Who Is Cooperating With The Mueller Investigation? Michael Cohen Is Rumored To Be Next
Keeping up with every twist and turn of special counsel Robert Mueller's FBI probe into the Trump campaign is practically a full-time job. But knowing who is cooperating with the Mueller investigation is key to understanding what's at stake — and what could eventually come of the whole ordeal. Not to mention, the list of people with ties to President Trump who are helping Mueller isn't exactly a short one.
It could also continue to grow. Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has become a key figure in the president's legal drama. That's thanks in part to the $130,000 payment he made to an adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Cohen has been under a separate criminal investigation himself in the Southern District of New York, and multiple media outlets reported this week that he may start cooperating with federal prosecutors there. If he cuts a plea deal in New York, he'll "likely be obligated to provide Mueller’s team relevant information too," Vox reports.
But even without Cohen, Mueller's team already has a roster of former Trump campaign staffers and allies who signed on to cooperate. Most of them agreed to assist the probe because they faced legal problems of their own in connection to the investigation. At the end of the day, though, why each is cooperating doesn't change the fact that they're all talking.
George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to Trump's 2016 campaign, entered into a plea agreement in October after he was charged for making false statements to the FBI. Papadopoulos was in contact with Russians who he believed had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, which he admitted he did not truthfully disclose to the FBI. His plea deal stated that he would cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December. Just like Papadopoulos, he entered into a plea agreement that required he fully cooperate with the special counsel's investigation. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to agents about conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, began cooperating with the Mueller investigation at the beginning of 2018. When he was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in January, he agreed to cooperate in order to be interviewed in the less formal setting, The New York Times reports. Bannon was reportedly interviewed by Mueller's team for roughly 20 hours in the following weeks.
Rick Gates, the business partner of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February. The conspiracy charge related to "impeding, impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful governmental functions" of the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, according to court documents.
Gates began cooperating with federal prosecutors in exchange for the potential of a lighter prison sentence.
Lebanese-American businessman George Nader reportedly agreed to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation earlier this year. Nader worked as a back-channel mediator between Israel and Arab countries for years, and Mueller's team reportedly is interested in two meetings he attended after the presidential election.
One of those meetings took place at Trump Tower in New York in December 2016 between Bannon; Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor; and Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The other took place in January 2017 and was attended by bin Zayed; Erik Prince, an American businessman with ties to Trump; and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker with ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Jeffrey Yohai, Paul Manafort's former son-in-law and business partner, began cooperating last month after pleading guilty to misusing construction loan funds.
It's possible Yohai will help Mueller's investigation prosecute Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, Reuters reports. Manafort pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, tax evasion, and bank fraud in March. But he was also charged with attempting to tamper with potential witnesses while under house arrest on Friday. The special counsel claims that Manafort reached out to someone connected to his pro-Ukraine lobbying group; Manafort's lawyer has denied this.
Only time will tell if more names make it onto the list of people assisting the Mueller probe.