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National Govt & Politics
What's next in the Mueller probe of Russia's 2016 election interference
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What's next in the Mueller probe of Russia's 2016 election interference

What's next in the Mueller probe of Russia's 2016 election interference
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

What's next in the Mueller probe of Russia's 2016 election interference

The first public legal actions in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections roiled the White House and Capitol Hill on Monday, as President Donald Trump again declared there was no evidence of his campaign's collusion with Moscow, while critics of Mr. Trump said it was probably just the tip of the iceberg in the investigation being led Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who obtained the first guilty plea of the Russia probe.

That guilty plea came from an unpaid foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos; documents released by the Special Counsel's office showed Papadopoulos admitting to repeated efforts to get "dirt" from Russian contacts and Russian diplomatic officials about Hillary Clinton.

The White House said repeatedly that Papadopoulos was a minor player, who did little on the campaign - though he was at the table with President Trump in March of 2016 for a meeting of his foreign policy advisers (orange arrow).

What's next in this investigation, which has dominated the news for months?

1. No, it's not the end. It's really the beginning. If you were hoping that Robert Mueller would be packing up and closing down his operation in coming months, that's not going to happen. The detail of the Manafort/Gates indictment shows that would be a case that goes on for some period of time. Obviously, there is a lot more at work for Mueller and his investigators, and there could well be intelligence and counterintelligence aspects of this investigation that would be difficult to work with in a public setting, which could slow things down as well. Monday night's public assessment from the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would probably not get much agreement in the halls of Congress, where the investigations of the Russian interference in the 2016 elections also isn't anywhere close to wrapping up.

2. The Papadopoulos guilty plea is very interesting. For months, supporters of President Trump have said there was no evidence of outreach from the Trump camp to any Russians. That's been knocked down along the way, and it was even more with the documents related to George Papadopoulos, who was part of a foreign policy board that President Trump convened in late March of 2016. The White House said he was an unpaid adviser who had no pull within the Trump Campaign, but the plea bargain statement released on Monday sure showed a lot of efforts to get dirt on Hillary Clinton via the Russian government, and to keep top officials up to date on what was going on. Some wonder whether Mueller put this out guilty plea to short circuit some of those same type arguments from the White House, or maybe even to put other people on notice. Here's the guilty plea - read it.

3. Could there be other guilty pleas ready to go? Reporters who check out the details of the federal court system were able to determine that four different cases, numbered in between the indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates - and the guilty plea of Papadopoulos - remain sealed. That means they were filed within the time frame of the Mueller investigation, but remain off limits to the public for some reason. Could these cases be unrelated to the Russia probe? Absolutely. But the fact that four more sealed cases are already on file makes some people wonder might be next in Mueller's investigation. Stay tuned.

4. GOP lawmakers not worried that Trump will fire Mueller. One of the questions asked of Republicans on Capitol Hill soon after the indictments were released was a very simple one - what if President Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller? In the hallways, there wasn't the fear that was there a few months ago on that subject. Yes, there are a couple of bills in the Senate that would try to prevent that - but frankly, they are not going to be considered unless President Trump decides to get rid of Mueller. "I just cannot imagine an administration taking a step like that," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "I don't feel an urgent need to pass that law," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "I don't think anybody in their right mind at the White House would think about replacing Mr. Mueller unless it was for a pretty good reason."

5. Social media companies now under the microscope. Starting on Tuesday afternoon, officials from Facebook, Google and Twitter will kick off a series of hearings on Capitol Hill, looking at how the social media giants dealt with questions regarding Russian efforts to use those social media platforms to cause some trouble during the 2016 campaign. Facebook will evidently report that over one-third of the U.S. population saw some sort of Russian-sponsored material come their way, which was related to the elections. Lawmakers are certain to push the companies to address the matter of telling people who paid for digital ads which might come up on some of those sites, just like the telling, "I'm Donald Trump, and I authorized this message," in regular TV and radio commercials.

