Charges laid in elec­tion in­quiry

Sunday Star-Times - - World -

A fed­eral grand jury has ap­proved the first charges in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a source briefed on the mat­ter has told Reuters.

Yes­ter­day’s in­dict­ment was sealed un­der or­ders from a fed­eral judge, so it was not clear what the charges were or who the tar­get was, the source said, adding that the in­dict­ment could be un­sealed as early as Tues­day.

The fil­ing of charges by the grand jury in Washington was first re­ported ear­lier in the day by CNN, which said the tar­get could be taken into cus­tody as soon as Tues­day.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­cluded in Jan­uary that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the elec­tion to try to help Repub­li­can can­di­date Don­ald Trump de­feat Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton through a cam­paign of hack­ing and re­leas­ing em­bar­rass­ing emails, and dis­sem­i­nat­ing pro­pa­ganda via so­cial me­dia to dis­credit her cam­paign.

Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials col­luded with those Rus­sian ef­forts.

‘‘If the Spe­cial Coun­sel finds it nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate, the Spe­cial Coun­sel is au­tho­rised to pros­e­cute fed­eral crimes aris­ing from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of th­ese mat­ters,’’ Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein said in a May 17 let­ter ap­point­ing Mueller.

Sources fa­mil­iar with Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion say he has used that broad au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate links be­tween Trump aides and for­eign gov­ern­ments, as well as pos­si­ble money laun­der­ing, tax eva­sion and other fi­nan­cial crimes.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, de­clined to com­ment.

Trump, who was elected pres­i­dent last Novem­ber, has de­nied al­le­ga­tions that his cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sians, and has con­demned in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mat­ter as a witch hunt.

The Krem­lin has de­nied al­le­ga­tions.

The spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion also in­cludes an ef­fort to de­ter­mine whether the pres­i­dent or any of his aides tried to ob­struct jus­tice.

Mueller’s team has con­ducted ex­ten­sive in­ter­views with for­mer White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, for­mer spokesman Sean Spicer, and other cur­rent and for­mer White House of­fi­cials.

In July, FBI agents raided the Vir­ginia home of Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ager, Paul Manafort, whose fi­nan­cial and real es­tate deal­ings and prior work for a pro-Rus­sian po­lit­i­cal party in Ukraine are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Mueller’s team.

Mueller was ap­pointed by the Jus­tice Depart­ment to lead the in­ves­ti­ga­tion a week af­ter Trump fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, who was lead­ing a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia.

Trump ini­tially said he fired Comey be­cause his lead­er­ship of the FBI was in­ad­e­quate and hurt mo­rale, but in a later in­ter­view with NBC he cited ‘‘this Rus­sia thing’’ as his rea­son. the

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