bookmark_borderHow Michael Cohen Turned Against President Trump

Michael D. Cohen was at a breaking point. He told friends he was suicidal. He insisted to lawyers he would never go to jail. Most of all, he feared that President Trump, his longtime boss, had forsaken him.

“Basically he needs a little loving and respect booster,” one of Mr. Cohen’s legal advisers at the time, Robert J. Costello, wrote in a text message to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer. “He is not thinking clearly because he feels abandoned.”

That was last June. The “booster” from Mr. Trump never arrived. And by August, Mr. Cohen’s relationship with him had gone from fraught to hostile, casting a shadow on the Trump presidency and helping drive multiple criminal investigations into the president’s inner circle, including some that continued after the special counsel’s work ended.

In the biggest blow to the president personally, federal prosecutors in Manhattan effectively characterized Mr. Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case against Mr. Cohen involving hush money payments to a pornographic film actress. Mr. Cohen, and evidence gathered by prosecutors, implicated the president.

Now, as Mr. Cohen prepares to head to prison in two weeks, dozens of previously unreported emails, text messages and other confidential documents reviewed by The New York Times suggest that his falling out with Mr. Trump may have been avoidable.

Missed cues, clashing egos, veiled threats and unaddressed money worries all contributed to Mr. Cohen’s halting decision to turn on a man he had long idolized and even once vowed to take a bullet for, according to the documents and interviews with people close to the events. Some of the documents have been turned over to the prosecutors in Manhattan, and a small number were mentioned in the special counsel’s report released on Thursday, which dealt extensively with Mr. Cohen and referred to him more than 800 times.

Mr. Cohen held out hope for a different outcome until the very end, when he pleaded guilty and confessed to paying the illegal hush money to avert a potential sex scandal during the presidential campaign. Just hours earlier, wracked with indecision, he was still seeking guidance, looking, as one informal adviser put it, “for another way out.”

Mr. Cohen’s anxiety, on display in the documents, played a role in the undoing of his relationship with Mr. Trump, as did Mr. Costello’s lack of success in serving as a bridge to the White House. But also looming large were Mr. Giuliani’s and Mr. Trump’s failures to understand the threat that Mr. Cohen posed, and their inability — or unwillingness — to put his financial and emotional insecurities to rest.

After the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last April, two of Mr. Cohen’s advisers explored whether the president might be open to a pardon, but Mr. Giuliani offered no assurances.

In June, Mr. Costello proposed that he and Mr. Giuliani, who have been friends for decades, meet urgently with Mr. Cohen to address his grievances and ease his anxieties. “Are we going to meet Thursday or Friday?” Mr. Costello texted Mr. Giuliani on a Monday. “I would like to get back to Michael with a response.”

But Mr. Giuliani did not respond. And when Mr. Costello followed up, “Can I get a response on the possible meeting?” Mr. Giuliani hesitated, replying, “Not yet because haven’t talked to President,” who was out of the country.

The next day, Mr. Cohen’s private admission to friends that he was open to cooperating with prosecutors suddenly appeared in the news. And Mr. Cohen relayed his growing displeasure with the Trump camp to Mr. Costello, sending the lawyer an article that suggested the president and his allies intended “to discredit Michael Cohen” and commenting in the email that “they are again on a bad path.” He also complained to Mr. Costello that the president had stopped covering his legal expenses.

Mr. Costello, who spoke with The Times after Mr. Cohen waived attorney-client privilege in February, said that without Mr. Cohen’s team and the president’s lawyers in sync, it was impossible to navigate the tumultuous relationship.

“What we had here was a failure to communicate,” said Mr. Costello, who was never formally retained by Mr. Cohen. “My mission was to get everyone tuned in to the same channel. My thought was a face-to-face meeting among all the lawyers together with Cohen would put everyone on the same channel. The meeting never happened, and the rest is history.”

Mr. Cohen declined to comment.

In an interview, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that the Trump team had pulled back from Mr. Cohen, saying it did so because prosecutors might have viewed friendly overtures as witness tampering, and because Mr. Cohen’s legal problems extended beyond his relationship with the president.

“It seemed like an unfortunate but sensible decision,” he said of the Trump team’s reticence toward Mr. Cohen. “The more I look back at it, the more I wonder if it was inevitable that Michael was going to crack.”

After pleading guilty in August, and hoping to reduce his three-year prison sentence, Mr. Cohen told federal prosecutors about Mr. Trump’s role in the hush-money scheme, as well as other aspects of the president’s company, where he had worked for a decade. He also suggested Mr. Trump’s team had dangled a pardon to keep him loyal, a claim denied by Mr. Giuliani. In a recent meeting requested by the prosecutors, Mr. Costello said, he told them the pardon discussion was initiated by Mr. Cohen and rejected by Mr. Giuliani.

Unencumbered by the restraints on the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, the prosecutors are now scrutinizing a wider swath of the president’s associates. About a dozen investigations are underway, including an inquiry into the Trump inaugural committee, which Mr. Cohen had assisted. Mr. Cohen also delivered congressional testimony that accused Mr. Trump of being a racist and a “con man.”

‘Blowing This Whole Thing’

The relationship between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump was looking up, at least for a brief period, last April.

Just days after F.B.I. agents searched his hotel room on Park Avenue, Mr. Cohen received a phone call from the president. “Stay strong,” Mr. Trump told him, according to the Mueller report and a person with knowledge of the call.

Mr. Cohen thanked Mr. Trump repeatedly, and later told people the message was clear: The president, who had a history of treating Mr. Cohen poorly, wanted to keep him on his team.

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan built a criminal case against Mr. Cohen, he set out to find a lawyer who had experience with the Manhattan United States attorney’s office, known as the Southern District of New York. That’s when an acquaintance at a local law firm emailed him to pitch the services of his colleague Mr. Costello. The firm was eager to become associated with such a high-profile case, and quickly embraced Mr. Cohen.

“I am really sorry to read about your troubles,” the acquaintance, Jeffrey Citron, wrote. “My partner Bob Costello was formerly the deputy chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District.” He said that if Mr. Cohen wanted to connect with Mr. Costello and obtain “his insight into your situation, it would be my pleasure to arrange.”

Mr. Cohen jumped at the offer: “I do. Can you connect me to him?”

Mr. Cohen met that day with Mr. Citron and Mr. Costello in a conference room at the Loews Regency Hotel, where he had been staying while his home underwent renovations. After drawing the curtains, Mr. Cohen revealed the depths of his despair.

“I was up on the roof. I was thinking of jumping,” Mr. Cohen told the two men, according to Mr. Costello.

Over the course of the two-hour meeting, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Costello discussed options for digging out of the mess, including possibly seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperation. They also talked about whether state prosecutors could charge Mr. Cohen even if the president pardoned him, Mr. Costello said. And they discussed, in passing, Mr. Costello’s friendship with Mr. Giuliani.

When Mr. Giuliani was hired by the president a few days later, Mr. Costello emailed Mr. Cohen: “I told you my relationship with Rudy which could be very very useful for you.”

“Great news,” Mr. Cohen replied.

The next day, after speaking to Mr. Giuliani by phone, Mr. Costello wrote in an email to Mr. Citron that the president’s lead lawyer had been “thrilled that I reached out to him about Cohen.” He added that Mr. Giuliani was “calling the president tonight.”

Mr. Costello also shared his upbeat assessment with Mr. Cohen. “I just spoke to Rudy Giuliani and told him I was on your team,” he wrote in an email sent late that night. “Rudy was thrilled and said this could not be a better situation for the president or you.” He continued, “He said thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch.”

Mr. Trump praised Mr. Cohen on Twitter the next day, calling him “a fine person” and predicting he would not flip. After another conversation with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Costello sent Mr. Cohen an update: “They are in our corner,” he wrote in an email. “You have friends in high places.”

Mr. Cohen believed at the time that “he had the support of the White House if he continued to toe the party line,” according to the special counsel’s report. “He determined to stay on message and be part of the team.”

The glow faded quickly, however, as a series of developments stoked Mr. Cohen’s suspicions about Mr. Trump’s intentions toward him.

First, later in April, Mr. Giuliani rebuffed Mr. Costello’s question about whether Mr. Trump might entertain the idea of a pardon, according to Mr. Costello. Mr. Cohen also asked his Washington-based lawyer, Stephen Ryan, to make a similar inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani was noncommittal. Mr. Ryan had been working at the time with the president’s legal team to prevent prosecutors from reviewing materials seized in the F.B.I. raids that were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Next, Mr. Trump called in to the television program “Fox & Friends” and tried to minimize the legal work that Mr. Cohen had performed for him — “a tiny, tiny little fraction,” he said. Those comments appeared to undermine Mr. Cohen’s argument that many of the seized materials might be privileged.

A week after that, in early May, it was a television appearance by Mr. Giuliani that upset Mr. Cohen.

Under an information-sharing agreement among the lawyers, Mr. Ryan had discussed with Mr. Giuliani that the Trumps had reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the hush money he paid to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. Without notifying Mr. Cohen or his representatives, Mr. Giuliani then delivered the revelation on Fox News. Mr. Cohen became concerned that the Trump team was disseminating information about him gleaned from the agreement, and that it was being done with Mr. Trump’s knowledge.

