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【穆勒收网记】普京 -> 俄国人 -> 美国人 ->川普 - 我们开始看好戏 😀
Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals over 2016 election interference
(CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
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There will be understandable disappointment in many quarters that the latest indictments delivered by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, once again failed to nail Donald Trump. Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious, they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.
But Trump is not off the hook. Far from it. His oft-repeated argument, contradicting US and British intelligence agencies, that stories of covert Russian meddling were “fake news” has been exposed as false. The US, like other western countries, is incontrovertibly under sustained assault from the Kremlin. Why does Trump continue to defend Russia? With Trump, it is difficult to talk about credibility. What little he does retain has just measurably diminished.
The justice department stressed that any collaboration between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the 13 named Russians was “unwitting” and that these activities did not change the election’s outcome. But despite Trump’s crowing about vindication, that does not mean there was no collusion. It does not mean there was no wider conspiracy. Nor does it mean there was no impact on the election.
Mueller’s investigation is ongoing. He already has extensive evidence of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. For example, the president’s eldest son sought political dirt to use against Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent, from a Russian lawyer. Mueller has obtained two guilty pleas, from Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and from a former campaign adviser. They admit lying to federal authorities about their Russian government connections.
Crucially, perhaps, Trump still faces accusations that, as president, he acted criminally by attempting to obstruct justice by interfering in the Russia investigation. Specifically, Trump is alleged to have pressured James Comey, the then FBI director, to drop inquiries into Flynn and when Comey refused, to have fired him in a clumsy cover-up bid. Trump denies the allegation.
Trump will have the chance to repeat his denials when, as anticipated, Mueller interviews him under oath. This interview, if it happens, could be Trump’s High Noon. There is a slight air of Gary Cooper about the tall, spare figure of Robert Mueller and an air of sleazy desperation about Trump. It is noticeable that when confronted in person, rather than hiding behind Twitter and press secretaries, Trump tends to bob and weave and change his story. Maybe this time he will even tell the truth.
The latest indictments do not explicitly say the Russian government directed the election conspiracy, but there is plenty of reason to believe it did and that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was personally involved. Given the way Putin runs his country with an iron hand, it is risible to suggest such an audacious and risky operation was mounted without his knowledge. Putin is already deeply implicated in numerous other “hybrid conflict”, cyber warfare and disinformation campaigns against European democracies, including Britain.
Under his leadership, Russia is actively working to undermine western democracy. It has made a mockery of international law in Ukraine. It is daily involved in the callous slaughter of Syrian civilians. And next month, Putin will effectively steal his own presidential election. It is possible that Mueller, like High Noon’s Marshal Will Kane, will blow Trump away. But how do we confront the Putin menace?
WASHINGTON — A former top adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election after pleading guilty on Friday to financial fraud and lying to investigators.
The adviser, Rick Gates, is a longtime political consultant who once served as Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman. The plea deal could be a significant development in the investigation — a sign that Mr. Gates plans to offer incriminating information against his longtime associate and the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and possibly other members of the campaign in exchange for a lighter punishment. He faces up to nearly six years in prison.
The deal came as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has been raising pressure on Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort with dozens of new charges of money laundering and bank fraud unsealed on Thursday. Both men were first indicted in October and pleaded not guilty. The plea agreement was part of a flurry of recent activity by the special counsel’s team. Last week, 13 Russians were indicted on charges relating to a carefully planned scheme to incite political discord in the United States in the months before the 2016 election.
Mr. Gates changed his plea on Friday during an appearance in a Washington courtroom, his eyes cast down as the government outlined the charges against him. A man who had made millions of dollars lobbying in Ukraine accepted the fate that may await him: a prison sentence for carrying out a financial conspiracy to hide the money he earned there.
He also admitted that he lied to investigators this month — while under indictment and negotiating with prosecutors — about the details of a 2013 meeting about Ukraine that Mr. Manafort had with a pro-Russian member of Congress.
