Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees is packed with names that even close observers of the special counsel’s investigation may have forgotten about in the last few months — to say nothing of the bulk of us who have not read the 448-page report from cover to cover. Here, some names and terms you need to know to help provide context for the hearings:
Robert Mueller claimed he was “not familiar” with Fusion GPS, the private research firm that was initially hired by a conservative website to look into Donald Trump’s Russia connections. The firm hired former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who produced the infamous dossier on Trump.
A former Trump-campaign manager; in June 2017, the president met with Corey Lewandowski, requesting that he ask then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to limit the special counsel’s investigation to future election interference,” per the special counsel’s report. The next month, the two met again, and Trump “raised his previous request and asked if Lewandowski had talked to Sessions … Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon … Lewandowski recalled that the President told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.”
Trump’s summer 2017 interactions with Lewandowski and former White House counsel Don McGahn are key to a possible obstruction of justice case. In June 2017, Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel. Per the report: “In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel.” McGahn refused and threatened to resign rather than follow through with the request. The president then reportedly told McGahn to deny that he ever asked him to can Mueller.
Joseph Mifsud / George Papadopoulos
Ohio Republican Jim Jordan asked Mueller why the special counsel did not charge Joseph Mifsud for lying to the FBI. Mifsud, a Maltese professor, met with Trump-campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 and allegedly informed him that Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The next month, Papadopoulos told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer of the exchange, which led to the initial FBI investigation into Russian interference in the election. Some Republicans assert the theory that Papadopoulos was entrapped, as Mifsud has denied any connection to the Kremlin.
Explaining his decision not to charge Trump, Mueller frequently cites “the OLC opinion that indicated that a sitting president cannot be indicted,” referring to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which determined in 2000 that “[t]he indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Republicans assert that the FBI violated the rights of former Trump-campaign policy aide Carter Page by obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant to observe him, believing that Page was coordinating with Russian intelligence.
Mueller stated that he is unable to answer questions on “matters relating to the Steele dossier,” because it is “subject of ongoing review by the Department.” Compiled by former spy Christopher Steele, the unconfirmed dossier alleges that Russia had “cultivated” Trump as an asset for five years and includes the “pee tape” allegation.
Mueller states that former FBI agent Peter Strzok was “transferred as a result of instances involving texts,” a circumstance that some Republicans identify as a massive instance of bias within the special counsel’s investigation. The head of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server, Strzok exchanged texts with attorney Lisa Page while the two were having an affair. Sent during the campaign, the texts were critical of Trump, including one in which Strzok called the candidate an “idiot.” Strzok was fired from the FBI in August 2018.
The former chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice and a manager on the special-counsel team, Andrew Weissmann has been identified by Republicans as a source of bias within the investigation, as he reportedly attended Hillary Clinton’s Election Night party in 2016.
A top prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, Aaron Zebley has reportedly been helping Mueller prepare for his testimony. Some Republicans, including the president, have pointed to Zebley’s presence on Mueller’s team as a conflict of interest, as he once represented former Clinton aide Justin Cooper, who helped helped Hillary Clinton set up her private email server while she was secretary of State.