As the president’s lead lawyer continued to publicly discuss the hush-money scheme in the days and weeks that followed, Mr. Cohen told associates that Mr. Giuliani was “blowing this whole thing.”

‘Keep on Punching’

Days after Mr. Giuliani appeared on Fox News, Mr. Costello confided to Mr. Citron, his partner, about his mounting concerns that Mr. Cohen was stringing them along.

“There are simply too many facts that he is not sharing with us to give me a level of comfort,” Mr. Costello wrote to Mr. Citron. He suggested that Mr. Cohen’s distrust of Mr. Giuliani was also a factor. “I do not think that Rudy doing his Press Tour is helping us in our relationship with Michael Cohen,” he wrote.

Soon after, Mr. Cohen was dealt another blow when confidential financial records were leaked, showing that he had collected more than $1 million in consulting fees from major corporations and from a New York private equity firm tied to a Russian oligarch. With the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Cohen was suddenly back in the discussion about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.

Mr. Costello emailed him words of encouragement — “keep on punching” — but Mr. Cohen did not reply. Mr. Costello doubled down, later emailing Mr. Cohen in all caps that Mr. Mueller had “REACHED THE CONCLUSION THAT THERE IS NO RUSSIAN ANGLE TO THE MICHAEL COHEN INVESTIGATION OTHERWISE HE WOULD HAVE KEPT THE CASE FOR HIMSELF.”

Mr. Costello made the same point in a text message to Mr. Giuliani, who “thought it was very important to get that message out there,” Mr. Costello recounted in an email to Mr. Citron. But, Mr. Costello said, Mr. Giuliani suggested he could not make that case himself, “because it will look like he is defending Michael Cohen.”

The challenge, Mr. Costello continued, was “to get Cohen on the right page without giving him the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the president.”

By mid-June, despite warning signs that Mr. Cohen might turn on the president, some members of Mr. Trump’s team concluded that he did not pose a real threat, interviews show. Mr. Giuliani never met with Mr. Cohen, though Mr. Costello had suggested it might help. And the same day that ABC News reported that Mr. Cohen was “likely to cooperate” with prosecutors, Mr. Giuliani appeared on Fox News and played down the possibility of Mr. Cohen’s flipping, saying he had “checked into this last night” and it was not true.

The next day, Mr. Costello sent Mr. Cohen a link to Mr. Giuliani’s interview. And when Mr. Cohen asked, “Why send this to me?” Mr. Costello explained, “You are under the impression that Trump and Giuliani are trying to discredit you.” He continued, “I think you are wrong because you are believing the narrative promoted by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Costello also texted Mr. Giuliani a note praising the interview, adding that he had sent a YouTube clip of it to Mr. Cohen in hopes that it would calm him down.

But later that month, any good will dissipated when The Times reported that the F.B.I. had seized in its raid a tape recording of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump from 2016. The two men were discussing hush money paid to another woman, Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Each side blamed the other for the explosive revelation, pushing the relationship to a near breaking point.

‘Is He Totally Nuts?’

Later in June, Vanity Fair reported that Mr. Cohen had hired a new lawyer — not Mr. Costello, but Guy Petrillo, a former federal prosecutor who had worked in the Southern District alongside James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director and a Trump foil.

Mr. Costello raised concerns with Mr. Giuliani. “Does Cohen really want a friend of Comey as his lawyer?” he asked in a text message.

At the same time, Mr. Cohen’s concerns about money were reaching a crisis, according to court records. Mr. Trump’s business and campaign had paid about $1.7 million of Mr. Cohen’s legal bills, but stopped paying in June, around the time Mr. Ryan finished reviewing the documents seized in the F.B.I. raid and withdrew from the case. An official with Mr. Ryan’s firm declined to comment.

Mr. Cohen wanted the Trump Organization to also help pay Mr. Petrillo, which never happened.

In the interview with The Times, Mr. Giuliani said that he was new to the issue of the legal fees at the time, having just been hired by Mr. Trump a couple of months earlier. He said that the decision was made by the Trump Organization to pay for legal work only if it was expressly connected to Mr. Trump or the company.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization said Mr. Cohen’s criminal problems were of his own making. “He should quit lying and take responsibility for his actions,” said the lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey. “The idea that the Trump Organization should have paid his legal fees and expenses is a total crock.”

Distrust between the two sides only grew in June when the comedian Tom Arnold tweeted a selfie with Mr. Cohen and later claimed that they were teaming up to take down the president. Mr. Giuliani, sounding alarmed, phoned Mr. Costello while he was having lunch at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse — the president wanted to know what this was about.

After lunch, Mr. Costello tried to reach Mr. Cohen, who was slow to reply. “Is he totally nuts???” Mr. Costello wrote in frustration to his law partner. “He is playing with the most powerful man on the planet.”

When Mr. Cohen finally sent along a clarification from Mr. Arnold, Mr. Costello texted Mr. Giuliani. “Make sure your client knows this,” he wrote. “He will sleep better.”

Mr. Cohen then asked Mr. Costello to make things right with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Costello recalled, and assure Mr. Trump that he remained loyal. So Mr. Costello had lunch in late June with Mr. Giuliani at the Grand Havana Room on the top floor of 666 Fifth Avenue. Afterward, he assured Mr. Cohen in an email that he had “conveyed all of your expressed concerns” to Mr. Giuliani “for transmission to his client” — the president. Mr. Cohen replied, thanking him for “speaking to your friend.”

Still, Mr. Cohen heard nothing from the Trump legal team, and no additional legal fees were paid by the Trump Organization.

By early July, Mr. Cohen was making overtly hostile moves toward the president. He appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and declared, “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will.” He deleted the line in his Twitter biography about working for Mr. Trump. And he hired Lanny Davis, a Democrat and a friend of the Clintons, as a spokesman.

A person who was familiar with Mr. Cohen’s decision-making at the time said the moves might have been a cry for help, but Mr. Costello and others saw them as evidence that he had “chosen a different path,” as Mr. Costello wrote to Mr. Cohen in an email.

“We will not be involved in that journey and therefore Jeff Citron asked me to let you know that he will be sending you a bill,” the email said.

Within weeks, Mr. Giuliani, who had previously referred to Mr. Cohen as “an honest, honorable lawyer,” was instead casting him as a “pathological liar.”

A Scotch on the Rocks

His bond with Mr. Trump all but broken, Mr. Cohen decided to cooperate with law enforcement officials. And so he traveled to Washington to meet on Aug. 7 with Mr. Mueller’s team for the first of many discussions.

The next week, his lawyer, Mr. Petrillo, arranged to talk with prosecutors in Manhattan, interviews show. The prosecutors had been putting him off but suddenly agreed to meet a couple of days later, on Friday, an indication that criminal charges against Mr. Cohen were imminent.

Mr. Petrillo asked for a deferred prosecution agreement relating to the hush money, a lighter punishment that might have spared Mr. Cohen from prison so long as he stayed out of trouble. That weekend the prosecutors signaled there would be no such deal, but they were willing to consider a guilty plea.

Over the next day, Mr. Cohen and his wife huddled in Mr. Petrillo’s office debating their options. And throughout the day on Monday, his lawyers went back and forth with prosecutors over the details of the plea to campaign finance, banking and tax crimes.

But that evening, Mr. Cohen was still unsure whether to plead guilty at all. He poured a glass of 12-year-old Glenlivet Scotch on the rocks and debated his future.

Early on Tuesday, he was still having second thoughts, but ultimately stuck to the plan. Standing at the defense table, Mr. Cohen said he had worked with Mr. Trump to cover up two potential sex scandals, including the one involving Ms. Daniels. He confessed that he had arranged the hush money “in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office,” implicating the president publicly for the first time in a federal campaign finance crime.

“Time and time again,” Mr. Cohen later told the judge at his sentencing, “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

 

bookmark_borderHow 2020 Democrats Are Gaming Out Trump Impeachment Quandary

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has worked for months to find traction in a crowded Democratic presidential primary, stepped forward on Friday with a call to arms: President Trump must be impeached.

What followed, generally, was conspicuous silence — and not just from her colleagues in Congress.

After sidestepping the explosive issue of impeachment for months by citing the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, most of the other 17 Democratic presidential candidates have responded to the special counsel’s report with tentative remarks about impeaching Mr. Trump, demands for the unredacted Mueller findings, calls for further hearings or attempts to simply change the subject.

Anything, that is, to avoid clearly answering the question of whether lawmakers should remove the president from office.

Underpinning the candidates’ calculations are complex sets of short- and long-term incentives. Democratic hopefuls could receive a fund-raising boost by embracing impeachment and energizing liberal donors. But some strategists and lawmakers say that a failed effort would only strengthen Mr. Trump’s re-election chances, allowing him to claim further vindication.

And many of the candidates, facing a Democratic electorate appalled by Mr. Trump and eager to see him out of office, are weighing whether to risk alienating some progressives by staying silent or to call for impeachment and create a divide with top Democrats in Washington who oppose it.

[Make sense of the people, issues and ideas shaping American politics with our newsletter.]

For now, according to interviews with multiple Democratic campaign officials, most of the candidates feel no pressure to demand Mr. Trump’s impeachment because they simply do not hear a mass clamoring for it on the campaign trail. And in their polling, impeachment is not a top priority for the party’s voters, who say they are more motivated by defeating Mr. Trump in 2020 and seeing their desired policy agenda put in place.

