A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
This is Oliver Darcy, in for Brian Stelter, who spent the day visiting journalism students at Ball State University in Indiana.
“Mueller’s endgame may be in sight”
That was the headline on Garrett Graff’s latest story over at Wired on Tuesday. Graff argued that “history may show” that the start of this week was “among the most consequential” yet in Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference. He put it this way: “As George Papadopoulos…reported to a Wisconsin prison Monday, a confluence of small developments may indicate that by the time he emerges from Federal Correctional Institute Oxford two weeks from now, we might know far more about the breadth of Russia’s efforts—and the Trump campaign’s ties to them—than we do now.”
It sure felt like that on Tuesday. Throughout the day, headline after headline related to Mueller’s investigation splashed across the web and cable news chyrons. I think a fair amount of people wondered: Are we nearing the end?
Manafort and Wikileaks deny Guardian report
The day started with an explosive story in The Guardian. Reporters Luke Harding and Dan Collyns reported via a “well placed source” that Paul Manafort held “secret talks” with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the spring of 2016, just months before the website released stolen Democratic emails.
No other media outlet was able to match The Guardian’s reporting, and within hours both Wikileaks and Manafort had issued strong denials. Manafort said, in part, “I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to WikiLeaks, either directly or indirectly.” Wikileaks said on Twitter it was “willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”
>> That said, Carl Bernstein reported for CNN that Mueller “has been investigating a meeting between former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in Quito in 2017 and has specifically asked if WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, were discussed in the meeting…”
Corsi provides CNN a draft Mueller document
Another major headline on Tuesday came courtesy of Jerome Corsi, the fringe right-wing conspiracy theorist and former InfoWars DC bureau chief who finds himself near the center of Mueller’s probe. Corsi provided CNN a draft court document on Tuesday that outlined “significant insights into what special counsel Robert Mueller may know about Roger Stone’s efforts to seek documents from WikiLeaks in 2016.” The draft court filing showed that Mueller believes Stone sought information and emails from Wikileaks using Corsi as a go-between. Read the full story here…
Asked about Manafort, Trump goes off the record
Trump offered WaPo an interview Tuesday, and while he was chatty about a number of various issues, he did not want to talk with the newspaper on the record about potentially helping Manafort. According to WaPo’s transcript of the interview, Josh Dawsey asked Trump if he was “planning to do anything to help” his embattled former campaign chief. Trump replied asking to “go off the record because I don’t want to get in the middle of the whole thing.” Dawsey then asked Trump if there was “any version” of what he said off the record that he’d be “willing to give us on the record.” Trump said he’d “rather not” and proceeded to go off the record again.
>> Earlier in the day, Sanders said at the briefing that there have been no conversations about a pardon for Manafort…
Napolitano: It seems Mueller is poised to give us “road map” between Russia & Trump campaign
Fox’s Andrew Napolitano said Tuesday that the latest developments suggest Mueller is perhaps “ready to give us a road map” that connects “Russian agents and the Trump campaign.” Napolitano added that Mueller’s investigation “seems to be coming together…”
CNN’s Russia-probe expert Marshall Cohen emails: In the two years since the election, Stone’s denials and explanations have increasingly stretched credulity. Does Mueller have the goods? Time will tell, but it’s clear that investigators have amassed a mountain of potential evidence against the self-proclaimed dirty trickster. Could any of this implicate Trump? We’ll see.
FOR THE RECORD
– WaPo’s David Ignatius details how the killing of Jamal Khashoggi “had roots in a cutthroat family feud…” (WaPo)
– Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective has acquired yet another media property, purchasing Pop-Up Magazine Productions… (Recode)
– Craig Silverman’s latest provides the “inside story of how the FBI and tech industry took down a massive ad fraud scheme…” (BuzzFeed)