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Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration
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Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration

WATCH: Notre-Dame Cathedral on Fire

Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration

Paris fire officials saved the city’s iconic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral from total destruction Monday after a massive fire engulfed the 865-year-old Catholic church.

>> Read more trending news 

 

Fire officials said the building’s basic structure was saved, BBC News reported, but the historic church suffered extensive damage. Before it was put out, the blaze destroyed the 315-foot spire on top of the medieval Gothic cathedral and spread to one of the building’s landmark towers.

>> Photos: Notre Dame Cathedral after the fire

 

>> Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Social media reacts

Here are the latest updates:

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT April 17: Officials with the Paris prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that the investigation into the cause of Monday’s fire is in its early stages, but that so far it’s uncovered no indications that the fire was a criminal act, The Associated Press reported.

Police have questioned about 40 people as part of the probe, according to the AP, including employees of companies involved in the church’s restoration and security personnel.

Update 10 a.m. EDT April 17: Walt Disney Company CEO and Chairman Robert Iger said the company plans to donate $5 million to help restore Notre Dame after the historic cathedral was devastated by a fire Monday.

In a message posted Wednesday on Twitter, Iger called Notre Dame "a beacon of faith, hope & beauty, inspiring we and reverence."

Disney used the historic cathedral as the setting of 1996's animated film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name.

Update 9:35 a.m. EDT April 17: Paris firefighters told reporters Wednesday that the structure that supports the Notre Dame’s famed “rose” stained-glass windows is at risk after Monday’s fire, The Associated Press reported.

“There is a risk for the gables that are no longer supported  by the frame,” firefighter spokesman Gabriel Plus said.

Sixty firefighters remained at Notre Dame on Wednesday, Plus said according to French broadcaster BFM TV.

Authorities continued to monitor the structure for any remaining hot spots. Officials said Tuesday that they expected to monitor the building’s stability for at least 48 hours after firefighters put out the blaze.

Authorities to continue to investigate the cause off the fire, which officials believe was accidental.

Update 7:14 a.m. EDT April 17: Nearly $1 billion has been pledged to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, The Associated Press reported.

Stephane Bern told French news outlets €880 million, or $995 million in U.S. funds, have been raised so far and the French government is creating an office just to deal with big money donations, the AP reported.

Some of the money has come from big donors like Apple and owners of Chanel and Dior, but also money has been pledged by people from cities and small towns around the world.

A large crane and wood planks were delivered to the site Wednesday morning as firefighters look at the damage to the cathedral and shore up what is left after the church’s spire fell and the roof was destroyed, the AP reported.

Some restoration experts are questioning French President Emmanuel Macron’s 5-year deadline to get Notre Dame repaired after Monday’s fire, saying it could take up to five years just to secure the structure.

“It’s a fundamental step, and very complex, because it’s difficult to send workers into a monument whose vaulted ceilings are swollen with water,” Pierluigi Pericolo said. “The end of the fire doesn’t mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside.”

Despite the 5-year deadline, which coincides with Paris’ hosting of the Olympics in 2024, the cathedral’s rector said he will close Notre Dame for up to six years.

Bishop Patrick Chauvet said “a segment of the cathedral has been very weakened,” but the AP reported he didn’t specify which part.

There will be an international architects’ competition to find someone to rebuild the cathedral’s spire. The announcement was made after a special cabinet meeting held by Macron. 

The competition will be “giving Notre Dame a spire adapted to technologies and challenges of our times,” Edouard Philippe, the prime minister of France, said, according to the AP.

Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 16: A fundraising effort to help rebuild the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was almost destroyed by an inferno Monday, raised more than $700 million in just one night, according to news reports, as some of France’s wealthiest families and businesses pledged millions in donations.

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced an ambitious timeline on Tuesday for rebuilding the cultural landmark and World Heritage site.

“We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, even more beautiful, and I hope that it will be completed within 5 years,” Macon said.

 

Reconstruction experts told news agencies it could realistically take 10 to 15 years to finish rebuilding it. The cathedral’s interior eaves, which held up the roof and were referred to as “The Forest,” were made of large timber beams from giant oak,  chestnut and other trees that don’t exist in France anymore.

 

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT April 16: Indiana's University of Notre Dame pledged $100,000 to help renovate Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a fire caused heavy damage to the historic church’s spire and roof.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university’s president, announced the planned donation Tuesday. He said the bells of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame campus would also toll 50 times at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday, each ring representing the 50 Hail Marys of the rosary.

 

“We are deeply saddened to see the damage to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, a church whose exquisite Gothic architecture has for centuries raised hearts and minds to God,” Jenkins said Tuesday in a statement. “We join in prayer with the faithful of the cathedral and all of France as they begin the work of rebuilding.”