The Democratic contenders see the Mueller report mostly as a way to build their fund-raising and supporter lists and, ultimately, as a 448-page blunt instrument best used for thwacking the president in next year’s campaign for his behavior.

Indeed, many candidates signaled this weekend that they had no plans to lead a charge for impeachment — Ms. Warren’s campaign hastened to note she would remain focused on her policy platform — and would instead defer to House Democrats.

At least two prominent contenders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, equivocated on how to proceed even as they acknowledged that they personally believed the president probably should be impeached.

“I’m pretty sure he deserves to be,” Mr. Buttigieg said while campaigning in Londonderry, N.H. “But Congress will have to figure procedurally what to do.”

“I wouldn’t blame any member of the House for voting for this,” Mr. O’Rourke said during an appearance in Nashua, N.H. He supported impeachment as a Senate candidate last year, but now suggests that the issue would be best resolved by the voters in November 2020.

[Who’s in? Who’s out? Keep up with the 2020 field with our candidate tracker.]

This measured response is partly a function of timing. Party activists have absorbed accounts of Mr. Trump’s aberrant behavior for nearly four years now, dating to the start of his presidential bid. As a result, Mr. Mueller’s report packed less shock value for Democrats who did not need his imprimatur to believe that Mr. Trump’s actions rise to the level of impeachable as well as criminal offenses.

And for progressives who closely follow politics, the presidential race is well underway and the defeat of Mr. Trump is, they hope, just around the corner. Polls show that while a majority of Democrats still favor impeachment, support has waned in recent months as liberals move closer to a plausible end to the Trump presidency without congressional intervention.

Many Democratic voters are also as cleareyed as their elected leaders about the Republican Party’s wide-scale deference to Mr. Trump — and the implausibility of congressional Republicans aiding his ouster. The country is far more polarized now than it was when President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment, and Republican lawmakers today fear the wrath of Mr. Trump and his loyal supporters far more than they do any punishment from a dwindling band of swing voters.

A few Republicans did respond to the report with alarm, most notably Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who said he was “sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection” by the president and some in his circle. But the nonchalant reaction from the vast majority of Mr. Trump’s party only reinforced to many Democratic activists that impeachment would be fruitless.

“It galvanizes Trump supporters,” said Larry Drake, the chairman of the Rockingham County Democrats in New Hampshire, adding that he was quite certain that the president had committed impeachable offenses. “If he’s not convicted in the Senate, he can say, ‘Look, I was right! This was just a witch hunt.’ ”

Mr. Drake has encountered fierce dissent from the pro-impeachment side in his own home. “My wife and I have been having a dialogue about this,” he said. “I guess that would be the nice way to put it.”

Other Democrats say the party is making the matter more complicated than it needs to be, insisting that an impeachment case makes both civic and political sense.

The civic argument: If lawmakers truly believe Mr. Trump deserves impeachment, how can political fears be allowed to override constitutional duties?

The political one: The party can do more than one thing at a time. Candidates can campaign on other issues, as Ms. Warren says she will continue doing, while congressional Democrats build on Mr. Mueller’s findings. Besides, supporters of impeachment ask, why is anyone so sure that Mr. Trump would benefit from the public flogging of impeachment hearings during a campaign?

“We reinforce his Teflon-ness by buying into this,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a former senior aide to Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. “Whether or not he’s Teflon is up to you, as a member of Congress.”

Ms. Palmieri said Democrats had learned the wrong lessons from past episodes like the Republican push to impeach President Bill Clinton, which is thought to have hampered Republicans’ midterm performance in 1998 amid voter concerns about investigative overreach.

“They look to the past, but you’ve got to look to the moment you’re in. And look at the moment we’re in,” Ms. Palmieri said of fellow Democrats. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you stop pursuing what Mueller is putting in front of them, of course voters aren’t going to think it’s important. Voters respond to leadership.”

And as Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee observed, Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign message will most likely be centered on incendiary attacks on the Democrats’ policy and identity more than on their efforts to hold him accountable.

“Trump will have his team stoke on socialism or the ‘ism’ of the day, and impeachment will not be the siren needed to rally the base,” said Mr. Cohen, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee.

But Democrats in Washington are perhaps even more divided on the subject than the candidates for president are. While some progressive newcomers, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have called for impeachment proceedings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in leadership have signaled a strong aversion, often echoed in the rank-and-file.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat of Missouri, said an impeachment effort would only help Mr. Trump’s cause and fuel his supporters’ feelings of grievance, without especially benefiting Democrats.

“If we impeach Donald Trump, he would never be convicted in the Senate,” Mr. Cleaver said, referring to the Republican-held chamber’s role in an impeachment process. “And he would be able to campaign all around the country saying, ‘I’ve been acquitted!’”

For some Democratic primary contenders, the demands may be different, reflecting the political realities of trying to establish a foothold in what is currently an 18-person field. In addition to Ms. Warren, former Mayor Julián Castro told CNN on Friday that initiating impeachment proceedings would be “perfectly reasonable.”

The willingness of both contenders to support impeachment hearings amounts to a refusal to engage in the political gymnastics of their rivals — but also highlights the urgency they feel about their own campaigns.

Mr. Castro has struggled to gain ground and is still working to attract enough individual donors to qualify for the first Democratic debate in June. Ms. Warren has remained in the middle of the pack despite entering the race before any other major candidate and unveiling an array of ambitious policy proposals.

Ms. Warren has also sought to distinguish herself by refusing, at least in the primary, to appeal to major donors. This has increased pressure on her to raise money online from small-dollar givers.

And in the hours after she announced her support for impeachment, she made the most of it, appearing on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, the preferred programming of Mueller-minded Democrats, and posting a clip of it on her social media accounts.

By midday Saturday, Ms. Warren had promoted her new stance on Instagram three times in less than 24 hours, adding a video clip from an appearance in Keene, N.H., earlier that day. “There are some things that are bigger than politics,” she told the crowd there, to cheers. “This is one of them.”

But elsewhere on the trail, the Mueller report was little discussed. Campaigning in South Carolina after the document’s release, Senator Bernie Sanders held forth largely on affordable housing and the consequences of gentrification.

At last, on Saturday morning, Mr. Sanders posted a video targeting Mr. Trump on Twitter — for breaking promises to manufacturing workers in the industrial Midwest.

Matt Flegenheimer reported from New York and Jonathan Martin from Londonderry, N.H. Matt Stevens contributed reporting.

bookmark_borderWhy It Matters That Trump and Michael Cohen Had a Falling Out

Fixer. The title wasn’t a formal one, but Michael D. Cohen wholeheartedly embraced the role as a lawyer at the Trump Organization. It amounted to serving as chief problem solver for Donald J. Trump, offering Mr. Cohen an unusually up-close view of his boss’s personal and professional lives.

Mr. Cohen was often at Mr. Trump’s side in the decade before he became president, including helping him sort out difficulties leading up to the 2016 election. Most famously, he helped arrange hush money payments to two women — including the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels — who claimed to have had affairs with Mr. Trump.

His unflinching loyalty to his boss often went unreciprocated. And it was this imbalance that left the two men on perilous ground last April, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The searches were part of an inquiry, in the office of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, that grew out of Robert S. Mueller III’s examination of Russian election meddling.

Mr. Cohen would ultimately plead guilty to multiple crimes, and is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison term on May 6. After months of indecision, he turned on Mr. Trump last summer and has since spoken to the Southern District prosecutors about the Trump family business and more, as well as providing information to the office of the special counsel, Mr. Mueller.

A review by The New York Times of confidential emails, text messages and other communications suggest the men’s falling out may have been avoidable. Either way, its consequences have cast a shadow on the Trump presidency.

Here are five reasons the undoing of their relationship matters.

Mr. Cohen implicated the president in a crime

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan effectively characterized Mr. Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in the hush money payments, which violated campaign finance laws because they were made to influence the outcome of the election.

At his plea hearing, Mr. Cohen said he had made the payments at Mr. Trump’s direction, which was consistent with other evidence prosecutors had gathered.

Under current Justice Department policy, a president cannot be charged with a crime. But when a president is no longer in office, prosecutors are free to bring charges — a possibility cited in the Mueller report released on Thursday.

He assisted criminal investigations into Mr. Trump’s business

Mr. Cohen did not enter into a formal cooperation agreement with the Southern District prosecutors, but voluntarily met with them about his knowledge of Mr. Trump’s family, business and inner circle.

If the prosecutors determine that he provided them with useful information, it is possible his three-year sentence could be reduced, under federal sentencing rules. As such, Mr. Trump and others have dismissed his cooperation as a desperate play for leniency.

So far his information has helped several investigations, including one examining aspects of Mr. Trump’s inaugural festivities.

Mr. Cohen used the spotlight to attack the president’s character

Since turning on his former boss, Mr. Cohen has become one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest critics, offering fodder for the president’s detractors.

Mr. Cohen laid into the president in testimony before Congress in late February, exposing what he described as the dark underside of the president’s business and political life. “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat,” Mr. Cohen testified.

During the hearing, Trump defenders repeatedly questioned the veracity of Mr. Cohen’s statements, especially because he had pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress during an earlier appearance about Mr. Trump’s dealings in Moscow.

But Mr. Cohen said he was coming clean.

“I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump,” Mr. Cohen said.

