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Students Weigh in On Russian Election Investigation

Robert+Mueller+is+the+special+prosecutor+appointed+by+the+Department+of+Justice+to+helm+the+investigation+into+Russian+intervention+in+the+election+process.
Robert Mueller is the special prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice to helm the investigation into Russian intervention in the election process.

Robert Mueller is the special prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice to helm the investigation into Russian intervention in the election process.

Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Robert Mueller is the special prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice to helm the investigation into Russian intervention in the election process.

By Natalia Aliotta and Katie Durot

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Students have mixed reactions about the current events following the appointment two weeks ago of a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I didn’t understand the whole story until now. I’m not sure what to make of it. But it’s obvious there were connections with the Russians involving Trump. Now the question is, what’s the next step,” said sophomore Angelica Papadatos.

“I’m not really surprised. My family and I  have been expecting it since it first surfaced on the news. I wonder how this problem will be handled,” said sophomore Jackie Anevski.

Unfortunately, there can be no putting this saga into a nutshell, so we will start with the Fall of 2016.  Before President Trump took office, President Barack Obama warned him after the election against hiring Mike Flynn. On November 18th 2016, Flynn, a retired United States Army lieutenant general, was then announced as the next national security adviser. Flynn has been known to have connections with the Russian government. 

A few days after Christmas of 2016, Flynn and the Russian Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, exchanged text messages wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Preceding the Christmas exchange, then President Obama announced the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats due to alleged Russian interference within the United States presidential election, and Flynn met with Kislyak.

To start off the new year, President Trump met with  James Comey, the then Director of the FBI, for the first time for an intelligence briefing pertaining to the tampering of the presidential election. Vice President Mike Pence then said on CBS that he “spoke to Flynn” about his phone call with the Russian envoy, and said “nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions,” referencing sanctions placed on Russia by the US in response to the Russian annexation of Ukraine.  

 Seven days into Trump’s presidency, the Justice Department contacted Donald McGahn, the top lawyer in the White House, about Flynn’s alleged communications with Kislyak and warned that Flynn may now be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. On the same day, the Justice Department was contacting McGahn. Comey and Trump joined each other for dinner where Comey’s associates claim that the president then asked for him to pledge loyalty, which he reportedly didn’t.

On February 10, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he was not aware of any media reports about Flynn. At that time, the Trump administration experienced its first international crisis: a Korean missile launch. On February 13, Flynn resigned from his position, and the next day, Trump met with Comey again as the investigation into Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador and his business dealings with Turkish and Russian lobbyists picked up. President Trump was then quoted as saying that Flynn is “a fine person” in a White House press conference, but he was “not happy” with his alleged performance.

On March 2, Jess Sessions, the Attorney General, recused himself from any future or current Russia investigations after a truth came to light:  he had met with Russian officials during the United States election campaign, a statement he had not previously disclosed to Congress.

On March 4, President Trump tweeted that former President Obama wiretapped his phones during the campaign and election; this claim however, has been vehemently denied by not only the former president, but by various investigative agencies including the FBI and the CIA. Comey then asked that the Justice Department come forward and publicly reject the allegation.  A few weeks later, on March  20, Comey, for the first time publicly confirmed that the FBI is investigating the Russian interference scandal. Ten days after the congressional hearing, Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, stated that his client demands immunity to testify on the Russian interference issue.

President Trump said on April 12 during an interview that he has “confidence” in Comey. He then tweeted on May 2, “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” The following day Comey testified of his reasoning behind reopening the Clinton investigation only a few days before the election.  

On May 8, Trump met with Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the three allegedly discussed firing Comey. Trump then sent his bodyguard to hand deliver a letter to the FBI headquarters, firing Comey, and his press agents and senior advisers indicate that the firing was based on the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General.

The day after, Trump, in an interview with ABC News said “‘When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘you know, this Russian thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story…’” He explained that he made the decision to fire Comey, contradicting what his staffers had said the day before.

On May 15th, the media reports circulated that Trump let slip highly classified information to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister and Sergei Kislyak, Russian Envoy.  The following day,  Comey wrote about his meeting with Trump held on February 14th, claiming that the President asked him to shut down his agency’s inquiry into Flynn. On the contrary, the White House says it is not an accurate description of what happened in the meeting.

On May 17, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, a respected former FBI director, as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the election of 2016.  On that same day, Vladimir Putin,  Russian President, offering to release the records and information of the meeting between Russian officials and Trump on May 10th. Putin says he will do this to show President Trump did not pass on classified facts.

The bombshells continue as over the Memorial Day Weekend, reports surfaced that Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law is a person of interest to the FBI as well.

“This is crazy. I knew there were relations, but I wasn’t aware how far this goes back,” adds sophomore Kathlyn Alta.

 

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Students Weigh in On Russian Election Investigation