Mueller intensifies probe, seeks interview with president after cross-examining top US officials

UPDATE 2 — 1/27, 9:33 a.m. EST: CNN reported late Friday that the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election is now focusing on Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, which occurred after the president told the then-FBI director he’d like to see the Bureau drop its criminal inquiry of Michael Flynn.

Multiple sources also told the media outlet that Trump wants to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, but White House advisers to-date have successfully talked the president out of doing so, arguing that it would lead to a “death march.”

 

UPDATE — 1/26, 11:08 a.m. EST: According to four New York Times sources, President Trump was on the verge on firing special Russia interference investigator Robert Mueller in June 2017, but reneged after White House counselor Donald McGahn threatened to resign instead of carry out the order.

People familiar with the matter said McGahn believed getting rid of Mueller would make matters worse for the president and lead to further obstruction of justice charges.

While Trump has since derided the Times’ story as “fake news,” ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, Virginia’s Mark Warner, said if the report is accurate the president has committed “a gross abuse of power”.

 

In a sign the special prosecutor investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is moving closer to the White House, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have reportedly met with Robert Mueller’s investigators.

According to NBC News, Pompeo was interviewed by investigators earlier this week; Sessions is believed to have met with Mueller’s team last week.

Media reports Sessions and Pompeo were interviewed arrive at the same moment former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is said to be cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

Similarly, sources have confirmed to multiple news outlets former FBI Director James Comey met with representatives of Mueller’s office in late 2017.

Comey’s meeting with investigators is believed to revolve around a series of notes taken following the former Bureau chief’s meeting with President Trump over former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn shortly after the New York businessman was inaugurated.

Asked if the White House had any comment regarding revelations Sessions, a Cabinet member, had been interviewed in the investigation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump will fully cooperate with Mueller’s probe.

Asked to comment himself, Trump, who has consistently derided the Russia probe as a hoax, said he was unconcerned with his attorney general being questioned.

Despite dismissing reporters queries, Trump did express an eagerness to be interviewed by Mueller’s team, while White House lawyer Ty Cobb acknowledged the date of the meeting was still to-be-determined.

“I’m looking forward to it; I would love to do it,” Trump responded to questions related to meeting with Mueller.

According to legal analysts, should Trump and Mueller meet, it is expected the president will be asked questions over Comey’s dismissal, any influence the Trump may have exerted over Flynn’s meeting with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and whether he ordered or was aware of any contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

Since his appointment, Mueller’s inquiry has charged two individuals, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates, and has secured a guilty pleas from Flynn and former Trump aide, George Papadopoulos.

 

[Reuters] [Bloomberg] [AP] [Photo courtesy Reuters/AP via Boston Globe]

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