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 16: French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for their work tamping down Monday’s blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral and vowed again to rebuild in an address given Tuesday.

“Throughout our history we have built towns, ports (and) churches,” Macron said. “Many have been burned due to revolutions, wars -- due to mankind. Each time we have rebuilt them.”

He said he shares the sorrow and hope of the French people.

“I deeply believe that we are going to change this disaster and work together and reflect deeply on what has happened, what we are and what we can do,” Macron said. “Long live the republic and long live France.” 

Update 12:25 p.m. EDT April 16: President Donald Trump offered condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, one day after a fire ravaged the historic Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris and the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday in a statement. “The cathedral has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium, and we are saddened to witness the damage to this architectural masterpiece. Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy. France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. 

“We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!”

Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 16: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo toured the damage left after a fire sparked at Notre Dame, downing the historic cathedral's spire and charring the building. 

"It's a desolate scene," Hidalgo said in a Twitter post after visiting the church. "Restoration is a huge challenge, but we're determined to meet it."

 

Update 11:15 a.m. EDT April 16: Police and fire officials said Tuesday they will spend the next 48 hours assessing the safety of Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire damaged the building Monday.

“We have identified some vulnerabilities in the structure ... notably in the vault and the north transept pinion that needs securing,” Laurent Nunez, a junior interior minister, said Tuesday, according to The Guardian. The newspaper reported architects had identified three holes in the structure caused by Monday’s fire in the locations of the spire, the transept and the vault of the north transept.

 

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Tuesday that reconstructing the building will take “days (and) months,” CNN reported.

Authorities believe Monday’s fire was accidental, but officials have launched an investigation to determine its exact cause.

Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 16: French cosmetics group L’Oreal, its majority shareholder, the Bettencourt Meyers family, and the Bettencourt Schuller foundation pledged to donate 200 million euros ($226 million) to help restore Notre Dame, according to a report from Reuters.

In a tweet Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the technology company he heads will also donate to help rebuild the cathedral after it was ravaged by flames Monday.

“We are heartbroken for the French people and those around the world for whom Notre Dame is a symbol of hope,” Cook wrote. “Apple will be donating to the rebuilding efforts to help restore Notre Dame’s precious heritage for future generations.”

 

Update 9:10 a.m. EDT April 16: In a message sent Tuesday to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, Pope Francis praised the work of firefighters who fought Monday's blaze at Notre Dame, "the architectural jewel of a collective memory," and offered prayers that the cathedral would be restored.

 

“This disaster has seriously damaged a historic building. But I am aware that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their beliefs,” Francis wrote. “Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the city.”

He noted that the fire was particularly devastating given that it came during Holy Week, the somber days leading up to Easter during which Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Workers continued Tuesday to move relics and artwork held at the cathedral. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo thanked crews for their work to save the Notre Dame and shared a short video Tuesday of workers moving items that were sheltered as the fire burned overnight.

 

The works will be taken to Paris City Hall and then to the Louvre museum for safekeeping, CNN reported.

Update 8:30 a.m. EDT April 16: The Archbishop of Paris told France's BFM TV that Notre Dame’s three “rose” stained-glass windows were safe after a fire ravaged the cathedral Monday.

>> Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: What religious relics were stored there?

The windows are the centerpiece of Notre Dame’s collection of stained-glass windows. According to CNN, they date back to the 13th century.

 

Update 8:04 a.m. EDT April 16: Paris prosecutor Remy Heintz said officials still believe that Monday’s blaze was accidental and have not found any evidence of arson, The Associated Press reported Tuesday

Meanwhile, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said the cathedral’s massive organ survived the fire.

>> See footage of the surviving relics here

 

Video also circulated on social media showing the interior of the cathedral following the fire. 

>> Click here to watch

 

Update 4:08 a.m. EDT April 16: A Paris Fire Brigade spokesman told reporters Tuesday morning that “the entire fire is out.”

Authorities are “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smoldering residues,” Gabriel Plus said, according to The Associated Press.

Update 3:32 a.m. EDT April 16: Another French billionaire has pledged a massive donation for Notre Dame’s reconstruction.

According to The Associated Press, Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, said he and his company will donate 200 million euros – or about $226 million – toward the efforts to rebuild following Monday’s devastating fire.

>> See the tweet here

 

Meanwhile, the Paris Fire Brigade tweeted Tuesday morning that “the structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been safeguarded.”

Officials said more than 400 firefighters fought the blaze for more than nine hours. 

Two police officers and one firefighter were “slightly wounded,” the Fire Brigade tweeted.

>> See the tweets here

 

 

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT April 15: As French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, French billionaire François-Henri Pinault pledged the equivalent of $113 million toward that goal, according to Axios and other news outlets.

 

Pinault is the CEO of the French luxury group Kering and Rennes soccer club. 

