Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

Articles by

Money laundering. Targeting voters with fake news articles. Undisclosed lobbying on behalf of foreign interests. A meeting between the President’s oldest son and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Much to Donald Trump’s chagrin, what started as a federal probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has snowballed into a wide-ranging investigation that has reached his and his associates’ financial transactions. The President and his outside legal team now are forcefully arguing that special counsel Robert Mueller is overreaching and that his investigation should be strictly focused on Russia.

But the subjects of Mueller’s investigation are all covered by the broad mandate laid out in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo appointing him special counsel. Links between the Trump campaign and Russia, “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” and any attempts to impede or obstruct it are all explicitly covered in the document. Previously existing investigations into various Trump associates have been subsumed into the special counsel probe, too, as they “directly” relate to the effort to determine motivation for Trump campaign associates’ potential collusion with Russian operatives to interfere with the 2016 election.

Though Mueller’s office has managed to keep a relatively tight lid on leaks, here’s everything reporters have gleaned about his investigation to date.

Russia’s interference in the election

Hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic operatives

The root of the investigation was the systematic hacking of servers and email accounts linked to the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and big-name Democratic operatives like Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the hackers worked for the Russian government and helped distribute the materials on sites like DCLeaks.

Fake news bots and voter targeting in key districts

Another early subject of federal scrutiny was Russia’s use of data targeting to strategically disseminate “fake news” stories to key voter demographics and even specific districts in swing states. Federal investigators want to know if the Trump campaign’s data operation, which was ultimately helmed by the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, helped guide Russian operatives to states like Michigan and Wisconsin, which were crucial to Trump’s upset electoral victory.

Potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives

June 2016 Trump Tower meeting

Donald Trump, Jr.’s recently-released email chain showing that he attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer to obtain “ultra sensitive” information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to help his father’s campaign provided the clearest indication yet that the President’s inner circle was open to accepting help from the Russian government. Those emails, the meeting, and the White House’s response to its disclosure are all under scrutiny by Mueller’s team.

Proposal to set up a covert communications channel with Russia

Investigators are looking into Kushner’s December 2016 discussions with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak about establishing a secret, secure line of communication with the Kremlin to discuss diplomatic issues.

Contacts with Russian officials and businessmen

Aside from the conversation between Kislyak and Kushner, a whole host of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians are being investigated, most notably between Kislyak and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Kislyak and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Former campaign adviser Carter Page, who also spoke with Kislyak, is additionally under scrutiny for his longstanding business ties to Russia and his July 2016 visit to Moscow, in which he gave a speech advocating for better U.S. relations with the Kremlin. Russian intelligence agents had previously attempted to recruit him as a spy.

Trump associates’ financial transactions and business dealings

Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of Turkey

Mueller has assumed control of a federal grand jury probe into the $530,000 lobbying contract Flynn carried out to benefit Turkey while working for the Trump campaign and transition team. Flynn had to retroactively register as a foreign agent for that work after leaving the White House, and investigators want to know if his lobbying contract influenced military decisions he made during his brief tenure as national security adviser.

Paul Manafort’s complex web of shell companies

Investigators are on the hunt for possible money laundering by the former campaign chairman, who reportedly received millions of dollars for lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. The banking records and complex web of shell companies Manafort uses to manage his real estate properties are being picked apart for evidence of fraud.

Trump’s Russia-related business deals

Despite the President’s protestations that making money from Russia is not his “thing,” he has done a number of Russia-related business deals in recent years that are of interest to investigators. Bloomberg reported that these include Russian purchases of condos in Trump buildings, his work on a SoHo development with a mob-affiliated real estate firm, the 2013 Miss Universe contest he held in Moscow, and his 2008 sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch.

To that last item, Jay Sekulow, a top member of Trump’s outside legal team, objected. “They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago. In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation,” he told the Washington Post.

Kushner’s efforts to secure funding for his family’s properties

Investigators want to know if Kushner met was trying to obtain funding for his family real estate company’s troubled 666 Fifth Avenue office building when he met with the CEO of Vnesheconombank, a Russian financial institution under U.S. sanctions.

