Washington (CNN) Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has left plenty of questions hanging with no answers for almost 20 months.
There are already scheduled hearings and deadlines in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s criminal cases and a growing expectation of the wind-down of Mueller’s work and use of a federal grand jury.
So far, Mueller’s team has secured guilty pleas from seven people, including President Donald Trump’s top two campaign leaders, his former personal attorney and his first national security adviser.
In theory, the special counsel will answer a cascade of questions raised in the investigation, including whether he believes Trump obstructed justice, and will release findings on the allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Mueller will likely assess whether Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June 2016, whether campaign contacts sought stolen Democratic Party emails, whether foreign money illegally came into the election and what gave rise to the Republican Party changing its platform on Russian intervention in Ukraine.
If Mueller and the Justice Department do not make the report public — and if the White House wants to keep it largely secret — Congress could issue a subpoena to try to force its release.
Trump was the chief critic of Mueller in the second half of 2018, calling the investigation a politically motivated witch hunt repeatedly and at a frantic pace.
Mueller also has the option to present evidence to other established grand juries, such as the one in Virginia he used to open a second case against Manafort.
What are the ‘several ongoing investigations’ Gates is still helping team Mueller with?
Last we heard from Gates, he had testified for three days against Manafort at trial and “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations,” his defense lawyer and Mueller’s prosecutors said in November.
What else could the top Trump campaign and inaugural official be helping Mueller and the Justice Department with?
They also said Gates knew Kilimnik worked for the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU, which Mueller alleges hacked the Democrats in 2016.
Most recently, Mueller’s team acknowledged it had asked Manafort several things about Kilimnik and their meetings, and it said Manafort had lied to the prosecutors about his contact with his longtime foreign colleague.
Though the Justice Department has not said it yet publicly, Kilimnik met with Manafort twice during the Trump campaign and helped Manafort offer a Russian oligarch briefings on the election, according to reports from other news organizations and Manafort’s and Kilimnik’s public statements.
Another cooperator in the Mueller investigation, lobbyist W. Samuel Patten, also had contact with Kilimnik through 2017, as they secured tickets to the Trump inauguration for a paying Ukrainian oligarch client.
Mueller indicted Kilimnik last year for attempting to tamper with potential witnesses in Manafort’s case, and said he had worked with Manafort and Gates to “carry out the criminal schemes” to which Manafort has admitted.
Before then, the public may learn more about Manafort’s lies to prosecutors during his nine cooperation sessions with Mueller’s office, which began after he pleaded guilty to avoid a second trial.
This is what special counsel office prosecutor Jeannie Rhee said at Michael Cohen’s criminal sentencing in December: “He has provided our office with credible and reliable information about core Russia-related issues under investigation and within the purview of the special counsel’s office.”
Mueller’s team said in an earlier court filing that Cohen spoke to investigators about communication efforts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016 and about his contact with White House officials in 2017 and 2018.
The Justice Department instructions for Mueller’s investigation put the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election at its core.
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