Today, a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign was released. Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team spent over two years working on the investigation.
Contact 5 Investigators are digging deeper into the report released today by the special counsel's office for any local ties or connections to Florida. Here's what we've found so far:
TRUMP PRESSURED SESSIONS TO "UNRECUSE" HIMSELF DURING MAR-A-LAGO VISIT
President Trump spoke privately at Mar-a-Lago with then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suggesting that "Sessions should "unrecuse" from the Russia investigation."
Sessions announced his recusal from the investigation on Mar. 2, 2017. That weekend, Sessions and then White House counsel Don McGahn traveled to Trump's club in Palm Beach to meet with the President.
"Sessions said he had the impression that the President feared that the investigation could spin out of control and disrupt his ability to govern, which Sessions could have helped avert" if he were still involved in the Russia investigation, according to the report.
RUSSIA REACHED OUT TO TRANSITION TEAM WHILE TRUMP STAYED AT MAR-A-LAGO
In December 2016, Russia "initiated" outreach to the President-elect Trump's transition team, while Trump and senior officials of the transition team, including Steve Bannon, K.T. McFarland and Reince Preibus, were staying at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. Michael Flynn, meanwhile, was on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Then-President Barack Obama initiated sanctions against the Russian government for interference in the 2016 election. The sanctions were officially announced on Dec. 29, 2016.
The transition team and Trump "were concerned that these sanctions would harm the United State's relationship with Russia."
The report notes multiple transition team members "were aware that Flynn was speaking with Kislyak that day." Flynn also texted a transition team member who was assisting McFarland while at Mar-a-Lago, writing "Tit for tat w Russia not good. Russian AMBO reaching out to me today" according to the report.
The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement that Russia "would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions" at the time.
FLYNN VISITED MAR-A-LAGO THE WEEKEND BEFORE HE RESIGNED
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn traveled with President Trump to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach the weekend before he resigned, returning the day before his resignation.
The report says Flynn recalled being on Air Force One returning to Washington D.C. on Feb. 12, 2017, when the President questioned him about lying to Vice President Mike Pence. Trump asked Flynn about a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
Flynn told President Trump "he may have forgotten details of his calls, but did not think he lied" according to the report, with Trump responding "Okay. That's fine. I got it."
Flynn resigned the next day, and was later charged with making false statements to FBI officials about his phone call with Kislyak. He ultimately accepted a plea bargain from the special counsel's office.
GRU TARGETS FLORIDA OFFICIALS WITH SPEARFISHING EMAILS
In November 2016, the GRU, or Russian military intelligence agency, target over 120 email addresses "used by Florida county officials responsible for administering" the 2016 election.
The emails contained attachments with Trojan malware that would allow the GRU to gain access to computers the virus infected.
The report notes that "the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county," but does not specify which county.
The Florida Department of State released this statement to WPTV:
"The Florida Department of State has no knowledge or evidence of any successful hacking attempt at the county level during the 2016 elections. Upon learning of the new information released in the Mueller report, the Department immediately reached out to the FBI to inquire which county may have been accessed, and they declined to share this information with us. The Department maintains that the 2016 elections in Florida were not hacked. The Florida Voter Registration System was and remains secure, and official results or vote tallies were not changed. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified the Department that Florida was unsuccessfully targeted by hackers in 2016. Since 2016 when elections were designated as critical infrastructure, state and local election officials in Florida have invested millions of dollars in election security. These investments, coupled with our strong partnerships with federal and state agencies, has made Florida one of the leading states in the country on election cybersecurity. In 2018, former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a letter to the Florida Secretary of State that '…we have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida.' The Department of State and local election officials will continue our efforts to ensure Florida’s elections in 2020 and beyond are secure."
INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY ORGANIZED PRO-TRUMP RALLIES IN FLORIDA
Over the last few months of the 2016 election, the Internet Research Agency organized several political rallies throughout the United States, "often promoting the Trump campaign and opposing the Clinton campaign."