He said he planned to provide the funding through Artemis,  his family’s investment firm, according to AFP.

Update 8:45 p.m. EDT April 15: The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral is now under control, Paris police officials told reporters late Monday.

The blaze burned for hours and destroyed a significant part of the historic building, but it was not a total loss, according to fire officials.

The cause of the fire, which is under investigation, may be linked to the renovation of the spire, which collapsed as it caught fire, according to The Associated Press.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild the landmark.

>> Related: Photos: Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral on fire

“This Notre-Dame cathedral, we will rebuild it. All together. It's part of our French destiny. I commit myself: tomorrow a national subscription will be launched, and well beyond our borders,” he said in a social media post Monday evening.

 

 Also earlier Monday, former President Barack Obama posted a photo of his family visiting Notre Dame and lighting a candle in the famous cathedral.

“Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can,” Obama said.

 

Update 7:15 pm EDT April 15: Paris officials have launched an investigation into how the huge fire that nearly destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday first started.

The building was undergoing renovations and CNN reported the blaze, which spread quickly, may have started in an attic at the church.

While hundreds of fire crews were able to prevent the total destruction of one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, greatest landmarks, the devastation to the building was massive.

The first pictures of the ruination inside shows just how extensive the damage was. 

 

As the inferno raged through the structure, witnesses gathered on the streets around the beloved cathedral and sang hymns, viral video from the scene showed.

 

The cultural treasure drew some 13 million visitors a year, according to Paris officials. 

The church would have been filled with the faithful this week as the Catholic church celebrates Easter Holy Week, which marks the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Update 6:30 p.m. EDT April 15: Paris firefighters managed to save some of the priceless treasures inside Notre Dame Cathedral as a massive fire engulfed the historic Catholic church Monday.

The rector of Notre Dame, Patrick Jacquin, told local reporters that the Crown of Thorns, one of the holiest relics owned by the Catholic church, and the Tunic of St Louis have both been recovered, the BBC reported.

Jesus Christ was crucified with wearing a Crown of Thorns, which some have equated with the Crown Jewels.

“The relic, originally from Jerusalem, was first housed in France in the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, built in Paris by King Louis IX especially for it in the 13th century,”  the Independent reported.

While the authenticity of the crown at Notre Dame cannot be verified with complete certainty, it has been documented as dating back to the fourth century.

 

Update: 6:00 p.m. EDT April 15: French President Emmanuel Macron is pledging to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world’s greatest landmarks, and is asking for international donations to help in the reconstruction, according to news reports.

Earlier Monday night Paris time, Macron, who visited the site of the fire for several hours, said the massive inferno and burning of such a world treasure is taking an emotional toll on the city, especially because it happened during one of the most important weeks of the year for Catholics.

“Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight,” Macron said.

 

Update 5:30 p.m. EDT April  15: Paris firefighters managed to save the basic structure of the Notre Dame cathedral and its iconic towers, but the interior was mostly destroyed, according to news reports and reporters on the scene.

 

A view of the fire from above shows the magnitude of the destruction.

 

A photographer captured the exact moment the spire toppled over.

 

Update 5:00 p.m. Firefighters in Paris have saved the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral from total destruction, according to city officials.

 

Reuters is reporting the mayor of Paris said firefighters are optimistic they can save the cathedral’s two main towers.

Update 4:45 p.m. EDT April 15:  As hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, the city’s fire chief said it’s unclear if crews will be able  to prevent the fire from spreading and causing more destruction, according to The Associated Press.

“We are not sure we are capable of stopping the spreading” to Notre Dame’s second tower and belfry,” Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet said outside the legendary cathedral.

The church’s 315-foot spire collapsed earlier.

 Update 4:30 p.m. EDT April 15: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the fire burning through Notre Dame Cathedral “heartbreaking.”

“ Notre Dame has stood as a beating heart of religion and culture for centuries, inspiring all who have visited her. The footage of today’s fire is nothing short of heartbreaking. To the people of Paris and France: know that America stands with you,” Pelosi said on social media.

 

As the cathedral continues to burn, firefighters are trying to save the building and are also in the process of evacuating the most precious artwork inside, according to media reports.

Update 4 p.m. EDT April 15: The Vatican released a statement Monday as a “terrible fire” continued to burn through the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

“The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, (a) symbol of Christianity in France and in the world,” the statement said. Officials added that the Vatican is praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation.”

 

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT April 15: After President Donald Trump suggested that French authorities fight a blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral with flying water tankers, a French agency responded that doing so could heavily damage the centuries-old building.

“(A) drop of water by air on this type of building could indeed result in the collapse of the entire structure, officials with the French civil security agency said in a tweet, according to CNN. “The weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could indeed weaken the structure of Notre Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity.”

