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Trump transition team claims special counsel ‘unlawfully’ got emails

The team’s accusation stoked speculation that Trump could be preparing the ground for firing Robert Mueller.

world Updated: Dec 17, 2017 21:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Russia probe,Russia meddling
US President Donald Trump. (AFP file)

A lawyer representing US President Donald Trump’s transition team has accused the office of the special counsel probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections of unlawfully obtaining thousands of emails and documents.

Kory Langhofer, the lawyer, told congressional committees probing Russian meddling on Saturday that “private materials, including privileged communications” of the transition team were handed over unlawfully to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which used them “extensively”.

In a seven-page letter citing law and precedence, Langhofer contended the handing over of that material was “unlawful”, undermined the Presidential Transition Act, “and will impair the ability of future presidential transition teams to candidly discuss policy and internal matters that benefit the country as a whole”.

Under US law, the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) provides office space, server and infrastructure help to presidential transition team. But it did not own the communications, which were covered by privileges and career officers unlawfully gave them over to Mueller’s team.

Mueller’s spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement on Sunday: “When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.”

The transition team’s letter stoked speculation that Trump could be preparing the ground for firing Mueller. Trump and the White House have repeatedly attacked the Russia probe, accusing it of being a “which-hunt”.

But White House counsel Ty Cobb denied Mueller’s prober was being shut down. “As the White House has repeatedly and emphatically said for months, there is no consideration at the White House of terminating the special counsel,” Cobb said in a statement to Politico.

First Published: Dec 17, 2017 10:11 IST