Wilbur Ross’ tenure with the Bank of Cyprus

Though few details have emerged, investigators apparently have questions about financial transactions at the Bank of Cyprus, where Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross formerly served as vice chairman. The Guardian previously reported that Ross oversaw a deal with a Russian businessman with ties to President Vladimir Putin during his tenure at the bank.

Obstruction of justice in the Russia probe

Trump thinks he is “not under investigation” for obstructing justice by firing former FBI director James Comey for his oversight of the Russia probe, but he is. Rosenstein and Sessions both wrote memos supporting Comey’s firing, and the deputy attorney general has made it clear that their role in the dismissal also falls within the scope of Mueller’s investigation.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) on Friday accused his counterpart in the House, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), of creating a false narrative about Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice.

Speaking to CNN after Rice was interviewed by the panel in closed session, Burr said he asked no questions about whether she improperly requested and revealed the identities of U.S. individuals swept up in intelligence reports—an accusation Nunes has made repeatedly.

“The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes, and I’ll wait to go through our full evaluation to see if there was anything improper that happened,” Burr told CNN. “But clearly there were individuals unmasked. Some of that became public which it’s not supposed to, and our business is to understand that, and explain it.”

With an assist from the White House, the House Intelligence chairman in March embarked on a one-man crusade to accuse Rice of improperly unmasking the identities of members of Trump’s campaign in intelligence reports. Though President Donald Trump said he believed Rice’s actions broke the law, bipartisan lawmakers who viewed the same classified reports from which Nunes drew his conclusions said they saw no evidence of wrongdoing. National security experts also told TPM that it was within Rice’s purview as national security adviser to request that names be unmasked as she tried to determine the extent of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Nunes ended up temporarily stepping aside from the House investigation after ethics watchdogs accused him of improperly disclosing classified information in his public statements about Rice. He recently told CNN that he remains fully “read-in” to the House probe and never formally recused himself, however.

“I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee,” Nunes said.

The special counsel has requested that the White House preserve all documents related to the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, CNN reported Friday.

An anonymous source who viewed the letter to the White House told CNN that staff were asked to save “any subjects discussed in the course of the June 2016 meeting” and “any decisions made regarding the recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting.”

This implies that special counsel Robert Mueller is not just interested in what happened during the Trump Tower meeting that Trump Jr. arranged after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Mueller also wants to know how the White House formulated its response to revelations about the meeting’s existence, which came to light earlier this month.

Trump Jr., the White House, and the President last week offered up a number of halting, occasionally conflicting, statements about the purpose of the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The President’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.

According to CNN, Mueller’s document preservation request includes text messages, emails, notes, voicemails and other communications and documentation, as well as any related communication since then.

Some of the participants in the meeting and the White House have dismissed the meeting’s importance, saying Trump Jr. did not obtain the damaging information he sought. But Mueller’s letter said that the sit-down “is relevant to the investigation,” according to CNN.

President Donald Trump is careening towards a face-off with special counsel Robert Mueller.

The President and his legal team are going on the offensive after reports this week indicated that Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is digging into the President’s business transactions with Russian associates. Trump told the New York Times that he would see any review of his and his family’s finances unrelated to Russia as a “violation” of the probe’s parameters.

In just the past 24 hours, the Times and Washington Post have reported that Trump is taking extraordinary steps to discredit Mueller’s investigation, including digging through his teams’ campaign donations and past clients. The President has also asked about his power to pardon his aides, family, and himself, according to the Post, as if to preempt whatever Mueller’s team may find.

Jay Sekulow, who has assumed a larger role in the President’s reshuffled outside legal team, told the Post that reports that Mueller is investigating a number of Russia-related transactions Trump carried out in the last decade or so date too far back, and are thus “far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.”

Unfortunately for the President, legal experts and former DOJ officials say, this is just how large-scale government investigations work.

“The problem is you don’t really know what is Russian,” Nick Akerman, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the Watergate investigation, told TPM. “A lot of stuff could be hidden in companies and under names of other people, you just don’t know. You’ve got to look at everything to determine what really relates to the Russia connection here.”

“It’s not up to him as to what the scope of this probe is, that’s for sure,” Akerman added, saying investigators are “not going to ignore stuff that is criminal.”

