Special Counsel Robert Mueller remains as tight-lipped as ever, but a flurry of information about his probe into Russian interference in the election and what role the Trump campaign played has produced new developments in the last few days.
Attempting to divine the meaning of these moves remains opaque, but the scope of what the public has learned is significant. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Mueller’s team is seeking to interview the president himself “in the coming weeks,” with a particular focus on the firings of National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey. If true, that would suggest Mueller is especially interested in whether Trump obstructed justice by asking Comey in February 2017 to let Flynn go (as Comey testified to Congress under oath) and then by firing Comey in May.
Rumors of an interview have circulated since earlier this month, and the president’s legal team is reportedly now negotiating the terms of such an interview. The news of the discussions seems to come mostly from the Trump legal team.
Meanwhile, other recent reports indicate that Mueller’s team has interviewed a huge portion of Trump’s inner circle:
- On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel’s team last week. Sessions initially omitted several meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak from disclosures. He was also present when George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser, suggested a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin, and another adviser, Carter Page, says he informed Sessions of his plans ahead of a scrutinized trip to Russia. Comey says he asked Sessions not to allow him to be in a room alone with Trump. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation not long before Mueller’s appointment.
- The Times also reported that Comey had met with Mueller in 2017.
- NBC News reported that Mueller has also spoken with Dan Coats, director of national intelligence; Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency; and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. A source described them to NBC News as “peripheral witnesses.” Some reports have said Trump asked these men to intervene in the Russia probe, though Coats and Rogers refused to say whether that was true during testimony last summer.
- NBC News also says that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was the first to inform the White House that the FBI had interviewed Flynn, has cooperated with the probe. Yates was fired for defying Trump on the first iteration of his Muslim travel ban. NBC also says that Flynn concealed his FBI interview from other White House officials.
- White House Counsel Don McGahn, who was scheduled to speak to the Mueller team the day that Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December, has twice spoken to the probe, NBC News says.
- Last week, Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, agreed to speak with Mueller, on the same day that he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and refused to answer questions about his time in the White House or Trump transition, though he spoke about the campaign. Murray Waas also reported that the White House justification for barring Bannon from testifying to the House panel did not apply to an interview with Mueller. While Bannon has offered sharp criticisms of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, it’s unclear whether he has much actual fresh information.
- It’s previously been reported that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser; Hope Hicks, the White House communications director and a former campaign spokeswoman; and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have all spoken with Mueller.
- As part of his plea deal, Flynn is known to be cooperating with Mueller. Papadopoulos is also apparently cooperating; his fiancee told the Post this week that she believed he would eventually emerge as the John Dean of the Russia scandal. CNN also reported Tuesday on signs that Rick Gates, a business partner of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, might be negotiating a deal with Mueller. Gates was charged, with Manafort, for laundering $75 million.