What the dramatic courtroom scene might mean for President Trump depends on what Mr. Gates has to offer the special counsel, though at the least, the plea agreement is further evidence that the Trump campaign attracted a cast of advisers who overstepped legal and ethical boundaries. The indictments so far have not indicated that either Mr. Gates or Mr. Manafort had information about the central question of Mr. Mueller’s investigation — whether Mr. Trump or his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election.
But Mr. Gates was present for the most significant periods of the campaign, as Mr. Trump began forging policy positions and his digital campaign operation engaged with millions of voters on social media platforms such as Facebook. Even after Mr. Manafort was fired by Mr. Trump in August 2016, Mr. Gates remained with the campaign at the request of Stephen K. Bannon, who took over as head of the campaign.
From there, Mr. Gates assumed a different role — as a liaison between the campaign and the Republican National Committee — and traveled aboard the Trump plane through Election Day.
In addition to offering visibility into the Trump campaign, Mr. Gates might be able to provide prosecutors with glimpses into decision-making in the months after Mr. Trump’s election victory. Mr. Gates was a consultant on the transition team, and in the months after the inauguration, he worked with America First Policies, the main outside group supporting the Trump presidency.
Besides the agreement with Mr. Gates, the special counsel’s team has already secured guilty pleas from two of Mr. Trump’s advisers. Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy aide during the campaign, have both pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and agreed to cooperate with the inquiry.
Mr. Gates’s plea deal came together over the past few days, according to people familiar with the process. In a letter to friends and family, Mr. Gates said there had been false news stories about an impending plea deal over the past two weeks.
But, he added, “Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart. The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circuslike atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”
Testimony from Mr. Gates could give Mr. Mueller’s team a first-person account of the criminal conduct that is claimed in the indictments — a potential blow to Mr. Manafort’s defense strategy. On Friday, Mr. Manafort pledged to continue the fight.
“Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pleaded today, I continue to maintain my innocence,” he said in a statement. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”
After Mr. Gates’s plea hearing, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Mr. Manafort. That indictment did not allege new charges against him, but was done for procedural purposes as prosecutors pursue separate cases in Washington and Northern Virginia.
The court papers give few specifics about how Mr. Gates came to be charged with lying to the F.B.I. On Feb. 1, as he was negotiating with prosecutors about a possible deal, Mr. Gates misled investigators about a conversation he had with Mr. Manafort in March 2013, after Mr. Manafort had met with the congressman to discuss the situation in Ukraine. The documents do not name the lawmaker, but news accounts have identified him as Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, a Republican long known for his pro-Russia views.
Mr. Gates falsely told investigators that Mr. Manafort had told him that the subject of Ukraine had not come up at the meeting, even though Mr. Gates had helped draft a report to Ukraine’s leadership after the meeting about what had transpired, according to the court papers.
Court records detail a byzantine scheme he and Mr. Manafort employed from about 2006 to 2015 in which they funneled millions of dollars they earned from their work as political consultants in Ukraine into shell companies and foreign bank accounts. The men worked in various capacities with Viktor F. Yanukovych, the onetime president of Ukraine and a longtime ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
They then hid the existence of the companies and accounts — set up in Cyprus, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles — from American tax authorities.
“Gates helped maintain these accounts and arranged substantial transfers from the accounts to both Manafort and himself,” prosecutors argued in the charges against Mr. Gates made public on Friday. Acting on Mr. Manafort’s instructions, Mr. Gates classified the overseas payments as “loans” to avoid having to pay income taxes.
Mr. Mueller’s team found that more than $75 million passed through offshore accounts, and that Mr. Manafort laundered more than $18 million to furnish a lavish, largely tax-free lifestyle. Mr. Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts, court documents show.
Mr. Manafort purchased multimillion-dollar homes, expensive clothing, antiques and a Range Rover. Mr. Gates used the money to pay his mortgage and school tuitions, and for the interior decorating of his home in Virginia.
