Special counsel expected to interview Donald Trump as Russian investigation advances

Attorney general Jeff Sessions interviewed by Robert Mueller

US attorney general Jeff Sessions: Thought to be the highest-ranking Trump administration official to be interviewed by Mr Mueller’s team. Photograph: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

US attorney general Jeff Sessions: Thought to be the highest-ranking Trump administration official to be interviewed by Mr Mueller’s team. Photograph: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

 

There are signs that the investigation into Russian interference in the US election is advancing rapidly, following confirmation that attorney general Jeff Sessions was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller and reports that Mr Mueller is seeking to interview President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Mr Mueller may seek to interview the US president in the coming weeks about his decision to fire FBI director James Comey and former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department confirmed that Mr Sessions was interviewed last week – the first known member of Mr Trump’s cabinet to be interviewed as part of the inquiry.

An early backer of Mr Trump, Mr Sessions – then a senator from Alabama – was centrally involved in his presidential campaign. After he was appointed as attorney general, he recused himself from the Russia investigation after it emerged that he had met Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak but failed to disclose this during his senate confirmation hearing.

His decision to step away from the inquiry, and pass responsibility to his deputy Rod Rosenstein, reportedly infuriated Mr Trump. Mr Rosenstein subsequently appointed Mr Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation after Mr Trump fired FBI chief James Comey in May.

Trump aides

Mr Mueller has also interviewed former and current Trump aides, including former press secretary Sean Spicer and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, while he has subpoenaed former chief strategist Steve Bannon. The possibility that he may seek to interview Mr Trump has been rumoured in recent weeks, but the president has not confirmed whether he would agree to be interviewed.

Asked at a press event on Tuesday if he was concerned about what Mr Sessions may have told his investigators Mr Trump replied: “Not at all.”

As speculation intensified that the Mueller investigation is gathering place, US media reported that Mr Comey’s successor, Christopher Wray, threatened to resign following pressure from Mr Sessions to fire deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised Mr McCabe, and particularly his wife’s alleged links with the Democratic Party.

“How can FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” he said in a tweet last year.

Mr Mc Cabe’s wife, Judy McCabe, accepted Democratic funding when she ran for the Virginia state senate in 2015.

When questioned by reporters yesterday on the matter, Mr Trump said Mr Wray did not resign, adding “he’s going to do a good job”.

Trump allies have continually alleged that the FBI is biased against Mr Trump and that special counsel Mr Mueller is conflicted. Revelations that two former employees who worked on the Russian investigation and were having an extra-marital affair exchanged anti-Trump text messages have fuelled suspicions amongst the right that the investigation is flawed. But it was since revealed that thousands of these text messages, exchanged over a five-month period, can no longer be recovered by the FBI.

Earlier this week the attorney general opened an investigation into the matter. “We will leave no stone unturned to confirm with certainty why these text messages are not now available to be produced and will use every technology available to determine whether the missing messages are recoverable from another source,” Mr Sessions said in a statement.

Meanwhile, senior Democrats in Congress have written to social media companies urging them to investigate automated accounts linked to Russia that may have been an online campaign urging the FBI to release a memo which Republicans claim show an anti-Trump bias at the agency.