If Trump was hoping the Russia probe was winding down, he's about to find out he was sorely mistaken.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have turned to their attention to the 2016 Republican National Convention, questioning witnesses about two events attended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as well as the circumstances surrounding a pro-Russia change made to the GOP platform.
According to Reuters, Mueller’s team has been asking detailed questions about conversations that took place between Sessions and Kislyak at a convention-related event in July 2016.
Mueller is also reportedly looking into “how and why” the Republican Party platform deleted language calling for the U.S. to provide “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces” — a pro-Russia change that came without explanation.
Around the time the change was made, Trump foreign policy adviser J.D. Gordon reportedly told a member of the platform committee’s national security subcommittee that Trump directed him to support the weakening of the platform language.
The Trump campaign, however, has denied that it was involved in watering down the party’s stance on Ukraine.
In addition to the events in July 2016, Mueller is also reportedly investigating whether Sessions had any private conversations with Kislyak during a campaign event several months earlier at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.
During questioning last year, Sessions told congressional investigators that he could not recall having any conversations with Russian officials at the April 2016 Mayflower Hotel event, but that he could not rule out the possibility that a “brief interaction” with Kislyak may have taken place.
It was previously reported that congressional investigators are looking into the Republican National Convention as part of their investigation into Russian interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign, but this is the first indication that the special counsel probe is also zeroing in on the 2016 event.
As Reuters noted, despite Trump’s frequent claims that collusion has been taken off the table, Mueller’s focus on the events that transpired at the Republican convention indicates “that Trump campaign contacts and actions related to Russia remain central to the special counsel’s investigation.”
On Tuesday, Mueller’s team made the most direct link yet between the Trump campaign and Russia, revealing in a court filing that former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates knew that the Russian operative with whom he was communicating at the height of the 2016 campaign was actually a Russian intelligence agent.
That revelation came just a week after it was reported that campaign adviser and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone had been in extensive contact with a Russian military intelligence officer working out of the agency’s headquarters in Moscow.
Stone claims he didn’t know Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian intelligence agent, but the fact remains the same: Multiple Trump campaign aides had sustained contact with Russian spies during the 2016 presidential election.
No matter how much Trump may want to deny it, his campaign is squarely in the crosshairs — and collusion is still very much on the table.