Read More

News

  • In addition to computers, phones, software and other tech products, Apple has announced it will soon offer its own credit card: the Apple Card. >> Read more trending news  The tech giant introduced Apple Card, created in partnership with Mastercard and Goldman Sachs, at its “show time” services event Monday, in Cupertino, California, The Verge reported. Apple CEO Tim Cook touted Apple Card as, “the most significant change in the credit card experience in 50 years.' Apple Card will be available on all iOS devices in the Wallet app and is set for release this summer. Customers who want a physical card can get an optional “laser-etched titanium rectangle,” CNN reported. Unlike traditional credit cards, Apple Card comes with no card number, CVV security code or expiration date. Purchases are instead authenticated with a fingerprint or face-identification. The new card will also offer a rewards system known as Daily Cash, in which 2 percent of any Apple Pay purchase goes directly back to the Apple wallet as cash. The deposits are made daily, and the reward goes up to 3 percent for purchases of Apple products and down to 1 percent for purchases made with the physical card, according to CNN. Apple said the card has no late fees or increased interest rates for late payments, but The Verge noted, “We’ll read the fine details to see if there are limits.” Some speculate Apple Card is meant to encourage use of Apple Pay, which Cook said Monday is only accepted by 70 percent of U.S. retailers, as opposed to 99 percent of retailers in Australia. “They’re really nudging consumers toward using Apple Pay on a regular basis and not just as an occasional thing when a retailer allows,” Sara Rathner, a credit card expert at personal finance company NerdWallet, told The Verge. More information on Apple Card can be found here.
  • The price of vaping in Washington could soon skyrocket if a proposed 60 percent tax is passed by lawmakers. >> Read more trending news  'It's like being told, ‘We're going to put a new tax on your favorite pizza.’ No! Don't do that!” said Jim Music. Washington lawmakers introduced HB 1873. It would add a 60 percent tax to vapor products, which is similar to tobacco, KIRO-TV reported. Currently vape isn’t taxed. Vapor store owner Joshua Baba said vape is different than tobacco and the price hike would force many shops to close their doors. 'Sixty percent, we owe that to the state just all of a sudden? That's crazy. That does put me out of business,” he said. Standing in the rain, Monday afternoon a small group held signs and gathered to protest. “Those kind of numbers are scary to somebody. I go through a couple bottles of vapor juice a week and that's going to double my cost,” said Music. A new Washington State Health Youth survey shows e-cigarettes and vaping are on the rise. Thirty percent of high school seniors said they use vapor products, which is up from 20 percent in 2016. State Rep. Gerry Pollet proposed the House bill. He wants to see the numbers drop and believes a tax is the ticket. “E-cigarettes and vaping products are dirt cheap, you won't believe how cheap they are,' he said. “A pack of cigarettes in the state of Washington, on average, costs about a little more than $8. Vaping the same amount of nicotine will cost you about $2.' Lawmakers believe the tax will drop youth vaping by 25 percent. Others find that hard to believe.  “This tax isn't going to change where the kids are getting it or how they're getting it, but it is going to change, in a negative way, the lives of a lot of shop owners and a lot of product users that are fully in compliance with the law,” said Music. Pollet said the 60 percent tax would eventually raise as much $30 million per year. The money would be used to fund programs that work to prevent teens from vaping.
  • A Monday morning British Airways flight scheduled to fly from London, England, to Dusseldorf, Germany, accidentally went to Edinburgh, Scotland, instead. >> Read more trending news  The error has been attributed to an incorrect flight plan filed by WDL Aviation, which operated the flight on behalf of British Airways, USA Today reported. This led the pilot and cabin crew to believe the flight was bound for Edinburgh. Air traffic controllers followed the same flight plan and saw nothing amiss, British Airways officials told The Associated Press. Zsófia Szabó, a passenger on the flight, told CNN she noticed something may have been amiss when she saw mountains outside the cabin window instead of the “usual German landscape.” A coworker brought up Google Maps on their phone, she said, and noted the plane was in Scotland. 'When we landed there was a bit of a hilarious moment when the flight attendant asked for a show of hands for the people going to Dusseldorf, which turned out to be everyone,' Szabó said. The pilot apologized to passengers, then announced the plane would refuel and head to Dusseldorf. Most passengers didn’t seem mad about the situation and instead found it funny, Szabó said. Why an incorrect flight path was filed remains unclear. 'We are working with WDL Aviation, who operated this flight on behalf of British Airways, to establish why the incorrect flight plan was filed. We have apologized to customers for this interruption to their journey and will deal with them all individually. Customers are on route to Dusseldorf currently,” British Airways spokesman Chip Garner said in a statement. WDL Aviation said they’re also investigating the incident: “We are working closely with the authorities to investigate how the obviously unfortunate mix-up of flight schedules could occur,' said WDL spokesperson Joachim Schöttes. “At no time has the safety of passengers been compromised. We flew the passengers on the flight with number BA3271 to Dusseldorf after the involuntary stopover in Edinburgh.