false. On December 29, 2016, Flynn called Kislyak to request Russian restraint. Flynn made the call immediately after speaking to a senior Transition Team official (K.T. McFarland) about what to communicate to Kislyak. Flynn then spoke with McFarland again after the Kislyak call to report on the substance of that conversation. Flynn also falsely told the FBI that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which Kislyak stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to the U.S. sanctions as a result of Flynn’s request. On December 31, 2016, Flynn in fact had such a conversation with Kislyak, and he again spoke with McFarland within hours of the call to relay the substance of his conversation with Kislyak. See Flynn Statement of Offense  3. Second, Flynn made false statements about calls he had previously made to representatives of Russia and other countries regarding a resolution submitted by Egypt to the United Nations Security Council on December 21, 2016. Specifically, Flynn stated that he only asked the countries’ positions on how they would vote on the resolution and that he did not request that any of the countries take any particular action on the resolution. That statement was false. On December 22, 2016, Flynn called Kislyak, informed him of the incoming Trump Administration’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution. Flynn also falsely stated that Kislyak never described Russia’s response to his December 22 request regarding the resolution. Kislyak in fact told Flynn in a conversation on December 23, 2016, that Russia would not vote against the resolution if it came to a vote. See Flynn Statement of Offense  4.

Flynn made these false statements to the FBI at a time when he was serving as National Security Advisor and when the FBI had an open investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including the nature of any links between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Flynn’s false statements and omissions impeded and otherwise had a material impact on that ongoing investigation. Flynn Statement of Offense ¶¶ 1–2. They also came shortly before Flynn made separate submissions to the Department of Justice, pursuant to FARA, that also contained materially false statements and omissions. Id 5. Based on the totality of that conduct, the Office decided to charge Flynn with making false statements to the FBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a). On December 1, 2017, and pursuant to a plea agreement, Flynn pleaded guilty to that charge and also admitted his false statements to the Department in his FARA filing. See id.; Plea Agreement, United States v. Michael T. Flynn, No. 1:17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Dec. 1, 2017), Doc. 3. Flynn is awaiting sentencing.

Michael Cohen Michael Cohen was the executive vice president and special counsel to the Trump Organization when Trump was president of the Trump Organization. Information  1, United States v. Cohen, No. 1:18-cr-850 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2018), Doc. 2 (“Cohen Information”). From the fall of 2015 through approximately June 2016, Cohen was involved in a project to build a Trump-branded tower and adjoining development in Moscow. The project was known as Trump Tower Moscow. In 2017, Cohen was called to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), both of which were investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links between Russia and the presidential campaigns. In late August 2017, in advance of his testimony, Cohen caused a two-page statement to be sent to SSCI and HPSCI addressing Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen Information ¶¶ 2–3. The letter contained three representations relevant here. First, Cohen stated that the Trump Moscow project had ended in January 2016 and that he had briefed candidate Trump on the project only three times before making the unilateral decision to terminate it. Second, Cohen represented that he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never considered asking Trump to travel for the project. Third, Cohen stated that he did not recall any Russian government contact about the project, including any response to an email that he had sent to a Russian government email account. Cohen Information  4. Cohen later asked that his two-page statement be incorporated into his testimony’s transcript before SSCI, and he ultimately gave testimony to SSCI that was consistent with that statement. Cohen Information  5. Each of the foregoing representations in Cohen’s two-page statement was false and misleading. Consideration of the project had extended through approximately June 2016 and included more than three progress reports from Cohen to Trump. Cohen had discussed with Felix Sater his own travel to Russia as part of the project, and he had inquired about the possibility of Trump traveling there—both with the candidate himself and with senior campaign official Corey Lewandowski. Cohen did recall that he had received a response to the email that he sent to Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov—in particular, that he received an email reply and had a follow-up phone conversation with an English-speaking assistant to Peskov in mid-January 2016. Cohen Information  7. Cohen knew the statements in the letter to be false at the time, and admitted that he made them in an effort (1) to minimize the links between the project and Trump (who by this time was President), and (2) to give the false impression that the project had ended before the first vote in the Republican Party primary process, in the hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations. Id.

Given the nature of the false statements and the fact that he repeated them during his initial interview with the Office, we charged Cohen with violating Section 1001. On November 29, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to a single-count information charging him with making false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) and (c). Cohen Information. The case was transferred to the district judge presiding over the separate prosecution of Cohen pursued by the Southern District of New York (after a referral from our Office). On December 7, 2018, this Office submitted a letter to that judge recommending that Cohen’s cooperation with our investigation be taken into account in sentencing Cohen on both the false-statements charge and the offenses in the Southern District prosecution. On December 12, 2018, the judge sentenced Cohen to two months of imprisonment on the false-statements count, to run concurrently with a 36-month sentence imposed on the other counts.

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Jeff Sessions As set forth in Volume I, Section IV.A.6, supra, the investigation established that, while a U.S. Senator and a Trump Campaign advisor, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions interacted with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the week of the Republican National Convention in July 2016 and again at a meeting in Sessions’s Senate office in September 2016. The investigation also established that Sessions and Kislyak both attended a reception held before candidate Trump’s foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, and that it is possible that they met briefly at that reception. The Office considered whether, in light of these interactions, Sessions committed perjury before, or made false statements to, Congress in connection with his confirmation as Attorney General. In January 2017 testimony during his confirmation hearing, Sessions stated in response to a question about Trump Campaign communications with the Russian government that he had “been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have – did not have communications with the Russians.” In written responses submitted on January 17, 2017, Sessions answered “[n]o” to a question asking whether he had “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.” And, in a March 2017 supplement to his testimony, Sessions identified two of the campaign-period contacts with Ambassador Kislyak noted above, which had been reported in the media following the January 2017 confirmation hearing. Sessions stated in the supplemental response that he did “not recall any discussions with the Russian Ambassador, or any other representatives of the Russian government, regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasion.” Although the investigation established that Sessions interacted with Kislyak on the occasions described above and that Kislyak mentioned the presidential campaign on at least one occasion, the evidence is not sufficient to prove that Sessions gave knowingly false answers to Russia-related questions in light of the wording and context of those questions. With respect to Sessions’s statements that he did “not recall any discussions with the Russian Ambassador … regarding the political campaign” and he had not been in contact with any Russian official “about the 2016 election,” the evidence concerning the nature of Sessions’s interactions with Kislyak makes it plausible that Sessions did not recall discussing the campaign with Kislyak at the time of his statements. Similarly, while Sessions stated in his January 2017 oral testimony that he “did not have communications with Russians,” he did so in response to a question that had linked such communications to an alleged “continuing exchange of information” between the Trump Campaign and Russian government intermediaries. Sessions later explained to the Senate and to the Office that he understood the question as narrowly calling for disclosure of interactions with Russians that involved the exchange of campaign information, as distinguished from more routine contacts with Russian nationals. Given the context in which the question was asked, that understanding is plausible.

Accordingly, the Office concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Sessions was willfully untruthful in his answers and thus insufficient to obtain or sustain a conviction for perjury or false statements. Consistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution, the Office therefore determined not to pursue charges against Sessions and informed his counsel of that decision in March 2018.

Others Interviewed During the Investigation The Office considered whether, during the course of the investigation, other individuals interviewed either omitted material information or provided information determined to be false. Applying the Principles of Federal Prosecution, the Office did not seek criminal charges against any individuals other than those listed above. In some instances, that decision was due to evidentiary hurdles to proving falsity. In others, the Office determined that the witness ultimately provided truthful information and that considerations of culpability, deterrence, and resource-preservation weighed against prosecution. See Justice Manual §§ 9-27.220, 9-27.230. ____________ ___________ _________ ________

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Chapter 2
Volume II

Introduction to Volume II

This report is submitted to the Attorney General pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c), which states that, “[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he … shall provide the Attorney General a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions [the Special Counsel] reached.”

Beginning in 2017, the President of the United States took a variety of actions towards the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters that raised questions about whether he had obstructed justice. The Order appointing the Special Counsel gave this Office jurisdiction to investigate matters that arose directly from the FBI’s Russia investigation, including whether the President had obstructed justice in connection with Russia-related investigations. The Special Counsel’s jurisdiction also covered potentially obstructive acts related to the Special Counsel’s investigation itself. This Volume of our report summarizes our obstruction-of-justice investigation of the President.

We first describe the considerations that guided our obstruction-of-justice investigation, and then provide an overview of this Volume:

First, a traditional prosecution or declination decision entails a binary determination to initiate or decline a prosecution, but we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”1 Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations, see 28 U.S.C. § 515; 28 C.F.R. § 600.7(a), this Office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction. And apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.2

Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible.3 The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.4 And if individuals other than the President committed an obstruction offense, they may be prosecuted at this time. Given those considerations, the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.

Third, we considered whether to evaluate the conduct we investigated under the Justice Manual standards governing prosecution and declination decisions, but we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes. The threshold step under the Justice Manual standards is to assess whether a person’s conduct “constitutes a federal offense.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Justice Manual § 9-27.220 (2018) (Justice Manual). Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought. The ordinary means for an individual to respond to an accusation is through a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case. An individual who believes he was wrongly accused can use that process to seek to clear his name. In contrast, a prosecutor’s judgment that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.5

The concerns about the fairness of such a determination would be heightened in the case of a sitting President, where a federal prosecutor’s accusation of a crime, even in an internal report, could carry consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal justice. OLC noted similar concerns about sealed indictments. Even if an indictment were sealed during the President’s term, OLC reasoned, “it would be very difficult to preserve [an indictment’s] secrecy,” and if an indictment became public, “[t]he stigma and opprobrium” could imperil the President’s ability to govern.”6 Although a prosecutor’s internal report would not represent a formal public accusation akin to an indictment, the possibility of the report’s public disclosure and the absence of a neutral adjudicatory forum to review its findings counseled against potentially determining “that the person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense.” Justice Manual § 9-27.220.

Fourth, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.


This report on our investigation consists of four parts. Section I provides an overview of obstruction-of-justice principles and summarizes certain investigatory and evidentiary considerations. Section II sets forth the factual results of our obstruction investigation and analyzes the evidence. Section III addresses statutory and constitutional defenses. Section IV states our conclusion.

Executive Summary to Volume II

Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation

The Campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, questions arose about the Russian government’s apparent support for candidate Trump. After WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia, Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately sought information about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow. After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.

Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn.

In mid-January 2017, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn falsely denied to the Vice President, other administration officials, and FBI agents that he had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Russia’s response to U.S. sanctions on Russia for its election interference. On January 27, the day after the President was told that Flynn had lied to the Vice President and had made similar statements to the FBI, the President invited FBI Director Comey to a private dinner at the White House and told Comey that he needed loyalty. On February 14, the day after the President requested Flynn’s resignation, the President told an outside advisor, “Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.” The advisor disagreed and said the investigations would continue.

Later that afternoon, the President cleared the Oval Office to have a one-on-one meeting with Comey. Referring to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn, the President said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Shortly after requesting Flynn’s resignation and speaking privately to Comey, the President sought to have Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland draft an internal letter stating that the President had not directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak. McFarland declined because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel’s Office attorney thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered.

The President’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation.

In February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began to assess whether he had to recuse himself from campaign related investigations because of his role in the Trump Campaign. In early March, the President told White House Counsel Donald McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing. And after Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at the decision and told advisors that he should have an Attorney General who would protect him. That weekend, the President took Sessions aside at an event and urged him to “unrecuse.” Later in March, Comey publicly disclosed at a congressional hearing that the FBI was investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. In the following days, the President reached out to the Director of National Intelligence and the leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to ask them what they could do to publicly dispel the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort. The President also twice called Comey directly, notwithstanding guidance from McGahn to avoid direct contacts with the Department of Justice. Comey had previously assured the President that the FBI was not investigating him personally, and the President asked Comey to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation by saying that publicly.

The President’s termination of Comey.

On May 3, 2017, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, but declined to answer questions about whether the President was personally under investigation. Within days, the President decided to terminate Comey. The President insisted that the termination letter, which was written for public release, state that Comey had informed the President that he was not under investigation. The day of the firing, the White House maintained that Comey’s termination resulted from independent recommendations from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that Comey should be discharged for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But the President had decided to fire Comey before hearing from the Department of Justice. The day after firing Comey, the President told Russian officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which had been “taken off by Comey’s firing. The next day, the President acknowledged in a television interview that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendation and that when he “decided to just do it,” he was thinking that “this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation, the President said, “As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,” adding that firing Comey “might even lengthen out the investigation.”

The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him.

On May 17, 2017, the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation appointed a Special Counsel to conduct the investigation and related matters. The President reacted to news that a Special Counsel had been appointed by telling advisors that it was “the end of his presidency” and demanding that Sessions resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, but the President ultimately did not accept it. The President told aides that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and suggested that the Special Counsel therefore could not serve. The President’s advisors told him the asserted conflicts were meritless and had already been considered by the Department of Justice.

On June 14, 2017, the media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating whether the President had obstructed justice. Press reports called this “a major turning point” in the investigation: while Comey had told the President he was not under investigation, following Comey’s firing, the President now was under investigation. The President reacted to this news with a series of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel’s investigation. On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.

Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Two days after directing McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.

One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’s job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.

Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence.

In the summer of 2017, the President learned that media outlets were asking questions about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” On several occasions, the President directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the emails would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited. Before the emails became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’s involvement in Trump Jr.’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.

Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation.

In early summer 2017, the President called Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions did not reverse his recusal. In October 2017, the President met privately with Sessions in the Oval Office and asked him to “take [a] look” at investigating Clinton. In December 2017, shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement, the President met with Sessions in the Oval Office and suggested, according to notes taken by a senior advisor, that if Sessions unrecused and took back supervision of the Russia investigation, he would be a “hero.” The President told Sessions, “I’m not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.” In response, Sessions volunteered that he had never seen anything “improper” on the campaign and told the President there was a “whole new leadership team” in place. He did not unrecuse.

Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed.

In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed. The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.

Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [■■■■■■■■: HOM]

After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the President and began cooperating with the government, the President’s personal counsel left a message for Flynn’s attorneys reminding them of the President’s warm feelings towards Flynn, which he said “still remains,” and asking for a “heads up” if Flynn knew “information that implicates the President.” When Flynn’s counsel reiterated that Flynn could no longer share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement, the President’s personal counsel said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn’s actions reflected “hostility” towards the President. During Manafort’s prosecution and when the jury in his criminal, trial was deliberating, the President praised Manafort in public, said that Manafort was being treated unfairly, and declined to rule out a pardon. After Manafort was convicted, the President called Manafort “a brave man” for refusing to “break” and said that “flipping” “almost ought to be outlawed.” ________ ___ _____________ _______

Conduct involving Michael Cohen.