Earlier Monday, Trump said in a tweet that it was “so horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out,” he wrote. “Must act quickly!”

 

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT April 15: Authorities with France's Interior Ministry said 400 firefighters have been mobilized to battle the blaze that broke out Monday at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

Authorities continued working to put out the flames Monday night.

Update 3 p.m. EDT April 15: French President Emmanuel Macron is on the scene of a massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France 24 reported.

In a French language tweet shared earlier Monday, Macron said the fire was bringing out the "emotion of a whole nation." "Like all our country men, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn," he wrote.

 

Update 2:40 p.m. EDT April 15: Photos from Paris showed people watching in disbelief as firefighters battled a blaze Monday at the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.

>> Photos: Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral on fire

 

Update 2:30 p.m. EDT April 15: A spokesman for Notre Dame told French media the fire had spread to the entirety of the church’s wooden interior.

“Everything is burning,” Notre Dame spokesman Andrew Finot said, according to The Associated Press. “Nothing will remain from the frame.”

Authorities were working Monday to salvage artwork kept in the historic cathedral.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, although officials told BBC News it might have been connected to renovation work.

 

Authorities said they were evacuating the area around Notre Dame on Monday as the fire continued to burn.

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 15: Police said no deaths have been reported in connection to Monday’s fire at Notre-dame de Paris cathedral, according to The Associated Press. Authorities did not immediately say where any injuries were reported.

Update 2:05 p.m. EDT April 15: Videos and photos from Paris showed the cathedral’s spire fall as the fire continued to burn Monday.

 

Original report: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed in a tweet around 7:15 p.m. local time that authorities were responding to “a terrible fire” at Notre Dame.

 

Images and videos shared on social media showed flames licking the cathedral.

     

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, although officials told BBC News it might have been connected to renovation work.

