WASHINGTON — President Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice as special counsel Robert Mueller has plunged full-speed ahead on “a host of investigations involving people who are or were in Trump’s orbit,” the Washington Post reported this evening, prompting an angry response from his lawyer about the leak.
The story was posted hours after Mueller visited Capitol Hill to meet with Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.).
“We had a constructive meeting with the special counsel today and we look forward to future engagements,” Burr and Warner said in a statement.
The Post reported that Mueller “is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice,” and “investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates.”
Former FBI Director James Comey said during open testimony before the Intelligence Committee last week that, while he was still at the FBI, Trump was not personally under investigation in the counterintelligence probe into Russia’s campaign operations.
Comey told lawmakers that after he was fired May 9, “the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me” as he saw Trump telling NBC’s Lester Holt “that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation and learned, again, from the media that he was telling, privately, other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russia investigation.”
The Post reports that Trump fell under investigation shortly after Comey was fired, and Mueller picked up the FBI’s obstruction probe: “Five people briefed on the requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.”
The paper did not indicate their sources, but Marc Corallo, spokesman for Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, shot back, “The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”
Mueller has amassed a high-powered team of investigators, some of whom have drawn criticism from GOPs for past donations to Dems. James Quarles III was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation and is an expert in campaign finance. Andrew Weissmann, his former general counsel at the FBI, was a Justice Department fraud expert who led the Enron Task Force. Michael Dreeben, of the DOJ’s solicitor general’s office, is an experienced Supreme Court litigator. DOJ attorney Lisa Page has vast experience in organized crime and money laundering cases. Aaron Zebley is Mueller’s former special counselor at the FBI and known as his right-hand man.
While the White House has been deflecting questions to Kasowitz, the Republican National Committee has been picking up rapid-response duty to new reports on the investigation. RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel declared “this unfounded accusation against the president changes nothing” and added “there’s still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there’s been no effort to impede the investigation in any way.”
“The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here,” she said.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Chris Coons (D-Del.) told CNN the report was “a very stunning development.”
“There were certainly hints and allegations in the previous testimony before Senate committees by fired FBI Director Comey, by acting attorney general for this matter, Rosenstein, that there might be some reason for there to be a broader investigation,” Coons said. “But this report in the Washington Post this evening suggests strongly, giving five different sources, that the scope of the investigation has changed since the firing of the FBI director and is now targeted directly at the president and his actions, which may amount to obstruction of justice.”
“It’s too early to draw a conclusion,” he added. “There’s certainly lots of smoke here.”