Financial transactions are well within the wide purview Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein laid out in his May memo appointing Mueller as special counsel, as legal observers have noted.

Susan Hennessey, a former attorney at the National Security Agency’s Office of General Counsel and managing editor of the Lawfare blog, wrote on Twitter that the “Trump family finances are absolutely, 100% fair game.”

“The financial arrangements or dealings, those could be related to why there was collusion or incentive or motive to collude,” Tracy Schmaler, a former Justice Department spokesperson during President Obama’s first term, told TPM. “So I wouldn’t say it’s out of bounds so much as filling in the picture.”

“The relationship with Russia and Russian officials predates his run for the presidency,” Schmaler added.

Rosenstein’s memo granted Mueller sweeping authority to look into any links between the Trump campaign and Russia; “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”; and any matters within the scope of federal regulation 600.4(a), which includes obstruction of justice and other matters pertaining to efforts to derail the special counsel probe.

Although Trump told the Times that he is “not under investigation” and “didn’t do anything wrong,” the Washington Post previously reported that Mueller’s team had taken control of a federal investigation into whether the President obstructed justice by abruptly firing James Comey as FBI director because of the “Russia thing,” as Trump put it.

And as Comey testified before Congress in June, it’s possible that in the course of its work the special counsel could uncover crimes unrelated to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election or the Trump campaign’s potential coordination with those efforts.

“In any complex investigation, when you start turning over rocks, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation, that are criminal in nature,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mueller’s powerhouse team of more than a dozen attorneys has experience in national security, fraud, money-laundering, organized crime, espionage, cybercrime and public corruption, offering an indication of just how wide-ranging the investigation may be.

A previous federal probe centered around a president’s private dealings took a winding path of a different sort. Independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr was appointed in 1994 to investigate a decades-old failed Arkansas real estate involving Bill and Hillary Clinton; the impeachment report he filed four years later focused instead on Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

All that special counsel investigators are required to do is follow the threads presented to them, wherever they might lead, as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) affirmed Thursday to CNN. Any topic related to Russia, Trump and his campaign associates is fair game.

“If they were investigating Donald Trump when he was five years old and ran a lemonade stand in Queens, I’d say, yeah, that’s probably beyond the scope,” Akerman, the former Watergate prosecutor said. “But if it turns out that the lemonade stand was done a year ago and was in Moscow and related to the same characters who showed up at the meeting with his son [Donald Trump Jr.], well I might feel a little differently about it.”

The looming, unanswered question, then, is whether a President who has fired his FBI director, scorned an attorney general who was his campaign’s most loyal supporter, and offered a national newspaper his view on the acceptable scope of a sprawling federal investigation that now touches on his own business dealings would go as far as to fire the man leading it—again.

Republican lawmakers have scoffed that there’s no chance, but his legal team is spreading the news that he’s already laying the groundwork to do so.

This post has been updated.

The special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has expanded to look into business transactions of President Donald Trump and some of his associates, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

A single anonymous source familiar with the probe told Bloomberg that federal investigators are interested in financial dealings involving Trump, his son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The investigators are looking into several of the President’s business deals involving Russian partners, per Bloomberg:

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

Kushner’s efforts to secure funding for certain properties owned by his family real estate business are also of interest, according to the report, as are dealings that touch on Ross’ tenure as vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.

The probe into Trump associates’ finances stems from a money-laundering investigation former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara initiated last year, the anonymous source told Bloomberg, and since has been consolidated into special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation. Trump fired Bharara in March after the prosecutor refused to step down voluntarily.

The President told the New York Times on Wednesday that it would be a “violation” of Mueller’s mandate to dig into finances involving him and his family.

“I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?” Trump told the newspaper. “I don’t make money from Russia.”

During a private conversation with President Donald Trump at a dinner during the G20 summit, Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed one of his pet issues: the ban on U.S. adoption of Russian children put in place in retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Russian officials believed to have committed grotesque human rights violations.

In a wide-ranging Wednesday interview with the New York Times, Trump expressed surprise that the Russian president wanted to talk to him about the same issue that Russian operatives had discussed in a meeting with his eldest son at Trump Tower in the middle of the 2016 campaign.