The work the two men did for their firm, Davis Manafort, connected them to numerous people with ties to the Kremlin. One was Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and an ally of Mr. Putin’s. Mr. Deripaska has been denied a visa to travel to the United States because of allegations that he is linked to organized crime operations, claims he has denied.
Court records unsealed Friday revealed other lobbying schemes, including how Mr. Manafort used offshore accounts to wire more than 2 million euros to pay a group of former senior European politicians to take pro-Ukraine positions and lobby in the United States. In an “Eyes Only” memo that Mr. Manafort wrote in 2012, the purpose of the “Super VIP” effort was to assemble a group of “politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine.”
After their Ukraine work was disclosed in news reports in August 2016, when Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates were working for the Trump campaign, they “developed a false and misleading cover story” to distance themselves from Ukraine, according Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors.
Then, they covered their tracks when reporting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. Two months after Mr. Manafort left the campaign, according to the court documents, his accountant emailed him a question about whether he had any foreign bank accounts.
“None,” he replied.
Mueller team asks about Trump's Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president
(CNN)Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential campaign as he considered a run for president, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Questions about Trump's entry into the campaign
Questions about Trump's Moscow trip
Five and a half hours after testifying before a grand jury in the Russia probe, a former political adviser to Donald Trump told ABC News exclusively that he believes the investigation is “warranted.”
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“No, I don't think it's a witch hunt,” Sam Nunberg told ABC News. “It's warranted because there's a lot there and that's the sad truth.”
He added, “I don't believe it leads to the president.”
Instead, Nunberg said he believes that many in his inner circle may face legal trouble, including his own mentor and former Trump campaign aide, Roger Stone.
“I'm very worried about him,” Nunberg said. “He's certainly at least the subject of this investigation, in the very least he's a subject.”
Stone has testified before congressional investigators in the Russia probe, and told ABC News that he would expect Mueller’s team to ask him for documents or emails. But, he said, he had “no knowledge or involvement in Russian collusion or any other inappropriate act.”
On Monday, Nunberg made headlines for announcing his intention to defy the special counsel’s subpoena in a series of cable news and newspaper interviews.
"Let him arrest me," Nunberg told the Washington Post, referring to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. "Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday."
But he told ABC News this was all “for show.”
“They said it was a media meltdown. I felt I melted down the media,” Nunberg said in an interview with ABC News on Friday. “I felt it was a good game… And if you want to know the truth it’s kind of therapeutic too.”
He did admit that the performance was partially due to the pressure of testifying in the special counsel’s probe.
“I wanted to show what this independent counsel, this independent investigation does to people like me,” Nunberg said. “I'm collateral damage in this independent special investigation.”
By Friday, however, Nunberg had changed course and ultimately cooperated with Mueller’s subpoena, testifying for more than five hours before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C.
Nunberg said he was always going to comply with the law and added, “I’m an attorney”.
It's unclear what exactly Nunberg testified about before the grand jury. He declined to publicly elaborate on what prosecutors wanted to know, saying he “got into enough trouble this week” already.
Nunberg said his testimony focused on the campaign aides surrounding the president who were mentioned in the subpoena, like White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, former White House aide Steve Bannon, former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and Carter Page, Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, and the president's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller.
He said there were also questions about Trump’s business and his political positions on Russia.
Nunberg described the atmosphere inside the grand jury room as “professional” and noted the pace at which he said prosecutors fired questions at him.
“They’re trying to get as much in as quickly as they can – boom, boom, boom, boom – it almost feels like I’m back in yeshiva with the rabbi.”
Nunberg’s tenure with Trump is checkered.
Having served as a political adviser to then-businessman Trump beginning in 2011, Nunberg was fired by Trump in August 2015 after multiple racially-charged comments were discovered on his personal Facebook account.
