Here’s a look at where the investigations related to President Donald Trump stand and what may lie ahead for him:
What’s this all about?
Trump is facing criminal investigations in Washington and New York.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. Trump also plays a central role in a separate case in New York, where prosecutors have implicated him in a crime. They say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.
What do I need to know today?
A Russian woman accused of being a secret agent admitted Thursday that she conspired to infiltrate the American gun-rights movement to gather intelligence on conservative political groups as Trump rose to power.
The case of 30-year-old Maria Butina has offered additional insight into how Moscow sought to surreptitiously influence American policy. Butina told a federal judge she and her Russian patron, Alexander Torshin, used their contacts in the National Rifle Association to pursue back channels to American conservatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The case isn’t being brought by Mueller, but it covers similar themes to his probe into Russian election interference. The guilty plea comes as the president continues to deal with fallout from the sentencing of his longtime lawyer.
Cohen, who once vowed he would “take a bullet” for his boss, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for an array of crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to two women that he says was done at the direction of Trump. The sentence was in line with what federal prosecutors asked for. He is ordered to surrender March 6.
Separately, prosecutors announced Wednesday that they filled in another piece of the puzzle in the hush-money case: The parent company of the National Enquirer acknowledged making one of those payments “in concert” with the Trump campaign to protect him from a story that could have hurt his candidacy.
So…did the Trump campaign collude with Russia?
There is no smoking gun when it comes to the question of Russia collusion. But the evidence so far shows that a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and that several lied about the communication.
There is also evidence that some people in Trump’s orbit were discussing a possible email dump from WikiLeaks before it occurred. American intelligence agencies and Mueller have said Russia was the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the campaign that was damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort.
Other questions to consider:
What about obstruction of justice? That is another unresolved question that Mueller is pursuing. Investigators have examined key episodes such as Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his fury over the recusal from the investigation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
What does Trump have to say about all of this? Trump has repeatedly slammed the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and insisted there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia. He also says his now-former lawyer, Cohen, lied to get a lighter sentence in New York. In a Fox News interview Thursday, he also denied directing Cohen to break the law.