Special Counsel investigation expands

Special Counsel investigation expands
The special counsel investigating Russian influence on the 2016 US Presidential elections, has reportedly interviewed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. He is possibly the first..

The special counsel investigating Russian influence on the 2016 US Presidential elections, has reportedly interviewed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. He is possibly the first person from the current cabinet to be questioned as part of the ongoing investigation.

In addition, the team is also hoping to interview US President Donald Trump in connection to the investigations.

Background

The consensus amongst the intelligence community in the US is that members of the Russian government interfered with the US elections to destabilize the presidential bid of former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. It has also been reported that the Russian government tried to disrupt Clinton’s campaign through cyber attacks and email leaks and largely favoured Donald Trump over her.

In May 2017, the Department of Justice (DoJ) appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into the Russian interference and related matters. He is also investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the elections.

In the past few months, the special counsel has brought charges against multiple people within the Trump campaign. Former Chairmen of the Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates have been indicted on 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, false statements. Manafort is now suing the Department of Justice in an attempt to foil the inquiry. In addition, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about meetings with Russia's ambassador right before Donald Trump became President.

US President Donald Trump has often criticized the investigation and has maintained that there has been no wrong doing from his part. He has also repeatedly noted that the investigation would end soon.

Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions, who served as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017, was the first Republican Senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid. He was a top advisor and headed the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. When Trump became president, he nominated Sessions to be Attorney General. Sessions, once a member of Trump’s inner circle, fell out of favor when he recused himself from the ongoing probe into contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials. Trump has raged against the investigation and Sessions’ recusal in interviews and through his Twitter account. He has voiced his regret in the appointment.

Analysis

Media reports have noted that Robert Mueller’s team is interested in directly speaking with the US President. The special counsel is particularly interested in the circumstances that led to the firing of former FBI Chief James Comey and Michael Flynn.

In addition, reports have also emerged that Jeff Sessions has also been questioned in the investigation into Russian collusion. Sessions is quite possibly the first member of the current administration’s cabinet to be questioned.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House is "fully cooperative" with Mueller but believes the American people are ready to move on. "Look, as we've said probably just about every day this year since we've been here that we're going to be fully cooperative with the special counsel and we'll continue to do that throughout the process," Sanders told reporters Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he wasn't worried about what Sessions told Mueller's team. "No, I'm not at all concerned.” James Comey has also been questioned by the team. During that hearing that took place in June 2017, Comey said he believed he was fired "because of the Russia investigation." "I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted," Comey said.

Assessment

Our assessment is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeff Sessions has been interviewed as part of the investigations as he was a key member of the Trump inner circle during the campaign. Sessions has had to testify in front of Congress regarding his own ties to the Russian government. With the latest development it can be inferred that the investigation has expanded to the Trump cabinet. 

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