In 2016, Trump sued him for $10 million, accusing Nunberg of violating a nondisclosure agreement and leaking confidential campaign information to the press. Nunberg denied the allegation and the suit was ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount.
Nunberg declined to say whether he’d be back in front of the special counsel’s attorneys or the grand jury. A source close to him said he is scheduled to testify five more times.
“Look I can't talk. I can't. I'm just not going to talk about it. Maybe, maybe yes, maybe no, I'll give you a Donald Trump answer,” he said. “We'll see.”
President Trump escalated his assault on federal law enforcement agencies Saturday while one of his attorneys argued that the controversial firing of a top FBI official was reason to end the Justice Department special counsel’s expansive Russia investigation.
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions acted late Friday night on Trump’s publicly stated wishes to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe — just hours before he was set to retire with full benefits — the president celebrated the ouster as a triumph that exposed “tremendous leaking, lying and corruption” throughout law enforcement.
The move emboldened McCabe, who said in a public statement that his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Like former FBI director James B. Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, McCabe kept contemporaneous memos detailing his fraught conversations with the president, according to two people familiar with the records. The danger for Trump is that those memos could help corroborate McCabe’s witness testimony and become damaging evidence in Mueller’s investigation of whether Trump has sought to obstruct justice.
Trump asked McCabe in an Oval Office meeting in May whom he voted for in the election and complained about the political donations McCabe’s wife received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate campaign. In addition, Comey confided to McCabe about his private conversations with Trump, including when the president asked for his loyalty. Both had been probing links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
McCabe’s firing — coupled with the comments from Trump and his personal attorney, John Dowd on Saturday — marked an extraordinary acceleration of the battle between the president and the special counsel, whose probe Trump has long dismissed as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Trump said in a Saturday night tweet: “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”
Dowd said in a Saturday morning statement, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.”
Dowd’s defiance was a dramatic shift for a legal team that had long pledged to cooperate fully with Mueller. The White House has responded to requests for documents, and senior officials have sat for hours of interviews with the special counsel’s investigators.
The statement was first reported by the Daily Beast, which explained that Dowd said he was speaking on behalf of Trump. Dowd later backtracked, telling The Washington Post that he was speaking only for himself.
Trump has been known to direct surrogates to make bold claims publicly as a way of market-testing ideas. Dowd declined to say whether he consulted with the president before issuing his statement. “I never discuss my communications with my client,” he said.
White House officials had no comment as to whether Dowd’s statement was delivered at the behest of his client, but they insisted it was not part of a coordinated administration strategy, and one official described the statement as ill-advised.
Still, officials acknowledged that Trump shares his lawyer’s sentiment that the Mueller investigation should come to a swift conclusion.
“We were all promised collusion or nullification of his election or impeachment,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “We were promised something that never came to be.”
The official added that Trump “just thinks they should wrap it up. He sees it becoming a big fishing expedition.”
For months now, the president has raged in private conversations with friends and advisers over the intensifying investigation. People familiar with his thinking said he has been especially agitated by Mueller’s probing into the financial and other records of his private business, the Trump Organization — an intrusion that he said in an interview last year would cross a red line.
Sessions fired McCabe as an outgrowth of an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is examining the FBI’s handling of its probe of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. In the course of that broad review, Horowitz’s investigators found that McCabe had authorized two FBI officials to speak to the media about an ongoing criminal probe and then — in the investigators’ view — misled them about it.
White House officials said they did not believe Trump had explicitly ordered Sessions to fire McCabe in recent days. But he arguably did not have to: The FBI’s former No. 2 official had long drawn Trump’s ire, and the president has publicly called for his dismissal. Trump has been furious at Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller probe. White House officials said the embattled attorney general is perpetually trying to prove his worth to Trump and had to have known that firing McCabe would please the boss.
Indeed, Trump hailed McCabe’s dismissal in a gleeful tweet at 12:08 a.m. Saturday as “A great day for Democracy.”