The President’s conduct towards Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise for Cohen when he falsely minimized the President’s involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project, to castigation of Cohen when he became a cooperating witness. From September 2015 to June 2016, Cohen had pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project on behalf of the Trump Organization and had briefed candidate Trump on the project numerous times, including discussing whether Trump should travel to Russia to advance the deal. In 2017, Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the project, including stating that he had only briefed Trump on the project three times and never discussed travel to Russia with him, in an effort to adhere to a “party line” that Cohen said was developed to minimize the President’s connections to Russia. While preparing for his congressional testimony, Cohen had extensive discussions with the President’s personal counsel, who, according to Cohen, said that Cohen should “stay on message” and not contradict the President. After the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in April 2018, the President publicly asserted that Cohen would not “flip,” contacted him directly to tell him to “stay strong,” and privately passed messages of support to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the President’s personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a “rat,” and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

Overarching factual issues.

We did not make a traditional prosecution decision about these facts, but the evidence we obtained supports several general statements about the President’s conduct.

Several features of the conduct we investigated distinguish it from typical obstruction-of-justice cases. First, the investigation concerned the President, and some of his actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts within his Article II authority, which raises constitutional issues discussed below. At the same time, the President’s position as the head of the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses—all of which is relevant to a potential obstruction-of-justice analysis. Second, unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President’s intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct. Third, many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system’s integrity is the same.

Although the series of events we investigated involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of the President’s conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent. In particular, the actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President’s motives. The first phase covered the period from the President’s first interactions with Comey through the President’s firing of Comey. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation. Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation. Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.

A. Statutory and Constitutional Defenses

The President’s counsel raised statutory and constitutional defenses to a possible obstruction-of-justice analysis of the conduct we investigated. We concluded that none of those legal defenses provided a basis for declining to investigate the facts.

Statutory defenses.

Consistent with precedent and the Department of Justice’s general approach to interpreting obstruction statutes, we concluded that several statutes could apply here. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1505, 1512(b)(3), 1512(c)(2). Section 1512(c)(2) is an omnibus obstruction-of-justice provision that covers a range of obstructive acts directed at pending or contemplated official proceedings. No principle of statutory construction justifies narrowing the provision to cover only conduct that impairs the integrity or availability of evidence. Sections 1503 and 1505 also offer broad protection against obstructive acts directed at pending grand jury, judicial, administrative, and congressional proceedings, and they are supplemented by a provision in Section 1512(b) aimed specifically at conduct intended to prevent or hinder the communication to law enforcement of information related to a federal crime.

Constitutional defenses.

As for constitutional defenses arising from the President’s status as the head of the Executive Branch, we recognized that the Department of Justice and the courts have not definitively resolved these issues. We therefore examined those issues through the framework established by Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues. The Department of Justice and the President’s personal counsel have recognized that the President is subject to statutes that prohibit obstruction of justice by bribing a witness or suborning perjury because that conduct does not implicate his constitutional authority. With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.

Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. We also concluded that any inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President’s ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term “corruptly” sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of “corrupt” official action does not diminish the President’s ability to exercise Article II powers. For example, the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It also aligns with the President’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President’s conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chill his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

Conclusion

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

I. Background Legal and Evidentiary Principles

A. Legal Framework of Obstruction Of Justice

The May 17, 2017 Appointment Order and the Special Counsel regulations provide this Office with jurisdiction to investigate “federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a). Because of that description of our jurisdiction, we sought evidence for our obstruction-of-justice investigation with the elements of obstruction offenses in mind. Our evidentiary analysis is similarly focused on the elements of such offenses, although we do not draw conclusions on the ultimate questions that govern a prosecutorial decision under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. See Justice Manual § 9-27.000 et seq. (2018).

Here, we summarize the law interpreting the elements of potentially relevant obstruction statutes in an ordinary case. This discussion does not address the unique constitutional issues that arise in an inquiry into official acts by the President. Those issues are discussed in a later section of this report addressing constitutional defenses that the President’s counsel have raised. See Volume II, Section III.B, infra.

Three basic elements are common to most of the relevant obstruction statutes: (1) an obstructive act; (2) a nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding; and (3) a corrupt intent. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1505, 1512(c)(2). We describe those elements as they have been interpreted by the courts. We then discuss a more specific statute aimed at witness tampering, see 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b), and describe the requirements for attempted offenses and endeavors to obstruct justice, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512(c)(2).

Obstructive act.

Obstruction-of-justice law “reaches all corrupt conduct capable of producing an effect that prevents justice from being duly administered, regardless of the means employed.” United States v. Silverman, 745 F.2d 1386, 1393 (11th Cir. 1984) (interpreting 18 U.S.C. § 1503). An “effort to influence” a proceeding can qualify as an endeavor to obstruct justice even if the effort was “subtle or circuitous” and “however cleverly or with whatever cloaking of purpose” it was made. United States v. Roe, 529 F.2d 629, 632 (4th Cir. 1975); see also United States v. Quattrone, 441 F.3d 153, 173 (2d Cir. 2006). The verbs “ ‘obstruct or impede’ are broad” and “can refer to anything that blocks, makes difficult, or hinders.” Marinello v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1101, 1106 (2018) (internal brackets and quotation marks omitted).

An improper motive can render an actor’s conduct criminal even when the conduct would otherwise be lawful and within the actor’s authority. See United States v. Cueto, 151 F.3d 620, 631 (7th Cir. 1998) (affirming obstruction conviction of a criminal defense attorney for “litigation related conduct”); United States v. Cintolo, 818 F.2d 980, 992 (1st Cir. 1987) (“any act by any party—whether lawful or unlawful on its face—may abridge § 1503 if performed with a corrupt motive”).

Nexus to a pending or contemplated official proceeding.

Obstruction-of-justice law generally requires a nexus, or connection, to an official proceeding. In Section 1503, the nexus must be to pending “judicial or grand jury proceedings.” United States v. Aguilar, 515 U.S. 593, 599 (1995). In Section 1505, the nexus can include a connection to a “pending” federal agency proceeding or a congressional inquiry or investigation. Under both statutes, the government must demonstrate “a relationship in time, causation, or logic” between the obstructive act and the proceeding or inquiry to be obstructed. Id. at 599; see also Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States, 544 U.S. 696, 707–708 (2005). Section 1512(c) prohibits obstructive efforts aimed at official proceedings including judicial or grand jury proceedings. 18 U.S.C. § 1515(a)(1)(A). “For purposes of” Section 1512, “an official proceeding need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 1512(f)(1). Although a proceeding need not already be in progress to trigger liability under Section 1512(c), a nexus to a contemplated proceeding still must be shown. United States v. Young, 916 F.3d 368, 386 (4th Cir. 2019); United States v. Petruk, 781 F.3d 438, 445 (8th Cir. 2015); United States v. Phillips, 583 F.3d 1261, 1264 (10th Cir. 2009); United States v. Reich, 479 F.3d 179, 186 (2d Cir. 2007). The nexus requirement narrows the scope of obstruction statutes to ensure that individuals have “fair warning” of what the law proscribes. Aguilar, 515 U.S. at 600 (internal quotation marks omitted).

The nexus showing has subjective and objective components. As an objective matter, a defendant must act “in a manner that is likely to obstruct justice,” such that the statute “excludes defendants who have an evil purpose but use means that would only unnaturally and improbably be successful.” Aguilar, 515 U.S. at 601–602 (emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted). “(T]he endeavor must have the natural and probable effect of interfering with the due administration of justice.” Id. at 599 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). As a subjective matter, the actor must have “contemplated a particular, foreseeable proceeding.” Petruk, 781 F.3d at 445–446. A defendant need not directly impede the proceeding. Rather, a nexus exists if “discretionary actions of a third person would be required to obstruct the judicial proceeding if it was foreseeable to the defendant that the third party would act on the [defendant’s] communication in such a way as to obstruct the judicial proceeding.” United States v. Martinez, 862 F.3d 223, 238 (2d Cir. 2017) (brackets, ellipses, and internal quotation marks omitted).

Corruptly.

The word “corruptly” provides the intent element for obstruction of justice and means acting “knowingly and dishonestly” or “with an improper motive.” United States v. Richardson, 676 F.3d 491, 508 (5th Cir. 2012); United States v. Gordon, 710 F.3d 1124, 1151 (10th Cir. 2013) (to act corruptly means to “act[] with an improper purpose and to engage in conduct knowingly and dishonestly with the specific intent to subvert, impede or obstruct” the relevant proceeding) (some quotation marks omitted); see 18 U.S.C. § 1515(b) (“As used in section 1505, the term ‘corruptly’ means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another.”); see also Arthur Andersen, 544 U.S. at 705–706 (interpreting “corruptly” to mean “wrongful, immoral, depraved, or evil” and holding that acting “knowingly … corruptly” in 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b) requires “consciousness of wrongdoing”). The requisite showing is made when a person acted with an intent to obtain an “improper advantage for [him]self or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others.” BALLENTINE’S LAW DICTIONARY 276 (3d ed. 1969); see United States v. Pasha, 797 F.3d 1122, 1132 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Aguilar, 515 U.S. at 616 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (characterizing this definition as the “longstanding and well-accepted meaning”of “corruptly”).

Witness tampering.

A more specific provision in Section 1512 prohibits tampering with a witness. See 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1), (3) (making it a crime to “knowingly use[] intimidation … or corruptly persuade[] another person,” or “engage[] in misleading conduct towards another person, ”with the intent to “influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding” or to “hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer … of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense”). To establish corrupt persuasion, it is sufficient that the defendant asked a potential witness to lie to investigators in contemplation of a likely federal investigation into his conduct. United States v. Edlind, 887 F.3d 166, 174 (4th Cir. 2018); United States v. Sparks, 791 F.3d 1188, 1191–1192 (10th Cir. 2015); United States v. Byrne, 435 F.3d 16, 23–26 (1st Cir. 2006); United States v. LaShay, 417 F.3d 715, 718–719 (7th Cir. 2005); United States v. Burns, 298 F.3d 523, 539–540 (6th Cir. 2002); United States v. Pennington, 168 F.3d 1060, 1066 (8th Cir. 1999). The “persuasion” need not be coercive, intimidating, or explicit; it is sufficient to “urge,” “induce,” “ask[],” “argu[e],” “giv[e] reasons,” Sparks, 791 F.3d at 1192, or “coach[] or remind[] witnesses by planting misleading facts,” Edlind, 887 F.3d at 174. Corrupt persuasion is shown “where a defendant tells a potential witness a false story as if the story were true, intending that the witness believe the story and testify to it.” United States v. Rodolitz, 786 F.2d 77, 82 (2d Cir. 1986); see United States v. Gabriel, 125 F.3d 89, 102 (2d Cir. 1997). It also covers urging a witness to recall a fact that the witness did not know, even if the fact was actually true. See LaShay, 417 F.3d at 719. Corrupt persuasion also can be shown in certain circumstances when a person, with an improper motive, urges a witness not to cooperate with law enforcement. See United States v. Shotts, 145 F.3d 1289, 1301 (11th Cr. 1998) (telling Secretary “not to [say] anything [to the FBI] and [she] would not be bothered”).

When the charge is acting with the intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the communication of information to law enforcement under Section 1512(b)(3), the “nexus” to a proceeding inquiry articulated in Aguilar—that an individual have “knowledge that his actions are likely to affect the judicial proceeding,” 515 U.S. at 599—does not apply because the obstructive act is aimed at the communication of information to investigators, not at impeding an official proceeding.

Acting “knowingly … corruptly” requires proof that the individual was “conscious of wrongdoing.” Arthur Andersen, 544 U.S. at 705–706 (declining to explore “[t]he outer limits of this element” but indicating that an instruction was infirm where it permitted conviction even if the defendant “honestly and sincerely believed that [the] conduct was lawful”). It is an affirmative defense that “the conduct consisted solely of lawful conduct and that the defendant’s sole intention was to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully.” 18 U.S.C. § 1512(e).

Attempts and endeavors.

Section 1512(c)(2) covers both substantive obstruction offenses and attempts to obstruct justice. Under general principles of attempt law, a person is guilty of an attempt when he has the intent to commit a substantive offense and takes an overt act that constitutes a substantial step towards that goal. See United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 549 U.S. 102, 106–107 (2007). “[T]he act [must be] substantial, in that it was strongly corroborative of the defendant’s criminal purpose.” United States v. Pratt, 351 F.3d 131, 135 (4th Cir. 2003). While “mere abstract talk” does not suffice, any “concrete and specific” acts that corroborate the defendant’s intent can constitute a “substantial step.” United States v. Irving, 665 F.3d 1184, 1198- 1205 (10th Cir. 2011). Thus, “soliciting an innocent agent to engage in conduct constituting an element of the crime” may qualify as a substantial step. Model Penal Code § 5.01(2)(g); see United States v. Lucas, 499 F.3d 769, 781 (8th Cir. 2007).

The omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 prohibits an “endeavor” to obstruct justice, which sweeps more broadly than Section 1512’s attempt provision. See United States v. Sampson, 898 F.3d 287, 302 (2d Cir. 2018); United States v. Leisure, 844 F.2d 1347, 1366–1367 (8th Cir. 1988) (collecting cases). “It is well established that a[n] [obstruction-of-justice] offense is complete when one corruptly endeavors to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice; the prosecution need not prove that the due administration of justice was actually obstructed or impeded.” United States v. Davis, 854 F.3d 1276, 1292 (11th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).

B. Investigative and Evidentiary Considerations

After the appointment of the Special Counsel, this Office obtained evidence about the following events relating to potential issues of obstruction of justice involving the President:

(a)
The President’s January 27, 2017 dinner with former FBI Director James Comey in which the President reportedly asked for Comey’s loyalty, one day after the White House had been briefed by the Department of Justice on contacts between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Russian Ambassador;
(b)
The President’s February 14, 2017 meeting with Comey in which the President reportedly asked Comey not to pursue an investigation of Flynn;
(c)
The President’s private requests to Comey to make public the fact that the President was not the subject of an FBI investigation and to lift what the President regarded as a cloud;
(d)
The President’s outreach to the Director of National Intelligence and the Directors of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency about the FBI’s Russia investigation;
(e)
The President’s stated rationales for terminating Comey on May 9, 2017, including statements that could reasonably be understood as acknowledging that the FBI’s Russia investigation was a factor in Comey’s termination; and
(f)
The President’s reported involvement in issuing a statement about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior Trump Campaign officials that said the meeting was about adoption and omitted that the Russians had offered to provide the Trump Campaign with derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

Taking into account that information and our analysis of applicable statutory and constitutional principles (discussed below in Volume II, Section III, infra), we determined that there was a sufficient factual and legal basis to further investigate potential obstruction-of-justice issues involving the President.

