Special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into President Donald Trump tied up many loose ends — but left another huge one hanging.
The Daily Beast reported Thursday evening that the question hanging over the report's detailed descriptions of Trump campaign contacts with Russians is why those Russians were so interested in the campaign in the first place.
"Mueller reaffirmed the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russian government directed an online campaign of hacking and trolling to help Donald Trump in 2016," the Beast's Adam Rawnsley wrote. "What’s less clear are the intentions of the many Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign offline and whether they were well-connected covert emissaries of the Kremlin or just hucksters trying to latch onto the coattails of a potential president."
It's difficult to figure out the motives behind the Russian hangers-on "in part because many of them were a mirror image of their counterparts in Trump World: D-listers in their own political hierarchy for whom the line between state policy and personal gain is unclear," Rawnsley observed.
The writer noted that although Oleg Deripaska and Konstantin Kilimnik — two of the Russians whose roles in the Trump-Russia saga have long been investigated by prosecutors and reporters alike — may have had nefarious intentions to pass along information to the Kremlin, not all the Russians mentioned in the report did.
Rawnsley noted that when Mueller's office charged Michael Cohen, he included a "tantalizing" detail about a mysterious person who promised "political synergy" and a meeting with Putin.
"Stripped of his anonymity, synergy man seems a far less impressive operator," the writer mused. "Mueller’s final report identifies him as Dmitry Klokov, the director of public relations for a Russian electrical transmission company who had once been a spokesperson for a former Russian energy minister. If he could’ve set up a Putin meeting, he didn’t try very hard—Cohen dumped him after a few phone calls."
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who was integral to the infamous Trump Tower meeting, is another question mark that may lead to a dead end.
Though her links to Russian government sources were teased, her clients revealed that her "most pressing" priority was to get rid of sanctions against Russian individuals and companies.
"So was she representing her clients at that meeting or the broader interests of the Kremlin?" Rawnsley mused. "Mueller doesn’t say, but the bait she offered—unsupported allegations about money laundering she couldn’t connect to Hillary Clinton—was far short of tempting."