He gave Congress a view into the president’s finances

Mr. Cohen’s testimony has also provided something of a road map for congressional investigators looking into Mr. Trump’s finances. Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaed records from Mazars USA, an accounting firm that had for many years prepared Mr. Trump’s taxes.

The committee chairman, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a Democrat, said he was seeking the records because of Mr. Cohen’s testimony that Mr. Trump had overstated his assets before he was elected.

Mr. Cohen had provided the panel with copies of financial statements that indicated Mr. Trump’s net worth skyrocketed to $8.66 billion in 2013 from $4.55 billion the previous year as a result of a line item identified as “brand value.”

But the committee’s ranking Republican, Jim Jordan of Ohio, said no valid legislative purpose was served by the subpoena, suggesting it was meant to embarrass the president.

There is no clear endgame

The status of several of criminal investigations that grew out of Mr. Cohen’s interviews with federal prosecutors remains unclear. But as recently as February, a judge disclosed that the hush money inquiry focused on Trump Organization officials remained open.

In New York, several inquiries undertaken by state authorities in response to Mr. Cohen’s congressional testimony are still active. They include one by the attorney general into Mr. Trump’s real estate projects, and another by state regulators into his insurance practices.

And as Mr. Cohen’s May 6 surrender date nears, his lawyers appear to be making a last-ditch effort to keep him out of prison. They wrote earlier this month to Democratic members of Congress, asking them to endorse a campaign to reduce his sentence or postpone his surrender. But the effort does not appear to have borne fruit.

Mr. Cohen’s three-year prison term is the longest yet from any case that grew out of the special counsel’s inquiry, after that of Paul J. Manafort, who was sentenced to over seven years in prison.

Nonetheless, the redacted version of the Mueller report indicates that federal authorities were debriefing Mr. Cohen as recently as last month.

The full range of topics discussed is not known. But footnotes point to an F.B.I. document, dated March 19, based on an interview with Mr. Cohen. The document is cited in connection with statements he made about his conversations with the president after the F.B.I. raid and about a Trump Tower project in Russia, as well as discussions with the president’s lawyer about a possible pardon.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

 

bookmark_borderDivining Disaster Inside the Storm Prediction Center

NORMAN, Okla. — The atmosphere was in turmoil before sunrise one day last week, and more than 58 million people were at risk.

A tornado threat was stalking the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Damaging winds were a danger along the entire length of Interstate 70 in Missouri. A possibility of quarter-size hail lurked as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The following day would bring even more menaces in more places. By the weekend, at least five people would be dead as storms raged, trees splintered and homes and businesses were destroyed.

But before the funnel clouds and cracks of thunder struck, a handful of government meteorologists huddled at the Storm Prediction Center, just south of Oklahoma City, to divine the future. Inside a quiet second-floor room, they studied dozens of computer monitors, drew maps with lime-green Sharpies and colored pencils and looked for the atmospheric ingredients that could turn clouds into killers.

Their forecasts are getting more precise, and more vital. Every tornado or severe thunderstorm watch in the continental United States — 450 last year alone — starts at the center in Norman, Okla. So far this year, forecasters have issued more than 90 watches. And the severe weather season is only intensifying.

The center, part of the National Weather Service, allowed a reporter and a photographer to observe meteorologists over a single day as they built forecasts with a blend of science, history and a measured dose of human instinct.

“A lot of people would like to make it black and white,” Russell S. Schneider, the center’s director, said in his office, where he keeps aged newspapers with accounts of tornadoes past. “It’s not. The key to this is embracing the grayness.”

Wednesday, 11:21 a.m. Central Daylight Time

Past a maroon-and-white sign reading “Critical Severe Weather Day. Enter For Official Business Only,” six forecasters were studying the 48 continental states from Room 2370.

It was an intense, if quiet and orderly, scene, with the forecasters swiveling in their chairs from one monitor to another, peering at high-resolution satellite pictures, forecasting models, radar data and surface observations. They were in chat rooms with Weather Service offices across the country to gather real-time accounts and to field questions about pending forecasts that are rooted in probabilities.

“You can’t look at everything,” said Bill Bunting, the chief of forecast operations. “If you did, your forecast would be after the event, so the challenge is knowing what to look at, what weight to place on a given piece of data.”

The meteorologists’ eight-hour shifts were governed by Coordinated Universal Time, a rhythm of regular forecasts and the twitches of weather emergencies. But they were looking for consistency, especially when conditions were imminent.

The center’s so-called Day One outlooks are published five times a day. By late morning, the number of people in danger had climbed past 62 million.

11:50 a.m.

A few raindrops were falling. The winds were steady. Clouds had shrouded the Oklahoma sky in a shade of granite.

“You see how fast they’re moving? That’s never a good sign,” Mr. Bunting said as he reached for his cellphone and a commercial radar app.

Forecasters had emerged from their technology-packed, fortified building to watch their “gold standard” of meteorology take flight.

It was a latex balloon.

For the Storm Prediction Center and other weather offices that are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the balloons — about 6 feet wide and affixed with devices that help experts detect pressure, relative humidity, temperature and winds — remain fixtures of forecasting. On this day in Norman, meteorologists filled four, marched them out of a garage and let them go.

The enormous balloon that Mr. Bunting had come to watch lifted off as quickly as a child’s at a birthday party. The forecasters trained their eyes on it, watching its instrument dangle and dance as it gained altitude and raced into the atmosphere. About two minutes after release, the balloon was out of sight.

It was already gathering data, sending it to Weather Service computers on the earth’s surface every one to two seconds. Mr. Bunting walked back into the building, whose windows can withstand winds of 166 miles per hour, and stopped at the restaurant for a muffin.

The Flying Cow Cafe’s television was switched to the Weather Channel.

1:22 p.m.

“Hey Norman,” Jeremy Grams, a lead forecaster, said into the phone. “We’re just waiting on Amarillo.”

Conditions were poised to worsen in Oklahoma and Texas, and Mr. Grams was drawing up plans for a severe thunderstorm watch — a formal advisory that an organized storm, with winds of at least 58 miles per hour or hail that is an inch in diameter, is possible.

On a conference call with three Weather Service offices monitoring the affected counties, Mr. Grams offered his colleagues a meteorological overview. The main threats, he said, seemed to be large hail and damaging winds. He asked for feedback about the center’s watch plan. There were no objections.

“URGENT,” the bulletin read. “IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED.”

3:12 p.m.

Tornado forecasts were born in Oklahoma in 1948, when meteorologists at an Air Force base used observations, instincts and five-day-old weather records to suggest that a twister might be coming. Their prediction turned out to be accurate.

Today’s forecasts depend far more on technology, and they have become far more precise and better able to assess a storm’s strength and consequences, all helpful for emergency workers.

But human instinct is still critical. The Storm Prediction Center is the rare workplace where everyone has pencil sharpeners because, even now, forecasters will draw some maps by hand.

In what counts for a lull, Mr. Grams reached toward a pencil box and set to work, carefully charting the conditions of the nation’s midsection. Constant dew points were linked. Isobars — lines of constant pressure — were illustrated with a black Sharpie marker. A red marker designated a low pressure area. He scribbled notations and shaded parts of the map.

Sketching maps might seem old-fashioned, but the forecasters said it helped them think through their data.

As Mr. Grams’s shift neared its 4 p.m. end, his replacement, John Hart, appeared. They had a brief conversation about what the atmosphere was doing. Mr. Hart mostly listened before he slid into Mr. Grams’s seat.

He quickly decided a severe thunderstorm watch was appropriate for parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. But he was cautious about the timing and scope.

“You issue a watch too early, people become complacent,” he said.

After consulting with five Weather Service offices, he deleted three Oklahoma counties from the watch.

4:35 p.m.

Most forecasters have wanted to work in weather since they were children. Decades before he joined the center, Rich Thompson’s third word was “wain.” Mr. Grams remembers a tornado that struck Minnesota when he was 3. Thanks to Hurricane Camille, Mr. Bunting became interested in weather when he was 9.

The scope — and consequences — of the storms they have charted are similarly sharp in their memories. They know the triple-digit death tolls that sometimes come, even when their forecasts are tragically accurate. Just last month, 23 people died in Alabama after a well-warned tornado outbreak.

“You just see the injuries, the damages, the fatalities just piling up, and you’re thinking, ‘What’s the point?’” Mr. Thompson said as he considered some of the larger outbreaks on his watch. “It’s like, I did the best I could, and we just had the most people killed in one of these kinds of forecasts on record. I kind of wondered and thought, ‘Is it just the limit of what we can do?’”

Indeed, the forecasters know that all they can do from Oklahoma is to come up with predictions and alert the public — and to be as credible as possible, he said, “so that when we jump up and down and yell and wave our arms, people take it seriously.”

5:03 p.m.

Down a hall, another arm of the country’s weather bureaucracy was busy: The Weather Service’s Norman forecast office, which tracks conditions in 56 Oklahoma and Texas counties, was confronting the nastiness that the Storm Prediction Center had feared.

The room resembled Mission Control. Forecasters and researchers crowded around banks of computer monitors. Four local television stations, their coverage filled with fresh footage of funnel clouds, flashed on a large screen. Fourteen minutes after the office issued a tornado warning, the phone rang. It was an emergency manager in Ellis County, Okla.

“Tornado still on the ground,” a forecaster reported after taking the call.

