How the ‘dirty trickster’ at the heart of the Mueller investigation may have been betrayed

For the past year, special counsel Robert Mueller has been building an expansive case that potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election go to the core of the president’s conduct and presidency. The latest indictments leveled Monday against 13 Russians accused of a social media campaign meant to influence last year’s election show how far his prosecutors are willing to go to end the most sweeping investigation into any White House administration in U.S. history.

At the core of that investigation is Mueller’s knowledge of one of the greatest intelligence leaks in American history. Over the years, this reporter has received hundreds of declassified memos related to NSA surveillance efforts. Through a confidential source, I’ve been able to report on secret discussions that top Trump administration officials had about resetting relations with Russia, including the president’s discussions with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Those discussions may have provided the U.S. government with valuable intelligence about Russia’s intent to interfere in last year’s presidential election. So the disclosure that Mueller obtained top-secret intelligence about the discussions — coupled with Flynn’s guilty plea in February — is significant. In recent weeks, Mueller has begun pursuing other leads, obtaining phone records and emails as part of his broader investigation.

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