Konstantin Kilimnik

August 1, 2019 – Opinion: Here Are 5 Big Holes in Mueller’s Work

Robert Mueller testifies to congress on July 24, 2019. (Credit: Saul Loeb/Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

“Robert Mueller’s two-year, $25.2 million investigation was supposed to provide the definitive account of Donald Trump, Russia and the 2016 election. Yet even after he issued a 448-page report and testified for five hours before Congress, critical aspects remain unexplained, calling into question the basis for the probe and the decisions of those who conducted it.

Time and again in his report and his testimony, Mueller refused to address a wide range of fundamental issues, claiming they were beyond his purview. Some of the issues Mueller and his team did not clarify include whether the FBI had a sound predicate for opening a counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign; whether the FBI knowingly relied on false material; and the links between U.S. government agencies and key figures who fueled the most explosive claims of an illicit Trump-Russia relationship. Mueller claimed that he was prevented from answering critical questions due to ongoing Justice Department reviews, one by Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham and the other by Inspector General Michael Horowitz. In the meantime, here are some of the biggest mysteries that Mueller’s team left hanging in the air.

Who Is Joseph Mifsud, and Was He the Actual Predicate for the Russia Investigation?

Mueller’s pointed refusal to answer questions about Mifsud underscored that his team did not provide a plausible explanation for the incident that supposedly sparked the Russia investigation in July 2016. Mifsud is the mysterious Maltese professor who reportedly informed Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Their conversation took place in , before the alleged hacking of Democratic Party emails was publicly known. (cont.)

What Was the Role of the Steele Dossier?

Christopher Steele: described as “Source #1” and “credible.”
(Credit: Victoria Jones/The Associated Press)

Mueller also refused to address another key driver of the Trump-Russia probe – the series of unverified and salacious opposition research memos against Trump secretly financed by the Clinton campaign and the DNC and  compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. Some Republicans believe the dossier was the real trigger of the FBI probe and that Mifsud was later used as an excuse by the FBI to cover that up once the dossier’s partisan origins were revealed. As he did with Mifsud, Mueller, who was FBI Director between 2001 and 2013, stonewalled the many Republican efforts to press him on this topic. (more)

Why Did the Mueller Team Invent the Polling Data Theory About Konstantin Kilimnik, and Omit His U.S. Ties?

Konstantin Kilimnik
(Credit: The Associated Press)

Mueller also refused to answer critical questions about his report’s portrayal of Konstantin Kilimnik. The longtime business associate of Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort, became central to the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory as a result of the Mueller team’s own innuendo. In January 2019, Mueller accused Manafort of lying about sharing Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. According to Mueller, the FBI had assessed that Kilimnik has an unspecified “relationship with Russian intelligence.” In court, Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann repeated that ambiguous claim and tacked on a piece of tantalizing flourish: “This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here. This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.” Weissmann’s comments fueled widespread speculation – and even confident assertions – that Kilimnik had passed on the polling data to the Russian government, which then put it to use for its supposed social media interference campaign targeting malleable swing-state voters. (cont.)

Why Did the Mueller Team Falsely Suggest That Trump Tower Moscow Was a Viable Project – and What Was the Role of FBI Informant Felix Sater?

Along with the discredited polling-data theory, House Democrats repeatedly played up the Mueller team’s indictment of Michael Cohen for lying to Congress about the failed effort to build a Trump Tower Moscow. In court filings, the Mueller team insinuated that the project was a viable and lucrative one. Because Cohen had lied to Congress and Trump had denied having business dealings in Russia, Rep. Joaquin Castro asked Mueller if he had assessed whether “President Trump could be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.” (cont.)

Was Specious Info Leaked to Justify the Absence of Trump-Kremlin Links?

In the absence of evidence tying the Trump campaign to the Kremlin – and a preponderance of leads involving key figures actually tied to the West – U.S. intelligence officials helped cast a pall of suspicion through misleading, and sometimes false, media leaks. In January 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey briefed President-elect Trump on the Steele Dossier’s most explosive allegation: that the Russians had a tape of him with prostitutes in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel room. Comey’s briefing to Trump was leaked to the press, leading to the dossier’s publication by BuzzFeed and cementing the story atop the news cycle for the more than two years since.” (cont.)

(Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 8/01/2019) 

May 9, 2019 – Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns?

