Justice Department releases more than 600 pages of notes from witnesses during Mueller investigation


The memos were typed up by agents or prosecutors after they questioned each witness.

More documents are scheduled to be released each month until this summer.

Here are highlights from the documents:

Kushner interview notes released after intel review

After two months of a delay, the Justice Department finally released on Monday the interview memo of Kushner speaking with the special counsel’s office on April 11, 2018.

Kushner spoke with the Mueller team that day about his interactions with Russians, including then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who told him at a reception, “we like what your candidate is saying” and later on as they discussed using the Russian Embassy to communicate. He also spoke to them about meeting with the Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other connections to United Arab Emirates.

They asked him about Trump’s firing of Comey and about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June 2016.

Kushner also told the Mueller team he was given a bag of dirt by a Russian state-owned bank chairman, representing the town in Belarus where his family was from.

The 33-page document is heavily redacted — and none of the reasons for redaction indicate the protection of national security matters or intelligence. The largest chunks of the document are blocked out because of the administration’s deliberative process or attorneys’ privilege.

In January, the Justice Department had told CNN it wasn’t releasing this Kushner memo at that time because “a member of the intelligence community” had to ensure it was properly redacted.

The executive branch’s delay to turn over the Kushner document has become emblematic of the slow roll-out of records to the public from the Mueller investigation. CNN and BuzzFeed have claimed in court that the administration’s redactions are far more than what’s necessary — often apparently keeping information from the public about already well-known episodes investigated by Mueller that reflected badly upon Trump.

A judge previously ordered the release of this particular Kushner memo, along with several others, because members of Congress had viewed it confidentially following the end of the Mueller investigation.

Trump campaign feared ‘N-word’ tape

Gates told Mueller’s team that, during the closing weeks of the 2016 race, the Trump campaign feared the release of an old videotape of Trump using the N-word.

The supposed tape, Gates explained, was believed to be in the hands of legendary television producer Mark Burnett, who created “The Apprentice” and worked with Trump for years while he hosted the reality show.

The Trump campaign thought this would be the “October surprise,” Gates said. Instead, a tape emerged of Trump making extremely lewd comments about women and bragging about fondling women without their consent. On the same day, WikiLeaks started releasing thousands of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Speculation about the tape with the racial slur burst into public view in August 2018, when former Trump aide and “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault Newman released an audiotape of campaign officials discussing the possibility in October 2016. She secretly recorded their conversation, where at least one top aide said they didn’t believe Trump’s denials.

At the time, then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she “can’t guarantee” that Trump never uttered the racist epithet, but said she never heard him say it, and defended his controversial statements on race issues.

In a 2018 profile of Burnett, The New Yorker reported that the alleged N-word tape does not exist.

Lewandowski portrays himself as devoted campaign employee, bitter after his ousting

In his interview with the special counsel’s office, Corey Lewandowski portrayed himself as a devoted employee of Trump who was not there for his own personal gain. Lewandowski made comments that he was more devoted to the campaign than Brad Parscale and Paul Manafort were.

“Lewandowski didn’t make campaign decisions to enrich his own life. Parscale did so by selling his ads to the campaign,” the FBI memo of the interview states.

Lewandowski also said he and his associates “cared about Trump, not themselves, but Manafort and his associates were interested in what was best for Manafort,” when describing Manafort’s role in the campaign.

He expressed anger and resentment after being fired from the campaign. The memo says Lewandowski was “pissed Trump wouldn’t save” him “because Trump should have saved him.”

Lewandowski said the Trump campaign foreign policy team “was a scam to get something on paper for the Washington Post” when describing Clovis’s and Miller’s efforts to prop up the foreign policy strategy on the campaign.

Manafort and Kilimnik revelations

Rick Gates suspected Paul Manafort was trying to rebuild his political clientele in Ukraine and Russia while running Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, according to Mueller investigation memos released Monday.

At a dinner at the Havana restaurant in New York on August 2, 2016, the suspected Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik told his longtime associate and then-Trump campaign leader Manafort that their former Ukrainian boss wanted Manafort back.

The former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, who was self-exiled in Russia, had asked Kilimnik “through an intermediary” to ask Manafort to run Yanukovych’s “come-back” campaign in Ukraine, according to an interview the special counsel’s investigation did with another associate and Trump campaign leader, Rick Gates.

Kilimnik told Manafort he was required to deliver Yanukovych’s message in person and that he was instructed to deliver Manafort’s reply in person. Kilimnik also asked Manafort if he could meet with Yanukovych, but Manafort said he couldn’t because of the Trump campaign.

Still, Gates conveyed that Manafort had indicated that he could profit from a Trump victory. Gates said Manafort had no desire to work in a Trump administration, but that Manafort believed a Trump win would boost Manafort’s business ventures.

The Havana club meeting became one of the most intriguing and unexplained focuses of the late stages of the Mueller investigation — and an interaction Manafort lied about during his cooperation.

This Kilimnik-Manafort meeting was what the then-special counsel’s office prosecutor Andrew Weissmann called “the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating” as Manafort’s plea deal unraveled last February. And Manafort, following his guilty plea in September 2018, had been taken in to Mueller’s grand jury to testify about those communications with Kilimnik, according to court records from his breach of plea proceedings.

The full circumstances around it still have never been revealed, and Mueller was never able to determine the motivations around it.

According to Gates’ interview with Mueller, Manafort laughed and declined Yanukovych’s offer, saying it wasn’t the right time because the media was scrutinizing his work in Ukraine. Gates, who attended the dinner, didn’t know the identity of the intermediary, but he suspected it was Sergiy Lyovochkin, a prior client of Manafort who was a powerful politician in Ukraine and backer of Yanukovych’s party.

