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FBI Arrests Longtime Trump Associate Roger Stone; Manafort Appears in Court Over Allegations He Lied to Mueller; White House: Roger Stone Charges are Unrelated to Trump. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 25, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What's your message to people like that who say they don't believe the president feels the pain that they're feeling right now?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The idea that this president doesn't care deeply about every single American misses the very essence of who he is. This is a president who loves our country, is committed to doing everything he can to help every single American have the best life possible. That's why he wants to protect them in every component and in every way possible.
That's why he wants to see a border wall. That's why he fights so hard to make sure that the economic opportunities in this country are limitless, that people get to reach for the next rung on the ladder. This is a person who loves America. Never let anybody question that. This president loves our country. He's made that clear in every single action that he's taken. He's a person who's fought for life whether it's in the very beginning of stages of life in the womb or whether it's at the very end.
This is a person who wants to protect Americans. And that's why we're asking Democrats, come to the table, sit down with us. Negotiate. Don't be obstructionist. Don't be a party that simply says no because it's the president. Do what you're elected to do and that's help Americans, that's to protect Americans, that's to give Americans the best life they can possibly have. Join with the president in that fight. And I guarantee you we'll have an incredible six years just like we've had over the last two years under this president's leadership.
BERMAN: Sarah, yes or no, are you inviting the House leadership over to the White House today?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of a specific meeting.
SANDERS: But I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot of outreach between our team and members of the Hill throughout the day and throughout the weekend.
BERMAN: Sarah Sanders, thank you very much for coming on.
As I said, Robert Mueller threw us a giant curve ball today and you still agreed to come on and take questions so we commend you for that. Appreciate it.
SANDERS: You bet. Thanks, John.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We appreciate that. She didn't have to come on. It's a busy morning obviously at the White House between the shutdown, between the arrest of Roger Stone, as we watch when our cameras were exclusively there. She didn't have to come on and we appreciate her coming on to represent the White House's position.
BERMAN: All right. It is a very busy day with developments left, right and center. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto picks it all up right now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. And Poppy, what an interview just then with the president's spokesperson.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
SCIUTTO: Our colleague John Berman pressed her repeatedly and said, did the president direct a senior campaign aide to reach out to WikiLeaks, she did not answer that question.
HARLOW: Yes. You're right. Good morning to everyone. Jim Sciutto and I have you covered. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Again, a very telling interview there between our John Berman and Sarah Sanders at the White House. Just really direct questions about the president and what he knew about the --
HARLOW: -- communications that Roger Stone, a confidante of his for decades, had with WikiLeaks about getting stolen information to hurt Hillary Clinton. And there was a lot that she didn't answer.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HARLOW: So we're going to play some of that for you -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: It's an easy -- it would have been an easy one to answer definitively. And it raises the question here, does she know for sure? And is she perhaps protecting herself if it turns out that the president was involved in those communications, right? Finds out later.
This is a situation we've been with before with White House spokes people.
HARLOW: Yes. So --
SCIUTTO: When the truth comes out later after denials in the first instance.
HARLOW: So here's what we're going to do this morning. We're going to stick with the facts. Jim and I are going to tell you everything we know because this is a very significant morning. So here's what we know. Right now, Roger Stone, the former Trump campaign adviser, longtime Donald Trump ally, confidant, defender, preparing for a date in federal court following his dramatic predawn arrest by the FBI.
Look at this, because this video you will not see anywhere else. CNN had a camera outside of Stone's home in Ft. Lauderdale when a dozen or so FBI agents swooped in before sunrise armed, wearing flak jackets, and with at least one warrant. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FBI, open the door. FBI, warrant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: It was our colleague David Shortell who was there along with cameraman Gil De La Rosa doing what hardworking journalists do which is stay there, get in the right place at the right time, and there they were when the news happens.
We should note that those FBI agents like all of the bureau's 35,000 employees are not getting paid due to the shutdown. Yet they were there before sunrise for that arrest.
Stone came to the door, went off peacefully to lock up at about the same time the special counsel released a seven-count indictment. There is one count of obstruction, five counts of making false statements and one count of witness tampering. All of it stemming from Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks concerning those stolen e-mails, Democratic campaign e-mails stolen by Russia in the heat of the campaign in 2016.
[09:05:10] The is a significant news. The indictment makes clear that Stone was in touch with senior Trump campaign officials about releases of those Clinton campaign e-mails -- stolen again by Russia -- in advance of those releases.
CNN's Sara Murray has much more. She's been following the story for quite some time here.