By: Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller spent more than $732,000 on outside contractors, including private investigators and researchers, records show, but his office refuses to say who they were. While it’s not unusual for special government offices to outsource for services such as computer support, Mueller also hired contractors to compile “investigative reports” and other “information.”

The arrangement has led congressional investigators, government watchdog groups and others to speculate that the private investigators and researchers who worked for the special counsel’s office might have included Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Steele to produce the Russia collusion dossier for the Clinton campaign.

Robert Mueller arriving at the office: His report recycles dossier dirt. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

They suspect the dossier creators may have been involved in Mueller’s operation – and even had a hand in his final report – because the special counsel sent his team to London to meet with Steele within a few months of taking over the Russia collusion investigation in 2017. Also, Mueller’s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, had shared information he received from Fusion with the media.

Raising additional suspicions, Mueller’s report recycles the general allegations leveled in the dossier. And taking a page from earlier surveillance-warrant applications in the Russia investigation, it cites as supporting evidence several articles – including one by Yahoo! News – that used Steele and Fusion as sources.

Mueller even kept alive one of the dossier’s most obscene accusations – that Moscow had “compromising tapes” of Trump with Russian hookers – by slipping into a footnote an October 2016 text Trump lawyer Michael Cohen received from a “Russian businessman,” who cryptically intimated, “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia.” Lawyers for the businessman, Giorgi Rtskhiladze (who is actually a Georgian-American), are demanding a retraction of the footnote, arguing Mueller omitted the part of his text where he said he did not believe the rumor about the tapes, for which no evidence has ever surfaced.

Mueller’s reliance on the Steele dossier is raising questions because it occurred long after FBI Director James B. Comey described the dossier as “salacious and unverified.”

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed “The Mueller Dossier,” because he says it contains a lot of similar innuendo. Even though Mueller failed to corroborate key allegations leveled in the dossier, Nunes said his report twists key facts to put a collusion gloss on events. He also asserted that it selectively quotes from Trump campaign emails and omits exculpatory information in ways that cast the campaign’s activities in the most sinister light.

A detail from the website of Steele’s private London firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.

Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.” Specifically, the dossier accused Page of secretly meeting with Kremlin officials in July 2016 to hatch a plot to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it accused Manafort of being corrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin through his puppets in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Mueller’s report focuses on Manafort and Page and whether they “committed crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

Though the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government, the Mueller report implies there may be a kernel of truth to the dossier’s charges.

“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,” according to the section on him. “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.”

Carter Page at a news conference  in Moscow in 2016. (Credit: Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, heads to a news conference at RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Page said he was in Moscow on a visit to meet with businessmen and politicians.

Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention,” Mueller’s narrative continued. “July 2016 was also the month WikiLeaks first released emails stolen by the GRU [Russian intelligence] from the DNC.”

“Page acknowledged that he understood that the individuals he has associated with were members of the Russian intelligence services,” the report added, implying that Page in the 2015 case (referenced above) knowingly cavorted with Russian spies, which echoes charges Steele made in his dossier.

But federal court records make it clear that Page did not know that those men were Russian agents.

Mueller also left out of his report a detail RealClearInvestigations has previously reported: that Page was a cooperating witness in the case in question, helping the FBI eventually put a Russian agent behind bars in 2016. Nor did Mueller see fit to include in his report another exculpatory detail revealed in agent Gregory Mohaghan’s complaint and reported earlier by RCI — namely, that the Russians privately referred to Page as “an idiot” who was unworthy of recruitment.

Excluding such details is curious, given that the Mueller report quotes from the same FBI complaint and cites it in its footnotes. Similarly, in its section dealing with Manafort, the Mueller report echoes the dossier’s claims that the Trump campaign chairman was in cahoots with the Kremlin, even though Mueller never charged him with  conspiring to collude with Russia.

A 2006 photo of Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime employee of Paul Manafort who ran the Ukraine office of his lobbying firm. The Mueller report suggests he was one of Manafort’s Kremlin handlers. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The special prosecutor’s report indicated that one of Manafort’s Kremlin handlers was Konstantin Kilimnik.

“Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election,” it said. “That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. It also included discussion of ‘battleground’ states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.”

