Trump issues warning for Mueller probe
UNITED STATES: President Trump has warned a federal investigator not to look into his business empire as his family becomes central to inquiries into Russia’s role in the election last year.
Trump said that Robert Mueller, the lawyer who is examining whether the president’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin, would be overstepping boundaries if he examined his family finances, other than any direct links to Russia.
Mueller, a former FBI director, has assembled a team with expertise in financial fraud and in theory his remit allows him to go wherever the evidence leads.
‘‘I think that’s a violation,’’ Trump told The New York Times. ‘‘Look, this is about Russia.’’
Mueller is understood to be reviewing a meeting between the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr, and a lawyer who had links to the Kremlin and was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He is also looking at whether Trump might have obstructed justice by asking an FBI director to back off from investigating Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Mueller is understood to be investigating whether there were Russian ties to the construction of a Trump-branded hotel, and exploring possible links between Trump advisers and the Cypriot banking system, a hub for Russian money laundering.
Trump’s opponents leapt on his comments yesterday. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said: ‘‘Mueller has authority to investigate any ties Trump family has to Russia, including financial, and anything that arises. That is his duty.’’
Mr Trump marked six months in the White House questions over Russia continued to consume Washington.
Documents were released showing that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, owed companies linked to Russia as much as US$17 million before he joined the president’s election team.
Congressional hearings focusing on Russia will continue next week. The Senate judiciary committee said yesterday that Donald Jr and Manafort have been asked to appear on Thursday in an open hearing to give evidence.
The session will also hear from Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter. He runs a Washington research company that helped to compile a dossier of unverified allegations that claimed to tie Trump to Russia.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top White House aide, is to give evidence to a Senate panel in a closed session on Tuesday. With Mueller’s investigation expected to continue for months, if not years, Trump appeared to have decided that attack was the best form of defence. In an interview with The New York Times he appeared to accuse James Comey, the former FBI director, of perjury, insisting that his congressional testimony was ‘‘loaded up with lies’’. Trump abruptly fired Comey, who was investigating Russian election meddling, in May.
The president insisted that his own behaviour was not being scrutinised.
‘‘I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong,’’ he said. ‘‘A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.’’
The latest sign of strained relations inside the administration came as Trump announced that he would not have picked Jeff Sessions to be attorney-general had he known that the former Alabama senator would remove himself from investigations involving the election campaign.
Sessions, who leads the justice department, which oversees the FBI, said in March that he would step away from investigations involving Trump’s campaign. He made his declaration after it was revealed that he had misled the Senate over his contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington who is suspected by some of being a Kremlin spymaster.
Trump said that the attorneygeneral had been ‘‘very unfair to the president’’. He said: ‘‘Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.’’
- The Times