Many of the core issues in an obstruction-of-justice investigation turn on an individual’s actions and intent. We therefore requested that the White House provide us with documentary evidence in its possession on the relevant events. We also sought and obtained the White House’s concurrence in our conducting interviews of White House personnel who had relevant information. And we interviewed other witnesses who had pertinent knowledge, obtained documents on a voluntary basis when possible, and used legal process where appropriate. These investigative steps allowed us to gather a substantial amount of evidence.

We also sought a voluntary interview with the President. After more than a year of discussion, the President declined to be interviewed. _________ _______ During the course of our discussions, the President did agree to answer written questions on certain Russia-related topics, and he provided us with answers. He did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions on obstruction topics or questions on events during the transition. Ultimately, while we believed that we had the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the President’s testimony, we chose not to do so. We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation. We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony. The Office’s decision-making process on this issue is described in more detail in Appendix C, infra, in a note that precedes the President’s written responses.

In assessing the evidence we obtained, we relied on common principles that apply in any investigation. The issue of criminal intent is often inferred from circumstantial evidence. See, e.g., United States v. Croteau, 819 F.3d 1293, 1305 (11th Cir. 2016) (“[G]uilty knowledge can rarely be established by direct evidence…. Therefore, mens rea elements such as knowledge or intent may be proved by circumstantial evidence.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); United States v. Robinson, 702 F.3d 22, 36 (2d Cir. 2012) (“The government’s case rested on circumstantial evidence, but the mens rea elements of knowledge and intent can often be proved through circumstantial evidence and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The principle that intent can be inferred from circumstantial evidence is a necessity in criminal cases, given the right of a subject to assert his privilege against compelled self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and therefore decline to testify. Accordingly, determinations on intent are frequently reached without the opportunity to interview an investigatory subject.

Obstruction-of-justice cases are consistent with this rule. See, e.g., Edlind, 887 F.3d at 174, 176 (relying on “significant circumstantial evidence that [the defendant] was conscious of her wrongdoing” in an obstruction case; “[b]ecause evidence of intent will almost always be circumstantial, a defendant may be found culpable where the reasonable and foreseeable consequences of her acts are the obstruction of justice”) (internal quotation marks, ellipses, and punctuation omitted); Quattrone, 441 F.3d at 173–174. Circumstantial evidence that illuminates intent may include a pattern of potentially obstructive acts. Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) (“Evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act … may be admissible … [to] prov[e] motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.”); see, e.g., United States v. Frankhauser, 80 F.3d 641, 648–650 (1st Cir. 1996); United States v. Arnold, 773 F.2d 823, 832–834 (7th Cir. 1985); Cintolo, 818 F.2d at 1000.

Credibility judgments may also be made based on objective facts and circumstantial evidence. Standard jury instructions highlight a variety of factors that are often relevant in assessing credibility. These include whether a witness had a reason not to tell the truth; whether the witness had a good memory; whether the witness had the opportunity to observe the events about which he testified; whether the witness’s testimony was corroborated by other witnesses; and whether anything the witness said or wrote previously contradicts his testimony. See, e.g., First Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions § 1.06 (2018); Fifth Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions (Criminal Cases) § 1.08 (2012); Seventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction § 3.01 (2012).

In addition to those general factors, we took into account more specific factors in assessing the credibility of conflicting accounts of the facts. For example, contemporaneous written notes can provide strong corroborating evidence. See United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 232 (1975) (the fact that a “statement appeared in the contemporaneously recorded report … would tend strongly to corroborate the investigator’s version of the interview”). Similarly, a witness’s recitation of his account before he had any motive to fabricate also supports the witness’s credibility. See Tome v. United States, 513 U.S. 150, 158 (1995) (“A consistent statement that predates the motive is a square rebuttal of the charge that the testimony was contrived as a consequence of that motive.”). Finally, a witness’s false description of an encounter can imply consciousness of wrongdoing. See Al-Adahi v. Obama, 613 F.3d 1102, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (noting the “well-settled principle that false exculpatory statements are evidence—often strong evidence—of guilt”). We applied those settled legal principles in evaluating the factual results of our investigation.

II. Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation

This section of the report details the evidence we obtained. We first provide an overview of how Russia became an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, and how candidate Trump responded. We then turn to the key events that we investigated: the President’s conduct concerning the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn; the President’s reaction to public confirmation of the FBI’s Russia investigation; events leading up to and surrounding the termination of FBI Director Comey; efforts to terminate the Special Counsel; efforts to curtail the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation; efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials; efforts to have the Attorney General unrecuse; and conduct towards McGahn, Cohen, and other witnesses.

We summarize the evidence we found and then analyze it by reference to the three statutory obstruction-of-justice elements: obstructive act, nexus to a proceeding, and intent. We focus on elements because, by regulation, the Special Counsel has “jurisdiction … to investigate … federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a). Consistent with our jurisdiction to investigate federal obstruction crimes, we gathered evidence that is relevant to the elements of those crimes and analyzed them within an elements framework—while refraining from reaching ultimate conclusions about whether crimes were committed, for the reasons explained above. This section also does not address legal and constitutional defenses raised by counsel for the President; those defenses are analyzed in Volume II, Section III, infra.

A. The Campaign’s Response to Reports About Russian Support for Trump

During the 2016 campaign, the media raised questions about a possible connection between the Trump Campaign and Russia.7 The questions intensified after WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia. Trump responded to questions about possible connections to Russia by denying any business involvement in Russia—even though the Trump Organization had pursued a business project in Russia as late as June 2016. Trump also expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisors privately sought information about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. After the election, when questions persisted about possible links between Russia and the Trump Campaign, the President-Elect continued to deny any connections to Russia and privately expressed concerns that reports of Russian election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.8

1. Press Reports Allege Links Between the Trump Campaign and Russia

On June 16, 2015, Donald J. Trump declared his intent to seek nomination as the Republican candidate for President.9 By early 2016, he distinguished himself among Republican candidates by speaking of closer ties with Russia,10 saying he would get along well with Russian President Vladimir Putin,11 questioning whether the NATO alliance was obsolete,12 and praising Putin as a “strong leader.”13 The press reported that Russian political analysts and commentators perceived Trump as favorable to Russia.14

Beginning in February 2016 and continuing through the summer, the media reported that several Trump campaign advisors appeared to have ties to Russia. For example, the press reported that campaign advisor Michael Flynn was seated next to Vladimir Putin at an RT gala in Moscow in December 2015 and that Flynn had appeared regularly on RT as an analyst.15 The press also reported that foreign policy advisor Carter Page had ties to a Russian state-run gas company,16 and that campaign chairman Paul Manafort had done work for the “Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.”17 In addition, the press raised questions during the Republican National Convention about the Trump Campaign’s involvement in changing the Republican platform’s stance on giving “weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces.”18

2. The Trump Campaign Reacts to WikiLeaks’s Release of Hacked Emails

On June 14, 2016, a cybersecurity firm that had conducted in-house analysis for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) posted an announcement that Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC’s computer and obtained access to documents.19 On July 22, 2016, the day before the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks posted thousands of hacked DNC documents revealing sensitive internal deliberations.20 Soon thereafter, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager publicly contended that Russia had hacked the DNC emails and arranged their release in order to help candidate Trump.21 On July 26, 2016, the New York Times reported that U.S. “intelligence agencies ha[d] told the White House they now have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.”22 Within the Trump Campaign, aides reacted with enthusiasm to reports of the hacks.23 ________ __ _________ ________ discussed with Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release the hacked material.24 Some witnesses said that Trump himself discussed the possibility of upcoming releases ______ __ ________ ________. Michael Cohen, then-executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, recalled hearing ________ ___ _____________ _______.25 Cohen recalled that Trump responded, “oh good, alright,” and ________ ___ _____________ _______.26 Manafort said that shortly after WikiLeaks’s July 22, 2016 release of hacked documents, he spoke to Trump ________ ___ _____________ _________; Manafort recalled that Trump responded that Manafort should ________ ___ _____________ _________ keep Trump updated.27 Deputy campaign manager Rick Gates said that Manafort was getting pressure about ________ ___ _____________ _________ information and that Manafort instructed Gates ________ ___ _____________ _________ status updates on upcoming releases.28 Around the same time, Gates was with Trump on a trip to an airport ________ ___ _____________ _________, and shortly after the call ended, Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.29 ______ __ _________ ________ were discussed within the Campaign,30 and in the summer of 2016, the Campaign was planning a communications strategy based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.31

3. The Trump Campaign Reacts to Allegations That Russia was Seeking to Aid Candidate Trump

In the days that followed WikiLeaks’s July 22, 2016 release of hacked DNC emails, the Trump Campaign publicly rejected suggestions that Russia was seeking to aid candidate Trump. On July 26, 2016, Trump tweeted that it was ”[c]razy” to suggest that Russia was “dealing with Trump”32 and that “[f]or the record,” he had “ZERO investments in Russia.”33

In a press conference the next day, July 27, 2016, Trump characterized “this whole thing with Russia” as “a total deflection” and stated that it was “far fetched” and “ridiculous.”34 Trump said that the assertion that Russia had hacked the emails was unproven, but stated that it would give him “no pause” if Russia had Clinton’s emails.35 Trump added, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”36 Trump also said that “there’s nothing that I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly as opposed to the way they are right now,” and in response to a question about whether he would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and consider lifting sanctions, Trump replied, “We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.”37

During the press conference, Trump repeated “I have nothing to do with Russia” five times.38 He stated that “the closest [he] came to Russia” was that Russians may have purchased a home or condos from him.39 He said that after he held the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 he had been interested in working with Russian companies that “wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia” but “it never worked out.”40 He explained, ”[f]rankly, I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. But we had a major developer … that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places. But we decided not to do it.”41 The Trump Organization, however, had been pursuing a building project in Moscow—the Trump Tower Moscow project—from approximately September 2015 through June 2016, and the candidate was regularly updated on developments, including possible trips by Michael Cohen to Moscow to promote the deal and by Trump himself to finalize it.42

Cohen recalled speaking with Trump after the press conference about Trump’s denial of any business dealings in Russia, which Cohen regarded as untrue.43 Trump told Cohen that Trump Tower Moscow was not a deal yet and said, “Why mention it if it is not a deal?”44 According to Cohen, at around this time, in response to Trump’s disavowal of connections to Russia, campaign advisors had developed a “party line” that Trump had no business with Russia and no connections to Russia.45

In addition to denying any connections with Russia, the Trump Campaign reacted to reports of Russian election interference in aid of the Campaign by seeking to distance itself from Russian contacts. For example, in August 2016, foreign policy advisor J.D. Gordon declined an invitation to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s residence because the timing was “not optimal” in view of media reports about Russian interference.46 On August 19, 2016, Manafort was asked to resign amid media coverage scrutinizing his ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and links to Russian business.47 And when the media published stories about Page’s connections to Russia in September 2016, Trump Campaign officials terminated Page’s association with the Campaign and told the press that he had played “no role” in the Campaign.48

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first set of emails stolen by a Russian intelligence agency from Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta.49 The same day, the federal government announced that “the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”50 The government statement directly linked Russian hacking to the releases on WikiLeaks, with the goal of interfering with the presidential election, and concluded “that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities” based on their “scope and sensitivity.”51

On October 11, 2016, Podesta stated publicly that the FBI was investigating Russia’s hacking and said that candidate Trump might have known in advance that the hacked emails were going to be released.52 Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence was asked whether the Trump Campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks in releasing damaging Clinton-related information and responded, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”53

4. After the Election, Trump Continues to Deny Any Contacts or Connections with Russia or That Russia Aided his Election

On November 8, 2016, Trump was elected President. Two days later, Russian officials told the press that the Russian government had maintained contacts with Trump’s ”immediate entourage” during the campaign.54 In response, Hope Hicks, who had been the Trump Campaign spokesperson, said, ”We are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday, when Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders.”55 Hicks gave an additional statement denying any contacts between the Campaign and Russia: ”It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”56

On December 10, 2016, the press reported that U.S. intelligence agencies had ”concluded that Russia interfered in last month’s presidential election to boost Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.”57 Reacting to the story the next day, President-Elect Trump stated, ”I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse.”58 He continued that no one really knew who was responsible for the hacking, suggesting that the intelligence community had ”no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”59 The President-Elect also said that Democrats were ”putting [] out” the story of Russian interference ”because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics.”60

On December 18, 2016, Podesta told the press that the election was ”distorted by the Russian intervention” and questioned whether Trump Campaign officials had been ”in touch with the Russians.”61 The same day, incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared on Fox News Sunday and declined to say whether the President-Elect accepted the intelligence community’s determination that Russia intervened in the election.62 When asked about any contact or coordination between the Campaign and Russia, Priebus said, ”Even this question is insane. Of course we didn’t interface with the Russians.”63 Priebus added that ”this whole thing is a spin job” and said, ”the real question is, why the Democrats … are doing everything they can to delegitimize the outcome of the election?”64

On December 29, 2016, the Obama Administration announced that in response to Russian cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election, it was imposing sanctions and other measures on several Russian individuals and entities.65 When first asked about the sanctions, President-Elect Trump said, ”I think we ought to get on with our lives.”66 He then put out a statement that said ”It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” but indicated that he would meet with intelligence community leaders the following week for a briefing on Russian interference.67 The briefing occurred on January 6, 2017.68 Following the briefing, the intelligence community released the public version of its assessment, which concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means with the goal of harming Clinton’s electability.69 The assessment further concluded with high confidence that Putin and the Russian government had developed a clear preference for Trump.70

Several days later, BuzzFeed published unverified allegations compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele during the campaign about candidate Trump’s Russia connections under the headline ”These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia.”71 In a press conference the next day, the President-Elect called the release ”an absolute disgrace” and said, ”I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away…. So I have no deals, I have no loans and I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict.”72

Several advisors recalled that the President-Elect viewed stories about his Russian connections, the Russia investigations, and the intelligence community assessment of Russian interference as a threat to the legitimacy of his electoral victory.73 Hicks, for example, said that the President-Elect viewed the intelligence community assessment as his ”Achilles heel” because, even if Russia had no impact on the election, people would think Russia helped him win, taking away from what he had accomplished.74 Sean Spicer, the first White House communications director, recalled that the President thought the Russia story was developed to undermine the legitimacy of his election.75 Gates said the President viewed the Russia investigation as an attack on the legitimacy of his win.76 And Priebus recalled that when the intelligence assessment came out, the President-Elect was concerned people would question the legitimacy of his win.77

B. The President’s Conduct Concerning the Investigation of Michael Flynn

Overview

During the presidential transition, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had two phone calls with the Russian Ambassador to the United States about the Russian response to U.S. sanctions imposed because of Russia’s election interference. After the press reported on Flynn’s contacts with the Russian Ambassador, Flynn lied to incoming Administration officials by saying he had not discussed sanctions on the calls. The officials publicly repeated those lies in press interviews. The FBI, which previously was investigating Flynn for other matters, interviewed him about the calls in the first week after the inauguration, and Flynn told similar lies to the FBI. On January 26, 2017, Department of Justice (DOJ) officials notified the White House that Flynn and the Russian Ambassador had discussed sanctions and that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. The next night, the President had a private dinner with FBI Director James Comey in which he asked for Comey’s loyalty. On February 13, 2017, the President asked Flynn to resign. The following day, the President had a one-on-one conversation with Comey in which he said, ”I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Evidence