Except that this wouldn’t have been an unusual conversation: Kilimnik was a longtime Manafort employee who ran the Ukraine office of his lobbying firm. Footnotes in Mueller’s report show that Manafort shared campaign information to impress a former business partner, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was suing him over financial losses. Mueller failed to tie the information exchange to Russian espionage. He also failed to mention that Deripaska is an FBI informant.

Mueller’s team worked closely with dossier author Steele, a long-retired British intelligence officer who worked for the Clinton campaign. Mueller’s investigators went to London to consult with Steele for at least two days in September 2017 while apparently using his dossier as an investigative road map and central theory to his collusion case. Steele now runs a private research and consulting firm in London, Orbis Business Intelligence.

It’s not clear if Mueller’s office paid Steele, but recently released FBI records show the bureau previously made a number of payments to him, and at one point during the 2016 campaign offered him $50,000 to continue his dossier research. Steele was also paid through the Clinton campaign, earning $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

Paul Manafort at court last year with wife Kathleen. (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Expenditure statements show that the Special Counsel’s Office outsourced “investigative reports” and “information” to third-party contractors during Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian “collusion” during the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past few months, Mueller’s office has rejected several formal requests from RealClearInvestigations for contract details, including who was hired and how much they were paid.

Washington-based Judicial Watch suspects Mueller’s office may have farmed out work to the private Washington research firm Fusion GPS or its subcontractor Steele, both of whom were paid by the Clinton camp during the 2016 presidential election. Several law enforcement and Hill sources who spoke with RCI also believe Steele and Fusion GPS were deputized in the investigation.

The government watchdog group has requested that the Justice Department turn over the contracting records, along with all budget requests Mueller submitted to the attorney general during his nearly two-year investigation. It’s also requested all communications between the Special Counsel’s Office and the private contractors it used.

A Judicial Watch spokesman said its Freedom of Information Act request is pending.

Glenn Simpson (Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined comment when asked specifically if Mueller’s team hired or collaborated with Fusion GPS or any of its subcontractors. Mueller took over the FBI’s Russia probe in May 2017, whereupon he hired many of the agents who handled Steele and pored over his dossier.

For the first reporting period ending Sept. 30, 2017, and covering just four months, the Special Counsel’s Office reported paying $867 to unnamed contractors for “investigative reports/information,” along with $3,554 in “miscellaneous” payments to contractors.

In the next reporting period ending March 31, 2018, the office stopped breaking out investigative reports and information as a separate line item, lumping such contractual services under the category “Other,” which accounted for a total of $10,812, or more than 4% of the total spending on outside contracts.

For the six months ending Dona – the latest reporting period for which there is data – Mueller’s office showed a total of $310,732 in payments to outside contractors. For the first time, it did not break out such expenses into subcategories, though it noted that the lion’s share of the $310,000 was spent on “IT services.”

Mueller concluded his investigation and delivered his final report in March. The next expenditure report, for the period October 2018-March 2019, will cover contract work directly tied to compiling the report.

Asked if the contracting details were classified, Carr demurred. If the information is not deemed classified, it must be made public, Judicial Watch maintains.

Republican critics on the Hill say Mueller’s written narrative was slanted to give the impression there still might be something to the dossier’s most salacious allegations, even though Mueller found no evidence corroborating them or establishing that Trump or his campaign coordinated or cooperated with Russian meddling in the election.

“Whoever wrote the report leaves you with the idea there’s still something to all the allegations of collusion that were first promoted by the dossier,” said a witness who was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators late in the probe and is referenced in the report.

Donald Trump Jr., right, with his father: The Mueller report gives the miss-impression that the president’s oldest son was collaborating with WikiLeaks. (Credit: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

In a section on Donald Trump Jr., moreover, the report gives the misimpression that the president’s oldest son was collaborating with WikiLeaks on the release of the Clinton campaign emails.

“Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period,” it stated.

In fact, Trump got an unsolicited message through his Twitter account from WikiLeaks. He described the outreach as “weird” in an email to senior Trump campaign staff at the time. Other contemporaneous messages make it clear he had no advance knowledge about any Clinton emails released by WikiLeaks.

The FBI first began receiving memos from Steele’s dossier in early July 2016 and used the documents as the foJeundation for its October 2016 application for a warrant to wiretap the private communications of Page. These milestones are missing from the Mueller report’s chronology of events. In fact, neither Steele nor his dossier is mentioned by name anywhere in the first half of the report dealing with collusion, though their allegations are hashed out.

