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Russia probe: Report says special counsel seeks to interview Trump

Local media speculated Robert Mueller’s interview with Trump could be about alleged obstruction of justice, attempts to hamper the investigation, and alleged collusion by his campaign team

world Updated: Jan 24, 2018 20:47 IST
Yashwant Raj
US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on January 23, 2018.
US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on January 23, 2018.(NYT)

The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US elections is reported to be seeking to interview President Donald Trump regarding his decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

Local media speculated Robert Mueller’s interview with Trump could be about alleged obstruction of justice, attempts to hamper the investigation, and alleged collusion by his campaign team — Comey has said Trump asked him to drop an FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired for lying about his Russia contacts.

Flynn since pleaded guilty to also lying to the FBI.

Investigators from Mueller’s office, interviewed attorney general Jeff Sessions last week, and had quizzed other Trump officials such as CIA chief Mike Pompeo and national intelligence director Dan Coates in December 2017.

There was no confirmation of the move to interview Trump.

Asked if Trump would submit to an interview by Mueller, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday: “We’re going to be fully cooperative with the special counsel and we’re going to continue to do that throughout the process. But we’re also not going to comment on who may or may not, or could be interviewed at any point. But we’re going to continue to be fully cooperative with the process.

“The president wants to see this end, and he wants to see them finally come to the same conclusion that I think most everyone in America has, that there is nothing to this.”

Trump has vigorously denied there was any collusion by his campaign with Russian interference and has called the probe a “witch hunt”. There have been reports he even considered firing Mueller, a prospect that had greatly alarmed even his allies.

Experts noted that the move by Mueller could indicate the investigation was in its final stages. “Only then could you seek to interview the president, when you have most of what you need, because you can’t go back for another round,” a commentator said.

Mueller’s office has handed out at least four indictments so far. Flynn and George Papadopoulos, a young campaign aide, have already pleaded guilty to lying about their Russia contacts and are cooperating with the probe under their respective plea agreements.

Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and right-hand man Rick Gates were arrested and released on bail on charges of money laundering and violation laws governing Americans acting as agents of foreign government, but they have contested those allegations.