1. Incoming National Security Advisor Flynn Discusses Sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak

Shortly after the election, President-Elect Trump announced he would appoint Michael Flynn as his National Security Advisor.78 For the next two months, Flynn played an active role on the Presidential Transition Team (PTT) coordinating policy positions and communicating with foreign government officials, including Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.79

On December 29, 2016, as noted in Volume II, Section II.A.4, supra, the Obama Administration announced that it was imposing sanctions and other measures on several Russian individuals and entities.80 That day, multiple members of the PTT exchanged emails about the sanctions and the impact they would have on the incoming Administration, and Flynn informed members of the PTT that he would be speaking to the Russian Ambassador later in the day.81 Flynn, who was in the Dominican Republic at the time, and K.T. McFarland, who was slated to become the Deputy National Security Advisor and was at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with the President-Elect and other senior staff, talked by phone about what, if anything, Flynn should communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions.82 McFarland had spoken with incoming Administration officials about the sanctions and Russia’s possible responses and thought she had mentioned in those conversations that Flynn was scheduled to speak with Kislyak.83 Based on those conversations, McFarland informed Flynn that incoming Administration officials at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.84 At 4:43 p.m. that afternoon, McFarland sent an email to several officials about the sanctions and informed the group that ”Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.”85

Approximately one hour later, McFarland met with the President-Elect and senior officials and briefed them on the sanctions and Russia’s possible responses.86 Incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus recalled that McFarland may have mentioned at the meeting that the sanctions situation could be ”cooled down” and not escalated.87 McFarland recalled that at the end of the meeting, someone may have mentioned to the President-Elect that Flynn was speaking to the Russian Ambassador that evening.88 McFarland did not recall any response by the President-Elect.89 Priebus recalled that the President-Elect viewed the sanctions as an attempt by the Obama Administration to embarrass him by delegitimizing his election.90

Immediately after discussing the sanctions with McFarland on December 29, 2016, Flynn called Kislyak and requested that Russia respond to the sanctions only in a reciprocal manner, without escalating the situation.91 After the call, Flynn briefed McFarland on its substance.92 Flynn told McFarland that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because Russia wanted a good relationship with the Trump Administration.93 On December 30, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time and would instead ”plan … further steps to restore Russian–US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”94 Following that announcement, the President-Elect tweeted, ”Great move on delay (by V. Putin)—I always knew he was very smart!”95

On December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him that Flynn’s request had been received at the highest levels and Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to the request.96 Later that day, Flynn told McFarland about this follow-up conversation with Kislyak and Russia’s decision not to escalate the sanctions situation based on Flynn’s request.97 McFarland recalled that Flynn thought his phone call had made a difference.98 Flynn spoke with other incoming Administration officials that day, but does not recall whether they discussed the sanctions.99

Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions issue with incoming Administration official Stephen Bannon the next day.100 Flynn said that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, and he and Bannon agreed that they had ”stopped the train on Russia’s response ”to the sanctions.101 On January 3, 2017, Flynn saw the President-Elect in person and thought they discussed the Russian reaction to the sanctions, but Flynn did not have a specific recollection of telling the President-Elect about the substance of his calls with Kislyak.102

Members of the intelligence community were surprised by Russia’s decision not to retaliate in response to the sanctions.103 When analyzing Russia’s response, they became aware of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with Kislyak.104 Previously, the FBI had opened an investigation of Flynn based on his relationship with the Russian government.105 Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key component of that investigation.106

2. President-Elect Trump is Briefed on the Intelligence Community’s Assessment of Russian Interference in the Election and Congress Opens Election-Interference Investigations

On January 6, 2017, as noted in Volume II, Section II.A.4, supra, intelligence officials briefed President-Elect Trump and the incoming Administration on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.107 When the briefing concluded, Comey spoke with the President-Elect privately to brief him on unverified, personally sensitive allegations compiled by Steele.108 According to a memorandum Comey drafted immediately after their private discussion, the President-Elect began the meeting by telling Comey he had conducted himself honorably over the prior year and had a great reputation.109 The President-Elect stated that he thought highly of Comey, looked forward to working with him, and hoped that he planned to stay on as FBI director.110 Comey responded that he intended to continue serving in that role.111 Comey then briefed the President-Elect on the sensitive material in the Steele reporting.112 Comey recalled that the President-Elect seemed defensive, so Comey decided to assure him that the FBI was not investigating him personally.113 Comey recalled he did not want the President-Elect to think of the conversation as a ”J. Edgar Hoover move.”114

On January 10, 2017, the media reported that Comey had briefed the President-Elect on the Steele reporting,115 and BuzzFeed News published information compiled by Steele online, stating that the information included ”specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives.”116 The next day, the President-Elect expressed concern to intelligence community leaders about the fact that the information had leaked and asked whether they could make public statements refuting the allegations in the Steele reports.117

In the following weeks, three Congressional committees opened investigations to examine Russia’s interference in the election and whether the Trump Campaign had colluded with Russia.118 On January 13, 2017, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) announced that it would conduct a bipartisan inquiry into Russian interference in the election, including any ”links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”119 On January 25, 2017, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) announced that it had been conducting an investigation into Russian election interference and possible coordination with the political campaigns.120 And on February 2, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it too would investigate Russian efforts to intervene in the election.121

3. Flynn Makes False Statements About his Communications with Kislyak to Incoming Administration Officials, the Media, and the FBI

On January 12, 2017, a Washington Post columnist reported that Flynn and Kislyak communicated on the day the Obama Administration announced the Russia sanctions.122 The column questioned whether Flynn had said something to ”undercut the U.S. sanctions” and whether Flynn’s communications had violated the letter or spirit of the Logan Act.123

President-Elect Trump called Priebus after the story was published and expressed anger about it.124 Priebus recalled that the President-Elect asked, ”What the hell is this all about?”125 Priebus called Flynn and told him that the President-Elect was angry about the reporting on Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak.126 Flynn recalled that he felt a lot of pressure because Priebus had spoken to the ”boss” and said Flynn needed to ”kill the story.”127 Flynn directed McFarland to call the Washington Post columnist and inform him that no discussion of sanctions had occurred.128 McFarland recalled that Flynn said words to the effect of, ”I want to kill the story.”129 McFarland made the call as Flynn had requested although she knew she was providing false information, and the Washington Post updated the column to reflect that a ”Trump official” had denied that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions.130

When Priebus and other incoming Administration officials questioned Flynn internally about the Washington Post column, Flynn maintained that he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak.131 Flynn repeated that claim to Vice President-Elect Michael Pence and to incoming press secretary Sean Spicer.132 In subsequent media interviews in mid-January, Pence, Priebus, and Spicer denied that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions, basing those denials on their conversations with Flynn.133

The public statements of incoming Administration officials denying that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions alarmed senior DOJ officials, who were aware that the statements were not true.134 Those officials were concerned that Flynn had lied to his colleagues—who in turn had unwittingly misled the American public—creating a compromise situation for Flynn because the Department of Justice assessed that the Russian government could prove Flynn lied.135 The FBI investigative team also believed that Flynn’s calls with Kislyak and subsequent denials about discussing sanctions raised potential Logan Act issues and were relevant to the FBI’s broader Russia investigation.136

On January 20, 2017, President Trump was inaugurated and Flynn was sworn in as National Security Advisor. On January 23, 2017, Spicer delivered his first press briefing and stated that he had spoken with Flynn the night before, who confirmed that the calls with Kislyak were about topics unrelated to sanctions.137 Spicer’s statements added to the Department of Justice’s concerns that Russia had leverage over Flynn based on his lies and could use that derogatory information to compromise him.138

On January 24, 2017, Flynn agreed to be interviewed by agents from the FBI.139 During the interview, which took place at the White House, Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama Administration.140 Flynn also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which Kislyak stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of Flynn’s request.141

4. DOJ Officials Notify the White House of Their Concerns About Flynn

On January 26, 2017, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates contacted White House Counsel Donald McGahn and informed him that she needed to discuss a sensitive matter with him in person.142 Later that day, Yates and Mary McCord, a senior national security official at the Department of Justice, met at the White House with McGahn and White House Counsel’s Office attorney James Burnham.143 Yates said that the public statements made by the Vice President denying that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions were not true and put Flynn in a potentially compromised position because the Russians would know he had lied.144 Yates disclosed that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI.145 She declined to answer a specific question about how Flynn had performed during that interview,146 but she indicated that Flynn’s statements to the FBI were similar to the statements he had made to Pence and Spicer denying that he had discussed sanctions.147 McGahn came away from the meeting with the impression that the FBI had not pinned Flynn down in lies,148 but he asked John Eisenberg, who served as legal advisor to the National Security Council, to examine potential legal issues raised by Flynn’s FBI interview and his contacts with Kislyak.149

That afternoon, McGahn notified the President that Yates had come to the White House to discuss concerns about Flynn.150 McGahn described what Yates had told him, and the President asked him to repeat it, so he did.151 McGahn recalled that when he described the FBI interview of Flynn, he said that Flynn did not disclose having discussed sanctions with Kislyak, but that there may not have been a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.152 The President asked about Section 1001, and McGahn explained the law to him, and also explained the Logan Act.153 The President instructed McGahn to work with Priebus and Bannon to look into the matter further and directed that they not discuss it with any other officials.154 Priebus recalled that the President was angry with Flynn in light of what Yates had told the White House and said, ”not again, this guy, this stuff.”155

That evening, the President dined with several senior advisors and asked the group what they thought about FBI Director Comey.156 According to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who was at the dinner, no one openly advocated terminating Comey but the consensus on him was not positive.157 Coats told the group that he thought Comey was a good director.158 Coats encouraged the President to meet Comey face-to-face and spend time with him before making a decision about whether to retain him.159

5. McGahn has a Follow-Up Meeting About Flynn with Yates; President Trump has Dinner with FBI Director Comey

The next day, January 27, 2017, McGahn and Eisenberg discussed the results of Eisenberg’s initial legal research into Flynn’s conduct, and specifically whether Flynn may have violated the Espionage Act, the Logan Act, or 18 U.S.C. § 1001.160 Based on his preliminary research, Eisenberg informed McGahn that there was a possibility that Flynn had violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001 and the Logan Act.161 Eisenberg noted that the United States had never successfully prosecuted an individual under the Logan Act and that Flynn could have possible defenses, and told McGahn that he believed it was unlikely that a prosecutor would pursue a Logan Act charge under the circumstances.162

That same morning, McGahn asked Yates to return to the White House to discuss Flynn again.163 In that second meeting, McGahn expressed doubts that the Department of Justice would bring a Logan Act prosecution against Flynn, but stated that the White House did not want to take action that would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation of Flynn.164 Yates responded that Department of Justice had notified the White House so that it could take action in response to the information provided.165 McGahn ended the meeting by asking Yates for access to the underlying information the Department of Justice possessed pertaining to Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak.166

Also on January 27, the President called FBI Director Comey and invited him to dinner that evening.167 Priebus recalled that before the dinner, he told the President something like, ”don’t talk about Russia, whatever you do,” and the President promised he would not talk about Russia at the dinner.168 McGahn had previously advised the President that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement.169 When Bannon learned about the President’s planned dinner with Comey, he suggested that he or Priebus also attend, but the President stated that he wanted to dine with Comey alone.170 Comey said that when he arrived for the dinner that evening, he was surprised and concerned to see that no one else had been invited.171

Comey provided an account of the dinner in a contemporaneous memo, an interview with this Office, and congressional testimony. According to Comey’s account of the dinner, the President repeatedly brought up Comey’s future, asking whether he wanted to stay on as FBI director.172 Because the President had previously said he wanted Comey to stay on as FBI director, Comey interpreted the President’s comments as an effort to create a patronage relationship by having Comey ask for his job.173 The President also brought up the Steele reporting that Comey had raised in the January 6, 2017 briefing and stated that he was thinking about ordering the FBI to investigate the allegations to prove they were false.174 Comey responded that the President should think carefully about issuing such an order because it could create a narrative that the FBI was investigating him personally, which was incorrect.175 Later in the dinner, the President brought up Flynn and said, ”the guy has serious judgment issues.”176 Comey did not comment on Flynn and the President did not acknowledge any FBI interest in or contact with Flynn.177

According to Comey’s account, at one point during the dinner the President stated, ”I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”178 Comey did not respond and the conversation moved on to other topics, but the President returned to the subject of Comey’s job at the end of the dinner and repeated, ”I need loyalty.”179 Comey responded, ”You will always get honesty from me.”180 The President said, ”That’s what I want, honest loyalty.”181 Comey said, ”You will get that from me.”182

After Comey’s account of the dinner became public, the President and his advisors disputed that he had asked for Comey’s loyalty.183 The President also indicated that he had not invited Comey to dinner, telling a reporter that he thought Comey had ”asked for the dinner” because ”he wanted to stay on.”184 But substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. The President’s Daily Diary confirms that the President ”extend[ed] a dinner invitation” to Comey on January 27.185 With respect to the substance of the dinner conversation, Comey documented the President’s request for loyalty in a memorandum he began drafting the night of the dinner;186 senior FBI officials recall that Comey told them about the loyalty request shortly after the dinner occurred;187 and Comey described the request while under oath in congressional proceedings and in a subsequent interview with investigators subject to penalties for lying under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Comey’s memory of the details of the dinner, including that the President requested loyalty, has remained consistent throughout.188

6. Flynn’s Resignation

On February 2, 2017, Eisenberg reviewed the underlying information relating to Flynn’s calls with Kislyak.189 Eisenberg recalled that he prepared a memorandum about criminal statutes that could apply to Flynn’s conduct, but he did not believe the White House had enough information to make a definitive recommendation to the President.190 Eisenberg and McGahn discussed that Eisenberg’s review of the underlying information confirmed his preliminary conclusion that Flynn was unlikely to be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act.191 Because White House officials were uncertain what Flynn had told the FBI, however, they could not assess his exposure to prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001.192

The week of February 6, Flynn had a one-on-one conversation with the President in the Oval Office about the negative media coverage of his contacts with Kislyak.193 Flynn recalled that the President was upset and asked him for information on the conversations.194 Flynn listed the specific dates on which he remembered speaking with Kislyak, but the President corrected one of the dates he listed.195 The President asked Flynn what he and Kislyak discussed and Flynn responded that he might have talked about sanctions.196