That drew a stern rebuke from former CIA director John Brennan, who responded on Twitter: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America ... America will triumph over you.”
After Dowd issued his statement Saturday, Trump reiterated his claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russians, and he attacked federal agencies that are under his command. But he stopped short of echoing Dowd’s call for an end to the Mueller probe.
Trump tweeted: “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp.”
Trump was referring to last week’s announcement by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee that they were concluding their own investigation of Russian interference in the election, though a separate investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee remains underway.
In another tweet, Trump repeated his now-familiar attacks on McCabe and Comey. Some Trump allies said they worry he is playing with fire by taunting the FBI.
“This is open, all-out war. And guess what? The FBI’s going to win,” said one ally, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “You can’t fight the FBI. They’re going to torch him.”
Trump’s lawyers have long spoken privately about what they view as political bias inside the FBI and in the early stages of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to two top White House advisers.
Since late summer, Dowd and attorney Jay Sekulow have warned the president about what they saw as mounting evidence of pro-Clinton bias among senior FBI officials. Trump took some comfort in their predictions that pieces of this information would surface publicly over time in inspector general reports and responses to public information requests.
Dowd and White House lawyer Ty Cobb have publicly asserted that they are working collaboratively and cooperatively with Mueller’s investigators, voluntarily providing dozens of witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of records. Dowd told The Post in January that Trump was providing the special counsel “the most transparent response in history by a president.”
But behind the scenes, Dowd has told colleagues that the probe was poisoned. He has blamed it on an anti-Trump faction of law enforcement officials he derisively calls “the Comey crowd,” which includes McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy when the FBI began investigating Russia’s intrusions and possible links to the Trump campaign.
Democrats on Saturday quickly rushed to protect the Mueller probe, as former national security officials defended McCabe’s character and raised questions about the manner in which he was fired.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted: “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned of “severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans” should Trump try to curtail or interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
“Mr. Dowd’s comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn,” Schumer said in a statement.
McCabe’s firing just short of his 50th birthday on Sunday, is likely to cost him significant pension benefits. One House Democrat, Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), offered McCabe a job to work on election security in his office “so that he can reach the needed length of service” to retire.
The dismissal once again drew the FBI into a political controversy as those inside the bureau already fear the institution’s reputation may not survive unrelenting attacks from Trump and his allies.
“Certainly the FBI is in the barrel, and they badly want to get out of it — the workforce does,” said former FBI assistant director Ron Hosko. “But headlines like this are not the way out.”
Inside the FBI, the mood was tense this weekend, with some agents exchanging messages about how they might help McCabe and expressing anger at what they saw as a cruel and vindictive dismissal.
But McCabe was not universally loved inside the bureau. Some agents resented him for what they felt was a rapid rise through the ranks in his 22 years there. And officials noted that misleading investigators is a fireable offense, though they were curious about how the evidence would show McCabe had done so.
Horowitz, the inspector general, had been investigating broad allegations of misconduct in the Clinton email case since early last year, but he zeroed in on McCabe over the last few months.
McCabe, who briefly served as acting FBI director after Comey’s firing, technically stepped down from his deputy post after now-director Christopher A. Wray was told of what the inspector general had found.
McCabe remained an FBI employee, but the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles employee discipline, later recommended he be fired. The inspector general’s report has not been made public.
On Thursday, McCabe pleaded with Justice Department brass to be spared. Late into the evening Friday, top officials drafted their own report on what McCabe had done. Just before 10 p.m., it was emailed to him and his attorneys. Minutes later, Sessions announced McCabe had been fired, effective immediately.
McCabe countered with a lengthy statement Friday night claiming his innocence — and pledging to fight back against Trump.
“All along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us,” McCabe wrote. “No more.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday abandoned a strategy of showing deference to the special counsel examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, lashing out at what he characterized as a partisan investigation and alarming Republicans who feared he might seek to shut it down.
