White House official said to be ‘person of interest’ in Russa probe

Trump tells The Associated Press by telephone after the meeting that he “learned a lot” but declines to say whether he accepted their conclusion about Russian Federation.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, “as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity”. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly”.

President Donald Trump denounced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s ties with Russia Thursday, repeatedly calling it an unprecedented “witch hunt” that “hurts our country terribly”. “I call prosecutors every day and ask them to stop [messing] with my clients and that’s not obstruction of justice”.

Among Trump’s senior White House advisers are several former campaign officials, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway.

The president’s tweets and comments to the TV anchors drew little reaction from fellow Republicans, who instead joined Democrats in heaping praise on Mueller, a longtime respected lawman who served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, preceding Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Republicans have largely stood behind Trump in the first months of his presidency as FBI and congressional investigations into Russia’s election meddling intensified. If Comey testified convincingly immediately after this onslaught, then it might have been the beginning of the end.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas.

The FBI needs a new director because Trump fired James Comey last week in an unexpected move that drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats, coming as it did amid the FBI’s investigation of Russian influence in the presidential election, including possible co-ordination with Trump campaign associates.

Trump had teased that he could announce his choice for director before departing Friday for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium, a world tour that will keep him away from the White House through the end of next week.

Flynn was sacked after it was revealed that he misled administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the nature of his conversations with Russian officials, including Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, prior to Trump’s inauguration. Those familiar with the case said its significance had increased before Mueller’s appointment.

The appointment seemed meant to quell mounting questions about the Justice Department’s ability to independently oversee the investigation. He was abruptly dismissed last Tuesday by the Republican president, who said the issue was Comey’s inability to lead. The White House denies that account.

They are appointed when an investigation by a U.S. attorney would present a conflict of interest or “under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter”, says the law allowing for special counsels.

The public interest, he said, “requires me to place this investigation into the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command”. He joined law firm WilmerHale as a partner in 2014 but resigned “immediately upon his appointment” Wednesday, according to a firm spokesperson.

Another partner, Reginald Brown, is representing Paul Manafort.

Trump himself is helping investigators put all of those pieces together, through interviews, tweets and offhand comments to reporters, said Zeidenberg.

Special counsels are appointed to avoid potential conflicts of interest in Justice Department investigations.

In the job, Mueller will have all the same powers as a US attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller under a statute used in 1999, when John C. Danforth was appointed to investigate allegations of government wrongdoing in the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

A similar appointment came in 2003 when the Bush Justice Department turned to Patrick Fitzgerald, then the top federal prosecutor in Chicago, to investigate who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer. Without a special counsel like Mueller, thanks to Trump’s inexplicable firing of Comey, such a full exoneration would not have been even theoretically possible, but now it is.