On February 9, 2017, the Washington Post reported that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak the month before the President took office.197 After the publication of that story, Vice President Pence learned of the Department of Justice’s notification to the White House about the content of Flynn’s calls.198 He and other advisors then sought access to and reviewed the underlying information about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak.199 FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who provided the White House officials access to the information and was present when they reviewed it, recalled the officials asking him whether Flynn’s conduct violated the Logan Act.200 McCabe responded that he did not know, but the FBI was investigating the matter because it was a possibility.201 Based on the evidence of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak, McGahn and Priebus concluded that Flynn could not have forgotten the details of the discussions of sanctions and had instead been lying about what he discussed with Kislyak.202 Flynn had also told White House officials that the FBI had told him that the FBI was closing out its investigation of him,203 but Eisenberg did not believe him.204 After reviewing the materials and speaking with Flynn, McGahn and Priebus concluded that Flynn should be terminated and recommended that course of action to the President.205

That weekend, Flynn accompanied the President to Mar-a-Lago.206 Flynn recalled that on February 12, 2017, on the return flight to D.C. on Air Force One, the President asked him whether he had lied to the Vice President.207 Flynn responded that he may have forgotten details of his calls, but he did not think he lied.208 The President responded, ”Okay. That’s fine. I got it.”209

On February 13, 2017, Priebus told Flynn he had to resign.210 Flynn said he wanted to say goodbye to the President, so Priebus brought him to the Oval Office.211 Priebus recalled that the President hugged Flynn, shook his hand, and said, ”We’ll give you a good recommendation. You’re a good guy. We’ll take care of you.”212

Talking points on the resignation prepared by the White House Counsel’s Office and distributed to the White House communications team stated that McGahn had advised the President that Flynn was unlikely to be prosecuted, and the President had determined that the issue with Flynn was one of trust.213 Spicer told the press the next day that Flynn was forced to resign ”not based on legal issue, but based on a trust issue, [where] a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where [the President] felt he had to make a change.”214

7. The President Discusses Flynn with FBI Director Comey

On February 14, 2017, the day after Flynn’s resignation, the President had lunch at the White House with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.215 According to Christie, at one point during the lunch the President said, ”Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.”216 Christie laughed and responded, ”No way.”217 He said, ”this Russia thing is far from over” and ”[w]e’ll be here on Valentine’s Day 2018 talking about this.”218 The President said, ”[w]hat do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”219 Christie recalled responding that based on his experience both as a prosecutor and as someone who had been investigated, firing Flynn would not end the investigation.220 Christie said there was no way to make an investigation shorter, but a lot of ways to make it longer.221 The President asked Christie what he meant, and Christie told the President not to talk about the investigation even if he was frustrated at times.222 Christie also told the President that he would never be able to get rid of Flynn, ”like gum on the bottom of your shoe.”223

Towards the end of the lunch, the President brought up Comey and asked if Christie was still friendly with him.224 Christie said he was.225 The President told Christie to call Comey and tell him that the President ”really like[s] him. Tell him he’s part of the team.”226 At the end of the lunch, the President repeated his request that Christie reach out to Comey.227 Christie had no intention of complying with the President’s request that he contact Comey.228 He thought the President’s request was ”nonsensical” and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call.229 Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message.230

At 4 p.m. that afternoon, the President met with Comey, Sessions, and other officials for a homeland security briefing.231 At the end of the briefing, the President dismissed the other attendees and stated that he wanted to speak to Comey alone.232 Sessions and senior advisor to the President Jared Kushner remained in the Oval Office as other participants left, but the President excused them, repeating that he wanted to speak only with Comey.233 At some point after others had left the Oval Office, Priebus opened the door, but the President sent him away.234

According to Comey’s account of the meeting, once they were alone, the President began the conversation by saying, ”I want to talk about Mike Flynn.”235 The President stated that Flynn had not done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but had to be terminated because he had misled the Vice President.236 The conversation turned to the topic of leaks of classified information, but the President returned to Flynn, saying ”he is a good guy and has been through a lot.”237 The President stated, ”I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”238 Comey agreed that Flynn ”is a good guy,” but did not commit to ending the investigation of Flynn.239 Comey testified under oath that he took the President’s statement ”as a direction” because of the President’s position and the circumstances of the one-on-one meeting.240

Shortly after meeting with the President, Comey began drafting a memorandum documenting their conversation.241 Comey also met with his senior leadership team to discuss the President’s request, and they agreed not to inform FBI officials working on the Flynn case of the President’s statements so the officials would not be influenced by the request.242 Comey also asked for a meeting with Sessions and requested that Sessions not leave Comey alone with the President again.243

8. The Media Raises Questions About the President’s Delay in Terminating Flynn

After Flynn was forced to resign, the press raised questions about why the President waited more than two weeks after the DOJ notification to remove Flynn and whether the President had known about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak before the DOJ notification.244 The press also continued to raise questions about connections between Russia and the President’s campaign.245 On February 15, 2017, the President told reporters, ”General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”246 On February 16, 2017, the President held a press conference and said that he removed Flynn because Flynn ”didn’t tell the Vice President of the United States the facts, and then he didn’t remember. And that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”247 The President said he did not direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak, but ”it certainly would have been okay with me if he did. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”248 In listing the reasons for terminating Flynn, the President did not say that Flynn had lied to him.249 The President also denied having any connection to Russia, stating, ”I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there. I have no anything.”250 The President also said he ”had nothing to do with” WikiLeaks’s publication of information hacked from the Clinton campaign.251

9. The President Attempts to Have K.T. McFarland Create a Witness Statement Denying that he Directed Flynn’s Discussions with Kislyak

On February 22, 2017, Priebus and Bannon told McFarland that the President wanted her to resign as Deputy National Security Advisor, but they suggested to her that the Administration could make her the ambassador to Singapore.252 The next day, the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions.253 Priebus said he told the President he would only direct McFarland to write such letter if she were comfortable with it.254 Priebus called McFarland into his office to convey the President’s request that she memorialize in writing that the President did not direct Flynn to talk to Kislyak.255 McFarland told Priebus she did not know whether the President had directed Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions, and she declined to say yes or no to the request.256 Priebus understood that McFarland was not comfortable with the President’s request, and he recommended that she talk to attorneys in the White House Counsel’s Office.257

McFarland then reached out to Eisenberg.258 McFarland told him that she had been fired from her job as Deputy National Security Advisor and offered the ambassadorship in Singapore but that the President and Priebus wanted a letter from her denying that the President directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak.259 Eisenberg advised McFarland not to write the requested letter.260 As documented by McFarland in a contemporaneous ”Memorandum for the Record” that she wrote because she was concerned by the President’s request: ”Eisenberg … thought the requested email and letter would be a bad idea—from my side because the email would be awkward. Why would I be emailing Priebus to make a statement for the record? But it would also be a bad idea for the President because it looked as if my ambassadorial appointment was in some way a quid pro quo.”261 Later that evening, Priebus stopped by McFarland’s office and told her not to write the email and to forget he even mentioned it.262

Around the same time, the President asked Priebus to reach out to Flynn and let him know that the President still cared about him.263 Priebus called Flynn and said that he was checking in and that Flynn was an American hero.264 Priebus thought the President did not want Flynn saying bad things about him.265

On March 31, 2017, following news that Flynn had offered to testify before the FBI and congressional investigators in exchange for immunity, the President tweeted, ”Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”266 In late March or early April, the President asked McFarland to pass a message to Flynn telling him the President felt bad for him and that he should stay strong.267

Analysis

In analyzing the President’s conduct related to the Flynn investigation, the following evidence is relevant to the elements of obstruction of justice:

Obstructive act. According to Comey’s account of his February 14, 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, the President told him, ”I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. … I hope you can let this go.” In analyzing whether these statements constitute an obstructive act, a threshold question is whether Comey’s account of the interaction is accurate, and, if so, whether the President’s statements had the tendency to impede the administration of justice by shutting down an inquiry that could result in a grand jury investigation and a criminal charge.

After Comey’s account of the President’s request to ”let[] Flynn go” became public, the President publicly disputed several aspects of the story. The President told the New York Times that he did not ”shoo other people out of the room” when he talked to Comey and that he did not remember having a one-on-one conversation with Comey.268 The President also publicly denied that he had asked Comey to ”let[] Flynn go” or otherwise communicated that Comey should drop the investigation of Flynn.269 In private, the President denied aspects of Comey’s account to White House advisors, but acknowledged to Priebus that he brought Flynn up in the meeting with Comey and stated that Flynn was a good guy.270 Despite those denials, substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account.

First, Comey wrote a detailed memorandum of his encounter with the President on the same day it occurred. Comey also told senior FBI officials about the meeting with the President that day, and their recollections of what Comey told them at the time are consistent with Comey’s account.271

Second, Comey provided testimony about the President’s request that he ”let[] Flynn go” under oath in congressional proceedings and in interviews with federal investigators subject to penalties for lying under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Comey’s recollections of the encounter have remained consistent over time.

Third, the objective, corroborated circumstances of how the one-on-one meeting came to occur support Comey’s description of the event. Comey recalled that the President cleared the room to speak with Comey alone after a homeland security briefing in the Oval Office, that Kushner and Sessions lingered and had to be shooed out by the President, and that Priebus briefly opened the door during the meeting, prompting the President to wave him away. While the President has publicly denied those details, other Administration officials who were present have confirmed Comey’s account of how he ended up in a one-on-one meeting with the President.272 And the President acknowledged to Priebus and McGahn that he in fact spoke to Comey about Flynn in their one-on-one meeting.

Fourth, the President’s decision to clear the room and, in particular, to exclude the Attorney General from the meeting signals that the President wanted to be alone with Comey, which is consistent with the delivery of a message of the type that Comey recalls, rather than a more innocuous conversation that could have occurred in the presence of the Attorney General.

Finally, Comey’s reaction to the President’s statements is consistent with the President having asked him to ”let[] Flynn go.” Comey met with the FBI leadership team, which agreed to keep the President’s statements closely held and not to inform the team working on the Flynn investigation so that they would not be influenced by the President’s request. Comey also promptly met with the Attorney General to ask him not to be left alone with the President again, an account verified by Sessions, FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki, and Jody Hunt, who was then the Attorney General’s chief of staff.

A second question is whether the President’s statements, which were not phrased as a direct order to Comey, could impede or interfere with the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. While the President said he ”hope[d]” Comey could ”let[] Flynn go,” rather than affirmatively directing him to do so, the circumstances of the conversation show that the President was asking Comey to close the FBI’s investigation into Flynn. First, the President arranged the meeting with Comey so that they would be alone and purposely excluded the Attorney General, which suggests that the President meant to make a request to Comey that he did not want anyone else to hear. Second, because the President is the head of the Executive Branch, when he says that he ”hopes” a subordinate will do something, it is reasonable to expect that the subordinate will do what the President wants. Indeed, the President repeated a version of ”let this go” three times, and Comey testified that he understood the President’s statements as a directive, which is corroborated by the way Comey reacted at the time.

Nexus to a proceeding. To establish a nexus to a proceeding, it would be necessary to show that the President could reasonably foresee and actually contemplated that the investigation of Flynn was likely to lead to a grand jury investigation or prosecution.

At the time of the President’s one-on-one meeting with Comey, no grand jury subpoenas had been issued as part of the FBI’s investigation into Flynn. But Flynn’s lies to the FBI violated federal criminal law, ________ ___ _____________ _________, and resulted in Flynn’s prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001. By the time the President spoke to Comey about Flynn, DOJ officials had informed McGahn, who informed the President, that Flynn’s statements to senior White House officials about his contacts with Kislyak were not true and that Flynn had told the same version of events to the FBI. McGahn also informed the President that Flynn’s conduct could violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. After the Vice President and senior White House officials reviewed the underlying information about Flynn’s calls on February 10, 2017, they believed that Flynn could not have forgotten his conversations with Kislyak and concluded that he had been lying. In addition, the President’s instruction to the FBI Director to ”let[] Flynn go” suggests his awareness that Flynn could face criminal exposure for his conduct and was at risk of prosecution.

Intent. As part of our investigation, we examined whether the President had a personal stake in the outcome of an investigation into Flynn—for example, whether the President was aware of Flynn’s communications with Kislyak close in time to when they occurred, such that the President knew that Flynn had lied to senior White House officials and that those lies had been passed on to the public. Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge. In advance of Flynn’s initial call with Kislyak, the President attended a meeting where the sanctions were discussed and an advisor may have mentioned that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak. Flynn told McFarland about the substance of his calls with Kislyak and said they may have made a difference in Russia’s response, and Flynn recalled talking to Bannon in early January 2017 about how they had successfully ”stopped the train on Russia’s response” to the sanctions. It would have been reasonable for Flynn to have wanted the President to know of his communications with Kislyak because Kislyak told Flynn his request had been received at the highest levels in Russia and that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to the request, and the President was pleased by the Russian response, calling it a ”[g]reat move.” And the President never said publicly or internally that Flynn had lied to him about the calls with Kislyak.

But McFarland did not recall providing the President-Elect with Flynn’s read-out of his calls with Kislyak, and Flynn does not have a specific recollection of telling the President-Elect directly about the calls. Bannon also said he did not recall hearing about the calls from Flynn. And in February 2017, the President asked Flynn what was discussed on the calls and whether he had lied to the Vice President, suggesting that he did not already know. Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017. The evidence also does not establish that Flynn otherwise possessed information damaging to the President that would give the President a personal incentive to end the FBI’s inquiry into Flynn’s conduct.

Evidence does establish that the President connected the Flynn investigation to the FBI’s broader Russia investigation and that he believed, as he told Christie, that terminating Flynn would end ”the whole Russia thing.” Flynn’s firing occurred at a time when the media and Congress were raising questions about Russia’s interference in the election and whether members of the President’s campaign had colluded with Russia. Multiple witnesses recalled that the President viewed the Russia investigations as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election. The President paid careful attention to negative coverage of Flynn and reacted with annoyance and anger when the story broke disclosing that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Just hours before meeting one-on-one with Comey, the President told Christie that firing Flynn would put an end to the Russia inquiries. And after Christie pushed back, telling the President that firing Flynn would not end the Russia investigation, the President asked Christie to reach out to Comey and convey that the President liked him and he was part of ”the team.” That afternoon, the President cleared the room and asked Comey to ”let[] Flynn go.”

We also sought evidence relevant to assessing whether the President’s direction to Comey was motivated by sympathy towards Flynn. In public statements the President repeatedly described Flynn as a good person who had been harmed by the Russia investigation, and the President directed advisors to reach out to Flynn to tell him the President ”care[d]” about him and felt bad for him. At the same time, multiple senior advisors, including Bannon, Priebus, and Hicks, said that the President had become unhappy with Flynn well before Flynn was forced to resign and that the President was frequently irritated with Flynn. Priebus said he believed the President’s initial reluctance to fire Flynn stemmed not from personal regard, but from concern about the negative press that would be generated by firing the National Security Advisor so early in the Administration. And Priebus indicated that the President’s post-firing expressions of support for Flynn were motivated by the President’s desire to keep Flynn from saying negative things about him.

