The Washington Post reported yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the presidential election has expanded to another examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice. Naturally, this represents the beginning of a long journey with unpredictable consequences for his administration.
Five anonymous sources told the Post that the current Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, head of the National Security Agency Administration Mike Rogers, and his departed Deputy Richard Ledgett agreed to participate in interviews with Mueller this week. Apparently, the special counsel’s main objective in this particular action is to find out if President Trump pressured them to stop the FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Apparently, Mueller’s probe expanded to include the president after Trump decided to dismiss former FBI Director James Comey. In addition to this particular operation, officials told the Post that investigators have also been looking for evidence regarding possible financial crimes committed by Trump’s associates.
Coats gave his testimony before a congressional panel last week, where he clearly refused to confirm or deny reports that the President had asked him to intervene in the Russian investigation. However, he told the panel he never felt pressured to intervene in the probe, and declined to discuss any detail regarding other conversations with Trump.
The obstruction suspicions emerged from a meeting in the Oval Office on February 14 where the president allegedly told Comey he hoped Michael Flynn would elude criminal prosecution. According to the testimony the former FBI director gave before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Thursday, Trump ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner to clear the room before making the alleged petition to Comey.
While the special counsel’s office declined to make any comment regarding the Post’s report, a spokesman of Trump’s lawyer, Mark Corallo told the media outlet that the FBI leak of information about the president is inexcusable and illegal.
President Trump previously said he had received private assurances from Comey that he was not personally under investigation as part of the probe. As a matter of fact, the former FBI director confirmed that he provided those assurances in the testimony he gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8.
However, according to the Post’s sources, that situation radically changed when Trump decided to dismiss Comey. In fact, people familiar with the matter told the media that the investigation into the obstruction of justice into Trump started just a few days after Comey was let go.
Apparently, the special counsel’s office has resumed that work. The interviews scheduled to take place with intelligence officials suggest that Mueller’s team is pursuing potential witnesses in and out of Trump’s administration.
Officials told the Post that Mueller is extremely interested in a March 22 exchange where Coats attended a briefing at the White House with officials from other government agencies. Presumably, Trump asked everyone in the room to leave except for Coats and the CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The Washington Post reported that Coats revealed that the President asked him if he could intervene with the former FBI director to stop the investigation against Flynn. While Comey claimed that Trump urged him to let Flynn go, the president has denied this comment.
Regarding Mueller’s investigation for the supposed obstruction of justice, President Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning to claim it all stems from his critics “phony collusion” allegations. The president further said that he was caught up in the greatest “witch hunt” in the political history of the United States.
Far from describing it as a peaceful walk in the park, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer said that Mueller’s investigation against President Trump is the beginning of a dangerous metastasis. He explained that this situation is basically the classic case of a special counsel that expands the scope of his investigation.
Furthermore, Krauthammer stated that Mueller’s position as the chief of this investigation makes him the most powerful man in Washington right now. In fact, he said that even if President Trump has the legal weapons to dismiss him, as he did with Comey, this would be “politically devastating to him.”
While the outcome of this story remains unknown, analysts suggest that Mueller’s interview with Coats, Rogers, and Ledgett could be the key element to clarify this whole issue. Considering that Trump’s words with Comey cannot be considered as an explicit attempt to obstruct justice, these interviews will help determine if there is something else to worry about.