Mr. Trump has long suggested that allegations that he or his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the election were a “hoax” and part of a “witch hunt,” but until this weekend he had largely heeded the advice of lawyers who counseled him not to directly attack Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for fear of antagonizing prosecutors.
“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
The attack on Mr. Mueller, a longtime Republican and former F.B.I.director appointed by a Republican president, George W. Bush, drew immediate rebukes from some members of the party who expressed concern that it might presage an effort to fire the special counsel. Such a move, they warned, would give the appearance of a corrupt attempt to short-circuit the investigation and set off a bipartisan backlash.
“If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an ally of the president, said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “When it comes to Mr. Mueller, he is following the evidence where it takes him, and I think it’s very important he be allowed to do his job without interference, and there are many Republicans who share my view.”
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Among them was Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a sharp critic of Mr. Trump who appeared on the same program. “People see that as a massive red line that can’t be crossed,” he said. He urged Mr. Trump’s advisers to prevail on him not to fire Mr. Mueller. “We have confidence in Mueller.”
Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said if the president was innocent, he should “act like it” and leave Mr. Mueller alone, warning of dire repercussions if the president tried to fire the special counsel.
“I would just counsel the president — it’s going to be a very, very long, bad 2018, and it’s going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and he was elected do,” Mr. Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.”
The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, issued a statement likewise warning Mr. Trump to back off. “As the speaker has always said, Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman. His counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had no comment, as did a number of other top Senate Republicans.
Late in the day, the White House tried to douse the furor. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, said in a statement.
The president’s tweet followed a statement by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, on Saturday calling on the Justice Department to end the special counsel investigation. Mr. Trump followed up that evening with a tweet arguing that “the Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”
The two weekend tweets were the first time Mr. Trump has used Mr. Mueller’s name on Twitter, not counting a message he once retweeted, and reflected what advisers called a growing impatience fueled by anger that the investigation was now looking at his business activities.
The New York Times reported last week that Mr. Mueller has subpoenaedrecords from the Trump Organization. Mr. Trump’s lawyers met with Mr. Mueller’s team last week and received more details about how the special counsel is approaching the investigation, including the scope of his interest in the Trump Organization.
For months, Mr. Trump had been reassured by his lawyers that the investigation would wrap up soon — by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s. But with the expansion into Mr. Trump’s business, it seems increasingly clear that Mr. Mueller is not ready to conclude his inquiry.
A top adviser to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that the White House had grown weary of the inquiry. “We have cooperated in every single way, every single paper they’ve asked for, every single interview,” Marc Short, the president’s legislative director, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “There’s a growing frustration that after a year and millions and millions of dollars spent on this, there remains no evidence of collusion with Russia.”
A president cannot directly fire a special counsel but can order his attorney general to do so. Even then, a cause has to be cited, like conflict of interest. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former campaign adviser, has recused himself from the Russia investigation — to Mr. Trump’s continuing irritation — the task would fall to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.
But Mr. Rosenstein said as recently as last week that he sees no justification for firing Mr. Mueller, meaning that he would either have to change his mind or be removed himself. The third-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rachel Brand, knowing this issue could reach her, decided last month to step down. The next official in line would be the solicitor general, Noel J. Francisco, a former White House and Justice Department lawyer under Mr. Bush.
Mr. Trump sought to have Mr. Mueller fired last June but backed down after his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, threatened to quit. The president told The Times a month later that Mr. Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia.
The White House made no assertion last week that the subpoena to the Trump Organization crossed that red line, but Mr. Trump evidently has grown tired of the strategy of being respectful to the special counsel. His focus on Democrats working for Mr. Mueller could be aimed at demonstrating conflict of interest that would merit dismissal.
When Mr. Mueller assembled his team, he surrounded himself with trusted former colleagues and experts on specific crimes like money laundering. As the team filled out, Republican allies of Mr. Trump noted that some members had previously contributed to Democratic candidates.
