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Russia

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has entered the West Wing.

Mueller's team is charged with looking into whether anyone on President Trump's campaign worked with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election, so it was inevitable that investigators would want to talk with aides now working in the White House.

Some, like top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, communications director Hope Hicks and policy adviser Stephen Miller, were key players in the campaign as well.

Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that his "story has never changed" about his and other Trump campaign officials' connections to Russia.

"I will not accept, and reject accusations that I have ever lied," Sessions said. "That is a lie!"

Five months into his mandate, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller III unleashed a legal version of "shock and awe" on Monday with criminal charges against President Trump's former campaign chairman and a guilty plea by a foreign policy aide.

Mueller made no public comment about the charges or the next steps in an investigation that's irritating the White House and riveting the nation. But there are some clues in the court documents about where the former FBI director and his investigators may be heading.

Facebook says 126 million people may have seen Russian content aimed at influencing Americans. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to weed out Russian operatives and extremist propaganda from Facebook.

But savvy marketers — people who've used Facebook's advertising platform since its inception — say that social media giant will find it hard to banish nefarious actors because its technology is designed to be wide open and simple to use.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Apparent Russian agents began reaching out to Donald Trump's presidential campaign as early as March 2016, the Justice Department established in documents released Monday, with appeals for partnership and offers of help including "dirt" on Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.

That case is made in charging documents in the case of then-Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, has been indicted on federal charges that range from conspiracy against the United States to conspiracy to launder money. He was taken into federal custody Monday morning, along with his longtime deputy.

In a court hearing around midday, both Manafort and his co-defendant, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty.

This week in the Russia investigations: A progress report — sort of — from the Senate Intelligence Committee; Robert Mueller meets the author of the dossier; and Donald Trump Jr. may have a date on Capitol Hill.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

One of the public's unanswered questions about Russia's attempts to break into election systems last year was which states were targeted. On Friday, states found out.

The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had "ownership" of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices.

Facebook will provide the contents of 3,000 ads purchased by a Russian agency to Congress. The political ads ran during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The move comes amid growing pressure on the social network from members of Congress to release the ads.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg live-streamed a statement in which he said that his company was "actively working" with the U.S. government in the ongoing Russia investigations.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

Donald Trump Jr. told congressional investigators on Thursday that his June 2016 meeting with a Russian contingent after an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton provided no useful information and was ultimately a waste of time.

In fact after it was over, Trump Jr. said, "I gave it no further thought."

The meeting, which took place at Trump Tower in New York City, has emerged as an important point of the investigations into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in last year's election.

Updated at 10:29 a.m.

The Senate is long gone. The House? Splitsville. The president is at his golf club in New Jersey. Only the hardiest swamp creatures continue to scuttle in and out of the half-empty offices of late-August Washington, D.C.

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, however, haven't gone anywhere.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday morning about foreign agents and attempts to influence the U.S. election.

Updated at 11:23 a.m. ET

When Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last June at Trump Tower to gather information on Hillary Clinton for his father's presidential campaign, it's now clear there was at least one more Russian in the room. He has been identified in published reports as a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin.

Updated 2 p.m.

A day late, the Justice Department complied this morning with a federal court order and released part of a security clearance form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' contacts with foreign governments.

On June 12, a judge had ordered the agency to provide the information within 30 days, a deadline that passed on Wednesday.

In a filing Thursday morning with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department released that part of Sessions' form which poses the question:

The headlines get more breathless by the moment. "Explosive new charges!" "A bombshell!"

Was it a crime for Donald Trump Jr. to meet with a Russian government-connected lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton for use in the presidential campaign? Was it worse than a crime? Was it treason?

The latest Russian caper — this one involving the president's son, then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner — has Washington (pardon the pun) atwitter.

Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted images of emails regarding his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer on Tuesday. An intermediary said he could connect Trump Jr. with people who had information "that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]... and would be very useful to your father."

Updated at 5:41 p.m. ET

Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday tweeted an email exchange that seemed to show the president's son entertained an offer of Russian government help for his father to be elected president in 2016.

"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," said the text that Trump Jr. posted on Twitter.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed that the United States and Russia have agreed to a cease-fire in southwestern Syria.

Tillerson — speaking to the press following a much-anticipated 2 1/2 hour meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — said the agreement was set to take effect on Sunday. Jordan and Israel are also part of the deal, the Associated Press reports, quoting an unnamed U.S. official.

From Texas Standard:

President Donald Trump addressed thousands of people in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, focusing, in part, on the nation's dependence on Russian energy. He said Poles will not be "held hostage" anymore by the Russian energy market, and pitched U.S. energy as an alternative.

President Trump arrives in Poland on Wednesday afternoon. Over the next few days, he'll be attending a Group of 20 summit and meeting with a wide array of world leaders.

It's likely none of those meetings will be more closely scrutinized than Trump's first face-to-face sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has often said he would like to see closer ties between the U.S. and Russia. But that has been complicated by Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

If two nearly simultaneous hearings Wednesday by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into Russia's meddling in last year's presidential election revealed anything, it's that U.S. officials saw what was going on but were all but powerless to stop it.

In his prepared remarks, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Russian government, "at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our Nation for the purpose of influencing our election — plain and simple."

Graphic by Jacob Villanueva / Bob Daemmrich / The Texas Tribune

Most voters in the country’s biggest red state are wary of President Donald Trump — but Republican voters remain strongly supportive of him, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET on June 15

President Trump dismissed a potential obstruction of justice investigation into his conduct, calling allegations of collusion between him, his campaign or people associated with him and Russia a "phony story."

Of course, it's possible to obstruct justice without colluding.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, fiercely maintaining he did nothing wrong in meeting twice with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during President Trump's 2016 campaign and also infuriating Democrats by refusing to detail any conversations he has had with the president.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday afternoon.

He fielded questions about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, the ongoing investigation of Russian contacts with Trump campaign and administration officials, and the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey. 

The nation's top legal officer is set to go before Congress on Tuesday to try to defuse a bomb that the former FBI director dropped into his lap.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee less than one week after James Comey told the committee he could not discuss openly certain information about Sessions' recusal from the investigation into Russia's election meddling last year.

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, it will be in a hearing that is open to the public. A Justice Department spokeswoman tells NPR that Sessions requested it be public.

The hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET

Former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believed he was fired by President Trump over the growing Russia investigation and that other arguments by the White House were "lies, plain and simple."

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee as part of its ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

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