FBI Leaks to CNN: First Charges Filed in Mueller Investigation
Just as the bureau was under pressure to 'wrap it up' — the news breaks of a grand jury indictment
Hours after a report on Fox News that special counsel Robert Mueller was under pressure to resign, CNN broke an exclusive story, citing unnamed sources, that the first charges have been filed in Mueller’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The indictment, CNN reported, was sealed, and it was unknown who was being charged and what the charges were.
James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, tweeted on Friday evening that he had spoken with the attorney for Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican political consultant and former campaign manager to Donald Trump, and said they'd received no news that Manafort was being charged.
"Attorney for @PaulManafort tells me neither he nor his colleagues have received any word of their client being indicted," he wrote.
A CNN correspondent said on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Friday evening that she understood that the individuals who have been charged have likely not yet been notified, and that they would most likely be notified through their attorneys on Sunday or Monday.
The timing of the CNN exclusive is curious, as it comes just hours after Fox News published a story entitled "Mueller facing new Republican pressure to resign in Russia probe." The story quoted Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who reiterated his call for Mueller to step down, as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, who'd gone on "Fox & Friends" Friday morning to call for Mueller to step aside because of a conflict of interest.
Mueller was the FBI director while the bureau was investigating a subsidiary of Russia's state-owned nuclear energy company, Rosatom. The firm was being investigated for multiple racketeering charges, including bribery. A plea deal was reached, quietly, and the company was allowed to purchase Uranium One, a Canadian company that controls 20 percent of the uranium reserves in the U.S. Congressional committees have now launched investigations into what happened and why the Uranium One deal was not stopped.
After breaking the news of the charges, and with limited information, CNN commentators, journalists and legal experts went on to speculate about who might be charged, and what the charges might be.
Longtime investigative reporter Carl Bernstein said on CNN he thought that those charged would face 20, 30 or 40 years in prison for "whatever these crimes are."
Paul Manafort headed Trump's campaign for president for just a few months, but played a crucial role in delegate-counting at the Republican National Convention, making sure that Trump secured the Republican nomination on the first ballot, avoiding a floor fight and the possibility that the nomination could have gone to an Establishment-friendly candidate — not Trump.
Manafort reportedly worked with The Podesta Group, a powerful Washington, D.C., lobbying firm headed by Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta.
Tucker Carlson of Fox News reported on Wednesday that sources told him that the Podesta brothers and Manafort were a main focus of Mueller's investigation.