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: Enter Viktor Vekselberg. Who is helping Michael Avenatti? Oleg Deripaska's wings have been clipped — for now.

The Vekselberg matter

Energy baron Viktor Vekselberg has the reputation as a "nice" Russian oligarch.

Updated at 4:24 p.m.

An explosive document released Tuesday by an attorney suing President Trump and his personal lawyer could be the most important public evidence in the Russia imbroglio since Donald Trump Jr. released his emails last year.

Updated at 10:27 p.m. ET

Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from both corporate clients and potentially a Russian billionaire, according to new allegations from an attorney suing them.

Michael Avenatti, who represents adult film actress Stormy Daniels, described what he called Cohen's suspicious financial relationships in a document released on Tuesday evening.

New York lawmakers will carry on trying to close a loophole that could shield people from state prosecution if they have received a presidential pardon — without the bill's high-profile champion, former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Updated at 12:51 p.m.

President Trump's newly aggressive stance toward special counsel Robert Mueller will be the biggest test yet of the work he and allies have carried on for months to shape the political landscape among their supporters.

Trump and his attorneys appear to be hardening their attitude toward Mueller's office as discussion continues swirling about a potential presidential interview — whether Trump should agree, or risk a subpoena, or fight it, or invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to give evidence.

This week in the Russia investigations: After a lot of Sturm und Drang, the door appears to be closing on an interview between President Trump and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

The long shot

At the conclusion of another outrageous dust devil week of news, here is the main thing to take away: An interview between President Trump and the team of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller now appears less likely than ever.

White House attorney Ty Cobb is retiring at the end of this month and veteran Washington lawyer Emmet Flood, who helped President Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings in the late 1990s, has signed on to replace him, the White House said Wednesday.

Updated at 11:35 a.m. EDT

The slow-motion showdown between President Trump and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has entered a new phase: a knife fight over how, when or whether the two men may meet for an interview.

Direct interaction between the president and the special counsel's office has been possible all along, and in an earlier phase, Trump said he wanted to talk with Mueller — if his lawyers said it was OK.

Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller may have developed evidence that has not yet been made public about contacts between Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government as it attacked the 2016 election, based on questions published Monday by The New York Times.

Republicans on the House intelligence committee gave President Trump another clean bill of health this week.

And the committee's Democrats laid out how much they say he has to fear.

Updated July 20, 2018

What are "active measures?"

The Russian government launched a broad influence campaign against the United States starting in 2014. Intelligence professionals call it the latest examples of "active measures," secret tools of statecraft that have been used for centuries and were employed throughout the Cold War.

In recent years they have included many interlocking elements:

What is obstruction of justice?

It's against the law to frustrate or try to frustrate an investigation, even if no underlying crime was committed. Lying to federal investigators is a crime on its own and so is acting more broadly to prevent or delay or otherwise interfere with the course of their work.

It's also politically important: The last two occasions on which Congress has filed articles of impeachment against sitting presidents — against Richard Nixon and later, Bill Clinton — they included allegations about obstruction.

Why is President Trump's campaign being investigated for potentially conspiring with the Russian attack on the 2016 election?

Because of something that happened early in 2016: Trump, a political newcomer who had never served in the military or held elective office, was criticized for his lack of experience and faced pressure to name the team that would advise him on national security and foreign policy. Once he did, people on it began to receive overtures from Russians or their agents.

This week in the Russia investigations: Did we learn anything from James Comey? Michael Cohen opts for discretion in the face of some new legal challenges.

What Comey Says Trump Said Putin Said

President Trump, then-chief of staff Reince Priebus and then-FBI Director James Comey were sitting together in the Oval Office. Trump, in Comey's telling, was monologuing, as the former FBI director says he often did.

New York's attorney general wants lawmakers to change the state's criminal laws so that potential pardons by President Trump wouldn't necessarily protect people from being charged in the state system.

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