Trump probe orders its first ar­rest

The Dominion Post - - World -

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.

Robert Mueller

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