Special counsel Robert Mueller's team obtained thousands of private emails sent by US President Donald Trump's transition organization, according to reports on Saturday.
The email trove reportedly contained messages from at least 12 high-ranking members of Trump's transition team, but Mueller has been accused of receiving the files improperly.
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- In September the special counsel's team received tens of thousands of emails directly from the General Services Administration (GSA), a federal government agency, The Associated Press reported.
- A lawyer for Trump's transition organization, Trump for America Inc., complained to the US Congress that Mueller obtained the emails without asking the transition group directly, according to Axios, Reuters and AP.
- The lawyer argued that transition teams are private organizations whose records are not subject to presidential records laws.
In anticipation of a possible records request, transition officials had reportedly deleted emails that they said contained privileged information only to find that Mueller's team already had the complete documents, according to Axios.
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The transition group's general counsel, Kory Langhofer, sent letters to the Republican chairmen of two congressional committees on Saturday, saying the GSA's actions were an "unauthorized" release of records.
GSA staff members "unlawfully produced TFA's [Trump for America Inc.] private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel's Office," Langhofer wrote in the letter.
He added that Mueller's office has "extensively used the materials in question, including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege."
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Why it's important
According to AP sources, the emails contain communications from more than a dozen Trump transition officials, providing Mueller with extensive information from inside the transition.
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Who are the GSA: The agency helps manage US government bureaucracy and often stores presidential transition records on its computers. Trump for America Inc. used the GSA's facilities between Trump's election last November and his inauguration in January this year.
What was in the emails: The records reportedly contained sensitive information, which included national security discussions, potential aims of the Trump administration abroad, and discussions about candidates for government posts.
Russia meddling probe: Since May Mueller has been investigating allegations of Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion with between Moscow and Trump's team. Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has called the special counsel's investigation a "witch hunt."
rs/aw (AP, Reuters)