“[We exchanged] really, pleasantries more than anything else,” Trump told the Times at first, brushing off the meeting as a casual chat. “It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things.”

“Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption,” he pivoted.

“You did?” Times reporter Maggie Haberman pressed.

“We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah,” Trump confirmed. “I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr.] had in that meeting.”

Trump Jr. recently landed in hot water after the Times revealed he attended a June 2016 meeting with a person described to him as a “Russian government lawyer” who had “ultra sensitive” information about Hillary Clinton. Trump’s eldest son has told the press he was disappointed to find that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not have the damaging information promised and instead wanted to talk about the adoption of Russian children.

Veselnitskaya has waged a high-profile lobbying campaign against the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. sanctions law that has been a thorn in Putin’s side.

Lawmakers and foreign policy experts have said it was a terrible idea for Trump to hold a private discussion with Putin at the G20 summit without a translator present, and that it was very unusual for his administration not to reveal the additional meeting until it came out in the press this week.

You might assume that Carter Page is having a worse summer than Penn Station, but he doesn’t see it that way.

Page is one of a handful of former Trump campaign hands reported to be under federal scrutiny for his ties to Russia—putting him in the company of Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, figures much more central to the scandal—and he claims he’s being stonewalled by congressional Democrats who don’t want him to clear his name in an open hearing. But he’s confident that there is no merit to the multiple probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, and has been eager to offer his account to anyone who’ll listen. He’s given numerous TV interviews and frequently blasts out to a list of reporters lengthy letters beseeching Congress for a date to testify in public.

Sitting on a bench at the Manhattan train station’s Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon, Page told TPM that his openness is not an act of self-promotion or the result of naiveté. Concerns that it may not be in the best interests of a person under scrutiny in of one of the most high-profile scandals ever to consume the White House to be so forthcoming don’t faze Page, either.

“It’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Page explained of his concerted effort to correct the record on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay” pulsed through the coffee shop’s speakers.

He said he takes inspiration from a Marine he met at a Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser, who’d accepted an invitation to visit former President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas after losing his arm in Iraq. Page said when he asked the veteran how he felt while visiting the politician who launched the war that cost him a body part, the veteran replied, “I’m just doing my job. I’m doing the right thing.”

“It’s the same exact thing here,” Page said of his pushback against the various Russia investigations. “It’s not really worrying about the personal price you pay; it’s more about the broader mission and the national security of the U.S., right?”

The 46-year-old oil-and-gas analyst was a footnote on Trump’s campaign, brought on as a national security adviser in March 2016 to bolster what was then a nonexistent foreign policy team. Though he stayed on for only five months, Page has played a disproportionately large role in the multiple probes into the contacts Trump’s campaign associates had with Russian operatives. The New York Times reported that his July 2016 visit to Moscow, where he delivered a speech promoting improved U.S.-Russia relations, actually prompted the FBI to launch its initial investigation.

Bureau agents obtained a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Page’s communications in summer 2016. Federal investigators are reportedly looking into his professional ties to Russia, as well as allegations that surfaced in a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer that accused Page and other Trump associates of being involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.

A 30-minute conversation with Page yielded little new information he was willing to share on the record but made clear how much those probes have consumed his life. He showed an encyclopedic knowledge of the content of the letters he sends to the congressional intelligence committees rebutting witness testimony; quoted what various Obama administration officials had said about the investigation on cable news; and rattled off the publication dates of major articles that revealed new facts about the probes. Page even employs a shorthand to refer to the major players. Former FBI director James Comey is Neidermeyer, the abusive ROTC leader from the frathouse comedy film “Animal House,” while he invariably refers to the Obama administration as the “Clinton-Obama-Comey regime.”

In person, Page appears as on-edge as he does during his frequent TV interviews. The Navy veteran periodically scanned the perimeter of the Starbucks from under the rim of a faded New York Yankees hat, lowering his voice to ensure no potential eavesdroppers could hear what he had to say. Page wouldn’t discuss his personal life except to acknowledge that he has never married, saying he doesn’t want anyone he names to end up on one of those “wire diagrams” mapping out the connections the Trump team has to Russian operatives. And he said it “goes without saying” that the investment management firm that he runs from a Midtown Manhattan co-working space, Global Energy Capital LLC, has lost business as a result of the investigations.

