With less than a month to go before the midterms, all has been pretty quiet on the Robert Mueller front. The special counsel appears to be taking pains to stick to the Justice Department policy of not taking any public investigative steps that could sway an election. But a few new details have simmered to the surface.
The biggest: after months of negotiations, President Trump’s lawyers are reportedly preparing answers to written questions provided by Mueller’s team. Those inquiries are focused on his campaign’s possible collusion with and ties to the Russian government — not obstruction of justice, according to CNN.
Mueller has also apparently developed an “expanding” and “intense interest” in the late GOP activist Peter W. Smith’s efforts to hunt down emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Federal prosecutors have interviewed several associates of Smith, who committed suicide last year. They’ve also learned that he raised over $100,000 for his email-hunting quest, according to a string of articles in the Wall Street Journal.
One of those reports revealed that Smith first met former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn back in 2015. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Smith claimed to have help from Flynn’s son and consulting firm in his efforts to find the missing emails.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out of the GOP’s crosshairs for the moment. He shared a cozy Air Force 1 ride with Trump this week, and the President assured reporters that the pair had “a good relationship.”
More surprising is the retreat by House Republicans who were threatening Rosenstein’s impeachment just a few weeks ago over disparaging remarks he reportedly made about Trump. After calling on him to come testify before Congress ASAP, they’ve since postponed their meeting indefinitely.
Former Trump aide Rick Gates is reportedly continuing to cooperate with the Mueller probe. This week, The New York Times reported that Gates was contacted by an Israeli intelligence group during the campaign with an offer to use fake social media accounts to gather information and sway voters.
Gates was also sued by two of his former lawyers for allegedly stiffing them on some $360,000 in bills he accrued before switching representation.
Californian Richard Pinedo was sentenced to one-year imprisonment — six months in prison and six months in home confinement — on identify fraud charges brought by Mueller’s team. Pinedo, who cooperated with the investigation, sold bank account numbers connected to real people that he purchased on the black market; unbeknownst to Pinedo, some of those customers were the Russian trolls allegedly involved in 2016 election interference.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis wants to move forward with sentencing Paul Manafort for the counts he was convicted of in Virginia this summer, despite a plea agreement reached between Manafort and the special counsel postponed such moves based on Manafort’s cooperation.
In brighter news, Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen exchanged a friendly greeting at LaGuardia Airport. Cohen, Daniels said, looked “happy and healthy.”