In 2016, President Donald J. Trump was elected as President of the United States. Allegations that this election was corrupted by Russian intelligence, alongside guilty pleas from various members of the Trump campaign, resulted in a two-year investigation. This investigation, while receiving an immense amount of backlash for its “lack of necessity,” resulted in the incrimination of 34 people and three companies for a multitude of charges.
The first significant contribution in this trial was made by President Trump’s previous foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, who had received information from the Russian government that they could encourage Trump’s campaign through the “anonymous” release of information harmful to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Discovered in July of 2016, this case is what prompted the FBI to open said investigation.
The next significant piece of the investigation involved the Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. American lawyer and government official Robert Mueller and his team accused Manafort of using 31 bank accounts in three countries to evade tens of millions of tax dollars.
Manafort’s former partner, Rick Gates, testified against him- in doing so he incriminated himself. Gates admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort while being an accomplice to his crimes to lower Gates’ own taxes. Gates testified that Manafort directed him to record overseas income as loans to achieve lower taxable income.
The money that Manafort embezzled was from his time working as an unregistered political consultant in the Ukraine, meaning he was assisting in political processes in the Ukraine without informing the United States government. During this time, Manafort lobbied for the election of Yanukovych, and the prime motivator was to imprison his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. This draws parallels with Donald Trump’s 2016 election slogan “Lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton. Manafort, along with Gates, was charged with 32 counts, including bank and tax fraud, in February of 2018. In September of 2018, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States, bank and tax fraud, failing to register as a foreign agent while working as a political consultant in Ukraine, and tampering with witness testimony. At this point, he agreed to cooperate with Mueller.
It was then discovered in November of that year that Manafort had broken his plea deal with the Mueller team by lying to investigators during 12 separate interviews.
In June of 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, a Russian attorney, and others, met in Trump Tower, as members of the Trump campaign expected to receive information disparaging Hillary. The Russian attorney at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, claimed that proceeds made by illegal activities had funded Hillary and her campaign, as well as alternate members of the Democratic party. She then discussed issues in Russia that needed to change, and members of the Trump campaign implied that with Trump as the president of the United States, they would be easily resolved.
Key events in relation to the investigation go as follows: a video was released of presidential candidate Trump in October directly before the election in which he says “ grab ‘em by the pussy,” stirring more conversations about his already controversial candidacy. The next day, emails incriminating Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, were released via international non-profit organization WikiLeaks. This exposure of information was tied directly to Russian hackers in the Mueller report, on the basis of Russian favoritism of Trump as America’s president.
After President Trump won the 2016 election, Obama placed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election process, in December of 2016. National security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, discussed these sanctions with the Kremlin, and lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence, amongst others. He pleaded guilty to “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI in relation to all discussions with Russia’s ambassador.
Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization since 2007, pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud, as well as lying to Congress regarding the efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In December of 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison.
In January of this year, Republican campaign operative, Roger Stone, was charged with obstructing a Congressional inquiry into the hacking of emails from Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.
On March 22, Attorney General William P. Barr explained to Congress that Mueller had completed his investigation, and a Justice Department official determined that beyond that point, there would be no further indictments as a result of this investigation. Barr concluded that Mueller had conducted a thorough investigation, but there had not been enough evidence to accuse President Trump himself of obstructing justice.
The exact manner in which Russia “intervened” in the 2016 United States presidential election goes as follows- the government utilized hackers who strategically infiltrated advertisements in America to favor Trump as president and disparage Hillary. On Twitter, this interference has been referred to as “collusion”, however, the report clearly states that “collusion” is not, and never has been, a legal term, and therefore, never been part of the investigation. Rather, the investigation was to determine coordination and joint criminal liability.
While Mueller’s report itself states that the investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities, it is imperative that this can be differentiated from Russia’s lone interference. Mueller’s report itself states the investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. However, evidence, as reported by the Mueller investigation, suggests the 2016 presidential election was not completely transparent.