Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of Military.com and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

This week in the Russia investigations: A major new indictment from the special counsel's office that charges thirteen individuals and three companies and shakes up the political rhetoric as new facts are revealed in the sprawling imbroglio.

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller prefers to let his work do the talking for him. On Friday, he delivered a stemwinder.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities in connection with the attack on the 2016 presidential election.

The defendants are "accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes," according to a statement from the special counsel's office. The indictment charges them with "conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft."

America's adversaries are circling like coyotes just beyond the light from the campfire, top intelligence officials warn — but that's not the scariest thing to some members of the Senate intelligence committee.

What bothers them is the need to convince people the coyotes are there.

"My problem is, I talk to people in Maine who say, 'the whole thing is a witch hunt and it's a hoax,' because that's what the president told me," said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

Updated at 3:52 p.m. ET

Russian influence operations in the United States will continue through this year's midterm elections and beyond, the nation's top spies warned Congress on Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate intelligence committee that Moscow viewed its attack on the 2016 election as decidedly worthwhile given the chaos it has sown compared with its relatively low cost.

This week in the Russia investigations: Democrats defend Christopher Steele — for now — but lose Round 2 of memo mania; and the bosses of the spy agencies are due for a rare public appearance on Capitol Hill.

Reinforcing Steele

Memoranda have only been Washington's favorite dueling weapons for a short time but the art of wielding them has evolved quickly.

Witness the slow-motion jiujitsu between President Trump and his Democratic antagonists this week over a secret countermemo that rebuts the once-secret GOP memo unveiled last week.

Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET

The House intelligence committee voted without opposition on Monday to declassify a secret Democratic rebuttal to the once-secret Republican memo about alleged surveillance abuses that was unveiled on Friday.

The Democrats' document now goes to the White House, where President Trump will decide whether it should become public.

This week in the Russia investigations: The much-talked-about memo finally made its public debut.

After a week of hyperpartisan madness that critics warn could shatter key D.C. institutions forever, the inescapable, once-secret spying memo wound up falling like a drop of rain into the Pacific Ocean.

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump joined his Republican allies on Friday in piling on with attacks about "bias" in the FBI and the Justice Department as Washington, D.C., waited on tenterhooks for the release of a controversial secret spying memo.

The political hurricane that could bring about the release of a controversial memo on Friday has blown the American ship of state off the map.

Not only has a congressional committee seldom if ever released secrets "owned" by the executive branch. Not only has Washington, D.C., seldom seen a law-and-order party in power commit to such a sustained flogging of its own FBI and Justice Department.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

The latest political sandstorm in the Russia saga is over four pages of paper that have never seen the light of day. Here's what you need to know to make sense of what's going on with this story.

1. What exactly is this memo that everyone is talking about?

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Updated at 1:52 p.m. ET

President Trump and his allies are harnessing their control over the levers of power to lean harder than ever into their narrative about the FBI, the Justice Department and the Russia imbroglio — while stopping short of actually replacing any more top leaders.

Republicans went on offense Monday by voting to authorize the release of a much-discussed memo that alleges the FBI and Justice Department abused their authority while investigating the Trump camp's connections to Russia.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to release a controversial memo aimed at bolstering Republicans' attacks against the FBI and Justice Department, over the objections of both.

The decision starts a process seldom, if ever, glimpsed inside Washington's national security world: Now that members of Congress have sought to release the secret document, President Trump has five days to notify the committee of any objection.

This week in the Russia investigations: Trump wanted to fire Mueller — does that matter? Parsing the tea leaves of the palace intrigue. And is this the end of the FBI memo meshugas?

Whoa

President Trump reportedly tried to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last year, not long after firing FBI Director James Comey. But White House counsel Don McGahn wouldn't go along, so the president backed off.

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET

So President Trump sought to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last year — but the White House's top lawyer wouldn't go along. Does that mean Mueller is safe?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The news about Trump's desire to get rid of Mueller only weeks after the president dismissed FBI Director James Comey — but his unwillingness to press the matter — could mean Trump and his advisers feel it's too dangerous to attempt the same play twice.

