By Robert A. Vella
Here are today’s fast-moving updates on the Mueller investigation:
WASHINGTON — A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.
The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with Mr. Mueller’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against the special counsel’s office.
The draft court documents obtained by NBC News provide the most extensive account to date of Corsi’s contact with Mueller’s prosecutors.
The interviews began on Sept. 6 when Corsi told investigators that an associate, identified by Corsi as Stone, asked him in the summer of 2016 to get in touch with an organization, identified by Corsi as WikiLeaks, about unreleased materials relevant to the presidential campaign, the draft court papers say.
“Get to (Assange) [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails,” read the email to Corsi dated July 25, 2016, according to the draft court documents.
Corsi said he declined the request and made clear to Stone that an attempt to contact WikiLeaks could put them in investigators’ crosshairs, according to the draft court documents.
But Mueller’s team said that was a lie.
Instead of turning down the request, Corsi in fact passed it along to a person in London, according to the draft court documents. Corsi said that person was conservative author Ted Malloch.
Eight days later, Corsi sent the email to Stone saying that WikiLeaks possessed information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and planned to release it in October.
“Time to let more than (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta) to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton),” Corsi added in the Aug. 2, 2016, email, according to the draft court papers. “That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”
On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first of two batches of emails that Russian hackers stole from Podesta, altering the trajectory of the presidential race.
While the White House refuses to budge from its denial of collusion between Trump and Russia in 2016, a string of events now coming to light is stretching the notion that this is all one harmless coincidence to the limit of credulity.
CNN later obtained draft court documents Tuesday with which Mueller plans to show how Trump associate Roger Stone allegedly sought information and emails from Wikileaks using another operative, Jerome Corsi, as a go between.
In another development, CNN contributor Carl Bernstein reported Tuesday that Mueller’s team has been investigating a meeting between Manafort and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in Quito in 2017 and has specifically asked if WikiLeaks or Assange was discussed in the meeting, according to a source with personal knowledge of the matter.