Donald Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice: US media | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 14.06.2017
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Donald Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice: US media

US President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, The Washington Post has reported, citing unnamed officials.

Investigators working under special counsel Robert Mueller since he was appointed by the US Justice Department in May to take over the probe into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election are planning to speak with key intelligence officials, The Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

The newspaper - quoting five officials with knowledge of the planned interviews - said one event of interest to Mueller is an exchange on March 22, when the national intelligence director, Daniel Coats, told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene to get ex-FBI head James Comey to reduce the focus on Trump's former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, in the ongoing FBI investigation.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller testifying in an earlier probe on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Mueller has drawn praise from both Republicans and Democrats for his work

Comey told Congress last week he believed he was fired by President Trump to undermine the agency's ongoing Russia probe.

Coats, National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers and Richard Ledgett, who recently quit as NSA deputy director, have agreed to speak to investigators, according to the Post.

Responding to the news, Trump's lawyers slammed the leak but did not deny the facts of the story. 

Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, issued a statement saying the FBI was behind the story and called the leak "outrageous, inexcusable and illegal."

 Trump, Republicans, Democrats react

Trump himself responded to the report on Thursday, taking to Twitter to call the entire affair a "phony story."

 

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the accusation in the Post "unfounded" and said it "changes nothing."

"There's still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there's been no effort to impede the investigation in any way. The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here," McDaniel said in a statement.

Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters later: "I'm going to acknowledge we had a meeting with the special counsel Mueller, but I'm not going to get into the contents."

The special counsel was appointed by the Justice Department after Comey's sacking to investigate possible Russian influence on the 2016 presidential campaign.

Senators on Tuesday questioned both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on how the inquiry is being handled.

Mueller too political?

Some of Trump's closest allies, including one of his sons, have begun questioning if Mueller's investigation is becoming too political, although the White House issued a statement on Wednesday saying the president has "no intention" of firing Mueller.

Mueller met with leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday to ensure their investigations don't conflict. Afterward, the leaders said in a statement that they "look forward to future engagements" with Mueller.

The meeting came a day after lawmakers questioned Justice Department officials about the investigation and Mueller's independence.

Chris Ruddy, a Trump friend and CEO of the conservative website Newsmax, earlier this week raised the possibility of Trump terminating Mueller.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May, testified on Tuesday that he had seen no evidence of good cause to fire Mueller.

Mueller has drawn praise from both Republicans and Democrats, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying they must "let Robert Mueller do his job."

A new sanctions bill?

Earlier Wednesday, the Republican-led Senate voted to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia's economy and individuals who carried out cyberattacks. 

Lawmakers who backed the measure also cited Russia's aggression in Syria and Ukraine.

Trump has sought to improve relations with Moscow and rejected any suggestion that Russian hacking of Democratic emails tipped the election his way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's "brazen attack on our democracy is a flagrant demonstration of his disdain and disrespect for our nation," Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said ahead of the vote.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered support for the sanctions. He told the House Foreign Affairs Committee he agreed "with the sentiment" among lawmakers that Russia must be held accountable for its meddling.

But he also asked lawmakers "to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation."



jbh/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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