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The US Department of Justice on Saturday released 500 pages of interview summaries and emails related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, after a court battle with BuzzFeed News.
The documents, some of which were posted online by the website, include summaries of FBI interviews with Rick Gates, Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chair, and Steve Bannon, a former presidential adviser.
The documents also include email correspondence between Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, and a “proposal to obtain” and analyze emails belonging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, which was sent to Bannon by a conservative activist.
Beginning to mine the documents, BuzzFeed cited an April 2018 interview in which Gates “told investigators that after the campaign learned the [Democratic National Committee] had been hacked, [then campaign chair Paul] Manafort pushed the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had orchestrated the attack”.
US intelligence agencies agree that the DNC was hacked by Russia in 2016, as part of its election interference effort, leading to the release of internal emails damaging to the party during the presidential election.
The conspiracy theory that the attack was really by Ukraine is now part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into whether Trump sought to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.
An infamous 25 July call between Trump and Ukrainian president Vlodymyr Zelenskiy is at the heart of impeachment proceedings.
According to a published – and contested – White House version of the call, Trump brought up the Ukraine conspiracy theory.
BuzzFeed filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all documents related to the investigation by Mueller, a former FBI director, and a lawsuit to get access to the documents.
Mueller filed his report in March and it was released, with redactions, in April. He did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow but did lay out multiple instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president himself.
Trump’s apparent reprieve was shortlived and Mueller’s work continues to dog his presidency.
Earlier this month, a judge ordered the justice department to give the House unredacted portions of grand jury testimony from Mueller’s investigation, a victory for Democrats who want the material for the impeachment inquiry.