Summary

Adrian Morrow details five accusations involving President Trump, his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, as revealed in the US Justice Department’s recent court filings.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, law

Key Question(s) to Explore:

  • What is the purpose and current status of the US Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the last US election? Who are the key players, and what kinds of alleged misdeeds are being ascribed to whom?

New Terminology:

Collusion, impeachable, fraudulent, money laundering

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet

 

Learning Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The United States Justice Department is involved in an historic investigation, led by Robert Mueller, into possible collusion between Donald Trump, members of his campaign committee and Russian nationals to influence the outcome of the last Presidential election. Although collusion, if proved, is not necessarily a crime, it is generally regarded as an impeachable offence, and the coming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives seems likely to pursue impeachment following the release of Mr. Mueller’s report.

Traditional and social media are saturated with starkly contrasting partisan interpretations of unfolding events in Washington, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Students can benefit from a lesson on the established facts of the investigation. Working in groups, using the attached article as well as the Internet, students will complete a worksheet and report their findings to class. For additional information from the Internet, choose your own site, or, consider VOX (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/20/17031772/mueller-indictments-grand-jury); or Wikipedia’s highly detailed summary to date of the investigation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Counsel_investigation_(2017%E2%80%93present)

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a short discussion about the Mueller investigation to determine what they may already know. Some questions to guide the discussion (answers in parentheses, for your benefit):

  • Who is Robert Mueller? (Former head of the FBI, he is now special investigator, heading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election)
  • Why is this in the news? Why should we care? (It is possible that this may lead to the impeachment of President Trump, which would make him the third president in history to be impeached; we should care because it is likely that foreign powers will target our own electoral process in the future; as well, Mr. Trump has proved to be more antagonistic toward Canada than most presidents)
  • Donald Trump says that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” What is meant by that saying, and does it apply here? (A witch hunt refers to a hunt for something that does not exist. To date, the investigation has produced 33 criminal indictments, seven convictions, and most recently, the sentencing of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to three years in prison.)

Present this assignment: Students will work in groups to complete a task sheet in which they will identify the key players in the investigation, their roles in it and, in the case of those targeted in the investigation, the roles they played in the Trump campaign and/or his administration.

Task sheet:

Read the article by Adrian Morrow and use the links provided to answer these questions:

  • What is the main purpose of the investigation headed by Robert Mueller?
  • What is referred to as “Wikileaks,” and why is this relevant to this investigation?
  • List all the persons indicted to date in this investigation, indicating their current status (convicted or not and of what).
  • Why was it illegal for Mr. Cohen to make payments to “two women who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with the future president”?
  • Who does Mr. Cohen refer to as “Individual-1”?
  • Based on Mr. Cohen’s testimony, does it appear that “Individual-1” committed a crime? What kind of crime?
  • On most opinions, can a sitting President be charged with a crime?
  • Define “impeachment” in this context.
  • Describe the process through which a president of the United States can be impeached. What offences must he or she be guilty of committing?
  • Are these payments to the women considered to be an impeachable offence? Why or why not?
  • Describe what is referred to by the “Trump Tower Meeting.” What is reported to have been the purpose of the meeting, and who is known to have attended?
  • What role did Paul Manafort perform in the Trump election campaign?
    • What role was he given later in the White House?
    • What is his status today and what did he do to achieve it?
  • Of which political party is Mr. Mueller a member?
    • Which party appointed him to his role as leader of the investigation?
  • What happened on November 6, 2018, that may have created more problems for President Trump?
  • Finally, based on what you now know, do you think the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt?” Why or why not?
  • Bonus questions: Who were the last two presidents to be impeached and why? Why was Richard Nixon not impeached?

Be prepared to report orally to class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their reports in class.
Success

Success Criteria:

  • Students can explain the reasons for the “Russia investigation,” name some of the key players and what happened to them so far.

Confirming Activity:

  • As the investigation continues and comes to its conclusion, have students report to class on key events and outcomes.