Some Mueller critics are focused on the role played by his top prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter with longstanding ties to Steele and Fusion GPS.

Andrew Weissmann, now a senior fellow at NYU Law. (Credit: NYU Law)

“Weissman had a lot to do with the way the report was written,” said author Jerome Corsi, who, as a friend of Trump confidant Roger Stone, was targeted by Mueller. “That’s why it’s basically a political document.”

Corsi said he spent more than 40 hours with Mueller’s prosecutors and investigators, who grilled him about possible ties to WikiLeaks but never charged him with a crime.

Formerly a top Justice Department official under Obama, Weissmann not only donated to Clinton’s presidential campaign but also attended her election-night party in New York City in November 2016. Three months earlier, he was briefed on Steele’s dossier and other dirt provided by the Clinton contractor and paid FBI informant. In early 2017, Weissmann helped advance the Russia collusion narrative by personally sharing Steele’s and Fusion’s dirt on Trump and his advisers with Washington reporters.

In an April 2017 meeting he arranged at his office, Weissmann gave guidance to four Associated Press reporters who were investigating Manafort, according to internal FBI  documents.

Among other things, they discussed rumors that Manafort used “some of the money from shell companies to buy expensive suits.” A month later, Weissmann became the lead prosecutor handling the Manafort case for Mueller. His February 2018 indictment of Manafort highlights, among other things, the Trump adviser’s taste for expensive suits.

Attempts to reach Weissmann for comment were unsuccessful.

Edward Baumgartner: worked for Fusion GPS
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. (Credit: YouTube screen grab)

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said there are signs Mueller may have hired “researchers” like Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who worked with Steele on the dossier, along with Edward Baumgartner and Nellie Ohr, who have worked for Fusion GPS, which originally hired Steele in June 2016 after contracting with the Clinton campaign.

“I ran into Glenn at the 2017 Aspen Security [Forum], and I distinctly remember him leaning in and claiming he was working for the government,” said one associate, who wished to remain anonymous.

Congressional investigators say Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, has been feeding Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate investigative tips regarding Trump and his associates, including Manafort.

In 2017, for instance, he urged Democrats specifically to look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank, which has financed some of Trump’s businesses, because he suspected some of the funding may have been laundered through Russia.

Around the time Simpson began coordinating with Democratic investigators looking into Trump’s bank records, Mueller subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial records for Manafort and other individuals affiliated with Trump.

Simpson did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Founded by the journalist-turned-opposition researcher, Fusion has rehired Steele to continue his anti-Trump work with millions of dollars in left-wing funding from The Democracy Integrity Project, a Washington-based nonprofit started in 2017 by former FBI analyst Daniel Jones, who also worked for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

In March 2017, Jones met with FBI agents to provide them data he collected from IT specialists he hired to analyze web traffic between servers maintained by the Trump Organization and a Russian bank mentioned in the dossier. The traffic turned out to be innocuous marketing emails, or spam. (RealClearInvestigations, 5/09/2019)

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April 18, 2019 – Konstantin Kilimnik, a key figure the Mueller report links to Russia, was a State Department intel source

Konstantin Kilimnik (Credit: public domain)

“In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence.

But hundreds of pages of government documents — which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018 — describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters.

Why Mueller’s team omitted that part of the Kilimnik narrative from its report and related court filings is not known. But the revelation of it comes as the accuracy of Mueller’s Russia conclusions face increased scrutiny.

The incomplete portrayal of Kilimnik is so important to Mueller’s overall narrative that it is raised in the opening of his report. “The FBI assesses” Kilimnik “to have ties to Russian intelligence,” Mueller’s team wrote on page 6, putting a sinister light on every contact Kilimnik had with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

What it doesn’t state is that Kilimnik was a “sensitive” intelligence source for State going back to at least 2013 while he was still working for Manafort, according to FBI and State Department memos I reviewed.

Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either.

He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government. He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show.

The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded.

John Solomon tweets about the Manafort Ledger. (Credit: Twitter)

Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, told FBI agents that State officials, including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, deemed Kilimnik to be such a valuable asset that they kept his name out of cables for fear he would be compromised by leaks to WikiLeaks.” (Read more: The Hill, 6/06/2019)