Never before released documents from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation obtained by CNN give a glimpse into why Mueller was forced to conclude that there was no evidence of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
The Mueller investigative team’s notes from an interview in May 2018 with former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates provides more details about the Trump campaign’s attempts to get access to the emails obtained by WikiLeaks and their belief that they were “likely carried about by the Ukrainians, not the Russians,” and that “the Democrats were pushing the Russia narrative” presumably for political purposes.
While Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee were funding an opposition research effort helmed by a former British intelligence agent that resulted in the infamous dossier filled with salacious, unverified, and discredited accusations against Trump largely based on Russian sources, the Trump campaign was attempting to get their hands on the hacked Democrat emails eventually released by WikiLeaks.
In the newly released notes of the Mueller team’s interview with Gates, the Trump campaign is described as “euphoric” about WikiLeaks’ release of the hacked Democratic emails. But it is also clear from Gates’ testimony, that the Trump campaign had no idea how the emails were obtained, who was behind it, or how to get access to them. In other words, it is painfully clear from Gates’ statements that the Trump campaign was “colluding” with no one — and certainly not the Russians, who the campaign didn’t believe were likely behind the hacks.
The Trump campaign team “thought the Democrats were pushing the Russia narrative,” the notes state. The man described as having “the most Russia contacts of anyone on the campaign,” Mike Flynn, was “adamant the Russians did not carry out the hack.”
“Gates said Flynn had the most Russia contacts of anyone on the campaign and was in the best position to ask for the emails if they were out there,” the notes read. “Gates recalled Manafort saying the hack was likely carried about thy the Urkainians, not the Russians, which parroted a narrative Kilmnick often supported. Kilmnick also opined the hack could have been perpetrated by Russian operatives in Ukraine.”
“At some point, there was speculation the Mossad might have the emails,” read the Mueller notes. “Gates said there was never any mention of the Saudis or the Emirates having the emails. Manafort was generally skeptical of any offers of information coming the campaign’s attention.”
While the Trump team had no inside knowledge about who was behind the hacks or how to get special access to them, the notes suggest, the campaign certainly wanted to see the emails in hopes they would prove useful as opposition research.
“Gates recalled a time on the campaign aircraft when candidate Trump said, ‘get the emails,'” the notes detail. “Flynn said he could use his intelligence sources to obtain the emails.”
After two years and over $30 million spent on the effort, Mueller’s exhaustive report on alleged Trump-Russia “collusion” concluded that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Below is an excerpt of the newly released notes from the Mueller investigation interview with Gates in May 2018:
Gates said there was also an inside job theory about how the emails were obtained fueled by the death of Seth Rich [Note: Seth Conrad Rich was an employee of the DNC who was fatally shot in Washington, D.C. on 7/10/2017]. Gates said he was never present at any talks suggesting the campaign push the inside job theory. The Trump campaign team also thought the Democrats were pushing the Russia narrative.
Gates said Donald Trump Jr. would ask where the emails were in family meetings. Michael Flynn, [Jared] Kushner, [Paul] Manafort, [redacted], [Corey] Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions and Sam Clovis expressed interest in obtaining the emails as well. Gates said the priority focuses of the Trump campaign opposition research team were Clinton’s emails and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Flynn, [redacted], Sessions, Kushner, and Trump Jr. were all focused on opposition topics.
Gates said interest in the emails was ratcheting up in the April/May 2016 timeframe because it was likely the emails could help Trump’s campaign.
Trump Jr. Never communicated anything about the 06/09/2016 meeting with Gates. After the news broke about the 06/09/2016 meeting, Manafort asked Gates if he (Gates) was there. [Note: The 06/09/2016 meeting is a reference to the meeting that took place at Trump Tower arranged on the pretense that documents and information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton would be provided to the Trump campaign by a Russian government attorney later identified as Natalia Veselnitskaya.]
Gates said Trump was interested in the emails but remained composed with a healthy skepticism.
Gates recalled communication with Reince Preibus and [redacted]. The RNC was energized by Assange’s announcement on 06/12/206. Gates indicated that based on a conversation with Manafort, Gates knew the RNC was going to run the Wikileaks issue to the ground, they had more resources to commit to this effort. Trump and Kushner were initially skeptical about cooperating with the RNC, but the Wikileaks issue was a turning point.
Gates described the campaign response to the report as euphoric.
Gates said the RNC would put out press releases that would serve to amplify the Wikileaks releases. The RNC also indicated they knew the timing of the upcoming releases, Gates did not specify who at the RNC knew this information. Gates said the only non-public information the RNC had was related to the timing of the releases.
Gates recalled a time on the campaign aircraft when candidate Trump said, “get the emails.” Flynn said he could use his intelligence sources to obtain the emails. Flynn was adamant the Russians did not carry out the hack. To support this theory Flynn advices, based on his experience, the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) was not capable of figuring it out. Gates opined that Flynn’s assessment of the USIC derived from the negative way in which Flynn departed the USIC. Gates said Flynn had the most Russia contacts of anyone on the campaign and was in the best position to ask for the emails if they were out there.
Gates advised Trump Jr. and Manafort also had contacts with, “Russia types.” Gates clarified by saying Manafort’s connection with Russians was minimal aside from his relationship with Oleg Deripaska. Gates said Manafort primarily had contacts with Ukrainians. Gates recalled Manafort saying the hack was likely carried about by the Ukrainians, not the Russians, which parroted a narrative Kilmnick often supported. Kilmnick also opined the hack could have been perpetrated by Russian operatives in Ukraine.
Gates said based on prior business dealings, Kushner had the best China contacts. Manafort and Gates had discussions pertaining to Kushner’s Chinese contacts. Gates said there were numerous foreign requests to meet Trump after the nomination was secured.
At some point, there was speculation the Mossad might have the emails. Gates said there was never any mention of the Saudis or the Emirates having the emails. Manafort was generally skeptical of any offers of information coming the campaign’s attention.