WASHINGTON — One year ago Thursday, President Donald Trump was holding a series of meetings with potential nominees to head the FBI.
Then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, former FBI agent Richard McFeely and former Sen. Joe Lieberman appeared at the White House, many of them walking through the front doors of the West Wing in full view of the assembled cameras.
The parade was interrupted by an unexpected decision from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel, to take reins of the probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This comes on the heels of Trump firing then-FBI Director James Comey because the president said he didn’t like how the Russian investigation was being handled.
One year later, the men whom Trump was interviewing are largely removed from this orbit.
Mueller, however, stayed in the picture, getting closer to the president than many within Trump’s circle clearly feel comfortable with.
Since his appointment, Mueller — who headed the FBI from 2001-2013 — has brought criminal charges against 19 people:
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates
Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were initially indicted on 12 counts stemming from alleged money laundering, according to documents unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017.
As the charges grew, Gates eventually pleaded guilty in February to two counts of conspiracy and false statements.
Manafort has maintained his innocence and is now facing 28 counts ranging from bank fraud to conspiracy.
The White House played down the aides’ involvement, arguing that the charges sprung from activity before the campaign and that Manafort served a limited role on Trump’s election efforts —although at one point he was the campaign chair.
While the indictments against Manafort captured most of the headlines, the unsealed documents released last October also shed light on former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements and omissions while being interviewed by investigators.
Mueller’s team concluded that Papadopoulos attempted to mislead the FBI about communications he had with Russian officials, including an effort to arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House publicly chided Papadopoulos for making false statements and tried to paint him as an inconsequential figure in the campaign, with the president later claiming he didn’t remember a well-documented meeting with Papadopoulos and other foreign policy advisers.
Michael Flynn served on the Trump campaign as a top official before being brought into the Trump White House as National Security Adviser.
The stint was short-lived.
Less than a month after Trump took office, Flynn was dismissed after conversations Flynn had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition came to light.
Flynn had initially told the administration, as well as the FBI, that he did not discuss policy matters, something that surveillance on the adviser proved to be inaccurate.
Mueller filed charges against Flynn for misrepresenting the talks on Nov. 30, 2017, and one day later, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements.
Flynn also said that he would be cooperating with the special counsel’s office, an announcement that carried weight since Comey had testified before Congress that Trump applied pressure on him to drop an investigation into his then-ally.
Richard Pinedo was largely an unknown factor in the investigation when the Special Counsel’s office revealed in February that the 28 year-old California man had pleaded guilty to identity theft.
Pinedo reportedly ran a website that aided individuals get around security measures while online shopping.
Some of his customers turned out to be overseas actors attempting to sway the 2016 election toward Donald Trump after purchasing stolen banking information, according to investigators.
In February the Special Counsel’s office announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on charges of attempting to interfere with the 2016 election through malicious online activity.
The 37-page indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the U.S.
It also includes charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud against three individuals, and five defendants are charged with aggravated identity theft.
A restaurant company managed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin was brought into the fray as was the Internet Research Agency, which investigators claimed effectively acted as the cyber arm of Russian intelligence.
While the White House has maintained that there are no plans to ensure Mueller’s removal, the prospect has been a consistent question surrounding the White House, particularly as the president continues to rail against the probe.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who joined Trump’s legal team last month, told various media outlets this week that the investigation is largely moot.
Giuliani said on Wednesday that he was told by Mueller’s team that they will adhere to Justice Department precedent, which Giuliani said means that Trump can’t be indicted.
Trump marked the one-year anniversary with a tweet echoing a familiar refrain: “No Collusion.”
Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History…and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018