In a 29-page indictment Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III blamed specific officers in the Russian government for the 2016 hacking of Democrats, answering one of his investigation’s central questions while highlighting another he must still explain: Were any Americans involved in the conspiracy to interfere in the race for the White House?
As Mueller faces the task of resolving that piece of his inquiry — as well as his examination of whether President Trump has sought to obstruct the probe — people familiar with the investigation said the special counsel is pushing to wrap up a significant portion of his investigative work by the end of summer.
Since his May 2017 appointment, Mueller has charged 32 people, including 26 Russians. Grand jury indictments have laid out detailed allegations of how Russia sought to manipulate Americans through social media, break into state voting systems, and hack the email accounts of Democratic committees and party leaders.
As the probe has spilled over into a second year, Mueller has come under intense political pressure to bring it to a close — much of it directly from the president, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and argued there is no evidence of “collusion.”
On Friday, hours before Rosenstein announced the indictment in Washington, Trump — who had been briefed that the charges were coming — again called the investigation “a rigged witch hunt” during a news conference in England.
Among them: that Mueller not ask any questions about actions Trump has taken as president, including his private discussions with then-FBI Director James B. Comey.
Giuliani said Trump does not recall asking Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and he does not want the president to be accused of lying about the episode.
“The president firmly believes he didn’t say it,” Giuliani said.
“He doesn’t recall it. . . . But Mueller could come out the other way,” he added. “They’ll say he’s lying. We don’t want to expose him to perjury [accusations].”
Trump’s attorneys — who expect their interview terms will be dealbreakers for Mueller — have not yet gotten any response from the special counsel or his deputies.
“We don’t expect Mueller would agree,” said one person briefed on the discussions. “But if he did, well, then we’d face a really interesting choice.”
The indictment did not name or charge WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group led by Julian Assange, which published thousands of Democratic emails just before the party’s 2016 nominating convention.
The document did, however, charge that Russian intelligence officers, using a fake online persona called Guccifer 2.0, discussed the release with WikiLeaks beforehand.