Wednesday 22 November 2017

Trump not under investigation, says his lawyer

Ex-FBI director James Comey
Ex-FBI director James Comey
US First Lady Melania Trump smiles as her husband President Donald Trump meets with Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela, left, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Catherine Lucy

A leading member of US President Donald Trump's outside legal team has claimed that Mr Trump is not under federal investigation.

The claim came within days of Mr Trump appearing to confirm he was the subject of an inquiry with a tweet about being the target of a "witch hunt".

Appearing on a series of morning news programmes, attorney Jay Sekulow repeatedly stressed "the president has not been and is not under investigation". He said a Friday tweet from Mr Trump was specifically directed at a story in 'The Washington Post' about the expanding probe into Russia's election meddling.

As evidence, Mr Sekulow said Mr Trump has not been notified of any investigation. He also cited testimony of former FBI director James Comey before the Senate intelligence committee, in which he said he told Mr Trump he was not under investigation in the months leading up to his May 9 firing.

Asked about the possibility an investigation has since developed and the president just does not know, Mr Sekulow said: "I can't read people's minds, but I can tell you this, we have not been notified that there's an investigation into the president of the United States. So that - nothing has changed in that regard since James Comey's testimony."

The 'Post' reported last week that Robert Mueller - the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election - was looking into whether Mr Trump obstructed justice. Mr Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has powers to probe any matters that develop from his initial investigation.

On Friday the president wrote on Twitter: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt."

The message apparently referred to Mr Rosenstein, whose role leading the federal investigation has become increasingly complicated. The White House used a memo he wrote to justify Mr Trump's decision to fire Mr Comey, but Mr Trump's firing of the FBI director may now be part of the probe.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner may be getting new legal representation as the investigation heats up. Mr Kushner has been represented on business matters and other issues by Jamie Gorelick.

In a statement, Ms Gorelick said that after the appointment of the special counsel, she advised Mr Kushner "to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us."

The president has denied that he has any nefarious ties to Russia and has also disputed that he's attempted to block the investigation into his campaign's possible role in Russia's election-related hacking.

The president has directed some of his frustration at Mr Rosenstein and Mr Mueller. Senator Marco Rubio said Sunday that he does not expect Mr Trump to seek to fire them.

"I don't believe it's going to happen," he said on CNN's 'State of the Union'. "The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation."

Mr Trump is under pressure to reveal whether he has any tape recordings of private conversations with Mr Comey. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that the panel - overseeing one of several congressional investigations - is looking forward to getting a response from the White House on whether recordings exist.

The president suggested on Twitter that he may have taped those conversations. Mr Schiff said he wants the White House to acknowledge the tapes or make clear there are no tapes and "it was an idle threat".

The committee sent a bipartisan letter this month to White House counsel Don McGahn seeking an answer by this Friday. It also sent a letter to Mr Comey asking for notes or memos. Mr Schiff said if the panel can't get an answer a subpoena will be needed. He also said he believes recent congressional testimony from Mr Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions points to signs of possible obstruction by Mr Trump that warrant further investigation.

While aides have advised Mr Trump to stay off Twitter, the president continued to weigh in Sunday as he spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

He tweeted "The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt."

Irish Independent

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