The way in which the President communicated the request to Comey also is relevant to understanding the President’s intent. When the President first learned about the FBI investigation into Flynn, he told McGahn, Bannon, and Priebus not to discuss the matter with anyone else in the White House. The next day, the President invited Comey for a one-on-one dinner against the advice of an aide who recommended that other White House officials also attend. At the dinner, the President asked Comey for ”loyalty” and, at a different point in the conversation, mentioned that Flynn had judgment issues. When the President met with Comey the day after Flynn’s termination—shortly after being told by Christie that firing Flynn would not end the Russia investigation—the President cleared the room, even excluding the Attorney General, so that he could again speak to Comey alone. The President’s decision to meet one-on-one with Comey contravened the advice of the White House Counsel that the President should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid any appearance of interfering in law enforcement activities. And the President later denied that he cleared the room and asked Comey to ”let[] Flynn go”—a denial that would have been unnecessary if he believed his request was a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Finally, the President’s effort to have McFarland write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak highlights the President’s concern about being associated with Flynn’s conduct. The evidence does not establish that the President was trying to have McFarland lie. The President’s request, however, was sufficiently irregular that McFarland—who did not know the full extent of Flynn’s communications with the President and thus could not make the representation the President wanted—felt the need to draft an internal memorandum documenting the President’s request, and Eisenberg was concerned that the request would look like a quid pro quo in exchange for an ambassadorship.

C. The President’s Reaction to Public Confirmation of the FBI’s Russia Investigation

Overview

In early March 2017, the President learned that Sessions was considering recusing from the Russia investigation and tried to prevent the recusal. After Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at Sessions for the decision and then privately asked Sessions to ”unrecuse.” On March 20, 2017, Comey publicly disclosed the existence of the FBI’s Russia investigation. In the days that followed, the President contacted Comey and other intelligence agency leaders and asked them to push back publicly on the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort in order to ”lift the cloud” of the ongoing investigation.

Evidence

1. Attorney General Sessions Recuses From the Russia Investigation

In late February 2017, the Department of Justice began an internal analysis of whether Sessions should recuse from the Russia investigation based on his role in the 2016 Trump Campaign.273 On March 1, 2017, the press reported that, in his January confirmation hearing to become Attorney General, Senator Sessions had not disclosed two meetings he had with Russian Ambassador Kislyak before the presidential election, leading to congressional calls for Sessions to recuse or for a special counsel to investigate Russia’s interference in the presidential election.274

Also on March 1, the President called Comey and said he wanted to check in and see how Comey was doing.275 According to an email Comey sent to his chief of staff after the call, the President ”talked about Sessions a bit,” said that he had heard Comey was ”doing great,” and said that he hoped Comey would come by to say hello when he was at the White House.276 Comey interpreted the call as an effort by the President to ”pull [him] in,” but he did not perceive the call as an attempt by the President to find out what Comey was doing with the Flynn investigation.277

The next morning, the President called McGahn and urged him to contact Sessions to tell him not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.278 McGahn understood the President to be concerned that a recusal would make Sessions look guilty for omitting details in his confirmation hearing; leave the President unprotected from an investigation that could hobble the presidency and derail his policy objectives; and detract from favorable press coverage of a Presidential Address to Congress the President had delivered earlier in the week.279 McGahn reached out to Sessions and reported that the President was not happy about the possibility of recusal.280 Sessions replied that he intended to follow the rules on recusal.281 McGahn reported back to the President about the call with Sessions, and the President reiterated that he did not want Sessions to recuse.282 Throughout the day, McGahn continued trying on behalf of the President to avert Sessions’s recusal by speaking to Sessions’s personal counsel, Sessions’s chief of staff, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and by contacting Sessions himself two more times.283 Sessions recalled that other White House advisors also called him that day to argue against his recusal.284

That afternoon, Sessions announced his decision to recuse ”from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”285 Sessions believed the decision to recuse was not a close call, given the applicable language in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which Sessions considered to be clear and decisive.286 Sessions thought that any argument that the CFR did not apply to him was ”very thin.”287 Sessions got the impression, based on calls he received from White House officials, that the President was very upset with him and did not think he had done his duty as Attorney General.288

Shortly after Sessions announced his recusal, the White House Counsel’s Office directed that Sessions should not be contacted about the matter.289 Internal White House Counsel’s Office notes from March 2, 2017, state ”No contact w/ Sessions” and ”No comms/Serious concerns about obstruction.”290

On March 3, the day after Sessions’s recusal, McGahn was called into the Oval Office.291 Other advisors were there, including Priebus and Bannon.292 The President opened the conversation by saying, ”I don’t have a lawyer.”293 The President expressed anger at McGahn about the recusal and brought up Roy Cohn, stating that he wished Cohn was his attorney.294 McGahn interpreted this comment as directed at him, suggesting that Cohn would fight for the President whereas McGahn would not.295 The President wanted McGahn to talk to Sessions about the recusal, but McGahn told the President that DOJ ethics officials had weighed in on Sessions’s decision to recuse.296 The President then brought up former Attorneys General Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder and said that they had protected their presidents.297 The President also pushed back on the DOJ contacts policy, and said words to the effect of, ”You’re telling me that Bobby and Jack didn’t talk about investigations? Or Obama didn’t tell Eric Holder who to investigate?”298 Bannon recalled that the President was as mad as Bannon had ever seen him and that he screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was.299 Bannon recalled telling the President that Sessions’s recusal was not a surprise and that before the inauguration they had discussed that Sessions would have to recuse from campaign-related investigations because of his work on the Trump Campaign.300

That weekend, Sessions and McGahn flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the President.301 Sessions recalled that the President pulled him aside to speak to him alone and suggested that Sessions should ”unrecuse” from the Russia investigation.302 The President contrasted Sessions with Attorneys General Holder and Kennedy, who had developed a strategy to help their presidents where Sessions had not.303 Sessions said he had the impression that the President feared that the investigation could spin out of control and disrupt his ability to govern, which Sessions could have helped avert if he were still overseeing it.304

On March 5, 2017, the White House Counsel’s Office was informed that the FBI was asking for transition-period records relating to Flynn—indicating that the FBI was still actively investigating him.305 On March 6, the President told advisors he wanted to call the Acting Attorney General to find out whether the White House or the President was being investigated, although it is not clear whether the President knew at that time of the FBI’s recent request concerning Flynn.306

2. FBI Director Comey Publicly Confirms the Existence of the Russia Investigation in Testimony Before HPSCI

On March 9, 2017, Comey briefed the ”Gang of Eight” congressional leaders about the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference, including an identification of the principal U.S. subjects of the investigation.307 Although it is unclear whether the President knew of that briefing at the time, notes taken by Annie Donaldson, then McGahn’s chief of staff, on March 12, 2017, state, ”POTUS in panic/chaos … Need binders to put in front of POTUS. (1) All things related to Russia.”308 The week after Comey’s briefing, the White House Counsel’s Office was in contact with SSCI Chairman Senator Richard Burr about the Russia investigations and appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation.309

On March 20, 2017, Comey was scheduled to testify before HPSCI.310 In advance of Comey’s testimony, congressional officials made clear that they wanted Comey to provide information about the ongoing FBI investigation.311 Dana Boente, who at that time was the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation, authorized Comey to confirm the existence of the Russia investigation and agreed that Comey should decline to comment on whether any particular individuals, including the President, were being investigated.312

In his opening remarks at the HPSCI hearing, which were drafted in consultation with the Department of Justice, Comey stated that he had ”been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of [its] counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”313 Comey added that he would not comment further on what the FBI was ”doing and whose conduct[it] [was] examining” because the investigation was ongoing and classified—but he observed that he had ”taken the extraordinary step in consultation with the Department of Justice of briefing this Congress’s leaders … in a classified setting in detail about the investigation.”314 Comey was specifically asked whether President Trump was ”under investigation during the campaign” or ”under investigation now.”315 Comey declined to answer, stating, ”Please don’t over interpret what I’ve said as—as the chair and ranking know, we have briefed him in great detail on the subjects of the investigation and what we’re doing, but I’m not gonna answer about anybody in this forum.”316 Comey was also asked whether the FBI was investigating the information contained in the Steele reporting, and he declined to answer.317

According to McGahn and Donaldson, the President had expressed frustration with Comey before his March 20 testimony, and the testimony made matters worse.318 The President had previously criticized Comey for too frequently making headlines and for not attending intelligence briefings at the White House, and the President suspected Comey of leaking certain information to the media.319 McGahn said the President thought Comey was acting like ”his own branch of government.”320

Press reports following Comey’s March 20 testimony suggested that the FBI was investigating the President, contrary to what Comey had told the President at the end of the January 6, 2017 intelligence assessment briefing.321 McGahn, Donaldson, and senior advisor Stephen Miller recalled that the President was upset with Comey’s testimony and the press coverage that followed because of the suggestion that the President was under investigation.322 Notes from the White House Counsel’s Office dated March 21, 2017, indicate that the President was ”beside himself” over Comey’s testimony.323 The President called McGahn repeatedly that day to ask him to intervene with the Department of Justice, and, according to the notes, the President was ”getting hotter and hotter, get rid?”324 Officials in the White House Counsel’s Office became so concerned that the President would fire Comey that they began drafting a memorandum that examined whether the President needed cause to terminate the FBI director.325

At the President’s urging, McGahn contacted Boente several times on March 21, 2017, to seek Boente’s assistance in having Comey or the Department of Justice correct the misperception that the President was under investigation.326 Boente did not specifically recall the conversations, although he did remember one conversation with McGahn around this time where McGahn asked if there was a way to speed up or end the Russia investigation as quickly as possible.327 Boente said McGahn told him the President was under a cloud and it made it hard for him to govern.328 Boente recalled telling McGahn that there was no good way to shorten the investigation and attempting to do so could erode confidence in the investigation’s conclusions.329 Boente said McGahn agreed and dropped the issue.330 The President also sought to speak with Boente directly, but McGahn told the President that Boente did not want to talk to the President about the request to intervene with Comey.331 McGahn recalled Boente telling him in calls that day that he did not think it was sustainable for Comey to stay on as FBI director for the next four years, which McGahn said he conveyed to the President.332 Boente did not recall discussing with McGahn or anyone else the idea that Comey should not continue as FBI director.333

3. The President Asks Intelligence Community Leaders to Make Public Statements that he had No Connection to Russia

In the weeks following Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony, the President repeatedly asked intelligence community officials to push back publicly on any suggestion that the President had a connection to the Russian election-interference effort.

On March 22, 2017, the President asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA Director Michael Pompeo to stay behind in the Oval Office after a Presidential Daily Briefing.334 According to Coats, the President asked them whether they could say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia.335 Coats responded that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has nothing to do with investigations and it was not his role to make a public statement on the Russia investigation.336 Pompeo had no recollection of being asked to stay behind after the March 22 briefing, but he recalled that the President regularly urged officials to get the word out that he had not done anything wrong related to Russia.337

Coats told this Office that the President never asked him to speak to Comey about the FBI investigation.338 Some ODNI staffers, however, had a different recollection of how Coats described the meeting immediately after it occurred. According to senior ODNI official Michael Dempsey, Coats said after the meeting that the President had brought up the Russia investigation and asked him to contact Comey to see if there was a way to get past the investigation, get it over with, end it, or words to that effect.339 Dempsey said that Coats described the President’s comments as falling ”somewhere between musing about hating the investigation” and wanting Coats to ”do something to stop it.”340 Dempsey said Coats made it clear that he would not get involved with an ongoing FBI investigation.341 Edward Gistaro, another ODNI official, recalled that right after Coats’s meeting with the President, on the walk from the Oval Office back to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Coats said that the President had kept him behind to ask him what he could do to ”help with the investigation.”342 Another ODNI staffer who had been waiting for Coats outside the Oval Office talked to Gistaro a few minutes later and recalled Gistaro reporting that Coats was upset because the President had asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation.343

On Saturday, March 25, 2017, three days after the meeting in the Oval Office, the President called Coats and again complained about the Russia investigations, saying words to the effect of, ”I can’t do anything with Russia, there’s things I’d like to do with Russia, with trade, with ISIS, they’re all over me with this.”344 Coats told the President that the investigations were going to go on and the best thing to do was to let them run their course.345 Coats later testified in a congressional hearing that he had ”never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way and shape—with shaping intelligence in a political way, or in relationship … to an ongoing investigation.”346

On March 26, 2017, the day after the President called Coats, the President called NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers.347 The President expressed frustration with the Russia investigation, saying that it made relations with the Russians difficult.348 The President told Rogers ”the thing with the Russians [wa]s messing up” his ability to get things done with Russia.349 The President also said that the news stories linking him with Russia were not true and asked Rogers if he could do anything to refute the stories.350 Deputy Director of the NSA Richard Ledgett, who was present for the call, said it was the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.351 After the call concluded, Ledgett prepared a memorandum that he and Rogers both signed documenting the content of the conversation and the President’s request, and they placed the memorandum in a safe.352 But Rogers did not perceive the President’s request to be an order, and the President did not ask Rogers to push back on the Russia investigation itself.353 Rogers later testified in a congressional hearing that as NSA Director he had ”never been directed to do anything [he] believe[d] to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate” and did ”not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.”354

In addition to the specific comments made to Coats, Pompeo, and Rogers, the President spoke on other occasions in the presence of intelligence community officials about the Russia investigation and stated that it interfered with his ability to conduct foreign relations.355 On at least two occasions, the President began Presidential Daily Briefings by stating that there was no collusion with Russia and he hoped press statement to that effect could be issued.356 Pompeo recalled that the President vented about the investigation on multiple occasions, complaining that there was no evidence against him and that nobody would publicly defend him.357 Rogers recalled a private conversation with the President in which he ”vent[ed]” about the investigation, said he had done nothing wrong, and said something like the ”Russia thing has got to go away.”358 Coats recalled the President bringing up the Russia investigation several times, and Coats said he finally told the President that Coats’s job was to provide intelligence and not get involved in investigations.359

4. The President Asks Comey to ”Lift the Cloud” Created by the Russia Investigation

On the morning of March 30, 2017, the President reached out to Comey directly about the Russia investigation.360 According to Comey’s contemporaneous record of the conversation, the President said ”he was trying to run the country and the cloud of this Russia business was making that difficult.”361 The President asked Comey what could be done to ”lift the cloud.”362 Comey explained ”that we were running it down as quickly as possible and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our Good Housekeeping seal of approval, but we had to do our work.”363 Comey also told the President that congressional leaders were aware that the FBI was not investigating the President personally.364 The President said several times, ”We need to get that fact out.”365 The President commented that if there was ”some satellite” (which Comey took to mean an associate of the President’s or the campaign) that did something, ”it would be good to find that out” but that he himself had not done anything wrong and he hoped Comey ”would find a way to get out that we weren’t investigating him.”366 After the call ended, Comey called Boente and told him about the conversation, asked for guidance on how to respond, and said he was uncomfortable with direct contact from the President about the investigation.367

