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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Russian meddling in US election: Trump lashes out ahead of probe indictment

The first indictment in the Mueller probe investigating Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion by Trump campaign officials is expected on Monday.

world Updated: Oct 30, 2017 09:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump talks with reporters before leaving the White House for Dallas, on October 25, 2017.
US President Donald Trump talks with reporters before leaving the White House for Dallas, on October 25, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

President Donald Trump fired off a volley of tweets on Sunday expressing frustration with the Russia probe, which is expected to yield the first indictment and arrest on Monday, and sought to divert attention towards Hillary Clinton by seeking action against her and her campaign over a mix of old and new allegations.

“DO SOMETHING,” the US president pleaded in one of his tweets, and accused Democrats of reprising the old charge of “collusion” at a time when Republicans are united, are “fighting back”, and are ready to push for “historic tax cuts and reforms”.

Trump re-litigated old allegations of Russia’s purchase of American uranium deposits during Clinton’s term as secretary of state in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and the 33,000 deleted emails from her private server that she had used when in office, as America’s top diplomat.

Trump also brought up a recent controversy that Clinton’s campaign had partly financed a DC research firm to dig up dirt on him, which had prepared  the salacious ‘Steele Dossier’ alleging contacts between Trump and the Russians. The dossier was named after former British spy Christopher Steele who put the document together.

The Washington Post recently reported the opposition-research conducted by the firm was first funded by a major Republican donor who was No-Trumper but gave up once Trump won the nomination. The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign stepped in then to the keep the research going. ‘Oppo’ research, as it is called, is standard practice in American politics deployed by parties and candidates of every inclination and ideology.

The president’s frustration and desperation, as reflected in the capital-lettered appeal to no one in particular, could have been compelled by the expected first indictment to be handed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by Trump campaign officials.

CNN first reported the impending indictment, which could be accompanied by one or more arrests on Monday, and will surely be a major worry for Trump who has struggled to extricate himself and his presidency from the widespread perception that a precariously damaged candidate like him could have only won because of a miracle, or Russia. 

The charges were approved by a grand jury hearing testimony at a Washington DC federal court, as CNN first reported on Friday, but were neither specified not the targets identified.  There were suggestions that arrests, also the first in this case, could follow next week and as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Mueller, a highly-respected former FBI director — a Republican who was appointed to the post by Republican president George W Bush — was named Special Counsel by the US justice department in May after President Trump fired then FBI director James Comey who went after Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who was sacked for lying about his conversations with Russian officials.

Mueller’s mandate is to look not only into the Russian meddling and allegation of Trump campaign collusion, but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”, which has been a matter of serious concern for the White House and the president himself.

There have been reports that the president could fire the special counsel, who was appointed by his administration, and shut down the probe, which has caused bipartisan disquiet on Capitol Hill, home to US legislature. Lawmakers, however, have moved legislation to prevent Trump from doing that.

Trump has also explored the prospect of using his presidential pardon to protect those indicted or charged from being prosecuted and tried, including himself, according to reports. The pardon cannot protect him from impeachment, but will do from pretty much anything else.

The president has been frustrated by the Russia probe and the shadow it has cast on his administration from almost the start, and has denied any collusion, appearing even to be skeptical about the meddling at all that had been confirmed by the country’s intelligence community.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 09:13 IST