In a tweet as the fire raged, President Donald Trump said it was “so horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out,” he wrote. Must act quickly!”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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One item in the Steele Dossier which has often caused a media furor is over the assertion that President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to the Czech Republic on some sort of mission for the President during the 2016 campaign. Cohen has always denied it, and repeated that in testimony before Congress earlier this year. 'Have you ever been to Prague?' Cohen was asked. 'I've never been to Prague,' Cohen responded without missing a beat. 'I've never been to the Czech Republic.' The Mueller Report was clear that Cohen was believed over Steele. 'Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false,' the report says on page 351. On Friday, Cohen again said he was still waiting for a retraction by McClatchy Newspapers. 3. Why did Donald Trump Jr. not answer questions from Mueller? While President Trump's son has steadfastly defended his father throughout the Mueller investigation, and testified to the Congress about the Russia probe, the Special Counsel report notes that Trump Jr. did not directly aid the Mueller investigation, specifically on the infamous Trump Tower meeting. 'The Office spoke to every participant except Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer) and Trump, Jr., the latter of whom declined to be interviewed by the Office' - then, the next two sentences are redacted, with the explanation on page 125 that grand jury information is responsible for the redacation. In a later discussion of how President Trump handled publicity about the Trump Tower meeting, there is a redaction which involves Trump Jr. on grand jury grounds - does it indicate again that Trump Jr. did not answer questions? It's not clear because of the blacked out material - but the President's son never seemingly answered questions from Mueller's team or a federal grand jury. 4. A Trump tweet that was redacted in the Mueller Report. This seems sort of crazy, but it's true. On page 363 of the report, Mueller discusses President Trump denouncing Michael Cohen, when his former personal attorney had moved to plead guilty and cooperate with the feds. 'He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence,' the President tweeted. Then there is a section which is blacked out under, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' But if you look at the footnote, it refers to a tweet by Mr. Trump, at 10:48 am on December 3, 2018. It's not hard to figure out which tweet that was, as it was one in which the President talks about Roger Stone not flipping and cooperating with the feds. I'm not a lawyer, so it makes no sense to me that printing that tweet could interfere with an ongoing case, but that's one of the redactions made by the Justice Department. 5. When will Robert Mueller talk in public? Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have already sent a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller asking him to testify before Congress on his report. Last week, the Attorney General said he would have no opposition to Mueller testifying. Mueller operated in a much different way than previous high-profile independent prosecutors - go back to Watergate and you will see news conferences by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski; Ken Starr spoke to the press during the Whitewater investigation. But Robert Mueller has been totally silent, ignoring questions on his few visits to Capitol Hill, doing no interviews and saying nothing in public. An effort to get some remarks from him on Sunday after church netted only a 'no comment' - which is pretty much the most we have heard from Mueller during his almost 22 months as Special Counsel.
  • The newly released report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections rejected the claims of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he received leaked emails from a young employee at the Democratic National Committee, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Assange used the murder of DNC worker Seth Rich in an effort to cover up the fact that Russian Intelligence had hacked the DNC emails, and transferred them to WikiLeaks. 'As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' the Mueller report stated, referring to Assange's claim that Rich was involved. 'The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails,' the report added on page 56 of the 448 page document released on Thursday by the Justice Department. The redacted version of the Mueller Report reiterated what had been alleged in a previous indictment of a group of Russian Intelligence agents, that they had hacked into a DNC email server starting in May 2016, and posing as 'Guccifer 2.0,' sent an encrypted attachment, 'wk dnc link1.txt.gpg' to WikiLeaks. For the Rich family, it was confirmation that Assange's claim - which had readily been embraced by familiar Republican voices, Fox News, and conservative talk radio - was indeed false, and had created 'unimaginable pain.' The Mueller report said WikiLeaks did not receive the hacked DNC emails and documents from GRU officers until July 14 - four days after Rich had been murdered. 'The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks's claims about the source of material that it posted,' the Mueller report stated. During the campaign, in an August 25, 2016 interview with Fox News cited by Mueller, Assange asserted that Rich - who was murdered on July 10, 2016 - was a 'potential' source of emails from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks stuck to that story, even as U.S. investigators began to focus more and more on the ties between Assange and Russian GRU hackers, as WikiLeaks increased the reward for clues to Rich's murder to $130,000 the day before President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January of 2017. Not only did WikiLeaks push the Seth Rich angle - along with Fox News, Infowars, and various conservative talk radio hosts - but so too did the Russians; this tweet was from the Russian Embassy in London in May of 2017. Two days after that tweet from the Russian government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used an appearance on 'Fox and Friends' to further spread the theory that Rich had been murdered after giving WikiLeaks thousands of hacked documents from the DNC, as the matter quickly gained the attention of talk radio and conservative commentators. Soon after that Gingrich interview in May of 2017, Fox News retracted the network's original report tying Rich to the leak of materials to WikiLeaks. In the end, investigators concluded all signs pointed to Moscow and Assange, as the Mueller Report said the mentions of Rich were 'designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,' that being the Russians. Like the Pizzagate conspiracy theory - which claimed that a supporter of Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a neighborhood pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. - no evidence was ever offered up by Assange and WikiLeaks to support the Rich claim.
