Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly notified the White House that his team will try to seek interviews with six current and former aides to Donald Trump as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
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According to a report in the Washington Post on Friday, former press secretary Sean Spicer, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and interim communications director Hope Hicks are among the aides Mueller’s team is interested in interviewing.
The other three aides the team signalled it might interview were identified in the Post as White House counsel Don McGahn; one of his deputies, James Burnham; and White House spokesman Josh Raffel, who works closely with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior West Wing adviser.
Each of the six aides were “privy to important internal discussions that have drawn the interest of Mueller’s investigators”, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. This includes Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey in May and prolonged inaction after warnings that Michael Flynn, then national security adviser, has lied about meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US.
The justice department inquiry is investigating ties between Trump associates and Russian officials. Mueller’s team is also examining whether Trump or others in the White House attempted to obstruct justice when the president fired Comey, who had been leading the Russia investigation until his dismissal.
The Post story was followed by quickly by a report in Politico that Mueller’s team was planning to interview up to a dozen White House aides. That report anonymously quoted one person involved in the case as saying the current aides of interest are not “the marquee names you would think”.
Mueller’s team has requested documents from the White House related to the firing of Comey. According to the New York Times, Mueller has also obtained a copy of a letter Trump reportedly wanted to send to Comey outlining his rationale for firing him. The president was stopped from sending the letter by McGahn.
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The Russia investigation has dogged Trump’s presidency and continues to flare on multiple fronts. As well as the justice department, several House and Senate committees are examining ties between Trump associates and Russians.
CNN has reported that that Mueller is interested in interviewing White House staffers who were aboard Air Force One during the crafting of a statement – which later turned out to be misleading – that defended the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, in response to a report that he had met with a Russian lawyer believed to have ties to the Kremlin.
In the statement, reportedly drafted in part by Donald Trump, the president said that his son “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” during the meeting, which Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended. Emails released later by Trump Jr revealed that he was in fact promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
On Thursday, Trump Jr answered questions from a Senate panel about the meeting. After the appearance, Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, distributed a memo that spotlighted the federal statute prohibiting false statements to Congress. It was something “to keep in mind regarding Donald Trump Jr’s testimony today”, Coons said.