Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Their Interviews With Mueller: NYT
Sources say special counsel is aware of the conversations
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2018 2:04 AM CST
In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed-door meeting in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(Newser) – Twice recently, President Trump has asked key witnesses in the Russia investigation about their conversations with special counsel Robert Mueller, three sources tell the New York Times. One alleged conversation involved White House counsel Don McGahn; Trump told an aide that McGahn should deny a January Times article that said Trump had asked McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn didn't deny it, and he ultimately reminded Trump that he had, in fact, asked McGahn to contact Rod Rosenstein and make sure Mueller was dismissed. The other alleged conversation involved Reince Priebus; the sources say Trump asked his former chief of staff in December how his interview with Mueller's investigators went and whether they were "nice." Sources tell Fox News the latter conversation included "nothing" of substance and Trump just felt bad Priebus had been questioned for hours.

Fox's sources also deny Trump ever "ordered" McGahn to see Mueller fired; they say Trump simply directed McGahn to see what could be done about Mueller. But sources confirm the Times' version of events to Politico. Legal experts tell the Times the conversations probably don't meet the definition of witness tampering, but the paper notes Trump appears to be ignoring advice from his lawyers to avoid appearing to interfere with Mueller's investigation into Russia's tampering with the 2016 US election. Witnesses and lawyers who learned of the two conversations told Mueller, who's also investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation, about them. Legal experts say Mueller will likely now direct an increased focus toward Trump's interactions with witnesses in the probe, and that the conversations with McGahn and Priebus could be evidence in a possible obstruction case.

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