  • Thursday's release of a 448 page redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections certainly did not end the questions about the investigation, as President Donald Trump labeled it, 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' and Democrats demanded even more answers about what was in the report. First, you can find a link to the report on the website of the Department of Justice. The report is divided into two parts. The first deals with questions of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia - the Special Counsel found evidence of 'numerous' contacts between them, but not enough to merit charges for any illegal activity. The second part of the report deals with questions about obstruction of justice. In that portion, investigators found that top aides, advisers, and friends of the President routinely ignored his orders to fire people like the Special Counsel and more. Here's more from the fine print of the Mueller report: 1. The first part of the collusion statement used by Barr. The release of the Mueller report allowed a full review of a sentence fragment employed by Attorney General William Barr in his late March letter, which (accurately) said, 'the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. Many reporters had wondered what was in the first part of that statement and why it was not included in Barr's letter. And, starting on page nine, it seemed clear. 'The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,' the Mueller report concluded. Then adding the start of the sentence used by Barr: 'Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benfeit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts...' 2. It wasn't just Comey writing memos after talks with Trump. After getting fired as FBI Director, James Comey made public memos which he had written after various talks with President Trump. It's also been reported that former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe did the same thing. Now the Mueller report shows others did, too. Deputy National Security Director K.T. McFarland saved a contemporaneous memo after a discussion with the President in which the Mr. Trump asked McFarland to 'write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions' with the Russian Ambassador, when McFarland knew the real answer was that Mr. Trump had done exactly that. Then there were top officials at the National Security Agency, who were so alarmed by a phone call with Mr. Trump - they wrote a memo and put it in an NSA safe - with the deputy NSA chief saying it was 'the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.' 3. Aides, advisers, friends, regularly ignore Trump requests. Whether it was on big items like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or sending messages to top officials, the Mueller report is chock full of examples where the President tells people to do something - and they refuse to do it - worried it's the wrong move. White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to fire Mueller. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus wouldn't tell Sessions he should leave. Corey Lewandowski wouldn't send a message for the President to Sessions, and even tried to get a White House aide to do it - but he also refused. Then there was this tidbit from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had lunch with President Trump, and was told to send along a message to James Comey. This was the same day that Mr. Trump told Comey - after clearing the Oval Office of other officials - that he wanted the feds to 'let this go' when it came to legal issues for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 4. Rosenstein threatened to 'tell the truth' on Comey firing. After using a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a pretext to fire FBI Director James Comey - the White House pressed Rosenstein to further explain why Comey had been fired, 'to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein's idea to fire Comey.' Rosenstein said that was a 'false story,' and after President Trump called on the phone to ask the Deputy A.G. to do a press conference about the Comey firing, the report says Rosenstein said he would 'tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea.' The Mueller report goes along with testimony released by Republicans in recent weeks which depicted Rosenstein as furious with the White House over the Comey firing, convinced that he was 'used' to get rid of the FBI Director. 5. Sarah Huckabee Sanders comments 'not founded on anything.' After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, the White House repeatedly defended the move by saying that ousting Comey was supported by 'countless members of the FBI,' though the White House produced no evidence to reporters back up that assertion. Fast forward a bit over a year to July of 2018, when Sanders was interviewed by investigators, she admitted there was no truth to her assertion from the podium. 'Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue,'' the report stated. Asked about a comment in another press interview about how FBI agents had supposedly lost confidence in Comey, 'Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.'  6. A series of unknown Mueller cases are still active. While Attorney General William Barr told Congress last month that the Mueller report 'does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public,' the details show a slightly different story. At the end of the report, there are lists of cases transferred to other prosecutors, and information on other matters - uncovered by Mueller - but referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. In those two lists, a series of cases were redacted - two cases transferred by Mueller - and 12 other cases in which referrals were made. All of them were redacted for the reason that publicity could damage ongoing investigations, what was officially known as, 'Harm to Ongoing Matter.' Maybe they are cases which have nothing to do with the Russia investigation or with President Trump. But one of the referrals which was not redacted involved Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Technically, these aren't Mueller cases - but they're also still secret. 7. Mueller discredits Wikileaks claim of Seth Rich DNC leak. Along with Pizzagate, the claim by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange that a former DNC staffer was the source of leaked Democratic Party emails was one of the biggest conspiracy theories to emerge from the 2016 campaign. In the report, Mueller's team says file transfer evidence linking Wikileaks to Russian Intelligence lays waste to the claim that Seth Rich had leaked materials to Assange - and may have been murdered as a result. Assange has repeatedly denied any ties to Russian agents, but U.S. Intelligence has long regarded Wikileaks as a 'fence' for Russian Intelligence, and that the two tied themselves together to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. 8. Mueller says witnesses deleted potential evidence. In laying out the evidence put forward in the report, the Special Counsel's office made clear that the Russia probe was hampered because of information which could not be obtained - making it clear that some people under investigation had deleted texts and other electronic communications, 'including some associated with the Trump Campaign.' One example was between former White House aide Steve Bannon and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who were questioned about a secretive meeting in the Seychelles, which involved Russian figures. Bannon and Prince told different stories - but investigators couldn't see their text messages, because they had simply disappeared from their phones, as both men denied deleting the messages. 'Prince's phone contained no text messages prior to March 2017, though provider records indicate that he and Bannon exchanged dozens of messages,' the report stated. 9. Mueller Report redactions - 'lightly redacted' or more? The evening before the release of the report, officials told a variety of news organizations that the report was 'lightly redacted.' One group looked at it and found redactions of over 170 pages, as there were examples where entire pages were blacked out. The very first redactions in the document came in the Table of Contents - and had to do wtih the 'Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials,' dealing with stolen Democratic Party emails and Wikileaks. Some items were redacted for grand jury information, investigative techniques, harm to ongoing matters, and third person privacy concerns. 10. Trump's answers to Mueller questions. At the end of the Mueller report, you can read the President's answers to a series of written questions posed by the Special Counsel's office, after they were unable to get the President to sit for an interview, in person. Critics of the President noted derisively that there was a theme in many of his answers. 'I don't recall,' or 'I don't remember,' were phrases found. 'I have no recollection,' and 'I do not remember.' 'I do not recall being aware during the campaign' of any contacts with Wikileaks, the President testified. 'I have no recollection' that any foreign government or entity wanted to support the campaign, Mr. Trump said. 'I have no recollection of being told during the campaign that Vladimir Putin' supported my bid for the White House, the President added.
  • In a redacted 448 page report delivered to Congress Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed a series of actions by President Donald Trump to rein in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, clearly stating that while Mr. Trump tried to undermine the Russia investigation, his efforts were stymied mainly because top aides and other government officials ignored his demands for action. Prime among them was White House Counsel Don McGahn, who told investigators that the President ordered him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June of 2017, soon after press reports emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. 'McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,' referring to the  episode in the Watergate investigation where President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Later, when press reports emerged stating that the President has ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, the report says the President then 'directed White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed.' McGahn again refused to follow the President's order - defying him in an Oval Office meeting. 'McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle,' the report concluded. There were other stories of top aides similarly ignoring the President, such as Corey Lewandowski, who was told by Mr. Trump to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly state that the Russia investigation was 'very unfair' to Mr. Trump. First in June of 2017, then again a month later, Mr. Trump used a private meeting to press Lewandowski - an outside adviser - to get Sessions 'to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference.' But like the White House Counsel, Lewandowski balked, and refused to follow the President's request, going so far as to ask a senior White House official - Rich Dearborn - to do the dirty work for him. 'Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through,' the report stated. The report also details how the President tried to lobby senior leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community to help him limit the Russia probe, as Mr. Trump complained to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, his daily intelligence briefers, and top officials at the National Security Agency. In late March of 2017, the President complained directly to DNI Coats, who counseled that it would be best to allow the investigations to 'run their course,' and not interfere with the work of FBI Director James Comey. While Coats did not tell investigators that he felt directly pressured to act, his top aides told a different story, that 'Coats was upset because the President has asked him to contact Comey to convince him there was nothing to the Russia investigation.' Mr. Trump also called the head of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, to weigh in on the Russia investigation - a conversation that so alarmed Rogers and a top deputy that they immediately drafted a memo, and placed it in an NSA safe to memorialize the communications with the President, much as Comey had done after his own meetings with Mr. Trump. Intelligence officials also said the President complained about the Russia investigation during his daily briefings, and asking for messages of support in the news media. 'On at least two occasions, the President began Presidential Daily Briefings by stating that there was no collusion with Russia and he hoped a press statement to that effect could be issued,' the report said. NSA chief Rogers recalled a private talk with Mr. Trump where the President vented his frustration, 'and said something like the 'Russia thing has got to go away.'' In another example from July of 2017, President Trump was ready to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but encountered resistance from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. 'Even though Priebus did not intend to carry out the President's directive, he told the President he would get Sessions to resign,' the report stated. Priebus later told the President that Sessions could not be ousted, because other top officials - including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would also resign - setting off a Saturday Night Massacre type of situation for President Trump. In the end, the Mueller investigation found that top aides to the President had saved Mr. Trump from possible legal jeopardy, mainly by ignoring his demands on the Russia investigation. 'The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,' the Mueller report concluded. Top Democrats in Congress immediately made clear they want more information about the obstruction matters. 'As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. Not surprisingly, the White House saw things differently, as the redacted version of the Mueller report was issued. On the issue of collusion, the Mueller report stated the investigation 'identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign' - but that there was no evidence that the campaign had 'conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.' Mueller seems likely to be asked directly about his investigation in May, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said he would ask Mueller to testify next month. Attorney General Barr is already scheduled for two days of testimony before the House and Senate on May 1 and May 2.
  • Official Washington is focused primarily today on the release of a redacted version of a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed almost two years ago by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, a probe which has generated fierce criticism since the outset by President Donald Trump and many of his political allies. First, this is the link to the 448 page Mueller report. There are two parts to the report - Volume 1 covers questions about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Volume 2 covers matters related to possible obstruction of justice by the President on the Russia probe. Here's where we stand: + 1:20 pm - The Mueller report raises the specter that associates of the Trump campaign and/or allies of the President may have deleted emails and other electronic evidence, which impeded the Mueller investigation. + 1:10 pm - While the Special Counsel was never able to get an in-person interview with the President, this report does include his written answers to questions submitted by the Mueller legal team. + 1:00 pm - The report goes into a lot of detail about the interactions between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, which ultimately resulted in Comey's firing in May of 2017.   + 12:50 pm - While Attorney General Barr talked earlier today of all the cooperation that the White House had provided in the investigation, the Mueller reports paints a different picture, especially when it comes to the question of getting testimony from President Trump.  