Minutes passed. Scanning their screens, the meteorologists decided the threat was nowhere near finished. They soon issued a new tornado warning.

It showed up on television screens in seconds.

In the Storm Prediction Center, a one-second music clip from the Robert Redford movie “The Natural” alerted forecasters to a tornado warning somewhere in the country.

As sunset approached, the center’s meteorologists turned their attention to the next day. They worried about what they saw.

Thursday, 8:11 a.m.

Much of the nation was fixated on the maelstrom in Washington: Attorney General William P. Barr’s news conference about the special counsel’s inquiry was about 20 minutes away. But the forecasters in Oklahoma had actual storms to obsess over.

As Mr. Barr prepared to step to a lectern, the center issued an outlook for the day. Trouble still seemed likely, especially around New Orleans and Jackson, Miss.

About 29 million people were at risk.

Alan Blinder is a national correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau. With a primary focus on his native South, he has reported from more than two dozen states since joining The Times in 2013. @alanblinder

 

bookmark_borderSilicon Valley Came to Kansas Schools. That Started a Rebellion.

WELLINGTON, Kan. — The seed of rebellion was planted in classrooms. It grew in kitchens and living rooms, in conversations between students and their parents.

It culminated when Collin Winter, 14, an eighth grader in McPherson, Kan., joined a classroom walkout in January. In the nearby town of Wellington, high schoolers staged a sit-in. Their parents organized in living rooms, at churches and in the back of machine repair shops. They showed up en masse to school board meetings. In neighborhoods with no political yard signs, homemade signs with dark red slash marks suddenly popped up.

Silicon Valley had come to small-town Kansas schools — and it was not going well.

“I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I’m not doing it anymore,” said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington.

Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning. The Silicon Valley-based program promotes an educational approach called “personalized learning,” which uses online tools to customize education. The platform that Summit provides was developed by Facebook engineers. It is funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician.

Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit’s program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately.

Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad’s hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone.

“We’re allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies,” said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son’s fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school.

In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform.

“Change rarely comes without some bumps in the road,” said Gordon Mohn, McPherson’s superintendent of schools. He added, “Students are becoming self-directed learners and are demonstrating greater ownership of their learning activities.”

John Buckendorf, Wellington High School’s principal, said the “vast majority of our parents are happy with the program.”

The resistance in Kansas is part of mounting nationwide opposition to Summit, which began trials of its system in public schools four years ago and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students. In Brooklyn, high school students walked out in November after their school started using Summit’s platform. In Indiana, Pa., after a survey by Indiana University of Pennsylvania found 70 percent of students wanted Summit dropped or made optional, the school board scaled it back and then voted this month to terminate it. And in Cheshire, Conn., the program was cut after protests in 2017.

“When there are frustrating situations, generally kids get over them, parents get over them, and they all move on,” said Mary Burnham, who has two grandchildren in Cheshire’s school district and started a petition to end Summit’s use. “Nobody got over this.”

Silicon Valley has tried to remake American education in its own image for years, even as many in tech eschew gadgets and software at home and flood into tech-free schools. Summit has been part of the leading edge of the movement, but the rebellion raises questions about a heavy reliance on tech in public schools.

For years, education experts have debated the merits of self-directed, online learning versus traditional teacher-led classrooms. Proponents argue that programs like Summit provide children, especially those in underserved towns, access to high-quality curriculums and teachers. Skeptics worry about screen time and argue that students miss out on important interpersonal lessons.

John Pane, a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation who has studied programs that use digital tools to customize learning, said the field remains in its infancy. “There has not been enough research,” he said.

Diane Tavenner, a former teacher and Summit’s chief executive, founded a series of public charter schools starting in 2003 called Summit Public Schools and began developing software to use in the classrooms so that students could “unlock the power within themselves.” The resulting program, Summit Learning, is spinning out into a new nonprofit called T.L.P. Education. Ms. Tavenner said the Kansas protests were largely about nostalgia.

“There’s people who don’t want change. They like the schools the way they are,” she said. “The same people who don’t like Summit have been the sort of vocal opposition to change throughout the process.”

Summit chose not to be part of a study after paying the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research to design one in 2016. Tom Kane, the Harvard professor preparing that assessment, said he was wary of speaking out against Summit because many education projects receive funding from Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan’s philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Mr. Zuckerberg backed Summit in 2014 and assigned five Facebook engineers to develop the software. In 2015, he wrote that Summit’s program would help “meet the student’s individual needs and interests” and that technology “frees up time for teachers to do what they do best — mentor students.” Since 2016, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has committed $99.1 million in grants to Summit.

In a statement, Abby Lunardini, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s chief communications officer, said, “We take the issues raised very seriously, and Summit has been working with school leaders and parents on the ground to address them.” She added that many schools that used Summit “love and support the program.”

Few places better illustrate the reaction to Summit than the central Kansas towns of Wellington (population 8,000) and McPherson (population 13,000). The towns are surrounded by wheat fields and factories. Residents work in farming, at a nearby oil refinery or at aircraft parts manufacturing plants.

In 2015, Kansas announced that it would support education “moon shots” like “personalized learning.” Two years later, it picked school district “astronauts, including McPherson and Wellington. When parents received brochures promising “personalized learning,” many were thrilled. The school districts’ leaders selected Summit.

“We wanted to get every kid on an even playing field,” said Brian Kynaston, a dentist in McPherson and school board member, adding that it helped that Summit was free.

He said he liked Summit’s program. His daughter, Kelcie, 14, said she felt self-directed. “Everyone is judging it too quickly,” he said.

Mr. Koenig, the factory supervisor, said: “You want your kids to be innovators. You want them to be on the cutting edge of what’s next.”

When this school year started, children got laptops to use Summit software and curriculums. In class, they sat at the computers working through subjects from math to English to history. Teachers told students that their role was now to be a mentor.

Parents of special-needs students noticed problems immediately. Amy Jackson, a night-shift nurse in Wellington, has a daughter, Megan, 12, who has epilepsy and whose neurologist recommended she limit screen time to 30 minutes a day to reduce seizures. Since the school started using Summit, Megan has had seizures multiple times a day.

In September, some students stumbled onto questionable content while working in the Summit platform, which often directs them to click on links to the open web.

In one class covering Paleolithic history, Summit included a link to an article in The Daily Mail, the British newspaper, that showed racy ads with bikini-clad women. For a list of the Ten Commandments, two parents said their children were directed to a Christian conversion site.

Ms. Tavenner said building a curriculum from the open internet meant that a Daily Mail article was fair game for lesson plans. “The Daily Mail is written at a very low reading level,” she said, later adding that it was a bad link to include. She added that as far as she was aware, Summit’s curriculum did not send students to a Christian conversion site.

Around the country, teachers said they were split on Summit. Some said it freed them from making lesson plans and grading quizzes so they had more time for individual students. Others said it left them as bystanders. Some parents said they worried about their children’s data privacy.

“Summit demands an extraordinary amount of personal information about each student and plans to track them through college and beyond,” said Leonie Haimson, co-chairwoman of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, a national organization.

Summit says it complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

By winter, many McPherson and Wellington students were fed up. While Summit’s program asks schools to commit to having students meet weekly in person with teachers for at least 10 minutes, some children said the sessions lasted around two minutes or did not happen.

Myriland French, 16, a student at Wellington’s high school, said she had developed eye strain and missed talking to teachers and students in class. “Everyone is more stressed now,” she said.Collin Winter, the eighth grader in McPherson, said he had joined the January class walkout with about 50 other students. “I was scared a little bit,” he said of participating. “But I still felt good to be doing something.”

One recent evening in Wellington, a dozen parents and students held an organizing meeting in the back of a machine workshop owned by Tom Henning, a local parent. Chris Smalley, a machinist with two children, ages 13 and 16, attended. Mr. Smalley had put up bigger and bigger yard signs in front of his house, even though he knew Mr. Zuckerberg was unlikely to drive by and see them. They were red, with a slash across the word “Summit.”

“It sounded great, what they sold us,” Mr. Smalley said. “It was the worst lemon car that we’ve ever bought.”

Deanna Garver, a church secretary whose sons are in second and eighth grades, had also made a yard sign. It read: “Don’t Plummet With Summit.”

After the fall semester last year, about a dozen parents in Wellington pulled their children out of public school, said Kevin Dodds, a city councilman. In McPherson, Mr. Koenig and his wife, Meggan, enrolled their two children in a Catholic school, using money saved for a kitchen remodel and vacation.

“We’re not Catholic,” Mrs. Koenig said. “But we just felt like it would be a lot easier to have a discussion over dinner about something that they might have heard in a religion class than Summit.”

Nearly 40 more families plan on taking their children out of public school by this summer, Mr. Dodds said.

We’re out in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “So we’re the guinea pigs.”

 

bookmark_borderCatching Up on the Mueller Report. What’s Next?

A report of more than 400 pages detailing the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, revealed the scope of an ambitious Russian campaign to sabotage the 2016 presidential election and explored whether President Trump engaged in acts of obstruction to impede the investigation.

The report, which the Justice Department redacted before releasing it to the public on Thursday, cast the president in an unflattering light but did not accuse him of criminal wrongdoing. It did not exonerate him, either.

Here is what you need to know:

Lack of evidence of ‘coordination’ with Russians

The report explicitly stated that the investigation did not clear the president of obstructing justice. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report said.

