The federal government on Thursday released hundreds of pages of interviews conducted as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and alleged attempts by President Donald Trump to obstruct that inquiry.
The FBI records, known as 302s, are the latest batch handed over to BuzzFeed News and CNN in response to a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act. Collectively, the documents show what hundreds of people told the special counsel’s office behind closed doors during its two-year probe, which began in May 2017.
To date, well over 4,000 pages of interviews have been released, and although many of them are heavily — if not completely — redacted, they provide an unprecedented window into the workings of the Mueller probe, one that extends far beyond the 448-page final report it produced in 2019.
In a related case, also filed by BuzzFeed News, a federal judge on Wednesday found that the Justice Department had improperly redacted significant portions of the Mueller report that was released in April 2019. The judge ordered the government to unredact and publish those portions by Nov. 2.
In the previous batch of 302s, released last month, a witness described in detail the “unorthodox” fundraising structure of Trump’s 2016 campaign, noting that it was completely unprepared to bring in money or comply with federal campaign finance laws. Up until the time that Trump became the Republican Party’s putative nominee, “the only activity was the campaign merchandise store,” the person, whose name is redacted, told investigators.
Former campaign manager Paul Manafort said that he believed Roger Stone, who served as an informal adviser to the campaign, had a connection to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Manafort said he asked Stone to keep abreast of the group’s activities but did not let on that the request came directly from Trump lest the then–campaign chair be seen as an “errand boy.”
To date, the Mueller probe has produced 37 indictments and seven convictions; it has also led to numerous other criminal investigations that are ongoing around the country. Trump and his supporters have consistently tried to discredit the investigation, with the president frequently dismissing it as a “witch hunt.”
Trump has found significant support in that effort from his attorney general, Bill Barr, who overlooked major findings of the probe when he announced its conclusion in March 2019. He has since intervened in cases related to the investigation, among them the prosecutions of Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Barr also tapped a US attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry; the results are expected later this fall.
BuzzFeed News sued the FBI and the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act for access to the hundreds of 302s compiled during the course of the Mueller investigation; that litigation was subsequently joined by CNN. While Mueller’s final report drew heavily on those 302s, much of the content of the typewritten summaries for every single interview conducted by the investigators has never before been reviewed by the public.
BuzzFeed News has challenged some of those redactions in court, and is also pursuing multiple lawsuits asking the government to release a large volume of other documents generated by the special counsel’s office, including memoranda, talking points, financial records, and legal opinions.
Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.