The Special Counsel's office determined that an effort to subpoena the President would require an enormous amount of legal effort and time, even though simple written responses from President Trump were viewed as insufficient.  “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate,” the report stated. + 12:30 pm - The report details a number of contacts and calls made by the President to top intelligence officials, asking for their help in refuting the Trump-Russia story.  Top officials at the National Security Agency were so alarmed that they immediately wrote out a memo after the conversation, and put it in a safe.   Like White House aides, intelligence officials basically ignored the President's demand for help. + 12:10 pm - The Mueller report basically says that because top aides to the President consistently refused to carry out his orders to rein in - or even terminate - the Russia investigation, they saved the President from committing illegal acts, and obstruction of justice. + 12:00 pm - As mentioned earlier, President Trump had ordered his White House Counsel to fire Robert Mueller.  Don McGahn had refused.  Months later, the issue surfaced in the press, and the Mueller report says the President then demanded that McGahn deny the reports.  McGahn refused. + 11:55 am - The Mueller report says President Trump personally intervened to change a statement from his son, Donald Trump, Jr., about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, deleting a reference to how the meeting was to offer information about Hillary Clinton, and instead saying the meeting was about adoption policies.  + 11:50 am - After telling the White House Counsel to fire Mueller in June of 2017, President Trump kept pressing aides to help limit the Russia probe.  He asked Corey Lewandowski to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly declare the Russia probe, “very unfair.”  Lewandowski said he would do that, but refused - and tried to get another aide to do the same thing, who also refused. + 11:40 am - As the Mueller report was being released, President Trump was making comments about it during a White House event with wounded warriors.  + 11:35 am - In testimony from White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Mueller report spells out how President Trump ordered his top lawyer to fire the Special Counsel in 2017, once stories emerged that the President was under investigation for possible obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. + 11:30 am - A reminder in the report from the Special Counsel that a number of people connected to the Trump campaign lied about their contacts during and after the election when questioned by the feds. + 11:25 am - Here is the conclusion of Special Counsel Mueller when it comes to whether President Trump should have been charged with Obstruction of Justice: + 11:20 am - While there were indications the report was 'lightly redacted,' that's not the case in some areas, where entire pages were blacked out. + 11:10 am - The redactions give us little new information on links between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. + 11:06 am - The first redaction is in the table of contents, dealing with materials linked to Wikileaks and the Trump Campaign. + 11:05 am - The Mueller report has been released.  It is 448 pages. + 11:00 am - Don't forget, this report is not just about President Trump.  It also will spill into the race among Democrats to try to replace him. + 10:55 am - My ten year old kid asks me, “Have they released the Mueller report yet?”  Soon, I tell him. + 10:50 am - President Trump's scheduled 10:30 am event with Wounder Warriors at the White House still has not started.  With the Mueller report scheduled to be delivered to Congress at 11 am, it will be interesting to see if the President is speaking at that moment.  A President has the power to dominate the airwaves in a way that no other person can in the United States. + 10:45 am - As we await the exact details of the Mueller report, it is a good time to remember how important actual documents are in any investigation, and how politicians deal with public discussion of that material.  This from one House Democrat from Florida: + 10:40 am - Donald Trump Jr. did not mention his initial reaction to the offer of 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton, which he welcomed.  + 10:35 am - President Trump's son is echoing the declarations of his father as the Mueller report is released. + 10:30 am - Democrats are furious about the news conference of Attorney General Barr, claiming it was nothing more than Barr acting like President Trump's defense lawyer. + 10:25 am - Not long after the Attorney General said he had no opposition to the idea, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are now officially asking for public testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. + 10:20 am - Here is how the Barr news conference ended. + 10:15 am - The Trump White House is ready for today.  This was tweeted out soon after the end of the Barr news conference. + 10:10 am - Even on Fox News, there were not universally good reviews for the Attorney General. + 10:05 am - Here's some of the Attorney General's news conference. + 10:00 am - The news conference ends on a somewhat testy note, as the Attorney General sparred with reporters over how he characterized the impact of the investigation on President Trump, labeling the probe an 'unprecedented situation.' + 9:55 am - Barr says he has no opposition to the idea of Special Counsel Mueller testifying before Congress. + 9:50 am - Barr confirms that the President's legal team was allowed to see the Mueller report before Congress. + 9:45 am - Here is a link to Barr's statement he is giving to reporters. + 9:40 am - In his news conference, the Attorney General keeps repeating a main theme over and over again - that there was no collusion or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.  “The Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy,” Barr says. “So, that's the bottom line.” + 9:35 am - Attorney General William Barr says the redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be delivered to Congress at 11 am, and then it will be posted on line for the public to read. + 9:25 am - As we wait for the news conference of Attorney General William Barr, Democrats are denouncing Barr, ridiculing his decision to hold this session with reporters before the report is even released. + 9:20 am - President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is making his own noise today, saying he's ready to fill in any of the blanks left by redactions in the Mueller report.  Cohen's lawyer - Lanny Davis - was emphasizing the same as well. + 9:10 am - A quick reminder of what we know so far about the Russia investigation.  We know the basics already from the charges brought - or not brought by the Special Counsel.  Russian intelligence agents hacked Democratic Party emails and documents, and gave them to Wikileaks during the campaign. There were numerous contacts between Russians and people affiliated with the Trump campaign, both before and after the elections. But we also know that no indictments were ever returned for any Trump-Russia conspiracy, or collusion.  + 9:05 am - Congress is not in session this week, but the miracle of social media will make it very easy for lawmakers to weigh in on today's events as they transpire.  Republicans are backing the President, while Democrats are raising questions about the actions of Attorney General William Barr, who is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30, before the release of the report. + 9:00 am - It's been a busy morning on Twitter for President Trump, who has been again voicing his displeasure with the Mueller investigation, and re-tweeting items related to Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her emails from her time as Secretary of State.