In particular, Republicans pointed to Andrew Weissmann, who served as F.B.I. general counsel under Mr. Mueller. Mr. Weissmann is a career prosecutor but, while in private law practice, donated thousands of dollars toward President Barack Obama’s election effort.
In his Sunday morning Twitter blasts, Mr. Trump also renewed his attacks on James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and Andrew G. McCabe, his former deputy, both of whom, like Mr. Mueller, are longtime Republicans. Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last May, at first attributing the decision to the F.B.I. director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server but later telling an interviewer that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he made the decision.
Mr. Sessions, under intense public pressure from Mr. Trump, fired Mr. McCabe on Friday after an inspector general found that he had not been forthcoming about authorizing F.B.I. officials to provide information about the Clinton inquiry in 2016 to a reporter.
“Wow, watch Comey lie under oath to Senator G when asked ‘have you ever been an anonymous source...or known someone else to be an anonymous source...?’” Mr. Trump wrote. “He said strongly ‘never, no.’ He lied as shown clearly on @foxandfriends.”
Mr. Trump went on to dismiss reports that Mr. McCabe kept detailed memos of his time as deputy F.B.I. director, just as Mr. Comey did. Mr. McCabe left those memos with the F.B.I., which means Mr. Mueller’s team has access to them.
“Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”
Michael R. Bromwich, Mr. McCabe’s lawyer, fired back by accusing the president of corrupting the law enforcement system. “We will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, disgusting & false tweet by the President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The whole truth will come out in due course. But the tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. McCabe’s termination and has rendered it illegitimate.”
In suggesting that Mr. Comey lied under oath to Congress, Mr. Trump appeared to refer to a comment by Mr. McCabe that the former director had authorized the news media interaction at the heart of the complaint against him. The president’s Republican allies picked up the point on Sunday and pressed for appointment of a prosecutor to look at the origin of the Russia investigation.
“So we know that McCabe has lied” because the inspector general concluded he had not been fully candid, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, said on Fox News. “Now he’s saying about Comey — Comey may have lied as well. So I don’t think this is the end of it. But that’s why we need a second special counsel.”
Other Republicans, however, suggested that the Trump administration was going too far. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida criticized the decision to fire Mr. McCabe on a Friday night shortly before his retirement took effect, jeopardizing his pension.
“I don’t like the way it happened,” Mr. Rubio said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “He should’ve been allowed to finish through the weekend.” Speaking of the president, he added: “Obviously he doesn’t like McCabe and he’s made that pretty clear now for over a year. We need to be very careful about taking these very important entities and smearing everybody in them with a broad stroke.”
WASHINGTON — President Trump called on Tuesday to congratulate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on his re-election, but did not raise with him the lopsided nature of his victory, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election or Moscow’s role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter living in Britain.
Instead, Mr. Trump kept the focus of the call on what the White House said were “shared interests” — among them, North Korea and Ukraine — overruling his national security advisers, who had urged him to raise Russia’s recent behavior.
“We had a very good call,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he had just welcomed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. “We will probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future.”
The president’s upbeat characterization came five days after his administration imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in the election and for other “malicious cyberattacks,” the most significant action it has taken against Moscow since Mr. Trump took office. The United States also joined Britain, France and Germany in denouncing the Russian government for violating international law for the attack on the spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter Yulia.
Both actions highlighted a contradiction at the heart of the Trump presidency: the administration’s steadily tougher stance toward Russia and Mr. Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Mr. Putin.
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Mr. Trump, a senior official said, signed off on the sanctions and the harsh language in the administration’s statements. But he was determined not to antagonize Mr. Putin, this person said, because he believes his leader-to-leader rapport is the only way to improve relations between the two countries.
That strategy has put Mr. Trump at odds with his own advisers: in preparing the president for the call, aides advised him to raise the nerve-agent attack and wrote on his briefing materials, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” The Washington Post first reported these details.