This is a significant development, not just of course for Roger Stone, but for the Trump administration.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, first of all, Roger Stone and his attorneys really did not know that this was going to be coming today. They I think are as stunned, even though he's been under investigation and under so much scrutiny for so long.
And this indictment does lay out, as you pointed out charges basically about how Roger Stone tried to cover up his activities. That's what he's being charged with. But the indictment also lays out how he worked in coordination with Trump campaign officials in his sort of pursuit of these stolen e-mails, these stolen documents from WikiLeaks.
Now I want to walk you through some of the points that are made in this indictment. It says, you know, during the summer of 2016 Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about Organization 1, which is WikiLeaks, and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1, again WikiLeaks.
So it shows you that there were senior Trump campaign officials in contact with Stone wanting to know what more does WikiLeaks had, when is that going to be made public. The indictment continues, by end or early August 2016 Stone was claiming both publicly and privately to have communicated with WikiLeaks. In or around mid August 2016 WikiLeaks made a public statement denying any direct communication with Stone.
Thereafter Stone said this communication with WikiLeaks had occurred through a person that Stone described as a mutual friend, go between, intermediary. Stone also continued to communicate with members of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks about its intended future releases.
Now we know at least one of those members of the Trump campaign was Steve Bannon who of course was a senior Trump campaign official. We haven't identified who the rest of them are. And of course we know that Roger Stone has previously claimed that Randy Credico, this New York radio host, was his back channel with WikiLeaks. We should note Credico has denied it was no intermediary and, you know, Credico was not arrested today -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Interesting point there. A senior Trump campaign official says this indictment was directed by someone else, doesn't say who, for these contacts. Who's more senior than a senior Trump campaign official? I mean, we don't know who that is but someone senior.
MURRAY: Exactly. And you know, we saw Sarah Sanders there wouldn't answer the question of, was this something that Donald Trump did as a candidate? Did he tell people on his staff go talk to Roger and figure out what else is coming. We don't know the answer to that. We don't -- this indictment doesn't lay it out clearly. It does not identify Donald Trump, President Trump, in this indictment.
But it does say that there were multiple campaign officials who were in touch with Roger Stone about the timing and content of these WikiLeaks releases which as we know Russia was directing.
SCIUTTO: And just briefly here, there was also a witness tampering charge here. What do we know about that?
MURRAY: There was a witness tampering charge. Remember we have seen sort of the fallout between Roger Stone and Randy Credico. It's been very public. And Randy Credico at one point claimed that Roger Stone tried to take his dog away. And prosecutors have detailed that in this indictment as part of their witness tampering charge against Stone. It says that around April 9th, 2018 Stone wrote in an e-mail to person two, who was Randy Credico, "You are a rat, a stoolie, you backstab your friends, run your mouth, my lawyers are dying to rip you to shreds." Stone also said he would take that dog away from you, referring to
Randy Credico's dog whom he's named Bianca. Stone also wrote to Randy Credico, "I am so ready, let's get it on. Prepare to die." And then there was an expletive after that. And I think this shows you, the fact that they laid this out and the way they picked up Roger Stone today how volatile they see him as a target in this investigation. We haven't seen anyone else even who's been a target not have the opportunity to turn themselves in.
SCIUTTO: Yes. That is a remarkable note. We all have to, I think, call up old episodes of "The Sopranos" to run through some of these instances here.
But, Poppy, quite, quite a morning here and we had our colleagues there as it happened.
HARLOW: We absolutely did.
Let's go to that colleague, David Shortell. He witnessed the raid of Stone's Florida home this morning, along with photojournalist Gilbert De La Rosa. Stellar shoe leather journalism there that you were there.
Walk us through exactly, exactly what you saw.
DAVID SHORTELL, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, Poppy. A really dramatic moment here this morning. It was just after 6:00 a.m. when a caravan of dark police vehicles came down this road here in Ft. Lauderdale where Roger Stone lives. And about a dozen FBI agents and local police got out of the cars very quickly, fanned out across Roger Stone's front lawn.
We then heard one of the FBI agents -- and keep in mind these are agents wearing tactical vests, carrying big rifles. They were prepared to take Roger Stone in this morning. They start rapping at his door. "FBI, open the door."
[09:10:04] We see a light go on on the second story of this home, presumably Roger Stone being awoken by FBI agents. Again, the FBI agent at the door says, "FBI, warrant." Moments later, there is Roger Stone in the doorway wearing what looked to be like sleepwear. He had a brief conversation that we were able to overhear with the FBI agent. They asked him, are you Roger Stone? He confirmed he was in fact Roger Stone. And then they took him into custody on what we now know is a hefty indictment.