On the morning of April 11, 2017, the President called Comey again.368 According to Comey’s contemporaneous record of the conversation, the President said he was ”following up to see if [Comey] did what [the President] had asked last time—getting out that he personally is not under investigation.”369 Comey responded that he had passed the request to Boente but not heard back, and he informed the President that the traditional channel for such a request would be to have the White House Counsel contact DOJ leadership.370 The President said he would take that step.371 The President then added, ”Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know.”372 In a televised interview that was taped early that afternoon, the President was asked if it was too late for him to ask Comey to step down; the President responded, ”No, it’s not too late, but you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting.”373 After the interview, Hicks told the President she thought the President’s comment about Comey should be removed from the broadcast of the interview, but the President wanted to keep it in, which Hicks thought was unusual.374

Later that day, the President told senior advisors, including McGahn and Priebus, that he had reached out to Comey twice in recent weeks.375 The President acknowledged that McGahn would not approve of the outreach to Comey because McGahn had previously cautioned the President that he should not talk to Comey directly to prevent any perception that the White House was interfering with investigations.376 The President told McGahn that Comey had indicated the FBI could make a public statement that the President was not under investigation if the Department of Justice approved that action.377 After speaking with the President, McGahn followed up with Boente to relay the President’s understanding that the FBI could make a public announcement if the Department of Justice cleared it.378 McGahn recalled that Boente said Comey had told him there was nothing obstructive about the calls from the President, but they made Comey uncomfortable.379 According to McGahn, Boente responded that he did not want to issue a statement about the President not being under investigation because of the potential political ramifications and did not want to order Comey to do it because that action could prompt the appointment of a Special Counsel.380 Boente did not recall that aspect of his conversation with McGahn, but did recall telling McGahn that the direct outreaches from the President to Comey were a problem.381 Boente recalled that McGahn agreed and said he would do what he could to address that issue.382

Analysis

In analyzing the President’s reaction to Sessions’s recusal and the requests he made to Coats, Pompeo, Rogers, and Comey, the following evidence is relevant to the elements of obstruction of justice:

Obstructive act. The evidence shows that, after Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony, the President repeatedly reached out to intelligence agency leaders to discuss the FBI’s investigation. But witnesses had different recollections of the precise content of those outreaches. Some ODNI officials recalled that Coats told them immediately after the March 22 Oval Office meeting that the President asked Coats to intervene with Comey and ”stop” the investigation. But the first-hand witnesses to the encounter remember the conversation differently. Pompeo had no memory of the specific meeting, but generally recalled the President urging officials to get the word out that the President had not done anything wrong related to Russia. Coats recalled that the President asked that Coats state publicly that no link existed between the President and Russia, but did not ask him to speak with Comey or to help end the investigation. The other outreaches by the President during this period were similar in nature. The President asked Rogers if he could do anything to refute the stories linking the President to Russia, and the President asked Comey to make a public statement that would ”lift the cloud” of the ongoing investigation by making clear that the President was not personally under investigation. These requests, while significant enough that Rogers thought it important to document the encounter in a written memorandum, were not interpreted by the officials who received them as directives to improperly interfere with the investigation.

Nexus to a proceeding. At the time of the President’s outreaches to leaders of the intelligence agencies in late March and early April 2017, the FBI’s Russia investigation did not yet involve grand jury proceedings. The outreaches, however, came after and were in response to Comey’s March 20, 2017 announcement that the FBI, as a part of its counterintelligence mission, was conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Comey testified that the investigation included any links or coordination with Trump campaign officials and would ”include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

Intent. As described above, the evidence does not establish that the President asked or directed intelligence agency leaders to stop or interfere with the FBI’s Russia investigation—and the President affirmatively told Comey that if ”some satellite” was involved in Russian election interference ”it would be good to find that out.” But the President’s intent in trying to prevent Sessions’s recusal, and in reaching out to Coats, Pompeo, Rogers, and Comey following Comey’s public announcement of the FBI’s Russia investigation, is nevertheless relevant to understanding what motivated the President’s other actions towards the investigation.

The evidence shows that the President was focused on the Russia investigation’s implications for his presidency—and, specifically, on dispelling any suggestion that he was under investigation or had links to Russia. In early March, the President attempted to prevent Sessions’s recusal, even after being told that Sessions was following DOJ conflict-of-interest rules. After Sessions recused, the White House Counsel’s Office tried to cut off further contact with Sessions about the matter, although it is not clear whether that direction was conveyed to the President. The President continued to raise the issue of Sessions’s recusal and, when he had the opportunity, he pulled Sessions aside and urged him to unrecuse. The President also told advisors that he wanted an Attorney General who would protect him, the way he perceived Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder to have protected their presidents. The President made statements about being able to direct the course of criminal investigations, saying words to the effect of, ”You’re telling me that Bobby and Jack didn’t talk about investigations? Or Obama didn’t tell Eric Holder who to investigate?”

After Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the FBI’s Russia investigation on March 20, 2017, the President was ”beside himself’ and expressed anger that Comey did not issue a statement correcting any misperception that the President himself was under investigation. The President sought to speak with Acting Attorney General Boente directly and told McGahn to contact Boente to request that Comey make a clarifying statement. The President then asked other intelligence community leaders to make public statements to refute the suggestion that the President had links to Russia, but the leaders told him they could not publicly comment on the investigation. On March 30 and April 11, against the advice of White House advisors who had informed him that any direct contact with the FBI could be perceived as improper interference in an ongoing investigation, the President made personal outreaches to Comey asking him to ”lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation by making public the fact that the President was not personally under investigation.

Evidence indicates that the President was angered by both the existence of the Russia investigation and the public reporting that he was under investigation, which he knew was not true based on Comey’s representations. The President complained to advisors that if people thought Russia helped him with the election, it would detract from what he had accomplished.

Other evidence indicates that the President was concerned about the impact of the Russia investigation on his ability to govern. The President complained that the perception that he was under investigation was hurting his ability to conduct foreign relations, particularly with Russia. The President told Coats he ”can’t do anything with Russia,” he told Rogers that ”the thing with the Russians” was interfering with his ability to conduct foreign affairs, and he told Comey that ”he was trying to run the country and the cloud of this Russia business was making that difficult.”

D. Events Leading Up To and Surrounding the Termination of FBI Director Comey

Overview

Comey was scheduled to testify before Congress on May 3, 2017. Leading up to that testimony, the President continued to tell advisors that he wanted Comey to make public that the President was not under investigation. At the hearing, Comey declined to answer questions about the scope or subjects of the Russia investigation and did not state publicly that the President was not under investigation. Two days later, on May 5, 2017, the President told close aides he was going to fire Comey, and on May 9, he did so, using his official termination letter to make public that Comey had on three occasions informed the President that he was not under investigation. The President decided to fire Comey before receiving advice or a recommendation from the Department of Justice, but he approved an initial public account of the termination that attributed it to a recommendation from the Department of Justice based on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resisted attributing the firing to his recommendation, the President acknowledged that he intended to fire Comey regardless of the DOJ recommendation and was thinking of the Russia investigation when he made the decision. The President also told the Russian Foreign Minister, ”I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off…. I’m not under investigation.”

Evidence

1. Comey Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Declines to Answer Questions About Whether the President is Under Investigation

On May 3, 2017, Comey was scheduled to testify at an FBI oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.383 McGahn recalled that in the week leading up to the hearing, the President said that it would be the last straw if Comey did not take the opportunity to set the record straight by publicly announcing that the President was not under investigation.384 The President had previously told McGahn that the perception that the President was under investigation was hurting his ability to carry out his presidential duties and deal with foreign leaders.385 At the hearing, Comey declined to answer questions about the status of the Russia investigation, stating ”t]he Department of Justice ha[d] authorized [him] to confirm that [the Russia investigation] exists,” but that he was ”not going to say another word about it” until the investigation was completed.386 Comey also declined to answer questions about whether investigators had ”ruled out anyone in the Trump campaign as potentially a target of th[e] criminal investigation,” including whether the FBI had ”ruled out the president of the United States.”387

Comey was also asked at the hearing about his decision to announce 11 days before the presidential election that the FBI was reopening the Clinton email investigation.388 Comey stated that it made him ”mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election,” but added that ”even in hindsight” he ”would make the same decision.”389 He later repeated that he had no regrets about how he had handled the email investigation and believed he had ”done the right thing at each turn.”390

In the afternoon following Comey’s testimony, the President met with McGahn, Sessions, and Sessions’s Chief of Staff Jody Hunt.391 At that meeting, the President asked McGahn how Comey had done in his testimony and McGahn relayed that Comey had declined to answer questions about whether the President was under investigation.392 The President became very upset and directed his anger at Sessions.393 According to notes written by Hunt, the President said, ”This is terrible Jeff. It’s all because you recused. AG is supposed to be most important appointment. Kennedy appointed his brother. Obama appointed Holder. T appointed you and you recused yourself. You left me on an island. I can’t do anything.”394 The President said that the recusal was unfair and that it was interfering with his ability to govern and undermining his authority with foreign leaders.395 Sessions responded that he had had no choice but to recuse, and it was a mandatory rather than discretionary decision.396 Hunt recalled that Sessions also stated at some point during the conversation that a new start at the FBI would be appropriate and the President should consider replacing Comey as FBI director.397 According to Sessions, when the meeting concluded, it was clear that the President was unhappy with Comey, but Sessions did not think the President had made the decision to terminate Comey.398

Bannon recalled that the President brought Comey up with him at least eight times on May 3 and May 4, 2017.399 According to Bannon, the President said the same thing each time: ”He told me three times I’m not under investigation. He’s a showboater. He’s a grandstander. I don’t know any Russians. There was no collusion.”400 Bannon told the President that he could not fire Comey because ”that ship had sailed.”401 Bannon also told the President that firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation, cautioning him that he could fire the FBI director but could not fire the FBI.402

2. The President Makes the Decision to Terminate Comey

The weekend following Comey’s May 3, 2017 testimony, the President traveled to his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.403 At a dinner on Friday, May 5, attended by the President and various advisors and family members, including Jared Kushner and senior advisor Stephen Miller, the President stated that he wanted to remove Comey and had ideas for a letter that would be used to make the announcement.404 The President dictated arguments and specific language for the letter, and Miller took notes.405 As reflected in the notes, the President told Miller that the letter should start, ”While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on a Trump-Russia relationship—pertaining to the 2016 presidential election, please be informed that I, and I believe the American public—including Ds and Rs—have lost faith in you as Director of the FBI.”406 Following the dinner, Miller prepared a termination letter based on those notes and research he conducted to support the President’s arguments.407 Over the weekend, the President provided several rounds of edits on the draft letter.408 Miller said the President was adamant that he not tell anyone at the White House what they were preparing because the President was worried about leaks.409

In his discussions with Miller, the President made clear that he wanted the letter to open with a reference to him not being under investigation.410 Miller said he believed that fact was important to the President to show that Comey was not being terminated based on any such investigation.411 According to Miller, the President wanted to establish as a factual matter that Comey had been under a ”review period” and did not have assurance from the President that he would be permitted to keep his job.412

The final version of the termination letter prepared by Miller and the President began in a way that closely tracked what the President had dictated to Miller at the May 5 dinner: ”Dear Director Comey, While I greatly appreciate your informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation concerning the fabricated and politically-motivated allegations of a Trump-Russia relationship with respect to the 2016 Presidential Election, please be informed that I, along with members of both political parties and, most importantly, the American Public, have lost faith in you as the Director of the FBI and you are hereby terminated.”413 The four-page letter went onto critique Comey’s judgment and conduct, including his May 3 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his handling of the Clinton email investigation, and his failure to hold leakers accountable.414 The letter stated that Comey had ”asked [the President] at dinner shortly after inauguration to let [Comey] stay on in the Director’s role, and [the President] said that [he] would consider it,” but the President had ”concluded that [he] ha[d] no alternative but to find new leadership for the Bureau—leader that restores confidence and trust.”415

In the morning of Monday, May 8, 2017, the President met in the Oval Office with senior advisors, including McGahn, Priebus, and Miller, and informed them he had decided to terminate Comey.416 The President read aloud the first paragraphs of the termination letter he wrote with Miller and conveyed that the decision had been made and was not up for discussion.417 The President told the group that Miller had researched the issue and determined the President had the authority to terminate Comey without cause.418 In an effort to slow down the decision-making process, McGahn told the President that DOJ leadership was currently discussing Comey’s status and suggested that White House Counsel’s Office attorneys should talk with Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, who had recently been confirmed as the Deputy Attorney General.419 McGahn said that previously scheduled meetings with Sessions and Rosenstein that day would be an opportunity to find out what they thought about firing Comey.420

At noon, Sessions, Rosenstein, and Hunt met with McGahn and White House Counsel’s Office attorney Uttam Dhillon at the White House.421 McGahn said that the President had decided to fire Comey and asked for Sessions’s and Rosenstein’s views.422 Sessions and Rosenstein criticized Comey and did not raise concerns about replacing him.423 McGahn and Dhillon said the fact that neither Sessions nor Rosenstein objected to replacing Comey gave them peace of mind that the President’s decision to fire Comey was not an attempt to obstruct justice.424 An Oval Office meeting was scheduled later that day so that Sessions and Rosenstein could discuss the issue with the President.425

At around 5 p.m., the President and several White House officials met with Sessions and Rosenstein to discuss Comey.426 The President told the group that he had watched Comey’s May 3 testimony over the weekend and thought that something was ”not right” with Comey.427 The President said that Comey should be removed and asked Sessions and Rosenstein for their views.428 Hunt, who was in the room, recalled that Sessions responded that he had previously recommended that Comey be replaced.429 McGahn and Dhillon said Rosenstein described his concerns about Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.430

The President then distributed copies of the termination letter he had drafted with Miller, and the discussion turned to the mechanics of how to fire Comey and whether the President’s letter should be used.431 McGahn and Dhillon urged the President to permit Comey to resign, but the President was adamant that he be fired.432 The group discussed the possibility that Rosenstein and Sessions could provide a recommendation in writing that Comey should be removed.433 The President agreed and told Rosenstein to draft a memorandum, but said he wanted to receive it first thing the next morning.434 Hunt’s notes reflect that the President told Rosenstein to include in his recommendation the fact that Comey had refused to confirm that the President was not personally under investigation.435 According to notes taken by a senior DOJ official of Rosenstein’s description of his meeting with the President, the President said, ”Put the Russia stuff in the memo.”436 Rosenstein responded that the Russia investigation was not the basis of his recommendation, so he did not think Russia should be mentioned.437 The President told Rosenstein he would appreciate it if Rosenstein put it in his letter anyway.438 When Rosenstein left the meeting, he knew that Comey would be terminated, and he told DOJ colleagues that his own reasons for replacing Comey were ”not[the President’s] reasons.”439

