Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Mueller expands special counsel office, hires 13 lawyers

Melinda Barton | 20 June, 2017, 02:23

Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is actively investigating the finances and business dealings of President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to multiple USA officials familiar with the matter.

Those interviews point to the initial efforts from Mueller's newly gathered team and sources in law enforcement told CNN that the special counsel is considering whether enough evidence exists to start up a probe into obstruction.

The lawyer for the president's son-in-law and close adviser said there was nothing surprising about the Post's report. "He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry".

According to Thursday's Post report, investigators have also been looking into the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former foreign-policy adviser Carter Page.

The paper previously reported that Kushner's December meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of the Russian government controlled Vnesheconombank (VEB) and an associate of President Vladimir Putin, had come under scrutiny by US investigators. Mr. Kushner, the president's son-in-law, reportedly tried to establish a backchannel with Moscow and this meeting with Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, might be part of it. "Nice", Trump said on Twitter Thursday morning.

Mueller wants to interview Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Mark Corallo, spokesman for Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz, blamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for leaking information, which he says is "outrageous, inexcusable and illegal". Comey said he believes Trump ultimately fired him "because of the Russian Federation investigation". On Thursday, the Post reported that Vice President Mike Pence has retained outside counsel to help him weather whatever storm might come his way.

"And so he was reluctant to make the statement that I made", Comey said. "And so that was his view throughout", Comey said.

Mueller's plans emerged just a week after former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump pressed him in February to ease up on an investigation into Flynn. The president has denied that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. Coats and Rogers have testified that they were not pressured by the Trump administration.

The White House maintained Kushner's meeting with Gorkov was a mere pre-inauguration diplomatic encounter and was in no way related to business.