Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed to the Guardian that the meeting took place. The New York Times first reported the meeting on Tuesday morning.
It was also reported on Tuesday that the special counsel is seeking to interview Donald Trump in relation to the president’s decision to fire former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey.
The Washington Post reported that Trump’s lawyers are negotiating the terms of an interview with the special counsel, with the president’s legal team preferring that he answer some questions in person and others in a written statement.
John Dowd, an attorney for Trump, declined to comment.
Mueller’s reported focus on the firings of Flynn and Comey is the latest indication that the special counsel’s team is zeroing in on potential obstruction of justice issues.
Earlier this month, Mueller reportedly called back a key witness in the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin. Trump’s elder son, Donald Trump Jr, accepted the meeting after being offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton and informed of an effort by Moscow to aid his father’s campaign.
Comey was also reportedly interviewed by the special counsel’s office.
That interview reportedly took place last year and pertained to a series of memos Comey wrote, while he was FBI director, about his conversations with Trump about the Russia investigation. Trump fired Comey in May 2017, raising concerns that he tried to obstruct the FBI investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russians.
Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the White House was going to be “fully cooperative with special counsel and continue to do that throughout the process”. But she declined to answer questions about specific interviews.
The special counsel’s office is investigating a Kremlin campaign to meddle in the 2016 election, including the hacking of Democratic party members’ emails and their release to the public. Led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, the team is also investigating interactions between members of Trump’s campaign and Russians potentially involved in those efforts.
The meeting between Mueller and Sessionslasted several hours and took place last week, marking the first time the special counsel’s office has interviewed a sitting member of Trump’s cabinet.
Sessions has long been a flashpoint in the Russia investigation. He announced in March 2017 that he would recuse himself from any role in it after it was revealed that he had two meetings with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during the 2016 campaign. The former Alabama senator endorsed Trump in February 2016 and was a key surrogate during the campaign.
The attorney general’s decision to recuse himself angered Trump, who has since repeatedly criticized Sessions. In a July 2017 interview with the Times, Trump called his attorney general “very weak” and said his decision was “very unfair to the president”. Before Sessions announced he would not be involved in investigations “related in any way to the campaign for president of the United States”, Trump had dispatched the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to lobby Sessions against this decision.
The president has also drawn scrutiny for pressing Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn, according to testimony the former FBI director gave to Congress last year.
Trump denied Comey’s claim, but after firing himtold NBC he did so because, “I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
Flynn resigned last February after it was revealed he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about the nature of his communications with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
After Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Trump suggested in a tweet that was the reason behind his firing, contradicting the White House’s earlier claims that the decision was made in relation to Pence.
Comey also testified that Trump had privately demanded loyalty from him, and that he had only promised “honesty”. Sessions was part of discussions around Comey’s firing, but because of his recusal the decision of a special counsel fell to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Muller.
Mueller’s investigation has so far led to charges against Flynn, for lying to the FBI, and against Trump’s former campaign chairman and one of his aides, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates respectively, on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. Another former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and admitted to early knowledge that the Russian government possessed hacked Democratic emails. Mueller is also due to interview Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
- This article was corrected on 23 January to clarify that Robert Mueller has yet to interview Steve Bannon.
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