On May 9, Hunt delivered to the White House letter from Sessions recommending Comey’s removal and a memorandum from Rosenstein, addressed to the Attorney General, titled ”Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.”440 McGahn recalled that the President liked the DOJ letters and agreed that they should provide the foundation for a new cover letter from the President accepting the recommendation to terminate Comey.441 Notes taken by Donaldson on May 9 reflected the view of the White House Counsel’s Office that the President’s original termination letter should ”[n]ot [see the] light of day” and that it would be better to offer ”[n]o other rationales” for the firing than what was in Rosenstein’s and Sessions’s memoranda.442 The President asked Miller to draft a new termination letter and directed Miller to say in the letter that Comey had informed the President three times that he was not under investigation.443 McGahn, Priebus, and Dhillon objected to including that language, but the President insisted that it be included.444 McGahn, Priebus, and others perceived that language to be the most important part of the letter to the President.445 Dhillon made a final pitch to the President that Comey should be permitted to resign, but the President refused.446

Around the time the President’s letter was finalized, Priebus summoned Spicer and the press team to the Oval Office, where they were told that Comey had been terminated for the reasons stated in the letters by Rosenstein and Sessions.447 To announce Comey’s termination, the White House released a statement, which Priebus thought had been dictated by the President.448 In full, the statement read: ”Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”449

That evening, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was summoned to meet with the President at the White House.450 The President told McCabe that he had fired Comey because of the decisions Comey had made in the Clinton email investigation and for many other reasons.451 The President asked McCabe if he was aware that Comey had told the President three times that he was not under investigation.452 The President also asked McCabe whether many people in the FBI disliked Comey and whether McCabe was part of the ”resistance” that had disagreed with Comey’s decisions in the Clinton investigation.453 McCabe told the President that he knew Comey had told the President he was not under investigation, that most people in the FBI felt positively about Comey, and that McCabe worked ”very closely” with Comey and was part of all the decisions that had been made in the Clinton investigation.454

Later that evening, the President told his communications team he was unhappy with the press coverage of Comey’s termination and ordered them to go out and defend him.455 The President also called Chris Christie and, according to Christie, said he was getting ”killed” in the press over Comey’s termination.456 The President asked what he should do.457 Christie asked, ”Did you fire [Comey] because of what Rod wrote in the memo?”, and the President responded, ”Yes.458 Christie said that the President should ”get Rod out there” and have him defend the decision.459 The President told Christie that this was a ”good idea” and said he was going to call Rosenstein right away.460

That night, the White House Press Office called the Department of Justice and said the White House wanted to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein’s idea to fire Comey.461 Rosenstein told other DOJ officials that he would not participate in putting out a ”false story.”462 The President then called Rosenstein directly and said he was watching Fox News, that the coverage had been great, and that he wanted Rosenstein to do a press conference.463 Rosenstein responded that this was not a good idea because if the press asked him, he would tell the truth that Comey’s firing was not his idea.464 Sessions also informed the White House Counsel’s Office that evening that Rosenstein was upset that his memorandum was being portrayed as the reason for Comey’s termination.465

In an unplanned press conference late in the evening of May 9, 2017, Spicer told reporters, ”It was all [Rosenstein]. No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.”466 That evening and the next morning, White House officials and spokespeople continued to maintain that the President’s decision to terminate Comey was driven by the recommendations the President received from Rosenstein and Sessions.467

In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.468 The media subsequently reported that during the May 10 meeting the President brought up his decision the prior day to terminate Comey, telling Lavrov and Kislyak: ”I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off…. I’m not under investigation.”469 The President never denied making those statements, and the White House did not dispute the account, instead issuing a statement that said: ”By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified information.”470 Hicks said that when she told the President about the reports on his meeting with Lavrov, he did not look concerned and said of Comey, ”he is crazy.”471 When McGahn asked the President about his comments to Lavrov, the President said it was good that Comey was fired because that took the pressure off by making it clear that he was not under investigation so he could get more work done.472

That same morning, on May 10, 2017, the President called McCabe.473 According to a memorandum McCabe wrote following the call, the President asked McCabe to come over to the White House to discuss whether the President should visit FBI headquarters and make a speech to employees.474 The President said he had received ”hundreds” of messages from FBI employees indicating their support for terminating Comey.475 The President also told McCabe that Comey should not have been permitted to travel back to Washington, D.C. on the FBI’s airplane after he had been terminated and that he did not want Comey ”in the building again,” even to collect his belongings.476 When McCabe met with the President that afternoon, the President, without prompting, told McCabe that people in the FBI loved the President, estimated that at least 80% of the FBI had voted for him, and asked McCabe who he had voted for in the 2016 presidential election.477

In the afternoon of May 10, 2017, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to the President about his decision to fire Comey and then spoke to reporters in a televised press conference.478 Sanders told reporters that the President, the Department of Justice, and bipartisan members of Congress had lost confidence in Comey, ”[a]nd most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director. Accordingly, the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position.”479 In response to questions from reporters, Sanders said that Rosenstein decided ”on his own” to review Comey’s performance and that Rosenstein decided ”on his own” to come to the President on Monday, May 8 to express his concerns about Comey. When a reporter indicated that the ”vast majority” of FBI agents supported Comey, Sanders said, ”Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”480 Following the press conference, Sanders spoke to the President, who told her she did a good job and did not point out any inaccuracies in her comments.481 Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from ”countless members of the FBI” was a ”slip of the tongue.”482 She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ”in the heat of the moment” that was not founded on anything.483

Also on May 10, 2017, Sessions and Rosenstein each spoke to McGahn and expressed concern that the White House was creating a narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the decision to fire Comey.484 The White House Counsel’s Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey’s termination,485 and McGahn asked attorneys in the White House Counsel’s Office to work with the press office to correct the narrative.486

The next day, on May 11, 2017, the President participated in an interview with Lester Holt. The President told White House Counsel’s Office attorneys in advance of the interview that the communications team could not get the story right, so he was going on Lester Holt to say what really happened.487 During the interview, the President stated that he had made the decision to fire Comey before the President met with Rosenstein and Sessions. The President told Holt, ”I was going to fire regardless of recommendation … [Rosenstein] made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it.”488 The President continued, ”And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself—I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”489

In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation, the President said, ”As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly.”490 The President added that he realized his termination of Comey ”probably maybe will confuse people” with the result that it ”might even lengthen out the investigation,” but he ”ha[d] to do the right thing for the American people” and Comey was ”the wrong man for that position.”491 The President described Comey as ”a showboat” and ”a grandstander,” said that ”[t]he FBI has been in turmoil,” and said he wanted ”to have a really competent, capable director.”492 The President affirmed that he expected the new FBI director to continue the Russia investigation.493

On the evening of May 11, 2017, following the Lester Holt interview, the President tweeted, ”Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election.”494 The same day, the media reported that the President had demanded that Comey pledge his loyalty to the President in a private dinner shortly after being sworn in.495 Late in the morning of May 12, 2017, the President tweeted, ”Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.”496 The President also tweeted, ”James Comey better hope that there are no ’tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” and ”When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?”497

Analysis

In analyzing the President’s decision to fire Comey, the following evidence is relevant to the elements of obstruction of justice:

Obstructive act. The act of firing Comey removed the individual overseeing the FBI’s Russia investigation. The President knew that Comey was personally involved in the investigation based on Comey’s briefing of the Gang of Eight, Comey’s March 20, 2017 public testimony about the investigation, and the President’s one-on-one conversations with Comey.

Firing Comey would qualify as an obstructive act if it had the natural and probable effect of interfering with or impeding the investigation—for example, if the termination would have the effect of delaying or disrupting the investigation or providing the President with the opportunity to appoint a director who would take a different approach to the investigation that the President perceived as more protective of his personal interests. Relevant circumstances bearing on that issue include whether the President’s actions had the potential to discourage a successor director or other law enforcement officials in their conduct of the Russia investigation. The President fired Comey abruptly without offering him an opportunity to resign, banned him from the FBI building, and criticized him publicly, calling him a ”showboat” and claiming that the FBI was ”in turmoil” under his leadership. And the President followed the termination with public statements that were highly critical of the investigation; for example, three days after firing Comey, the President referred to the investigation as a ”witch hunt” and asked, ”when does it end?” Those actions had the potential to affect a successor director’s conduct of the investigation.

The anticipated effect of removing the FBI director, however, would not necessarily be to prevent or impede the FBI from continuing its investigation. As a general matter, FBI investigations run under the operational direction of FBI personnel levels below the FBI director. Bannon made a similar point when he told the President that he could fire the FBI director, but could not fire the FBI. The White House issued a press statement the day after Comey was fired that said, ”The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it.” In addition, in his May 11 interview with Lester Holt, the President stated that he understood when he made the decision to fire Comey that the action might prolong the investigation. And the President chose McCabe to serve as interim director, even though McCabe told the President he had worked ”very closely” with Comey and was part of all the decisions made in the Clinton investigation.

Nexus to a proceeding. The nexus element would be satisfied by evidence showing that a grand jury proceeding or criminal prosecution arising from an FBI investigation was objectively foreseeable and actually contemplated by the President when he terminated Comey.

Several facts would be relevant to such as showing. At the time the President fired Comey, a grand jury had not begun to hear evidence related to the Russia investigation and no grand jury subpoenas had been issued. On March 20, 2017, however, Comey had announced that the FBI was investigating Russia’s interference in the election, including ”an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” It was widely known that the FBI, as part of the Russia investigation, was investigating the hacking of the DNC’s computers—a clear criminal offense.

In addition, at the time the President fired Comey, evidence indicates the President knew that Flynn was still under criminal investigation and could potentially be prosecuted, despite the President’s February 14, 2017 request that Comey ”let[] Flynn go.” On March 5, 2017, the White House Counsel’s Office was informed that the FBI was asking for transition-period records relating to Flynn—indicating that the FBI was still actively investigating him. The same day, the President told advisors he wanted to call Dana Boente, then the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation, to find out whether the White House or the President was being investigated. On March 31, 2017, the President signaled his awareness that Flynn remained in legal jeopardy by tweeting that ”Mike Flynn should ask for immunity” before he agreed to provide testimony to the FBI or Congress. And in late March or early April, the President asked McFarland to pass a message to Flynn telling him that the President felt bad for him and that he should stay strong, further demonstrating the President’s awareness of Flynn’s criminal exposure.

Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the President’s decision to fire Comey was Comey’s unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation, despite the President’s repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement. In the week leading up to Comey’s May 3, 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, the President told McGahn that it would be the last straw if Comey did not set the record straight and publicly announce that the President was not under investigation. But during his May 3 testimony, Comey refused to answer questions about whether the President was being investigated. Comey’s refusal angered the President, who criticized Sessions for leaving him isolated and exposed, saying ”You left me on an island.” Two days later, the President told advisors he had decided to fire Comey and dictated a letter to Stephen Miller that began with a reference to the fact that the President was not being investigated: ”While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on a Trump-Russia relationship….” The President later asked Rosenstein to include ”Russia” in his memorandum and to say that Comey had told the President that he was not under investigation. And the President’s final termination letter included a sentence, at the President’s insistence and against McGahn’s advice, stating that Comey had told the President on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation.

The President’s other stated rationales for why he fired Comey are not similarly supported by the evidence. The termination letter the President and Stephen Miller prepared in Bedminster cited Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, and the President told McCabe he fired Comey for that reason. But the facts surrounding Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation were well known to the President at the time he assumed office, and the President had made it clear to both Comey and the President’s senior staff in early 2017 that he wanted Comey to stay on as director. And Rosenstein articulated his criticism of Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation after the President had already decided to fire Comey. The President’s draft termination letter also stated that morale in the FBI was at an all-time low and Sanders told the press after Comey’s termination that the White House had heard from ”countless” FBI agents who had lost confidence in Comey. But the evidence does not support those claims. The President told Comey at their January 27 dinner that ”the people of the FBI really like [him],” no evidence suggests that the President heard otherwise before deciding to terminate Comey, and Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.

We also considered why it was important to the President that Comey announce publicly that he was not under investigation. Some evidence indicates that the President believed that the erroneous perception he was under investigation harmed his ability to manage domestic and foreign affairs, particularly in dealings with Russia. The President told Comey that the ”cloud” of ”this Russia business” was making it difficult to run the country. The President told Sessions and McGahn that foreign leaders had expressed sympathy to him for being under investigation and that the perception he was under investigation was hurting his ability to address foreign relations issues. The President complained to Rogers that ”the thing with the Russians [was] messing up” his ability to get things done with Russia, and told Coats, ”I can’t do anything with Russia, there’s things I’d like to do with Russia, with trade, with ISIS, they’re all over me with this.” The President also may have viewed Comey as insubordinate for his failure to make clear in the May 3 testimony that the President was not under investigation.

Other evidence, however, indicates that the President wanted to protect himself from an investigation into his campaign. The day after learning about the FBI’s interview of Flynn, the President had a one-on-one dinner with Comey, against the advice of senior aides, and told Comey he needed Comey’s ”loyalty.” When the President later asked Comey for a second time to make public that he was not under investigation, he brought up loyalty again, saying ”Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know.” After the President learned of Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation, the President was furious and said he wanted an Attorney General who would protect him the way he perceived Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder to have protected their presidents. The President also said he wanted to be able to tell his Attorney General ”who to investigate.”

In addition, the President had a motive to put the FBI’s Russia investigation behind him. The evidence does not establish that the termination of Comey was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia: As described in Volume I, the evidence uncovered in the investigation did not establish that the President or those close to him were involved in the charged Russian computer-hacking or active-measure conspiracies, or that the President otherwise had an unlawful relationship with any Russian official. But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. Although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, the Trump Organization, through Michael Cohen, was pursuing the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016 and candidate Trump was repeatedly briefed on the progress of those efforts.498 In addition, some witnesses said that Trump was aware that ________ ___ _____________ _________ at a time when public reports stated that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hacks, and that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.499 More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.500

Finally, the President and White House aides initially advanced a pretextual reason to the press and the public for Comey’s termination. In the immediate aftermath of the firing, the President dictated a press statement suggesting that he had acted based on the DOJ recommendations, and White House press officials repeated that story. But the President had decided to fire Comey before the White House solicited those recommendations. Although the President ultimately acknowledged that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendations, he did so only after DOJ officials made clear to him that they would resist the White House’s suggestion that they had prompted the process that led to Comey’s termination. The initial reliance on a pretextual justification could support an inference that the President had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing, although the evidence does not resolve whether those concerns were personal, political, or both.

E. The President’s Efforts to Remove the Special Counsel

Overview

The Acting Attorney General appointed a Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, prompting the President to state that it was the end of his presidency and that Attorney General Ses