A web of US President Donald Trump’s family and associates will be back in the crosshairs of congressional committees investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia, as well as of the high-wattage legal team assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller, reports the Associated Press.
As Congress returns from a summer recess, some of the attention will be focused squarely on the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, who will meet privately in the coming weeks with staffers on the Senate judiciary and intelligence committees. A meeting Trump Jr convened with a Russian lawyer and others in the midst of the campaign has already been the subject of testimony before a grand jury that Mueller is using as part of his investigation.
The expected crush of interviews, subpoenas and testimony this fall underscores both the broad scope of the Russia probes and the certainty that they will shadow Trump’s presidency for months or even years. Even if Trump and his associates are ultimately cleared, some White House advisers worry about the president’s anger over the investigations and the likelihood that he will continue to weigh in publicly in ways that only further distract from his agenda.
The president’s own legal exposure remains uncertain. He’s denied coordinating with Russia during the election or having any nefarious financial ties to Moscow.
But Trump’s legal team, anticipating Mueller’s interest in probing Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, is developing arguments to protect him against any obstruction of justice allegations, including constitutional defences and a contention that his actions crossed no legal lines.
Family and associates
The simultaneous investigations by Mueller and three congressional committees have drawn in some of Washington’s legal heavy hitters. Mueller’s 16-lawyer team is comprised of seasoned prosecutors with significant experience fighting fraudsters, mobsters and terrorists and with building cases against high-level targets by eliciting cooperation from more peripheral subjects. And more than a dozen Washington law firms have lawyers representing players in the investigation.
The coming months may put a new focus on lesser-known players in Trump’s orbit, including Michael Cohen, his long-time lawyer. Cohen acknowledged last month that the Trump Organisation pursued a Trump Tower project in Moscow and that he had reached out to the press secretary for President Vladimir Putin. Another associate who could appear before Congress this fall is informal adviser Roger Stone, as well as Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate Cohen says he worked with on the Trump Tower deal. The project was later abandoned.
Familiar names will also continue to face scrutiny, particularly former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and ousted White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort already has spoken privately to Senate intelligence committee staffers, and though other committees are also interested in hearing from him.