Despite these preoccupations, Page is not concerned about the prospect of legal consequences for his foreign contacts.

“There’s nothing to hide,” Page said, reiterating that he sat for over 10 hours of interviews with FBI agents without a lawyer present and is relying on unnamed “volunteers” for legal advice.

He said he feels certain that Democrats will be held responsible for what he calls the “crimes” and “civil rights violations” committed against him by issuing an “illegal” FISA warrant. Much of the cloud over him could be dispelled if he was allowed to testify publicly, Page insisted, complaining that congressional Democrats were trying to control the narrative of the investigations by only allowing witnesses who have “information that might look questionable” to appear in open session.

“Anything that would paint the President in a bad way, they want them immediately,” he said of Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Representatives for those committees, both of which are chaired by Republicans, told TPM that witness lists are agreed on in a bipartisan fashion.

“Invitations are issued by the Chairman & Vice Chairman, in consultation with Committee members,” Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Senate committee’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner (D-VA), told TPM in an email. Warner’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), has made similar comments in the past.

Page thinks that the book he is shopping around on the investigation will help clear both his name and that of the President, who he praised as a “serious person” who is “looking out for the little guy.”

Asked if he has any regrets about joining the campaign given the personal and professional consequences he says he’s suffered, Page shook his head.

“I go back to that statement from that Marine in Iraq, right?” he said. “I’m just doing the right thing.”

President Donald Trump’s eldest son and former campaign chairman are slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are among the big-ticket names now expected at a July 26 hearing as part of that panel’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the foreign dealings of a number of the President’s associates.

Trump Jr. recently made a raft of headlines for his previously undisclosed participation in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that was explicitly billed as a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Manafort, who also attended the meeting, has long been under investigation by authorities for his work on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and his complex web of real estate dealings.

Another individual with ties to the attendees at the Trump Tower meeting is also expected to testify: William Browder, a London-based businessman, has lobbied for sanctions legislation that some of the Russian attendees at the meeting have worked to roll back.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller had cleared Manafort and Trump Jr. to testify publicly.

At least two former associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign are struggling to pay hefty legal bills stemming from the congressional and federal probes into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

A person close to Michael Flynn told Bloomberg this week that the ousted national security adviser is establishing a fund to raise money for his defense. Covington & Burling attorney Robert Kelner is representing Flynn as investigators probe his lobbying work during the campaign on behalf of Turkey and his contacts with Russian officials.

Given that Flynn is the subject of an “open criminal investigation,” as former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress, his legal fees could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Bloomberg.

Former campaign aide Michael Caputo is also having trouble paying former New York state attorney general Dennis Vacco to represent him in congressional probes, he told the Associated Press this week. Noting with irritation that the Trump campaign was footing the legal bill for Donald Trump, Jr., who met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and others with ties to Russia at Trump Tower last year, Caputo told the AP he was using his children’s college funds to cover his own legal bills.

“Lucky for them,” Caputo said of those whose legal fees were covered by the campaign. “And unlucky for me. And unlucky for my children who are now going to community college.”

The Trump campaign doled out $50,000 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.’s lawyer, two weeks before any news of the meeting broke. The campaign has spent almost $1 million on legal fees since the start of the year, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing.

The eighth attendee at the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump, Jr. was identified by the Washington Post Tuesday as Ike Kaveladze, a senior U.S.-based official at a Russian real estate company.

Kaveladze was at the meeting as a representative for his boss Aras Agalarov, a Russian developer who has worked with the Trumps in the past, and his son, Emin, the Agalarovs’ lawyer told the Post.

The Agalarovs asked Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist, to arrange a sit-down with Trump’s eldest son so that a contact of theirs could provide what was described as incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign, according to an email chain Trump Jr. released last week.

Kaveladze was the last of the participants at that meeting to be identified. CNN reported earlier Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller wanted to speak to that eighth attendee as part of his probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

The Agalarov’s attorney, Scott Balber, told the Post that Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen, is a vice president specializing in real estate and finance for the Agalarovs’ company, the Crocus Group.