Gates initially told investigators that the three talked about the Trump campaign and Manafort’s plan for the primaries, but after investigators reminded Gates that the dinner took place after Trump had secured the Republican nomination, Gates said the three had discussed Manafort’s strategy for winning battleground states. Gates believed Manafort told Kilimnik about his strategy in order to impress Kilimnik and obtain international clients after the election, according to the FBI’s notes of what Gates said.

According to Gates, the men also discussed the dismissal of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s lawsuit, with Kilimnik saying he was attempting to obtain documentation showing the dismissal.

Investigators asked Gates why Kilimnik would travel in person to the US to ask Manafort to work with Yanukovych on an election that wasn’t for another four years and why Kilimnik would need an immediate response to the offer. Gates said he didn’t think the actions were strange because Eastern Europeans are “not trusting.”

Gates spoke with Mueller about the Kilimnik meeting almost a month before he cut a deal with prosecutors and flipped on Manafort — and months prior to Mueller’s team getting their own chance to interview Manafort.

More business opportunities for Manafort

Gates also spoke to Mueller’s team at another time about another approach Manafort made while leading the Trump campaign to drum up business in Ukraine.

The Mueller report described how Manafort had Gates share internal Trump campaign polling with one of their Russian business colleagues, Kilimnik, who would share it with Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs. The FBI memos released Monday say Gates believed Manafort asked him to share the polls so he could “get money out of Ukraine” in the future.

Mueller’s investigation “did not establish” that this was part of an effort to coordinate with the Russian government’s election-meddling efforts.

In yet another interview Gates did with Mueller’s team, Gates said Manafort could have tried to monetize a suspected change in the Republican Party platform at the convention.

“Nevertheless, if Trump was elected as president then Manafort could really monetize Trump’s election,” investigators noted from a Gates interview in February 2018.

Manafort’s interest in Cuba after Trump wins the presidency

Manafort secured a meeting with Fidel Castro’s son in Cuba in 2017, apparently as part of the embattled former Trump campaign chairman’s attempts to stay connected to the incoming Trump administration.

Manafort expressed interest in Trump’s policies toward Cuba after Trump won the presidency, according to FBI memos of interviews both he and Gates did with the Special Counsel’s office.

Manafort sent an email to KT McFarland, a Trump transition official, on Jan. 15, 2017, entitled “Get Together,” requesting a meeting and saying he had important information for McFarland regarding Cuba. Manafort “wanted to discuss Trump’s policy position on Cuba,” Manafort said in his interview with the Special Counsel’s office. An unnamed person, who had been part of opening Cuba during the Obama administration, “arranged a meeting between Manafort and Castro’s son in Havana, Cuba,” Manafort told the Special Counsel’s office.

Manafort said he never had a meeting with McFarland or followed up with anyone else in the administration after that email.

In a previous group of documents, Gates said he did talk to Manafort about Trump’s policies as it related to Cuba. Manafort had a client interest in Cuba, but Gates did not know who, Gates said in his interview.

In the days after Manafort’s arrest, prosecutors disclosed that he had traveled around the world in 2017, including to Havana, and held several different passports.

Manafort’s connections to the Trump White House after he left the campaign were scrutinized by the Mueller investigation, because they appeared to continue even after his indictment.

Giuliani got Trump’s OK to help with spin after DNC hack in 2016

Rudy Giuliani, who was at the heart of Trump’s political efforts with Ukraine last year, was part of a rapid response team of surrogates on the 2016 Trump campaign to spin the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee in Trump’s favor.

“Gates believed [Giuliani] got the ‘go ahead’ from Trump himself to talk about the DNC emails,” Mueller’s team noted from one of their interviews with Gates.

Following the hacking in 2016, “a two-tier strategy was developed. In the event a hack of the RNC had in fact occurred, the Trump campaign would seek to separate itself from the RNC … In the event the RNC had not been leaked, Gates stated the campaign would start ‘ramping up’ to get various surrogates talking about the DNC emails,” according to the Gates interview memo.

Mueller wrote in his report, based on what Gates told him, that the Trump campaign planned “a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging” as they expected WikiLeaks to release damage information about the Clinton campaign from the hack.

Iowa political operative said leading foreign policy team was ‘like herding cats’

Sam Clovis, an Iowa political operative who went on to an influential and early role on the Trump campaign, described how he helped cobble together a foreign policy team that included Mueller targets Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

He told the special counsel’s office that leading the team was like “herding cats,” and complained about Papadopoulos having too big of a mouth. At one point, Clovis recalled in an October 2017 interview, he told Papadopoulos to “shut up” and stop talking to the British press.

Clovis said Papadopoulos was the only member of the foreign policy team who encouraged the campaign to have meetings with Russia, which Clovis thought was because Papadopoulos was “self-serving.”

Clovis’s foreign policy work on the campaign was short-lived, and when the Republican party altered their platform regarding Ukraine during the convention, Clovis was shocked, he told the investigators. During the primaries, Clovis did most of the debate prep with then-candidate Trump, and the two had discussed taking a bipartisan tack on Ukraine because of the “divided base,” according to the FBI memo.

Clovis also details a telling interaction he had with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who had taken an interest in certain domestic policies during the campaign. When she sent him drafts of policy discussions on education and family medical leave for him to review, Clovis “had to explain to her that they were running as Republicans.”

“So he worked with her to develop some conservative positions,” the memo says.

This story has been updated with additional details from the documents.

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