We were moved down the street in the middle of all this. It was a dramatic and a chaotic moment. So we did not see the moment when he was taken into custody. We don't know what their conversation consisted of. But what we did see was peaceful and calm. This happened quickly. As I said, they were prepared for something if something were to happen. But from what we saw, Roger Stone coming in to custody without incident this morning.
HARLOW: And we know, David, he's going to appear in court. First court appearance will be at 11:00 a.m., less than two hours from now. Before you go, Marty, in the control room, if you can pull up that
before-dawn raid again so people can see sort of the first moments that David was there.
And, David, just tell us why you were there, right? You're based in Washington. But you were there. What brought you there? Why were you guys there?
SHORTELL: Poppy, this is just really good reporting from our team in D.C. that's been covering the special counsel. There was some unusual activity at the grand jury that's been empanelled in Washington. Typically the Mueller grand jury meets on Fridays. They were meeting on Thursday yesterday. We know that they heard from Corsi's step-son.
Now this was unusual activity. We just thought, you know, this is all -- all roads are leading to Roger Stone in these areas of investigation -- these areas of interest by the special counsel. We need to be there and we were. My photographer and I, Gil, were here early this morning waiting for something and it happened.
HARLOW: Yes. It did.
David, we're glad you and Gil De La Rosa were there. Really important journalism. Thank you so much. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Now to break all this down, and there is a lot to discuss here.
Former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, and former New York City homicide prosecutor and CNN legal analyst as well, Paul Callan.
HARLOW: And of course Sara Murray -- yes, and Sara Murray is still with us. Again this sort of remarkable reporting. So important.
Elie Honig, I do want you just to get your reaction to what the White House is saying here. Really just true or false. Let me read, unless we have the sounds, guys, cut from Sarah Sanders. She said, quote, "This has nothing to do with the president and certainly nothing to do with the White House."
You have read these 24 pages in the indictment. I have read it. Is that true?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. Look, the -- A, number one headline off of this indictment is the repeated references to, quote, "senior Trump campaign officials," plural. Right? And Jim talked about it earlier. The number one sentence which John Berman asked Sarah Sanders about, and she claimed she hadn't read was, this quote from page four. "A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about additional releases."
So the big question is, who is a senior Trump campaign official, who would be in position to direct other senior campaign officials? And also what I found as interesting is the use of passive voice there. I don't want to be overly lawyerly here but lawyers hate writing with passive voice and if you look at Mueller's writing, he doesn't use passive voice.
This is kind of conspicuous. "Was directed." And it may be a subtle way of trying to avoid -- you know, trying to avoid making it a bigger deal than necessary. That jumps out of me.
The other thing that jumps out at me about this indictment is, there are hints here or indicators of strategic coordination on messaging between Stone and the people around Stone and WikiLeaks. Right? There is an example where they say, well, let's try to suggest that Hillary Clinton is old and her memory is bad. That's at page five.
There is an example where they're asking for e-mails from a very specific date, August 20th. And there is an e-mail where they are saying Hillary's people are doing a full court press to try to stop this. So we are seeing more than just sort of irrelevant or petty coordination. We are seeing coordination on core strategic messaging.
SCIUTTO: Yes. It's a good point, Elie. And I'll just point to another one. One of these exchanges was on October 7th when a text message was sent to Roger Stone saying, "Well done," after one of these WikiLeaks releases. Do you remember what October 7th, 2016 was? That was the day of the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape considered possibly a fatal moment for the Trump campaign. And within less than an hour is when the first trove of stolen Clinton campaign e-mails were released by WikiLeaks.
And that's been a central question here, as to whether that was coordinated to help overshadow the "Access Hollywood" tape. That's a key moment there.
Paul Callan, to you. There are lots of charges in here, false statements, witness tampering, et cetera. There is not a charge for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
And that was the charge that the special counsel levied on Russians who interfered in this election. Why not charge, does that mean that the special counsel does not have evidence yet of a conspiracy, of collusion? As it were or is he leaving the door open to potential cooperation by Stone?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a glaring omission from the indictment. And I think, Jim, it is a suggestion that this just could be the opening salvo by Mueller against Stone in an attempt to get Stone to cooperate.
Because we have to remember that the conduit, the WikiLeaks conduit to the Trump campaign is the key avenue to making out a collusion charge, a conspiracy charge, a conspiracy to undermine the American election. And this indictment focusing on what they say were lies by Stone outlines how the conduit worked.
And as you said, whether there was timing going on with Trump campaign events to make Trump look better. I think the fact that the raid occurred the way it did this morning is a really important signal as to Trump's anger or rather Mueller's anger with Roger Stone.