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • In a move that has surprised some, mixed martial arts fighter Conor “The Notorious” McGregor has announced his retirement from the sport via Twitter. >> Read more trending news  “Hey guys quick announcement,” McGregor tweeted late Monday. “I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as ‘Mixed Martial Art’ today. I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement. Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!” The 30-year-old fighter, originally from Dublin, Ireland, is a two division UFC world champion and two division Cage Warriors World Champion. He’s ranked No. 2 lightweight champion and No. 9 pound for pound champion in the UFC, according to Fox Sports. Yahoo Sports reported the announcement came as a surprise, and that McGregor may “just be trying to get an upper hand in a negotiation.” McGregor appeared Monday on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and made no mention of retiring, MMA Fighting reported. He talked of fighting this summer. “We’re in talks for July,” McGregor told Fallon. “So we’ll see what happens. A lot of politics going on. The fight game is a mad game. But again, like I said, and to my fans, I am in shape and I am ready.” Some fans on Twitter seemed unconvinced of the news. “Last time he said this he fought twice in the next 6 months,” tweeted @BishopSportsNet. UFC hasn’t yet commented on McGregor’s announcement.
  • Now that the Gronk's officially hanging up his cleats -- fans are left wondering what he'll do next. >> Read more trending news  Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he is retiring from football following the team's Super Bowl LIII win, ending his historic nine-year NFL career, Boston 25 News reported. What he'll do after is up in the air, though some say he might go down the wrestling road. In fact, he has dabbled in it before with an appearance at WrestleMania 33 -- stepping in the ring to help his real-life friend Mojo Rawley during the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. And many fans were hoping to see Gronk at TD Garden on Monday night, where WWE Raw was taking place. He did not make an appearance, but fans in Boston are excited to see what he'll take on next regardless a cameo at the Garden.  'Oh yeah he’s an entertainer,' said Patriots fan, Josh Lima. 'He’s funny, you know he’s either gonna be an actor or wrestler.' Public relations executive and Emerson professor, David Gerzof Richard, thinks Gronk sure has the personality and brand for it in his post-NFL career. 'He has his own brand of being the happy-go-lucky tight end, it's really leveraging that and with various people he is interacting with on both Instagram and Twitter and leveraging into what comes next,' said Richard.  Richard says sports stars in previous decades didn't have the social media star power -- or social media at all -- to build off of like Gronk. 'The worst thing he could do is go silent... and that is something I don't think we are going to see from Rob Gronkowski,' adds Richard. And his fans certainly hope he'll find a way to stay successful in the public eye. 'I think he should go into movies because he's a pretty funny guy and people look up to him,' said Patriots fan, Donte Tyler from Stoughton. Another fan thinks so too, and she thinks comedy would be the only way to go.  'I don't know about a serious ... maybe in a comedy or something,' another fan said. 'What would it be called? Maybe Adam Sandler and Gronk go on vacation.' As for the wresting, a WWE spokesperson gave no comment on any potential deals or announcements.
  • A metro Atlanta family said an airline crew told their two sons they’d have to get off a plane after a dispute over one of the boys’ severe peanut allergies, WSB-TV reported. >> Read more trending news  The boys were traveling from Atlanta to Manila, where their father is based on a temporary job, according to the news station. Rakesh Patel said his 15-year-old and 16-year-old sons were traveling by themselves after visiting their sick grandfather. The family told WSB-TV they let Delta Air Lines know ahead of time that the teen had a peanut allergy. Delta made sure that on the first leg of the flight, from Atlanta to Seoul, no peanuts were served, WSB reported.  However, things were different on the second leg of their flight. When the boys went to board their flight from Seoul to Manila on Delta’s skyteam partner Korean Air, the boys were told there would be peanuts served on board, the news station reported.  According to the family, the crew said they were not going to deprive other guests of peanuts and presented the teens with two options: deal with the peanuts or get off the flight.  When the son with allergies asked for another option, the boys were forcibly removed from the plane and stranded in Seoul, their father confirmed. They took a return flight to Atlanta, the family told WSB. Patel said he filed a complaint with the airline and asked for a refund.  In a statement, Delta apologized to the Patel family for the ordeal, “particularly during what is already a difficult time for them.”  “Delta and our partner Korean Air are communicating with the family and examining the processes surrounding this incident; we will use our findings in our work to create a consistent experience for customers flying Delta and our partner airlines,” the statement said. >> Trending: Giant alligator sneaks up on golfers, lumbers across links, plops down near 17th hole  A statement from Korean Air read, in part: “Korean Air is aware that peanut and food allergies are an industry issue and no airline can guarantee a food allergy-free environment. But we are reviewing ways to deal with this issue in a safe and feasible way. We totally understand the risks faced by passengers with nut and food allergies and will certainly try to accommodate them better in the future.”