Published: Thu, March 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Trump spoke to witnesses about discussions they had with special counsel

Trump spoke to witnesses about discussions they had with special counsel

The McGahn conversation concerned an admonition from Mr. Trump that the lawyer should issue a statement denying a New York Times story that the president had asked Mr. McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller.

Trump brought up Priebus' October interview with the special counsel's office, the people said, and Priebus replied that the investigators were courteous and professional.

According to the report, Trump's conversation "most likely did not rise to the level of witnesses tampering", but were nonetheless brought to Mueller's attention. Sources familiar with the conversation told the Times that McGahn later reminded Trump of his request.

The witnesses are White House Counsel Donald McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The newspaper, which cited three unidentified people familiar with the matter, said Trump told an aide that White House counsel Donald McGahn should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January that said McGahn told investigators the president had once asked him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. In recent interviews, Mueller's team has asked witnesses about their interactions with Trump since the probe began.

The conversations will likely contribute to the obstruction-of-justice case Mueller has been building against Trump since he fired the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, James Comey, last May.

Trump also reportedly asked McGahn last April to help convince Comey to publicly clear him in the Russian Federation probe. James Comey, who was then the FBI director, said Trump asked him for his loyalty and to end the investigation into his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. He shared no specifics and did not say what he had told investigators, and the conversation moved on after a few minutes, those briefed on it said.

Experts threw cold water on both arguments, calling them "weak" and "dubious", and added that they were unlikely to succeed.

The special counsel's questions about the Emiratis point to an investigation that has expanded beyond Russian meddling in the 2016 election to broader concerns about foreign influence during the presidential campaign and long after it concluded.

In addition to Comey's firing, the special counsel is also looking into Trump's role in crafting an initially misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., released a year ago in response to reports that he met with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in June 2016, at the height of the election.

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