President Trump seems to get increasingly frustrated with the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. He recently criticized special counsel Robert Mueller, the man in charge of the investigation, warning that he would be crossing the line by looking into the president’s personal businesses and finances.
According to recent reports, Mueller has now expanded the investigation to include Trump and his associates’ business transactions. The latest development in the long running Russian investigation is sure to further intensify the feud between the president and the authorities.
Mueller is also looking into potential obstruction of justice by President Trump, following his dismissal of Director FBI James Comey, at the peak of the federal agency’s probe into collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. It was Trump’s decision to fire Comey that later forced him to appoint Mueller as special counsel in the investigation.
While the president has been calling the investigation a “witch hunt,” Mueller has been recruiting some of the most popular lawyers in the country in the past couple of weeks; however, some of the special counsel’s appointees have faced criticism for being donors to several Democratic candidates.
Robert Mueller, who is also a former FBI Director with a reputation to uphold, was appointed as special counsel in the investigation by the Justice Department in May, following Trump’s dismissal of Comey.
In his role as the special counsel, Mueller has all the authority to investigate Russia’s alleged in the presidential elections and also allegations of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin. While Trump is obviously getting frustrated with the direction in which the probe is headed, legal experts say it’s Mueller’s duty to look at the case from all aspects.
“I am totally not surprised that Mueller is following any leads,” said Steven Cash, a renowned DC attorney. “That’s the way all investigations are conducted, particularly into complex relations of business people.”
However, some Republicans believe Trump is right in accusing Mueller of overreaching.
“Mueller crosses ‘red line’ into potentially all of Trump’s billion$ in transactions. We now face a partisan war of investigative attrition,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tweeted Thursday.
The spotlight seems to have shifted on to Mueller and the ongoing investigation once again, following Trump’s interview with the New York Times, where the president said that it would be a clear “violation” for Mueller to look into his family’s financial transactions. The president, however, declined to comment on the course of action he would take if such a thing happened.
But Trump did suggest that he had compromising information on the special counsel, stressing on the fact that he interviewed him as a potential replacement for Comey in May.
“The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job,” Trump told the Times. “There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
The president added, “I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.”
The remarks have once again raised speculation that Trump could dismiss Mueller, a decision that many Republicans have constantly warned him against.
Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.), while talking to reporters on Thursday, said that “it would be a mistake to fire Bob Mueller,” calling him “a highly credible individual who will do a good job.”
However, President Trump’s lawyer and member of the American Center for Law & Justice, Jay Sekulow, last month hinted that the president could fire Mueller if he thought the investigation was not headed in the right direction.
“The president has authority to take action,” Sekulow said, while talking to ABC News. “Whether he would do it is ultimately a decision the president makes.”
Conversely, some think that Trump’s remarks about Mueller could be used against him as supporting evidence.
“Mueller like any good prosecutor will be looking at tweets, interviews, the Lester Holt interview, other public and private comments as potential admissions that are indicators of the president’s true intent,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI under Mueller. “I think [Trump] is really on slippery terrain when he makes these public comments that … if charges were to come, could be potentially used as evidence of his intent.”
“Depending how the rest of the case lines up, it could enhance his risk,” Hosko added.