The Internet Research Agency, or IRA, is a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia, that engages in online influence operations mainly operates as a Kremlin-backed organization.
The report says that between June 2016 and the election, the IRA organized several pro-Trump rallies, including "a series of pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016."
The Trump campaign, as well as surrogates and supporters. also promoted IRA political content, including a tweet aimed at south Florida, according to the report.
On Nov. 2, 2016, the Twitter account belonging to Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a post from an IRA-controlled account that alleged "tens of thousand of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reporter in Broward County, Florida."
STONE MEETS WITH FLORIDA-BASED RUSSIAN OFFERING INFORMATION ON CLINTON
Roger Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, met with a Florida-based Russian who claimed to have information on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Stone lives in Fort Lauderdale.
The meeting was brokered by Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who "learned through a Florida-based Russian Business partner that another Florida-based Russian, Henry Oknyasky" claimed to have information on Clinton.
Stone met with Okyansky, who was accompanied by Alexei Rasin. Rasin, a Ukrainian man who was "involved in Florida real estate," offered to sell Stone "derogatory information" that he claimed to have obtained while working for Clinton.
"Rasin claimed to possess financial statements demonstrating Clinton's involvement in money laundering" with his businesses, according to the report. Stone declined the offer, saying Trump "would not pay for opposition research."
The special counsel found no "evidence that Rasin worked for Clinton or any Clinton-related entities."
The report also notes Okynasky and Caputo had different accounts of the meeting, with Oykansky alleging that Caputo accompanied Stone and introduced the parties, "whereas Caputo did not tell us that he attended" and claimed he did not know about the information was offered.
The report concludes it could not find a connection between "the outreach or the meeting and Russian interference efforts."
Stone's name appears frequently throughout the report, though some of the information concerning him is redacted.
RUSSIA TARGETS CLINTON EMAILS HOURS AFTER TRUMP NEWS CONFERENCE IN FLORIDA
Hours after then-candidate Trump discussed his opponent's missing email in a press conference, Russia began targeting Clinton associated email accounts for potential exploits.
At a news conference in Doral, Fl., on Jul. 27, 2016, Trump remarked, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."
The special counsel's report says that within five hours of the press conference, Russian intelligence "began targeting email accounts associated with Hillary Clinton for possible hacks."
In a written response to the report, President Trump said that the "Russia, if you're listening" comment was made "in jest and sarcastically."
MANAFORT HIRED AS CAMPAIGN MANAGER AFTER MEETING TRUMP AT MAR-A-LAGO
Paul Manafort, President Trump's one-time campaign manager, maintained contact with Russian associate Konstantin Kilminik into spring of 2018, despite having been indicted by the special counsel's office.
Manafort has a home in Palm Beach Gardens and was a registered voter in Palm Beach County at the time of his indictment by the special counsel's office.
The report mentions that Manafort traveled to Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in March 2016 to meet with the candidate, who hired him as campaign manager at the time. He was recommended for the job by Thomas Barrack and Roger Stone.
TRUMP PROVIDES WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON MANAFORT AND STONE
Written responses provided by President Trump to the special counsel's office address questions raised in the report, relating to both Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
Trump repeatedly denies having any knowledge of his Roger Stone's communication with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0, or others responsible in part for releasing emails hacked from the DNC and Clinton campaign.
Trump wrote that he had "no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks" on Oct. 7, 2016, according to the report.
Trump did acknowledge that he talked with Stone on the phone occasionally during the campaign but wrote that he had "no recollection of the specifics of any conversation" with Stone between June and November 2016.
Similarly, Trump denies knowing Manafort offered campaign updates to Russian or Ukrainian officials.
The President writes that he "had no knowledge of Mr. Manafort offering briefings of my campaign to an individual named Oleg Deripaska."
Deripaska is a "Russian businessman with ties to Vladimir Putin who hired Paul Manafort for consulting work between 2005 and 2009" according to the report.
WPTV will continue to read through the report and update this article with findings related to South Florida.
READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: