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Donald Trump under investigation for obstruction of justice

Though there was no announcement from Mueller’s office or the FBI, the office of Trump’s outside counsel dealing with the Russia probe did not deny it.

world Updated: Jun 15, 2017 22:49 IST
Yashwant Raj
US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.(Agency)

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the FBI’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible collusion by Trump campaign aides, has invited top intelligence officials to interviews this week. The development is being seen as an indication that he may be investigating President Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

Mueller wants to speak to national intelligence chief Daniel Coats, national security agency director Mike Rogers, and former national security agency deputy director Richard Ledgett about Trump’s alleged attempts to squash the FBI’s probeinto fired national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia dealings.

It marks a significant “turning point”, as characterised by The Washington Post that first reported the development.

Trump is now personally under investigation, contrary to assurances he had privately received from sacked FBI director James Comey, who told the president multiple times he was not under scrutiny.

There was no announcement from Mueller’s office or the FBI. The national security agency has said it will “fully cooperate with the special counsel”.

The office of Trump’s outside counsel — who is leading the president’s defence team on the Russia probe — rubbished the report as an “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal” leak on Wednesday. Trump himself followed up with extra vitriol on Thursday, attacking Mueller, a man widely respected on both sides of the aisle.

Arguing that the “obstruction of justice” allegation was based on a “phony” story about collusion with the Russians, Trump tweeted, “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA,” with the hashtag standing for “make America great again”.

Though he did not name anyone, the reference was unmistakably to the special counsel, who is understood to have put together a formidable team of prosecutors that has unnerved the White House.

The allegation of “obstruction of justice” is different from collusion with Russian meddling, about which he had been cleared by Comey multiple times, including in his testimony to a senate committee. Trump cited those and other clean-chits frequently to push back against the controversy that has dogged his presidency from the very start.

Trump is reported to have had asked both Coats and Rogers to try and influence the FBI to give up its Flynn probe as well as publicly announce the president was under investigation personally. Both of them turned him down, as did Comey on both counts according to his testimony.

Coats and Rogers have refused to discuss their conversations with Trump and did so despite considerable pressure at a recent hearing of the senate intelligence committee.