Trump probe orders its first arrest
UNITED STATES: The first person to be charged in connection with the investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia is due to be taken into custody tomorrow.
A federal judge sealed the charges on Saturday. It is not known who has been charged or whether the alleged offences relate directly to the Trump campaign.
Among those who have been investigated are Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager until August last year, Michael Flynn, a retired general who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, and Carter Page, a Russia adviser early in Trump’s campaign. Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who was appointed special counsel in May, has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Trump has publicly derided him and poured scorn on allegations of Russian collusion, branding them ‘‘fake news’’.
The charging of a Trump aide with criminal offences could upend the presidency and significantly undermine Republican chances in next November’s midterm elections.
Democrats are determined to impeach the president and remove him from office. But to have a realistic prospect of doing so they almost certainly need to win back control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term polls.
American intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia had interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Russian efforts, they said, had included hacking and releasing embarrassing emails as well as spreading propaganda via social media to discredit her. Moscow has vehemently denied seeking to influence the vote.
To Trump’s fury, Mueller was appointed special counsel by the US Justice Department after Trump sacked the FBI director James Comey, who was leading a federal investigation into possible collusion with Russia.
Mueller’s investigation has spread beyond the 2016 campaign itself and into the business dealings of former Trump aides.
Manafort, whose home in Virginia was searched in a dawn raid in July, has been quizzed about alleged money laundering and tax issues.
His property dealings and previous work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine have also been looked into.
Another line of inquiry has been whether Trump or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice in the investigation.
A spokesman for Manafort, who has insisted there has been no wrongdoing on his part, declined to comment.
Mueller’s staff, who have been presenting evidence before a federal grand jury in Washington, have also conducted extensive interviews with the former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the president’s former press spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House officials.
James Woolsey, a former CIA director, has been interviewed by FBI agents working for Mueller about allegations that Flynn had discussed the potentially illegal removal of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish opposition leader wanted by the Erdogan government in Ankara, from his exile in Pennsylvania.
Woolsey’s spokesman said the former CIA boss had been ‘‘in communication’’ with the FBI about a meeting he ‘‘was invited to attend by one of General Flynn’s business partners’’ last year.
Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal that he arrived at the meeting in the middle of the discussion and believed the actions being discussed were possibly illegal. The topic was Gulen, who is blamed by the Turkish government for fomenting last year’s attempted coup.