Robert Mueller’s net closes in on team Trump

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Jeff Ses­sions, who was the na­tion’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral un­til last month, ruled him­self out of the Rus­sia probe be­cause he had been part of Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign team.

The Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion has al­ready led to charges against 36 peo­ple and com­pa­nies, on a to­tal of 192 sep­a­rate counts, with guilty pleas from seven of those in­dicted and one trial con­vic­tion – Manafort, who was found guilty in Au­gust on eight charges of fi­nan­cial fraud un­re­lated to Rus­sian elec­tion in­flu­ence.

Trump has made his views of the in­quiry plain in fre­quent Putin.

Trump, who tweeted in Jan­uary 2017 that ‘‘I HAVE NOTH­ING TO DO WITH RUS­SIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTH­ING!’’, said last week af­ter Co­hen’s rev­e­la­tion that ‘‘he’s ly­ing about a project that every­body knew about. We were very open with it . . . There would have been noth­ing wrong if I did do it ... It was my busi­ness. So he’s ly­ing very sim­ply to get a re­duced sen­tence, OK?’’

Flynn has pro­vided in­for­ma­tion about in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Trump’s tran­si­tion team and Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions he had with Sergey Kislyak, then the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the US, in De­cem­ber 2016.

These in­cluded a dis­cus­sion about lift­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Rus­sia and ask­ing Moscow to de­lay a United Na­tions se­cu­rity coun­cil res­o­lu­tion on Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

‘‘A very se­nior mem­ber of the tran­si­tion team di­rected’’ Flynn to con­tact Kislyak, ac­cord­ing to the prose­cu­tion in Flynn’s ini­tial court ap­pear­ance last year.

It is widely be­lieved that the very se­nior mem­ber could be Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, who at­tended one of Flynn’s meet­ings with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador. Kush­ner is also un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for his role in a meet­ing at Trump Tower ar­ranged by Don­ald Trump Jr in June 2016 with a Rus­sian lawyer who promised ‘‘dirt’’ on Clin­ton.

As the in­quiry con­tin­ues, edg­ing closer to Trump and his fam­ily, Democrats are lead­ing calls for leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect Mueller from in­ter­fer­ence by Matthew Whi­taker, the re­cently ap­pointed act­ing at­tor­ney-gen­eral, who is a strong critic of the in­quiry.

Whi­taker has as­sumed over­sight of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from Rosen­stein. Wash­ing­ton is abuzz with spec­u­la­tion that this is part of a White House plot to clip the in­quiry’s wings, per­haps by Whi­taker starv­ing it of re­sources.

Mueller’s fi­nal re­port will be pre­sented to the act­ing at­tor­neygen­eral, who will de­cide what to make pub­lic. – The Times

AP

Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ‘‘Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence with the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and re­lated mat­ters’’ is clos­ing in around United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, as, one by one, it picks off for­mer as­so­ci­ates.

Michael Co­hen, the pres­i­dent’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer and fixer, has been co-op­er­at­ing with the Mueller in­quiry.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, is ac­cused of ly­ing to pros­e­cu­tors af­ter promis­ing to co-op­er­ate.

For­mer United States na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn has cut a deal with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

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