April 30, 2019 / 11:09 AM / 24 days ago

Explainer: Probes spawned by Mueller target Trump business, others

(Reuters) - Numerous investigations spun out of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe are still alive and kicking, presenting potential ongoing legal and political risk for President Donald Trump, some of his former advisers and others.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/File Photo

Even though Trump avoided a knockout blow from the April 18 Mueller report, the special counsel disclosed more than a dozen active criminal inquiries that will play out for months to come, some possibly into the 2020 election campaign season.

Details on most of these cases are unclear as they were redacted in the 448-page report. Only two were not blacked out: one case versus former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen; and one versus Greg Craig, a former White House counsel in the Obama administration.

The following are some of the topics likely being examined in spun-off probes by federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere:

MANHATTAN PROSECUTORS

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been investigating the spending and fundraising of Trump’s inaugural committee.

They are also probing the Trump Organisation’s role in payments made to silence two women about alleged sexual encounters with Trump before the 2016 election.

Both probes emanated from the Cohen case. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to his role in the hush-money payments. Prosecutors effectively named Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in the scheme, which they say was aimed at influencing the election in violation of campaign finance laws.

Trump has denied the affairs and any wrongdoing.

In February public testimony, Cohen gave Congress copies of checks signed by Trump Organisation Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, reimbursing Cohen for the payments.

The Mueller report shows Cohen, slated to start a three-year prison sentence on May 6, was interviewed by federal authorities as recently as March 19 on topics ranging from negotiations during the campaign about building a Trump tower in Moscow to talks concerning a potential presidential pardon for Cohen.

WIKILEAKS

A Mueller probe mystery is why prosecutors in late 2018 sent right-wing author Jerome Corsi a draft plea agreement. It asked him to admit to lying to investigators about his communications with Trump adviser Roger Stone on WikiLeaks. Prosecutors never followed through on the threat to charge Corsi.

Corsi, who said he rejected the plea offer and maintains his innocence, told Reuters on Friday he was confident he would not be charged. If he is not, he would avoid the fate of Stone, who was indicted by Mueller in January for allegedly lying to Congress about his pursuit of information on stolen Democratic Party emails that were made public by Russia and Wikileaks.

Stone, who was not charged with conspiring with Russians or WikiLeaks, pleaded not guilty and is preparing for trial.

Mueller’s report blacked out significant passages related to WikiLeaks, perhaps indicating that WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange are under ongoing scrutiny related to dissemination of emails during the 2016 election.

Earlier this month, U.S. prosecutors unsealed charges against Assange alleging he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to gain access to a U.S. government network used for classified documents. The U.S. is seeking Assange’s extradition from London.

FOREIGN AGENTS

Mueller’s investigation ensnared several people for failing to register with the Justice Department as foreign agents. Among them were Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, formerly Trump’s campaign chairman and deputy chairman, for their lobbying work in the United States for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

These cases reflected a new Justice Department focus on the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people advocating on behalf of a foreign power to disclose that work.

Craig’s case involves one of the Ukrainian-related projects that formed the basis of Mueller’s probe of Manafort.

Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also examining prominent Washington lobbyists Vin Weber and Tony Podesta for Ukrainian-related work directed by Manafort.

CONGRESS

Congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 election meddling encouraged Mueller to look at the veracity of the past testimony of witnesses.

Mueller already charged Stone and Cohen with lying to Congress. It is possible that other potential cases have been referred elsewhere in the Justice Department.

For instance, the Mueller report showed that Erik Prince, founder of the now defunct security firm Blackwater USA and a Trump supporter, may have misled Congress on details of contact he had with a Russian banker in January 2017.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Tom Brown

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