As special counsel Robert Mueller moves further along in his investigation into Russia's alleged collusion with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, he continues to narrow in on his "hit list" — a group of people he's deduced could be involved with any potential election meddling. Axios published Mueller's "hit list" on Monday, which was included in a grand jury subpoena that Mueller's team sent to a witness in February. The list includes most of the major players you've heard about so far in the probe, including some who've already pleaded guilty to charges and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
Axios reported that according to the subpoena, Mueller is interested in all documents and communications related to 10 individuals, including: President Trump; former outgoing White house communications director Hope Hicks; former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon; former foreign policy advisor Carter Page; former campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort; Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates; former deputy assistant to Trump and former director of Oval Office operations Keith Schiller; Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen; and political consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone.
The reason so many of the people on Mueller's "hit list" have "former" in front of their titles is due to the high turnover rate in Trump's White House. While many of the staffers are no longer with the administration, they were close to the president during his 2016 campaign, and were present for many of the meetings and conversations that Mueller is currently investigating.
Mueller requested all emails, texts, handwritten notes, and any other form of communication to and from the people on his list — this means he believes these 10 individuals could be directly involved with any collusion that may have taken place between the Trump administration and the Russian government.
Gates, Manafort's number two during the Trump presidential election, has already plead guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. Manafort was also indicted along with Gates, and was charged with, among other things, recruiting and funding a group of former European politicians to lobby in the United States on behalf of Ukraine. So far, 19 people have been charged in Mueller's investigation, two of whom are on Mueller's "hit list."
Hicks resigned from her post as communications director on Feb. 28, one day after her Russia testimony. During her meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, she confessed to investigators that she's told "white lies" on behalf of Trump. As NBC's Katy Tur pointed out on Twitter, after her departure, only one person on Mueller's list, Cohen, still works for Trump.
The particular subpoena obtained by Axios noted that Mueller was interested in any communications with these 10 people from Nov. 1, 2015 — about five months after Trump announced his candidacy for president — to the present.
White House special counsel Ty Cobb, who was brought on to the president's legal team to handle anything dealing with the Russia investigation, didn't immediately respond to Bustle's request for comment. He previously predicted an early end to Mueller's probe, and said he'd be "embarrassed" if it was still going on in 2018.
"I'd be embarrassed if this is still haunting the White House by Thanksgiving and worse if it's still haunting him by year end," Cobb told Reuters last August. "I think the relevant areas of inquiry by the special counsel are narrow."
While both the Russian government and Trump have denied any collusion took place, critics anticipated that Mueller's investigation would be extensive.
"The White House would be lucky if sometime in the spring of 2018 this started to wrap up, but even that I think is pretty optimistic," Andy Wright, former associate counsel under Obama, told Reuters. "It's a very complicated investigation."
Trump — who reportedly ordered for Mueller to be fired before White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit — has said in the past that he and his family are outside the scope of the special counsel's investigation and even referred to it as a "witch hunt" on Twitter. This new document now proves that this isn't true, and Trump is very much a focus of Mueller's probe.