While Mr. Trump has tweeted that there was “no collusion,” collusion is not a legal concept.

Mr. Mueller instead was looking for evidence of a criminal conspiracy or “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russia in its election interference activities. Mr. Mueller decided there was not enough evidence to prove coordination.

Trump’s staff ignored his directives

The report revealed that Mr. Trump continuously and impulsively asked staff members to take steps that would have led to the removal of the special counsel.

Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, was asked to remove Mr. Mueller but the report said Mr. McGahn decided “he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” a reference to Richard M. Nixon’s firing in 1973 of the special prosecutor investigating him.

Soon after Mr. McGahn’s resignation, Mr. Trump asked an adviser, Corey Lewandowski, to get the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to end the investigation. Mr. Lewandowski instead asked his colleague Rick Dearborn to do so. Mr. Dearborn chose not to because he “was uncomfortable with the task,” the report said.

News accounts proved to be accurate

The report summarized and elaborated on false statements, exploring why so many people lied, changed their stories and issued misleading statements to both the public and federal authorities — all of which helped fuel the investigation.

One of those instances came when it was reported that Mr. Trump asked Mr. McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller. Mr. Trump denied the reports to reporters but Mr. McGahn confirmed them to investigators.

After the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was fired, Mr. Trump wanted the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell the news media that the firing was Mr. Rosenstein’s idea. Mr. Rosenstein refused, saying that if “the press asked him he would tell the truth,” the report said.

While Mr. Trump has called unflattering reports about his behavior as president “fake news,” some of the most unflattering stories about Mr. Trump were accurate, and White House officials often knew that was the case even as they heaped criticism on journalists.

Where does it go from here?

White House aides declared the report to be a clear victory for the president but it hardly means an end to the scrutiny.

The investigation identified potential criminal activity outside the jurisdiction of the special counsel, which made 14 referrals to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Twelve of those referrals remain secret.

Two of them have been made public: one regarding Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and the other regarding Gregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration.

Democrats see impeachment as ‘not worthwhile’

As the Russia investigation shifts from the executive branch to Congress, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, issued a subpoena on Friday demanding that the Justice Department provide a full unredacted version of the report by May 1.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains wary of starting the impeachment process, fearful that it could raise Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls.

[Read how Democrats are contending with the possibility of impeaching Mr. Trump.]

“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, told CNN on Thursday. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.”

Democrats plan to continue investigating and to bring the results to the public’s attention in an effort to hamper Mr. Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.

 

bookmark_borderJayne Wrightsman, Arts Benefactor and Doyenne of High Society, Dies at 99

Jayne Wrightsman, a benefactor of the arts and grande dame of New York society whose celebrated collections of decorative and fine arts surrounded her life with grandeur and became treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died on Saturday at her home in Manhattan. She was 99.

Rudolph Netek, Mrs. Wrightsman’s general manager, confirmed her death.

The widow of Charles B. Wrightsman, an oil tycoon who died in 1986, Mrs. Wrightsman had no formal training in the arts, but became a connoisseur through decades of study, travel and experience in the field. Over many years, she and her husband gave the Metropolitan many of its most important European paintings and perhaps the finest collection of 18th-century French decorative arts in America.

Like her husband, she became a trustee of the Met. While giving millions to buy art and refurbish galleries, her involvement was often more personal. She spent many days walking through the galleries, examining paintings and artifacts, talking to curators, and analyzing the museum’s artistic needs.

In 1995, after Mrs. Wrightsman donated Delacroix’s 1835 “Portrait of Madame Henri François Riesener (Félicité Longrois)” and Monet’s “The Garden of Monet’s House in Argenteuil,” Carol Vogel, in a column in The New York Times, said she “has an eye for recognizing gaps in the museum’s collections and then filling them in.”

While she was not well known to the public — a status she preferred — Mrs. Wrightsman was arguably the most important patron in the modern history of the Met, and was a great patron of the British Museum, the Louvre and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, as well.

“Jayne Wrightsman’s incredible impact on the Metropolitan Museum of Art cannot be overstated,” Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said on Saturday. “Through her beneficence, expertise and guidance, she has forever transformed the museum, and the museum will be forever connected with her.”

A formal photograph of Mrs. Wrightsman shows a rail-thin woman of aristocratic bearing in a palatial salon, with a Louis XVI secretary of exquisite marquetry and chairs made for Marie Antoinette. It is only a glimpse of the art that filled her 18-room apartment on Fifth Avenue, but the picture might as well have been taken at the opulent Wrightsman Galleries at the Met, which she and her husband donated.

She had come a long way from a broken childhood home in Michigan and early years in Los Angeles, where she attended high school, modeled swimsuits, sold gloves in a department store and ran with a crowd of young actors and playboys who took her to the Brown Derby and to parties at William Randolph Hearst’s castle at San Simeon.

She was only 24 when she married Mr. Wrightsman, a dashing and divorced oilman from Oklahoma who was president of Standard Oil of Kansas. He was 24 years her senior, had two children from another marriage, flew airplanes, played tournament polo and was socially ambitious. The couple knew little about art, but understood its cachet in society.

Over the next four decades, the Wrightsmans, through intensive study and travel, amassed what many experts called America’s most important collection of 18th-century French furniture and decorative pieces, as well as major acquisitions of paintings by European masters. The works filled their oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.; their New York apartment; and their London duplex near Buckingham Palace.

They became close friends of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, who were neighbors in Palm Beach, and of New York and Washington celebrities including the socialites Brooke Astor, Mercedes Bass and Rachel (Bunny) Mellon; Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state; Annette de la Renta, wife of the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta; Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post; and Allen Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Dinners she organized in her Fifth Avenue apartment were, as one friend put it, “19th-century gatherings of aristocrats, politicians, writers, editors and museum directors.”

The apartment itself may have been one of the greatest de facto art treasuries in New York, filled with 18th-century French furniture, Ingres drawings and old master paintings, worthy of the Met or any other fabulous museum.

In a story recalled by a friend, Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Met from 1977 to 2008, was thumbing through an old notebook he had found on a table in Mrs. Wrightsman’s foyer.

“What’s this?” he asked casually.

“Marie Antoinette’s last diary,” Mrs. Wrightsman replied.

In 1961, Mr. Kennedy was a houseguest of the Wrightsmans in Palm Beach for weeks, swimming daily in their heated saltwater pool as he recuperated from painful back problems. And Mrs. Kennedy, who shared Mrs. Wrightsman’s love of France and the decorative arts, chose her to assist in some of the White House restoration work the first lady supervised from 1961 to 1963. In 1964, after the president’s assassination, Mrs. Kennedy joined an Adriatic cruise on the Wrightsmans’ chartered 680-ton yacht.

As patrons of the Met, the Wrightsmans filled 13 period rooms with 18th- and 19th-century French sofas, chairs, tables, cabinets, desks, porcelain, carpets, clocks, candelabra, lamps, chandeliers, mirrors and wall paneling, much of it made for the salons of Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

The Met named the suite the Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts. The contents were documented in a five-volume catalog, “The Wrightsman Collection,” published in 1965 and 1966 by the Met and written by Francis J.B. Watson.

“Charles and Jayne Wrightsman little by little have assembled a collection of furniture and related works of art that may be favorably compared with the great national collections,” James J. Rorimer, the Met’s director at the time, wrote in an introduction.

Jane Kirkman Larkin was born on Oct. 21, 1919, in Flint, Mich., one of four children of Frederick and Aileen Larkin. Her father headed a construction company. When Jane was about 12, her parents split up. The mother and children moved to Los Angeles. Jane, who added a “y” to her given name, attended Los Angeles High School.

She had various jobs and led a busy social life. In a 2003 profile, Vanity Fair said she was popular with “socialites, playboys and aspiring film stars.” She met Mr. Wrightsman at a dinner party and they were married on March 28, 1944. He died on May 27, 1986, at the age of 90. Mrs. Wrightsman had no immediate family survivors. Two brothers, Frederick Jr. and Lawrence, and a sister, Katherine, had died previously.

For most of her married life, Mrs. Wrightsman shied away from publicity. Later, she appeared more often at fund-raisers and museum functions. When her friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in 1994, Mrs. Wrightsman gave the Met an 1817 portrait of the French statesman Talleyrand by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon in her memory.

Besides donating Monet and Delacroix paintings, the Wrightsmans over the years gave the Met works by Renoir, Vermeer, El Greco, Rubens, Georges da La Tour, Jacques-Louis David and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Virtually all of them had been displayed in the Wrightsman homes for years, providing a sublime ambience for dinner parties and quiet afternoons.

“It is important that these were not mere checkbook transactions, in which paintings moved directly from the dealer’s gallery or auction room to the Met,” John Russell, The Times art critic, wrote in 1986. “Many of them were held for 10, 15 or even 20 years. Lived with, they were scrutinized every day, at all seasons, and (not least) in all humors, before they went to the Met.”

Correction: April 20, 2019

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the surname of Mrs. Wrightsman’s general manager. He is Rudolph Netek, not Metek.

 

bookmark_borderSeth Rich Was Not Source of Leaked D.N.C. Emails, Mueller Report Confirms

The special counsel’s report confirmed this week that Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee employee whose unsolved killing became grist for a right-wing conspiracy theory, was not the source of thousands of internal D.N.C. emails that WikiLeaks released during the 2016 presidential race, officially debunking a notion that had persisted without support for years.

