One of the most chilling lines of the Mueller Report has nothing to do with what Mueller found, but rather what he didn’t find. The Special Counsel’s office, the Report notes, “cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”
So what answers are we missing? Here are three of the most significant unanswered questions in the Mueller Report:
Did George Papadopoulos tell higher-ups in the Trump Campaign that he was offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton?
George Papadopoulos had two meetings with Russian professor Josef Mifsud. The first occurred in March, 2016. At this meeting, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that Russian officials wanted to set up a meeting with then-candidate Trump. According to Mueller, Papadopoulos shared this information with the Trump Campaign at a foreign policy meeting on March 31. The Report notes that, for several months afterwards, Papadopoulos was in contact with top Trump Campaign officials — including Stephen Miller and Corey Lewandowski — over a potential meeting between Trump and Russian officials.
Papadopoulos’ second meeting with Mifsud occurred in late-April, 2016. At this meeting, Mifsud dropped the bomb that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails. According to the Report, Papadopoulos shared this information with a Greek minister, but said nothing to the campaign:
When interviewed, Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials who interacted with him told the Office that they could not recall Papadopoulos’s sharing the information that Russia had obtained “dirt” on candidate Clinton
Note the language: “could not recall.” According to the Mueller Report, no campaign official interviewed was willing to say definitively that Papadopoulos never shared this information with the campaign. In fact, the Report states, “The Campaign officials who interacted or corresponded with Papadopoulos have similarly stated, with varying degrees of certainty, that he did not tell them.”
To add to the confusion, the Mueller Report states that Papadopoulos continued emailing the camapgin even after that second meeting with Mifsud. The Report states, however, that Papadopoulos spoke only of matters unrelated to “dirt”:
On April 27, 2016, after his [second] meeting with Mifsud, Papadopoulos wrote a second message to Miller stating that “some interesting messages [were] coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.” The same day, Papadopoulos sent a similar email to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, telling Lewandowski that Papadopoulos had “been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host [Trump] and the team when the time is right.”
Recall that a couple of months later, when Donald Trump, Jr. received the offer to attend the infamous Trump Tower meeting, he was informed of Russia’s efforts to help the campaign. Here’s an excerpt of the email Trump, Jr. received:
The Crown prosecutor of Russia… offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump
At this point, Trump, Jr. — who replied “I love it” without any indication of surprise or confusion — obviously knew about Russia’s support for Trump. Did that information came from Papadopoulos? If not, where did it come from? Mueller ultimately does not rule out the possibility that Papadopoulos tipped-off the Trump campaign in April, concluding only:
No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.
Why did Paul Manafort share polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik?
In August 2016, Paul Manafort met with the Russian-operative Konstantin Kilimnik and shared with him detailed, internal polling data from the Trump campaign. The potential that this information was used by Russians to target their illegal social media campaign is explosive, and the Mueller Report could not rule that out:
Because of questions about Manafort’s credibility and our limited ability to gather evidence on what happened to the polling data after it was sent to Kilimnik, the Office could not assess what Kilimnik (or others he may have given it to) did with it.
Further, Mueller was unable to determine Manafort’s intent in sharing the data:
The Office could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose in sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik during the campaign period.
The Report, however, does discuss one possibility (that we have heard in the public sphere before): that Manafort, who was deeply indebted to Oleg Deripaska, wanted to get this valuable information in the hands of Deripaska in order to “get even.” Indeed, the Mueller Report states that Manafort thought the data might be,
“good for business” and potentially a way to be made whole for work he previously completed in the Ukraine. As to Deripaska, Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a “disagreement” — a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits.
Ultimately, Mueller’s team was unable to determine why Manafort shared the data or what Kilimnik – the Russian intelligence affiliated businessman.
Why was Carter Page discussing the sale of Rosneft with Russian officials?
The infamous Steele Dossier contained many bombshell allegations, but one stood out: that the Russian government offered the Trump campaign official Carter Page a stake in the sale of the state-run oil company Rosneft in exchange for lifting sanctions on Russia.
Mueller confirms that Page, during a July, 2016 trip to Russia, met with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft. The Report goes on to state:
Page believed he and Baranov discussed Rosneft president Igor Sechin, and he thought Baranov might have mentioned the possibility of a sale of a stake in Rosneft in passing.
Then, the Mueller Report includes a paragraph that is almost entirely redacted, concluding, “Page’s activities in Russia — as described in his emails with the Campaign — were not fully explained.”
The “emails” mentioned in that sentence refer to emails sent by Page to campaign official Sam Clovis that do not mention Rosneft, though they indicate that Page received private indications that the Russian government was supportive of Trump.
These are not just collateral issues left open my Mueller. Rather, they get to the core of a potential Trump-Russia conspiracy. The Mueller Report is crystal clear that these issues remain unsolved — and Congress ought to immediately begin filling in the blanks.