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The biggest takeaways from FBI interview notes in Mueller investigation

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  • Nearly 300 pages of documents related to the Mueller investigation were released on Monday as part of a public records lawsuit brought forward by BuzzFeed News and CNN.
  • The documents include summaries of FBI interviews as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • The summaries shed light on interviews conducted with key witnesses as part of Mueller’s investigation, including Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, among others.
  • Here are the top five biggest revelations from the trove of documents. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hundreds of pages of documents related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were released on Monday as part of a public records lawsuit brought forward by BuzzFeed News and CNN.

In response to the lawsuit, the Justice Department on Monday released 295 pages of witness memoranda and summaries of FBI interviews as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Last month, both CNN and BuzzFeed published the first installment of documents released by the Justice Department.   

In the documents released on Monday, include heavily redacted interview notes and memos from President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, among others.

Here are the five biggest revelations from the newly released documents: 

1. Vice President Mike Pence pushed Trump to fire national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

Former Trump 2016 campaign aide Rick Gates said in an April 2018 interview that Pence was involved in Flynn’s firing.

“Gates said Pence went to Trump about firing Flynn and he thought it was one of the few times Pence pushed Trump hard like that,” Mueller’s team wrote in its summary of the interview. 

2. Michael Cohen told Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow that there was more contact with Russia than they were telling Congress, but Sekulow brushed it off. 

According to the summary, Cohen told Sekulow that there were more details about discussions on Trump Tower Moscow and communications with Russia than were disclosed by Cohen in a letter to Congress. 

Cohen said in his interview that Sekulow told him not to elaborate on any of those details, and to keep his letter “short and tight.”

“Sekulow said it did not matter and Cohen should not contradict Trump and that it was time to move on,” according to the summary of Cohen’s interview. 

Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the work he did on the Russian project, in addition to other federal crimes including campaign finance violations. He is currently serving a three-year prison sentence. 

Cohen also said that he spoke to Sekulow about a possible pardon after the FBI raided his home and office. He called himself a “loyal lawyer and servant and all of a sudden he was the subject of search and seizure,” according to the summary.

Sekulow refuted Cohen’s statement to the Associated Press on Monday, saying they were false.

3. John Kelly appeared to back up Former White House Counsel Don McGahn’ testimony. 

Summaries shed light on Kelly’s August 2018 interview, which appeared to corroborate testimony made by McGahn. McGahn had essentially been Mueller’s key witness on attempts by Trump to obstruct justice in his reported efforts to fire Mueller.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump ordered Mueller’s firing but then backed off when McGahn threatened to quit. 

Kelly recalled to investigators that a conversation took place between Trump and McGahn in the Oval Office about the article, which Kelly called “a little tense.” Trump insisted that he did not recall a conversation about firing Mueller and asked McGahn to “correct the record.” But McGahn remained defiant.

“The President may have asked McGahn to correct the record, but McGahn was insist ant that it happened the way he remembered,” the notes say. “The president said it was not the way he remembered it. Kelly assumed ‘correct the record’ meant for McGahn to call the New York Times to correct the story.”

McGahn later went to Kelly’s office and insisted that he and Trump “did have that conversation.”

4. Hope Hicks predicted that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting was going to be a “massive story,” but it was dismissed by Jared Kushner.

Donald Trump Jr., along with Kushner and others, met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016. Emails ahead of the meeting suggest there was a promise for “dirt” on then-political opponent Hillary Clinton.

According to the summary of her interview, Hicks sat down with Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and President Trump to discuss emails exchanged about setting up the meeting. She suggested getting Trump Jr. to do an interview with “softball questions” in order to bring the emails to light.

“Kushner responded it was not a big deal,” according to the summary of her interview.

“Hicks told the President ‘this is going to be a massive story,’ and that the emails were ‘really bad’ in that meeting.”

“The President did not want to talk about it and did not want the details,” it added.

5. Trump asked former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie if he should fire Mueller. Christie told him it would be “political suicide.”

Christie said in his interview that he recalled Trump asking him what he thought about firing Mueller.

“Christie told him that there were two issues he saw,” the summary writes. “The first was that Mueller has given Trump no substantive reason to fire him. The second was that it would be political suicide and Trump would lose the Republicans in Congress if he did so.”

Christie said that in February of 2017, Trump also asked him to tell former FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 that Trump “really liked him.” Christie refused, saying it would be “nonsensical.”

“He would not put Comey in the position of having to receive that telephone call,” the summary states.

Comey was fired three months later

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in his interview that he was  “angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed” at the way Comey was fired.

Rosenstein was upset that he was “not copied” on Comey’s firing, and expected it to come from the president or Attorney General Jeff Sessions in person. Instead, Comey found out on television

 

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