Updated 5:35 a.m. ET Friday:

President Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last summer — but McGahn refused and threatened to quit himself if the president went ahead, according to an explosive report in The New York Times.

Trump, in brief remarks as he entered the conference hall at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, dismissed the story in what has become his characteristic fashion.

Updated at 12:04 p.m. ET

Attorneys for President Trump are emphasizing how much they've cooperated with investigators as negotiations continue over how and when he might talk with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Lawyers for the president on Thursday released a list that they said detailed the information and access the White House and Trump campaign have given to Mueller's Russia probe and congressional inquiries.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Will "infiltration" be the new "collusion" or "obstruction?" Another skirmish over executive privilege? Is the Russia imbroglio about the money-go-round? And will the shutdown disrupt Mueller's investigation?

The inside game

How much did Russia "infiltrate" political organizations inside the United States as part of its attack on the 2016 presidential election?

This week in the Russia investigations: President Trump rows back on a potential Robert Mueller interview, Sen. Dianne Feinstein releases a big transcript, and Steve Bannon is headed to the House Intelligence Committee.

The exile

Once upon a time, Steve Bannon was among the princes of the universe. Loved by his allies and hated by his foes, he was, most importantly, feared by both.

The infamous Russia dossier was not the sole basis for the FBI's investigation into Donald Trump's ties to Russia, according to a newly public document that notched a tactical win for Democrats inside Washington, D.C.

This week in the Russia investigations: Big problems for Sessions, Bannon cut adrift and Republicans search for more weapons to fire.

Living on the edge

A lighthouse can stand safely on a barrier island one morning and then when a big storm blows through, be teetering at land's end by the next.

Following the heavy cyclone of news this week, dawn in Washington, D.C., on Saturday found Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the slippery sand — and that could also mean peril for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

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If 2016 was the bravura opener and 2017 the tension-building second act, 2018 could deliver an action-packed conclusion to the Russia imbroglio.

Or this story might still be getting started.

Even without knowing every surprise the saga might bring in the new year, there are already enough waypoints on the calendar to confirm that 2018 will ratchet up the volume yet again.

Here are four big storylines to watch.

This week in the Russia investigations: The Mueller Wars rage behind the scenes, Republicans may get their Clinton uranium inquiry, and the Senate Intelligence Committee looks into Russia and the Jill Stein campaign.

The sharks are circling

President Trump says Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is safe. Reporters shouted a question about whether he was planning to try to fire him:

"I'm not," Trump said Dec. 17.

International influence campaigns have been around for centuries, but 2017 made clear how much they remain a part of daily life.

Through court documents, congressional testimony, press reports and other sources, Americans learned not only about the extent of the "active measures" — as they're known to intelligence officers — that Russia waged against the U.S. through the presidential election.

Updated at 1:33 p.m. ET

Republicans pummeled the FBI and Justice Department on Wednesday as they continued painting its special counsel, Robert Mueller, as the boss of a partisan fishing expedition rife with Democratic sympathizers that is out to get President Trump.

But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resisted the fishing expedition narrative and told the House Judiciary Committee that Mueller is not off inside a locked room hidden from his view, but instead is consulting with him about the directions his team wants to travel.

This week In the Russia investigations: Downshift from strategic war to knife fight, top G-Men on his back foot as lawmakers engage in oversight, Trump Jr. clammed up in Congress.

Now, a knife fight

Not long ago, this saga was about Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's surveying the battlefield like a general and with one swift coup — getting Michael Flynn to turn state's evidence — changing the whole strategic picture.

Sanctions on Russia were to be "ripped up" early in the Trump administration, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn said on Inauguration Day, according to new information released Wednesday.

The new details suggest that President Trump and his aides not only were amenable to new negotiations with Russia about its bilateral relationship with the U.S — despite its attack on the 2016 presidential election — but had concluded by the time they took office that they would definitely void existing sanctions.

Updated at 4:08 p.m. ET

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed Trump family financial records from the German financial giant Deutsche Bank, a move that could signal a major new direction for his inquiry.

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