A second official, however, said that while Mr. Trump’s briefing cards did contain those suggestions, he spoke to his aides by phone and never saw the cards.
The White House also insisted that it was not the place of the United States to question how other countries conduct their elections — a contention that is at odds with years of critical statements about foreign elections by the United States, as well as recent statements by the Trump administration about elections in Venezuela and Iran.
“What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something we can dictate to them how they operate,” said the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections, something we 100 percent fully support.”
Echoing the president, she went on to rail against the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“To pretend like going through this absurd process for over a year would not bring frustration seems a little bit ridiculous,” she said.
Ms. Sanders noted that other foreign leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, had called Mr. Putin. Ms. Merkel’s office released a terse account of their call, saying she had told the Russian president, “Today, it is more important than ever to continue the dialogue with one another and to foster relations between our states and peoples.”
Republican lawmakers, even those who have resisted criticizing Mr. Trump, faulted him for congratulating Mr. Putin.
“When I look at a Russian election, what I see is a lack of credibility in tallying the results,” said the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Calling him wouldn’t have been high on my list.”
Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was harsher.
“An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” he said in a statement. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
In fact, both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush called to congratulate Mr. Putin after previous election victories.
In Mr. Obama’s case, said Michael A. McFaul, who served as ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration, there was lively internal debate about whether, and when, the president should make that call. Mr. Obama waited several days after Mr. Putin’s election in March 2012 before calling.
After that election, the State Department issued a statement in which it said, “The United States congratulates the Russian people on the completion of the presidential elections, and looks forward to working with the president-elect after the results are certified and he is sworn in.”
The language, Mr. McFaul said, was carefully chosen to applaud the Russian people for voting without praising Mr. Putin for winning. The statement also noted the reservations of outside observers about the “partisan use of government resources, and procedural irregularities on Election Day,” though it credited the Russian authorities for reforms after a widely criticized parliamentary election the previous December.
The parliamentary election drew condemnation from Hillary Clinton, then the secretary of state, who said the Russian people, “like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted.” Her statement planted the seeds for the antipathy between her and Mr. Putin, who accused her of fomenting unrest in Russia.
This time, Mr. Putin prevailed with more than 76 percent of the vote. International observers said Russian electoral authorities counted the votes efficiently, but that several other factors prevented the contest from being fair.
“Restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition,” observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a report.
During their call on Tuesday, a senior official said, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin he had been concerned by a recent speech in which Mr. Putin talked about Russia developing an “invincible” intercontinental cruise missile and a nuclear torpedo that could outsmart all American defenses.
Mr. Putin’s presentation included animated videos depicting multiple warheads aimed at Florida, where the president often stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Mr. Trump raised the nuclear threat in calls with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Ms. Merkel.
More recently, however, Mr. Trump noted that Mr. Putin had taken a more moderate tone, talking about the need to de-escalate the nuclear arms race between Russia and the United States.
Mr. Trump, this official said, told Mr. Putin that he welcomed the shift in tone. But Mr. Trump reminded Mr. Putin that his administration was spending $700 billion to upgrade the American military, and that the United States would win any arms race between the two.
“We will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Despite claiming otherwise on Twitter, the president has expressed displeasure with his legal team for weeks. He has met with the veteran Washington lawyer Emmet T. Flood, who represented President Bill Clinton during impeachment, about coming inside the White House to serve as his top lawyer. Neither Mr. Dowd nor Jay Sekulow, the president’s other personal lawyer for the investigation, knew about the meeting at the time, and after The New York Times reported about it, were said to be concerned that their standing with the president had fallen. He tried to reassure them on Twitter.
“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow,” Mr. Trump wrote. “They are doing a great job.”
It is not clear who will take over the team. Mr. Sekulow is liked by Mr. Trump and brought on this week one of his longtime friends, Joseph E. diGenova, to join the team.