Tucked amid hundreds of pages of the report’s main findings, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took aim at WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for falsely implying that Mr. Rich was somehow involved in the dissemination of the emails, an act that aided President Trump’s campaign.

“WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,” according to the report, which showed that WikiLeaks corresponded with the true source of the leaked emails — Russian hackers — after Mr. Rich’s death.

The confirmation comes after years of anguish for Mr. Rich’s family, who fought attempts to politicize and spread misinformation about his killing, which is believed to have happened during a bungled robbery attempt.

The theory linking Mr. Rich to the email leak took root in conservative circles and was cited by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Alex Jones of Infowars. WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information about Mr. Rich’s killing, fueling speculation that he was the source. Fox News also published an article, which the network later retracted, suggesting that Mr. Rich was killed in retaliation for having leaked the emails.

In a statement, Mr. Rich’s brother, Aaron Rich, responded to the special counsel’s report, saying it provided “hard facts that demonstrate this conspiracy is false.”

“I hope that the people who pushed, fueled, spread, ran headlines, articles, interviews, talk and opinion shows, or in any way used my family’s tragedy to advance their political agendas — despite our pleas that what they were saying was not based on any facts — will take responsibility for the unimaginable pain they have caused us,” he said.

Mr. Rich was 27 when he died after being shot on the streets of Washington on July 10, 2016.

On July 14, WikiLeaks received an encrypted file from Russian hackers, according to the report. The organization published thousands of internal D.N.C. emails later that month, just days ahead of the Democratic convention.

“That chronology is damning,” Mike Gottlieb, a lawyer for Aaron Rich, said, pointing out that Mr. Rich had already been killed when the file was sent.

In statements beginning that summer, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks “implied falsely” that Mr. Rich had been the source of the emails, the special counsel’s report said.

In addition to the $20,000 reward, Mr. Assange said in an interview that he was interested in Mr. Rich’s death because “we’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged WikiLeaks sources,” according to the report.

Even after intelligence officials announced that Russia was behind the email hacking, Mr. Assange continued to deny Russian involvement and told a congressman that the D.N.C. hack was an “inside job,” according to the report.

“Assange did untold damage to a grieving family in order to try and hide his work with Russian intelligence,” Brad Bauman, a former spokesman for Mr. Rich’s family, said in a statement after the release of the report.

“He is a monster, not a journalist,” he added.

Mr. Assange, whose release of secret government documents has spurred debate about press freedom issues, spent seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in Britain before he was arrested this month on a charge of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. The charge is not related to WikiLeaks’ role in Russia’s operations to sabotage the election.

Though Mr. Rich’s killing remains unsolved, the special counsel’s findings could begin to ease the pain for his family, who have described the anguish of having to watch his life and death be treated like a “political football.”

His parents, Joel and Mary Rich, sued Fox News last year, claiming that the network’s coverage helped fuel damaging rumors about their son. A judge, while expressing sympathy for the family, dismissed the case because the parents had not been personally defamed by the story, despite the fact that it included “false statements or misrepresentations.” The judge noted that Mr. Rich could not be defamed by the story under New York law because he was dead.

Aaron Rich is also suing for defamation over theories that falsely implicate him, purporting that he helped steal the data and cover up his brother’s killing. He accepted an apology and retraction from The Washington Times last year as part of a settlement.

Mr. Gottlieb, his lawyer, said that while it was gratifying for his client to see the Mueller report lay to rest any lingering conspiracy theories, Mr. Rich was still grappling with the loss of his brother, who was the best man at his wedding.

“The picture of Seth and Aaron at Aaron’s wedding is one a bunch of conspiracy theorists have used as memes,” he said.

“Aaron has been called a traitor,” Mr. Gottlieb added. “He is being called every imaginable awful name you can think of and he’s never had the opportunity to grieve.”

In his statement, Aaron Rich vowed to continue fighting.

“We will continue to pursue justice for Seth’s murderers,” he said, “as well as those who used his murder to advance their personal or political agendas.”

bookmark_borderMueller Witnesses Who Once Served in White House Now Fear Trump’s Ire

WASHINGTON — President Trump and his lawyers decided from the start to fully cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation, gambling in 2017 that they could hasten its end if they gave prosecutors unfettered access to White House aides and other Trump associates.

Instead, the 448-page report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, released on Thursday revealed that investigators used dozens of hours of witness accounts from Mr. Trump’s advisers to paint a detailed and damaging portrait of his efforts to interfere with the investigation.

Now some of the witnesses named in the report, who have departed the White House but rely on access to Mr. Trump for their livelihoods, fear his ire. Some have begun calling current and former administration officials and others in the president’s orbit to seek clues about Mr. Trump’s state of mind, according to four special counsel witnesses who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

One called friends and colleagues in the days before the report was released to see whether he could have the Justice Department redact his name from Mr. Mueller’s report, according to two people told of the matter. The idea went nowhere.

In the time it takes to post a tweet critical or dismissive of former aides, the president can jeopardize their status as Trump insiders and galvanize his supporters and surrogates in the news media to line up against anyone who cooperated with the special counsel’s inquiry.

In Washington, lobbying firms and corporations seeking inroads to the administration and advice on how to navigate an unpredictable president who makes policy on Twitter have sought out those who worked for him.

The former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, now a consultant, has fashioned himself as someone who understands Mr. Trump. The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II is a partner at the law firm Jones Day, which represents Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has written two books that relied heavily on his access to the president.

And even if the witnesses escape Mr. Trump’s wrath for now, they could find themselves in the cross hairs later if they are called to testify on Capitol Hill as Democrats scrutinize the president. The Mueller report provided a road map for congressional Democrats, whose leaders came under increased pressure on Friday to begin impeachment proceedings when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called for moving toward Mr. Trump’s ouster, the first major presidential candidate to do so.

Mr. Mueller’s report laid bare how heavily investigators relied on the people closest to the president. Mr. Priebus, who is cited over 60 times in its pages, believed that Mr. Trump wanted him to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and install a loyalist to oversee the Russia investigation. Mr. Lewandowski described how Mr. Trump also urged him to pressure Mr. Sessions to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.

Handwritten notes by another White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, appear in a key part of the account of potential presidential obstruction of justice, describing an unsuccessful effort by Mr. Trump to persuade Mr. McGahn to dispute statements he made to investigators.

As those unflattering details made their way from the report into accounts by the news media, the first wave of public attacks from Mr. Trump and his legal team bubbled up. Mr. Trump tweeted on Friday that “statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue.”

“Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” Mr. Trump said. He did not identify the witnesses he was referring to, but the report said the president had complained to Mr. McGahn for taking notes.

Mr. Trump has privately complained to aides since the report was released about the cooperation of several people, zeroing in on Mr. McGahn, whose interviews were cited 157 times by investigators, more than any of the other roughly 500 witnesses.

The president stewed about the Mueller report to one adviser after another on Friday at his golf course in Florida, dismissing the findings and making clear he was keeping track of who in his orbit had participated in the investigation, according to a person who spoke with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump had not read the document himself, according to people close to him. That means that the fates of the witnesses will depend in the coming days on how they are portrayed on television and on how friends and advisers tell Mr. Trump, who was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., about the report.

The president has long complained about Mr. McGahn, a longtime Washington lawyer who served as the Trump campaign’s top lawyer and who frequently clashed with Mr. Trump during his two years as White House counsel. Inside the White House, he took the lead on one of Mr. Trump’s most significant accomplishments — stacking the federal courts with conservative judges — but fell out of favor with the president by taking no action to protect him from the Justice Department’s scrutiny.

As the investigation wore on, the president told one aide that Mr. McGahn “leaked to the media to make himself look good” and called him a “lying bastard,” investigators wrote.

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani attacked Mr. McGahn and the recollections he shared with prosecutors, denying that the president told Mr. McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller. Mr. Trump was simply venting his frustrations about the investigation, Mr. Giuliani argued.

“All you are getting is one version of events, and the real version of events may be very different,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview.

“I don’t want to go so far as saying he’s lying,” Mr. Giuliani said of Mr. McGahn. “He’s mistaken. He may have a bad recollection.”

Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, said his client’s account in the report was accurate. “It’s a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to relitigate incidents the attorney general and deputy attorney general have concluded were not obstruction,” Mr. Burck said in a statement. “Don, nonetheless, appreciates that the president gave him the opportunity to serve as White House counsel and assist him with his signature accomplishments.”

Some of the witnesses and their lawyers responded to Mr. Trump’s anger at the report by noting that it was his decision to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s investigators. Three former White House aides who were witnesses in the investigation said Mr. Trump and one of his lawyers decided in 2017 not to assert executive privilege and also encouraged aides to cooperate with the special counsel.

Mr. Trump and Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who encouraged participation, set in motion a course where witnesses had to be forthcoming with investigators or risk charges of perjury. Now, they said, Mr. Trump is faulting them when he could have asserted privilege over his conversations with aides and tried to prevent investigators from learning about them.

The idea that Mr. McGahn is the target of the president’s wrath is complicated by the fact that Mr. McGahn tried to stop the White House from such extensive cooperation. But at the time the president decided to cooperate, Mr. McGahn had fallen out of favor with Mr. Trump, largely because he had refused to fire Mr. Mueller and the president blamed him, in part, for the special counsel’s appointment.

Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

 

bookmark_borderProdded by Putin, Russians Sought Back Channels to Trump Through the Business World

WASHINGTON — At 9:34 on the November morning after Donald J. Trump was elected president in 2016, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and an informal envoy for President Vladimir V. Putin, sent a text message to a Lebanese-American friend with ties to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Dmitriev wanted to connect quickly with someone in Mr. Trump’s inner circle, preferably Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner. By the end of the month, he was in touch with Rick Gerson, a friend of Mr. Kushner who manages a New York hedge fund.

The two discussed a potential joint investment venture. But the special counsel’s report released Thursday suggested that Mr. Dmitriev’s real interest lay elsewhere: He had been instructed by Mr. Putin, he told Mr. Gerson, to come up with a plan for “reconciliation” between the United States and Russia.

Mr. Dmitriev and Mr. Gerson worked together on a two-page proposal for how the nations could cooperate on a variety of fronts. That document, the report said, later made its way to Mr. Kushner, Rex W. Tillerson, the incoming secretary of state, and Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist. Nothing came of the idea that the Russian sovereign fund would invest with Mr. Gerson.

The outreach by Mr. Dmitriev, according to the special counsel’s report, was part of a broad, makeshift effort by the Kremlin to establish ties to Mr. Trump that began early in the campaign and shifted into high gear after Mr. Trump’s victory. Those efforts were channeled largely through people in the business world in both countries. Especially after the election, they led to a conflation of diplomatic and financial interests that was a stark departure from the carefully calibrated contacts typically managed by an incoming administration in the United States.

Mr. Trump’s on-the-fly campaign, lack of preparation for victory and disorganized transition created a vacuum that, as Russia sought out avenues of access and influence, was quickly filled by a number of people from outside established foreign policy circles, many of whom appeared eager to portray themselves as access brokers or to generate business opportunities.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, did not find a criminal conspiracy by Mr. Trump or his campaign to influence the outcome of the election. But his report made clear how vigorously Mr. Putin sought to find points of contact and influence with Mr. Trump’s team — and how many people on the American side were willing to participate to one degree or another in discussions that touched on topics as varied as Mr. Trump’s desire to build a Moscow hotel to United States policy toward Ukraine.

It is not clear that the Russians had much, if any, success in influencing American policy through the back channels they established, although Mr. Trump’s comments often strike foreign policy experts as remarkably sympathetic to Mr. Putin. But the would-be influence peddlers in the United States and in Russia generally proceeded without much regard for the growing recognition that Moscow had just interfered in multiple ways with the American election and that any contacts outside established channels — especially those that mixed business and diplomacy — carried substantial political risks.

Angela E. Stent, a Georgetown University professor who recently wrote a book on Mr. Putin’s reign, said Mr. Trump’s willingness to tolerate informal interlocutors in the foreign policy field was “unlike any administration I have ever seen” but not unlike Mr. Putin’s own style.

The Trump White House, she said, is comfortable with “all these informal ways of doing business,” including giving a heightened role to family members and friends who are not required to disclose potential conflicts of interest or abide by government ethics rules. “That’s how the Russians like to operate,” she said.

According to the Mueller report, Mr. Putin wasted no time enlisting Russian oligarchs to carry the Kremlin’s message after Mr. Trump’s election. He convened an “all-hands” meeting of the country’s top oligarchs in December to discuss the risk of the United States imposing further sanctions in retaliation for Moscow’s interference in the election.

One of those oligarchs, Petr Aven, who leads Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank, also met privately with Mr. Putin shortly after Mr. Trump’s election. He told the special counsel that the Russian president expected him to build inroads with the incoming administration, then repeatedly queried him on his progress in the coming months.

On the American side, a varied cast of characters was fielding overtures and proposals from Russians or pro-Russian Ukrainians during the campaign and transition, including: Mr. Gerson; George Nader, the Lebanese-American with Trump campaign connections; Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman; Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime fixer and lawyer; and Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder and brother of Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s pick for education secretary.

Asked about his interactions with the executive at the Russian sovereign wealth fund, a spokesman for Mr. Gerson said in a statement that he engaged in no business with the fund and merely “presented personal ideas on humanitarian issues.”

Only rarely did anyone throw up a red flag, according to the report. In May 2016, after a campaign official reported that Alexander Torshin, an officer of a Russian state-owned bank, wanted to discuss an invitation from Mr. Putin to meet with Mr. Trump, Mr. Kushner, a top adviser to Mr. Trump, responded: “Pass on this. A lot of people come claiming to carry messages.” He added: “Be careful.”

But Mr. Kushner did not always heed his own advice. In mid-December 2016, he agreed to a one-on-one meeting with a Russian official he had been told had a direct line to Mr. Putin: Sergey Gorkov, head of the state-owned bank Vnesheconombank, which was under United States sanctions for Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

An American investment banker with many contacts in Russia, Robert Foresman, said that Mr. Gorkov told him before the meeting that Mr. Putin had approved his trip and that he would report back to Mr. Putin afterward, the special counsel’s report states.

Mr. Kushner told the prosecutors that he did not prepare for the encounter. No one on the transition team even bothered to search Google for Mr. Gorkov’s name. Prosecutors were unable to resolve what was discussed. Mr. Gorkov publicly suggested it was business, while Mr. Kushner said it was diplomatic issues.

At the time, Mr. Kushner’s family business was hunting for investors so it could hold onto its flagship property, a Manhattan office building. As the special counsel’s report noted in recounting the meeting between Mr. Kushner and Mr. Gorkov, there “had been public reporting both about efforts to secure lending on the property and possible conflicts of interest for Kushner arising out of his company’s borrowing from foreign lenders.”

The template of Russia trying to advance its policy goals through the business interests of people in Mr. Trump’s orbit was set in mid-2015, almost as soon as Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. One of the earliest examples was the Russian response to Mr. Cohen’s pursuit of a Trump Tower in Moscow, a hotel construction project that Mr. Trump had chased for decades.

Mr. Cohen and another Trump associate, Felix Sater, were communicating with various Russians or their intermediaries about issues like site plans, the need for a Russian developer and financing. But the answers often concerned whether Mr. Trump was willing to meet with Mr. Putin. The possibility that Mr. Trump would travel to Russia for that purpose lingered until he clinched the Republican nomination in mid-2016.

Mr. Trump’s revolving cast of aides and advisers included several who had contacts with Russians or were being aggressively wooed by them, like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

One of the better-connected was Mr. Manafort, who spent five months as a top strategist and chairman for the Trump campaign. He had worked for Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin, had spent the past decade carrying out the political agenda of Ukrainian oligarchs aligned with Moscow and was in regular contact with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Russian associate whom prosecutors have linked to Russian intelligence.

For months during the campaign, Mr. Manafort was feeding internal polling data to Mr. Kilimnik, expecting it to be transferred to Mr. Deripaska and the Ukrainian oligarchs, the report states. In 2016 and early 2017, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik also repeatedly discussed a proposal that would effectively have put part of eastern Ukraine under Russia’s control.

Despite many months of outreach before the election, the initial interactions between Mr. Trump’s team and the Kremlin were almost comical. Hope Hicks, Mr. Trump’s campaign secretary, received a 3 a.m. phone call on election night from a foreigner she could not understand, followed by an email the next morning conveying Mr. Putin’s congratulations. She forwarded it to Mr. Kushner, writing: “Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!”

But Mr. Putin quickly dispatched his big players, like Mr. Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.

On Nov. 9, 2016, Mr. Dmitriev contacted Mr. Nader, an adviser to the royal court of United Arab Emirates whom he knew through joint Russian and Emirati investment projects and who professed to have Trump campaign contacts.

Mr. Dmitriev suggested he could meet Mr. Kushner at a coming World Chess Federation tournament in New York. He later said Mr. Putin himself would be extremely grateful if Mr. Nader could introduce Mr. Dmitriev to either Mr. Kushner or Donald Trump Jr.

Instead, Mr. Nader connected the Russian official to Mr. Gerson, Mr. Kushner’s hedge fund friend, and to Mr. Prince, Ms. DeVos’s brother, who had no formal role in the transition.

On Jan. 11, 2017, Mr. Dmitriev and Mr. Prince met at Mr. Nader’s villa at the Four Seasons Resort in the Seychelles. Mr. Prince told the Russian official that he provided “policy papers” to Mr. Bannon, a top Trump adviser, and that he would brief Mr. Bannon on their meeting. But Mr. Prince’s style seemed strikingly ad hoc.

Returning to his room after professing his hopes for a new era of cooperation, Mr. Prince learned that a Russian aircraft carrier had sailed to Libya. At a hastily organized second meeting, he told Mr. Dmitriev that Russian involvement in Libya was “off the table.” He told prosecutors that he conveyed that message “based on his experience as a former naval officer,” the report said.

Mr. Dmitriev found the trip disappointing, the report said. He told Mr. Nader he wanted to talk to someone with more authority in the Trump administration about a strategic road map for Russia and the United States.

Prosecutors tried in vain to verify what Mr. Prince and Mr. Bannon told them they had discussed about the offshore encounter with Mr. Dmitriev. But although carrier records showed that they had texted each other dozens of times before March 2017, the report stated, their phones contained no messages.