I mean, obviously, it seems that the press was tipped off so it could be filmed. It was done, you know, in darkness of night. And this is, you know, a guy who's been cooperating through counsel with the special prosecutor's office.
Now, it's only been done in other cases, they did it with Manafort, they did it when they were raiding Cohen. And only special people have been treated this harshly by the special prosecutor.
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Hey, guys. So Sarah, to you, I think it's important just to remind our viewers if they're just joining us about Roger Stone, how long he's known President Trump, what his role was initially in the campaign.
So I interviewed Roger Stone 2015. This is the day that he was fired by the Trump campaign. He says he quit. But this is important when he says why he was working with the president. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ASSOCIATE: My job was to help get him elected president. My job was not to help him be president. I'm not a government guy. I'm a veteran of eight national presidential campaigns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Sara Murray, my job was to help him get elected as president. Even after he was not officially on the campaign, that is clearly what he was doing. The question is now, did he break the law? Did the president know when he was a candidate and did the campaign know?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that is the big question. Look, Roger Stone has known Donald Trump for about 40 years. I talked to Roger about this relationship recently, and he said, you know, there would be times in our relationship where we would be talking every single day like when Donald Trump was trying to decide whether to run for president when they were getting his campaign up and running in 2015.
And he said, you know, there were long periods of time when we didn't talk at all. And he insisted he hadn't been in touch with President Trump recently. But Roger Stone is someone who really wanted Donald Trump to run for president for a long time.
He encouraged him on a couple of different occasions, and he was a campaign staffer. I mean, he was right there with Donald Trump when he decided to get in the race and was, you know, an official staffer on that campaign for a while before he was fired or quit depending on whose version --
HARLOW: When you ask --
MURRAY: You believe, yes. But he made it very clear even after the fact that he still supported Donald Trump. He would do anything that he could think of to try to get Donald Trump elected. And he has since clarified that he meant anything within the bounds of the law, but obviously prosecutors see that differently.
SCIUTTO: I just want to -- two consistent things have characterized the Russia probes from the very beginning. That is that a number of Trump campaign officials and advisers including senior ones had regular repeated contact with Russians tied to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence.
And two, that those officials and advisers have repeatedly lied about those contacts. And we see that again here, we should remind people that WiKileaks in the view of the U.S. Intelligence was a Russian cut- out, as it's know, in other words, a middle man.
Russia stole the e-mails, used WikiLeaks to distribute them to the world. Looking at today Elie, because I think folks at home have trouble kind of piecing this all together because stuff from the investigation has come out in drips and drabs. The significance of what we learned today in the bigger picture of the Mueller investigation.
ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Sure, so first of all, Jim, people always lie for a reason. That's something that you learn as a prosecutor, I think it's something that people just sort of inherently know as a matter of common sense. Why is Roger Stone lying here? What is he lying about?
He's lying to the House about the nature of his contacts with the Trump campaign on one side and with WikiLeaks on the other side through intermediaries. Why is he trying to hide it? What's wrong with it?
Right, and if you look at this indictment, one of the big questions to me is what does Roger Stone do now? Roger Stone as Sara said is a famously slippery character. But he's really pinned down by this indictment. This is --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HONIG: An exceptionally sharply-drafted and well supported indictment. When you charge false statements, when you charge obstruction of justice, perjury like we see here, you better have the person nailed down on the lies --
[09:20:00] SCIUTTO: Yes --
HONIG: And the truth of the matter, and Mueller does that in just systematic fashion here. I mean, one clear example, he points -- one of the charges is based on -- Stone was asked, do -- have you ever communicated in writing with any of the intermediaries? Stone just says no. But he's a whole slew of taxing, you know --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
HONIG: So he's pinned down, he's an older guy, he's looking at real time. CALLAN: Can I jump in there on the indictment --
HARLOW: Yes, sure --
CALLAN: It's -- you know, just a witness-tampering count could be a 20-year count. I mean, it's staggering the number of years that Roger Stone could be facing if convicted of these things. And I saw an earlier interview with Stone. Stone never thought this was going to happen.
Stone thought that Mueller was going to come at him by indicting him about things that he did in his business to try to put pressure on him to turn on Stone. Instead, this is right -- these are issues that have a central aspect of the --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
CALLAN: Collusion investigation. And I don't think Stone saw that coming.
HARLOW: And Jim, I know, we've got to get a break in, but you know what? You know what? Donald Trump tweeted last December actually, just like a month and a half ago quoting Roger Stone. Quote, "I will never testify against Trump." And the president went on to say "nice to know, some people still have guts." Now, that's a big question today, right, Jim?
