Where investigations related to President Donald Trump stand and what may lie ahead for him:
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. Trump also plays a central role in a separate case in New York, where prosecutors have implicated him in a crime. They say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign. New York prosecutors also are looking into Trump’s inaugural fund.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW?
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved William Barr’s nomination for attorney general along party lines Thursday. Republicans praised his credentials and Democrats questioned how transparent he’ll be once Mueller’s Russia investigation concludes.
The vote now heads to the full Senate, where Barr is expected to be confirmed as soon as next week.
Barr would succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was pushed out by Trump last year over the president’s anger that Sessions had stepped aside from overseeing the Russia investigation. As the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Barr would oversee the remaining work in Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
SO … DID THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN COLLUDE WITH RUSSIA?
There is no smoking gun when it comes to the question of Russia collusion. But the evidence so far shows that a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and several lied about the communication.
There is evidence that some people in Trump’s orbit were discussing a possible email dump from WikiLeaks before it occurred. American intelligence agencies and Mueller have said Russia was the source of hacked material released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the campaign that was damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort.
OTHER QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
– What about obstruction of justice? That is another unresolved question that Mueller is pursuing. Investigators have examined key episodes such as Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and Trump’s fury over Sessions’ recusal.
– What does Trump have to say about all this? Trump has repeatedly slammed the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and insisted there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia. He also says his former lawyer Cohen lied to get a lighter sentence in New York.
– When will it all wrap up? It’s unclear. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker says the probe is “close to being completed,” the first official sign that Mueller’s investigation may be wrapping up. But he gave no specific timetable.