Obstruction Case Against Trump Strengthens After He Asked Witnesses about Interviews
- Author: Jon Douglas Mar 09, 2018,
Mar 09, 2018, 3:04
The night before, The New York Times had reported that Robert Mueller is aware of episodes in which Trump discussed the Russian Federation investigation with two key witnesses, White House general counsel Donald McGahn and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
However, the timing comes as the president's legal team is in active negotiations for what the president will do with the Mueller team, which could include an in-person interview - but no final decisions have been made.
And by the way, the aide involved in the McGahn part of this report?
As things progressed, however, Trump's defense team began structuring a legal argument around the claim that Mueller has not met the required standard to merit an interview with Trump, and that a potential interview could set a unsafe legal precedent.
A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
Trump's lawyers have worked overtime in recent months to sidestep a face-to-face interview between the president, who has been known to exaggerate the truth and make misleading statements in the past, and the special counsel.
McGahn did not publicly deny the article, and the President later confronted him in the Oval Office in front of the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, according to the people. Lawyers for the president have not responded to ABC News.
The President said he had never ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel. The president told Mr. McGahn that he did not remember the discussion that way. McGahn did not release a statement contradicting the story and reportedly had to remind Trump that he did, in fact, ask him to dismiss the special counsel. McGahn has stayed on as White House counsel, one of the few senior administration officials who has been with the President since the campaign.
Witnesses and lawyers who learned of the two conversations told Mueller, who is also investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation, about them; the legal experts say Mueller will likely now direct an increased focus toward Trump's interactions with witnesses in the investigation, and that the conversations with McGahn and Priebus could be used as evidence in a possible obstruction case.
These interactions (depending on how you interpret the McGahn conversation) may not be illegal, but they raise serious questions.