CNN has received another 366 pages of notes from major witness interviews during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including an interview with former Trump top adviser Steve Bannon about the campaign’s interest in Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The documents include FBI memos, called 302s, from interviews about some of the most significant efforts of the investigation, including the investigations of former Trump advisers Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.
For instance, Bannon spoke to Mueller’s team extensively about his contact with Stone as Stone sought to reach WikiLeaks about stolen Democratic emails that could help then-candidate Donald Trump, according to the 302s released Tuesday.
Aside from the newly public Bannon memos, many of the documents are of interviews investigators did with undisclosed or peripheral players that helped form criminal cases and details for the Mueller report.
This is the eighth time CNN has gotten documents like these from the Justice Department regarding the Mueller investigation, as part of a 2019 lawsuit in conjunction with BuzzFeed News.
So far, the previous releases have fleshed out details that Mueller summarized in his final report regarding President Donald Trump’s and his campaign’s actions. But they often give much more detail. These documents are foundational documents behind what investigators learned about the Trump campaign in 2016 and Trump’s behavior then and after.
Memos have revealed how top Trump campaign officials witnessed the President and other Trump campaign officials pushing for the release of stolen Democratic emails and supported a conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the Democrats in 2016.
At times, the documents have given much fuller portraits about what the Russia investigations’ top cooperators said, or how the investigators handled their witnesses.
The Justice Department has kept many of the memos heavily redacted as they continue to release them this year.
Though that remains true in the latest release, the Justice Department has made freshly available details about what Bannon told Mueller regarding a topic that’s still of interest to Democrats in Congress focused on investigating the President and in court, as judges weigh the decision-making of Attorney General William Barr.
The Bannon interview notes highlight just how much the campaign thought about WikiLeaks releases, which Stone was regularly discussing with top advisers and even Trump himself, according to Mueller investigation witnesses.
The new Mueller memos reveal that Bannon witnessed Trump bringing up the 30,000 emails that were missing from Hillary Clinton’s private server — a persistent focus of Republicans focused on conspiracy theories — and knew at least some details of an operation to try to uncover them.
“Bannon thought Flynn might have had an idea about using an outside company and finding the 33,000 missing emails,” the FBI agents wrote in their memo about a Bannon interview, referring to Michael Flynn, who advised the campaign and later became Trump’s first national security adviser.
Bannon knew of Flynn effort to get Clinton emails
Trump said publicly in July 2016 that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails” that had been deleted from Clinton’s server. After that, according to the Mueller report, Trump repeatedly asked members of his campaign to find the emails. Flynn told Mueller that he had launched efforts at Trump’s request to find the missing Clinton emails.
As part of that effort, Flynn reached out to Republican operative Peter Smith, who tried to find Clinton emails on the dark web and told associates in 2016 that he was in touch with Russian hackers, according to the Mueller report. Smith told associates that Flynn, Bannon and other Trump campaign officials knew about his efforts, which included the creation of a company named KLS Research that received more than $30,000 to hunt for Clinton’s emails.
Smith’s shadowy efforts to get Clinton’s emails were first revealed by the Wall Street Journal. Bannon distanced himself from the effort, telling the Wall Street Journal in July 2017, “Never heard of KLS Research or Peter Smith.”
Smith died by suicide shortly after talking to the Wall Street Journal in 2017.
Bannon thought Stone was a ‘nasty piece of work’
Bannon told Mueller that Stone had a “sketchy background” and was a “nasty piece of work,” according to the FBI memos. Stone was someone who could “blow you up,” Bannon told investigators, so he tried to keep Stone happy during the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign to prevent any blowback or potentially messy fallout, according to the memos. Bannon also told investigators that Trump’s children hated Stone, the memos said.
One of the memos reads that during a February 2018 FBI interview, “Bannon didn’t recollect any Stone conversations about WikiLeaks and Assange.” This was not true, and, a few pages later in the FBI memo, it says that “Bannon clarified that he was talking to Stone about Assange in these emails,” a reference to the platform’s founder, Julian Assange.
At some point during the Mueller investigation, Bannon’s attorneys made an agreement with Mueller’s team. Bannon told investigators about his WikiLeaks conversations with Stone, and even testified against Stone at his 2019 criminal trial. Bannon was never charged with lying to the FBI, though he appeared to change his story.
This story has been updated with additional information from the documents.