What's Next In The Russia Investigation

Nov 4, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Robert Mueller has issued his first indictments against two former advisers to President Trump's campaign. And a former Trump foreign policy adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI back in July. What do Mr. Mueller's actions this week say about what he's discovered and where he's looking? Greg Miller is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. Mr. Miller, thanks for being with us.

GREG MILLER: Sure. Thank you very much for having me.

SIMON: Investigations typically take years. The Manafort and Rick Gates indictments, along with the guilty plea by George Papadopoulos, came within five months. What does this say about where Mr. Mueller is going and how he's going about it?

MILLER: Yeah, it's really interesting. You're right. I mean, investigations - we were - there were lots of discussions about this one - being patient, having expectations that Mueller would start at the very outer edges of the Trump associates and the Trump world. But he's gone right to the heart of the campaign. I mean, his first indictment is of Trump's campaign chairman. I think he's moving quickly, and I think that he has no interest in dragging this out.

SIMON: Yeah. Does he hope to flip Manafort and Gates?

MILLER: Oh, clearly - among others. Right? I mean, I think that the overall message that was sent by his moves this week were, one, we have already got a guilty plea and extensive cooperation from somebody inside your campaign. And that person is probably going to do better than anybody who tries to oppose us. Two, it looks like Manafort has not been very helpful to us, and look what - the kind of trouble he's finding himself in. So everybody else that we've got lined up to talk to, you might want to consider these two scenarios.

SIMON: The White House says they don't see a reference to President Trump in any of these indictments. And I wonder - do they have a fair point? Because Paul Manafort took over the Trump campaign - we checked - March 29, 2016, took him through the convention. And he didn't - he was gone by August.

MILLER: Well, I mean, on the one hand, you had - the Manafort indictment does not mention Trump. And - but the guilty plea that was unsealed involving this other campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, does mention Trump. And the greater sort of uncertainty surrounds that guilty plea at this moment because it is a signal that they already have testimony from this person, already have emails and other records showing the extensive contacts of this person with others in the Trump administration. They're basically saying we know more than you guys think we do.

SIMON: George Papadopoulos - has he been wearing a wire?

MILLER: That's a good question. I mean, I think it's fair to assume that Trump's lawyers are looking at that question very carefully.

SIMON: Carter Page and Hope Hicks, according to reports, are going to be questioned. Carter Page has a history with and in Russia, doesn't he?

MILLER: Sure. And yeah, I mean - and he is among the few who actually traveled to Russia while he was linked to the Trump campaign. He was in Moscow in July a year ago and acknowledges having met with Russian officials. Now he very downplays the significance of those contacts - no big deal, nothing to them. But he's also been very inconsistent in his accounts. And I imagine that Mueller's going to try to get to the ground truth with him.

SIMON: Greg Miller, who is national security reporter at The Washington Post, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We're going to look forward to what the next developments are. Talk to you again some time.

MILLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.