A Consumer’s Guide to the Trump-Russia Investigations

With five investigations underway into ties between Trump associates and the Russians, it's difficult to know what each committee is doing. We created a guide to help you understand what each of the Trump probes is looking for and how.

July 24, 2017
Special counsel Robert Mueller.

Photo: Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Getty Images.

Rarely has the phrase “you can’t tell your players without a scorecard” rung more true than in the multiple investigations of ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

There are now five investigations into the relationships between Trump associates and the Russians. Two committees in the Senate are conducting probes, as are two committees in the House, as well as special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller, whose power is like that of a U.S. Attorney, is likely to say little unless he indicts someone.

The Congressional committees are a different story. Some or all of them will conduct public hearings, and there likely will be no shortage of committee members willing to opine about their investigation. Yet, the average person probably does not know which committee is doing what, which committee has issued which subpoenas for what reason, and which committee has held which hearings when.

We’ve compiled five tables that lay out what each investigation is looking at, what they’ve done so far, and critically in the case of the Congressional committees, each panel’s rules for issuing subpoenas. These tables make it easy to penetrate the thicket of inquiries. They will be updated periodically, so while one committee may be grabbing all the headlines, there might be another committee that has issued a wave of subpoenas that may indicate where an investigation is headed.

While there is some overlap, the panels diverge. For instance, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform is interested in whether former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about payments from overseas when he applied for a security clearance.

Republicans on that panel have taken up a cause championed by Trump supporters. At issue are intelligence intercepts of Trump aides speaking to foreign officials during the transition. Typically, the names of Americans are not revealed in these intercepts. Yet some Obama officials asked intelligence officials to “unmask” the Trump aides so they could see who was talking. The committee wants to know which Obama aides asked for the unmasking and why.

In fact, no facet of this imbroglio appears too small to escape Congressional notice. The Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism has asked for all warrant applications and court orders relating to wiretaps of Trump, the Trump campaign or Trump Tower. (There is no evidence there ever were any wiretaps; it all stems from a March 4 Trump Tweet: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory… This is McCarthyism!”)

And does anyone remember Trump’s transition pledge to “donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury”? Well, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform does, and they sent a letter in April to Trump’s lawyer asking for details on the mechanics of the program. In return, they received a nine-page pamphlet distributed to employees about the promise.

If the pamphlet response is an indicator, the Trump-Russia hearings are likely to be contentious, and occasionally dramatic. These tables are essential for anyone who wants to understand what each of the Trump probes is looking for and how.