SCIUTTO: That's a one massive signal to a potential witness against you. We do have some news, Sara Murray sitting next to me here, further developments in this investigation, Sara, what can you tell me?
MURRAY: That's right, we are learning from Kristin Davis; famously known as the Manhattan Madam, but also a very good friend of Roger Stone. She shares a duplex with him in New York, that, that home was searched.
She was called by the FBI this morning at 6:00 a.m., they let her know that they had a search warrant for this residence that she share with Roger Stone. They wanted to give her a heads up to let her get ready. She does have a very young child.
And so I think the agents were concerned about not alarming the child by showing up in the same fashion that they showed up at Roger Stone's in Florida. Kristin Davis actually moved about a week ago, so she wasn't at this property when it happened.
But it does tell you obviously that the FBI is searching, you know, any of Roger Stone's residences to try to get information, so we now know two --
SCIUTTO: Two properties searched by the FBI today. It's a big Friday, Poppy, in this investigation --
HARLOW: Yes, it is, and we're following a ton of breaking news on this front this morning. Sara just breaking another important part of this. And Roger Stone, less than two hours from now, he will appear in court. So stay with us for that.
SCIUTTO: Also in court this morning, former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort facing allegations. Does this sound familiar that he lied to the special counsel?
[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Simple, this has nothing to do with the president, and certainly nothing to do with the White House. This is something that has to do solely with that individual, and not something that affects us here in this building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, that's been the White House line as a series of former Trump advisers and campaign officials have been charged with crimes, gone to jail for crimes. Hard to see how they keep up, but the White House saying, leave us out of this, after a long-time Trump associate Roger Stone arrested today in a pre-dawn FBI raid.
HARLOW: Yes, we'll see him in court in about an hour and a half from now. Joe Lockhart is with us, former White House press secretary for President Clinton who's had to do tough interviews as well just like Sara Sanders had to do this morning.
Alice Stewart is also with us; Republican strategist, former communications director for Ted Cruz. So perfect both of you are here. Because this is about how the White House is communicating now on this as well, right? There is the legal side which we just dove into.
But now the communication -- and Alice Stewart, I wonder, as a communications professional, how long can the White House keep saying, now that we have a sixth Trump associate charged in this special counsel investigation, can they keep saying this has nothing to do with the president or the White House when the Trump campaign is named countless times in this indictment?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Poppy, from their standpoint, they can continue to say that until we have something that potentially has someone from the White House's name on an indictment from the Mueller team. And this is their story and that's what they will continue to stick with it.
Let me be the first to say, if you look up the word "scumbag" in the dictionary, going to see Roger Stone's picture there. He is a liar, he is a leaker to the "National Enquirer", he's a self-proclaimed trickster who parades around with a Nixon tattoo on his back.
He's not someone that is a poster child for how politics is run. But at the end of the day, this indictment has to do with Roger Stone himself making false statements, obstructing justice and witness tampering. And these directly involves him. So I'm not saying this has nothing to do with the White House. But
this indictment right here has specifically to do with Roger Stone and his lying to a House Intel Committee.
SCIUTTO: But --
STEWART: Right now, it is not directly specifically tied to this White House --
SCIUTTO: Alice --
STEWART: But it's more on --
SCIUTTO: Alice, I've got to --
STEWART: I'm not absorbing them, I'm not --
SCIUTTO: I know you're not, but --
STEWART: Saying there's no connection whatsoever. I'm saying, they can legitimately say that at this point.
SCIUTTO: Yes, but the indictment says that Roger Stone who, by the way, the president freely associated with for a number of years. I mean, the argument that, well, he's a lousy guy, you know, doesn't hold up when you say that about a whole host of people who worked with this president including Michael Cohen for many years.
But the indictment makes clear that he was in frequent touch with senior Trump campaign officials about this in two directions. Not just Stone going to them, but you have a line there about a senior Trump campaign official directed presumably by an even more senior one to reach out and be updated on this.
How can the White House credibly claim that it has nothing to do with them when the indictment is full of references to communications about this with Stone.
STEWART: Jim, I'm not saying they can credibly claim that. I'm saying that's how they are handling this. From my standpoint, if I were involved in this and I was communicating this, they legitimately can say this is an ongoing investigation, I will refer you to outside counsel.
But their mindset and the way they have always handled these is to continue to double down on no collusion, no coordination, that's our story and we're sticking to it.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
STEWART: I don't see that line of communication and that strategy changing any time soon.
HARLOW: Joe Lockhart, you heard the answer, tough questions, these questions aren't going to go away for the White House. As you look at this again, the sixth person -- sixth Trump associate charged in the special counsel investigation.