Special counsel Robert Mueller III wants to soon question President Donald Trump about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey, according to sources familiar with the probe, which has cast a shadow over the White House.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said that an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions took place last week,as Mueller’s Russia investigation gets closer to the Oval Office.
The interview came as Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s actions in office, including the firing of the former FBI director, constituted obstruction of justice.
Sessions was questioned for several hours, making him the first member of President Trump’s cabinet to be interviewed in the inquiry.
Mueller is also scrutinizing contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign officials and representatives of the Kremlin amid the broader inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The wide-ranging independent investigation has already led to charges against four former Trump advisers.
The interview occurred as Mueller is increasingly focused on whether Trump’s conduct in office obstructed the investigation itself, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Mueller’s investigators have asked current and former Trump administration officials about what the President described as his reasons for firing Comey and why he was so concerned about having someone loyal to him oversee the Russia probe.
For Sessions, the interview was the latest in a year-long balancing act, as the Attorney General sought to get back in Trump’s good graces by using his office to investigate issues like leaks to the news media and relaying his boss’ displeasure about senior FBI leaders to the bureau’s current director, Christopher A. Wray.
News of the Sessions interview triggered a series of revelations that highlighted Trump’s charged relationship with his top law enforcement officials.
Comey met last year with Mueller’s investigators to answer questions about memos he wrote detailing interactions with the president that had unnerved him.
Trump denied a report that Wray had threatened to resign if FBI Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe was fired.
McCabe has faced an onslaught of criticism from Trump and his Republican allies, because in 2015, his wife was a Virginia State Senate candidate who received donations from a “super PAC” linked to then-Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted.
As it turns out, the contributions didn’t come from Clinton or her campaign, and McCabe wasn’t “in charge” of the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s emails at the time of the donations, either.
According to FactCheck.org, not only is there a lack of evidence tying the donations to Clinton and thus to McCabe’s campaign, but Jill McCabe had already lost the election by the time her husband assumed his role as deputy director in February 2016.
Wray’s resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm because White House meddling with the FBI is not normal and it is highly inappropriate.
Sessions has struggled to appear independent in congressional testimony but during his confirmation hearings, he made statements under oath that proved to misrepresent the facts. For example, saying he did not meet with any Russians during the campaign while he had actually
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
According to a court document unsealed in late October, Papadopoulos now admits that during a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump and other campaign foreign policy advisers, he said he had connections that could help set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Sessions, who chaired the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, was at that meeting.
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