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Trump confirms he is under investigation, seeks to undermine justice department

In another sign of a deepening crisis for the White House, Mueller is reported to be investigating the business and financial dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and closest adviser Jared Kushner.

world Updated: Jun 17, 2017 00:26 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,former national security adviser Michael Flynn,deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein
Donald Trump and national security advisor HR McMaster board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base.(AFP)

US President Donald Trump publicly confirmed he is under investigation in connection with Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and alleged collusion by his campaign aides, as he sought to attack and undermine the justice department and officials responsible for it.

Trump’s stunning admission came in a tweet on Friday, in which he pushed back against thus-far unconfirmed reports that he was being investigated for obstruction of justice for trying to stop the FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia dealings.

The “man” he is referring to is deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein on whose recommendation Trump had fired FBI director James Comey in May.

In the firestorm that followed, fuelled by Trump’s suggestion that he had recordings of conversations with Comey and the fired FBI director’s alleged the president had asked him to stop the Flynn probe, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the Russia investigation.

Comey has said he was dismissed by the president because of the Russia investigation. He told US senators at a recent hearing, “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavour was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.” But he had insisted Trump himself was not under investigation.

And that had been the narrative, enforced and reinforced most doggedly by the president himself. That changed with indications that Mueller might now be probing the president — not for election meddling or collusion, but for trying to stop the Flynn probe.

The first sign of that came from interview requests sent by Mueller’s office to national intelligence director Daniel Coats and national security agency chief Mike Rogers, both of whom were reported to have been asked by Trump to stop the Flynn probe and publicly proclaim he was not being investigated.

In another sign of a deepening crisis for this White House, Mueller is reported to be investigating the business and financial dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and closest adviser Jared Kushner, said to have had some “controversial interactions” with Russians.

In a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, Kushner had requested setting up a secret communication system with Kremlin based in a Russian diplomatic facility to avoid American surveillance. He had also met, at Kislyak’s urging, a Russian banker close to President Vladimir Putin.

Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told The Washington Post, “We do not know what this report refers to. It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to ­Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about ­Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence — who has remained largely untouched by the controversy apart from being misled by sacked national security adviser Michael Flynn about his Russia links — has hired an outside counsel to help him deal with issues arising from the expanding probe, if needed.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 22:25 IST