washington Source: Mueller mulls talk with Trump as part of Russia probe


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators has expressed interest in speaking with President Donald Trump as part of a probe into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The prospect of an interview with the president has come up in recent discussions between Mueller’s team and Trump lawyers, but no details have been worked out, including the scope of questions that the president would agree to answer if an interview were to actually take place, according to the person. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

When or even if an interview would occur was not immediately clear, nor were the terms for the interview or whether Trump’s lawyers would seek to narrow the range of questions or topics that prosecutors would cover. Trump’s lawyers have previously stated their determination to cooperate with Mueller’s requests.

It’s not surprising that investigators would ultimately seek to interview the president given his role in several episodes under scrutiny by Mueller. Any interview of Trump would be a likely indication that the investigation was in its final stages – investigators typically look to interview main subjects in their inquiries near the end of a probe.

Mueller for months has led a team of prosecutors and agents investigating whether Russia and Trump’s Republican campaign coordinated to sway the 2016 election, and whether Trump has worked to obstruct an FBI investigation into his aides, including by firing the FBI director, James Comey.

Comey has said that several months before he was dismissed, Trump told him he hoped he would end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Mueller’s team recently concluded a series of interviews with many current and former White House aides, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Four people have been charged so far, including Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on charges tied to foreign lobbying work.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment, as did Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow.

Trump did not rule out the possibility of being questioned by Mueller when asked about it at a news conference Saturday. He said there had been “no collusion” and “no crime.”

Trump takes victory lap

Connecting with rural Americans, Trump on Monday hailed his tax overhaul as a victory for family farmers and pitched his vision to expand access to broadband internet, a cornerstone of economic development in the nation’s heartland.

“Those towers are going to go up and you’re going to have great, great broadband,” Trump told the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation in Nashville, Tenn.

“Farm country is God’s country,” he declared.

Trump became the first president in a quarter-century to address the federation’s convention, using the trip to Nashville as a backdrop for a White House report that included proposals to stimulate a segment of the national economy that has lagged behind others. His Southern swing also included a stop in Atlanta for the national college football championship game.

Joined by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and a group of Tennessee lawmakers, Trump said most of the benefits of the tax legislation are “going to working families, small businesses, and who – the family farmer.”

The package Trump signed into law last month provides generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest reductions for middle- and low-income individuals and families.

The president vastly inflated the value of the package in his speech, citing “a total of $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, with most of those benefits going to working families, small businesses and who? The family farmer.” The estimated value of the tax cuts is actually $1.5 trillion for families and businesses because of cuts in deductions and the use of other steps to generate offsetting tax revenue.

The president warned against voting for Democrats in this November’s midterm elections, saying they would undo the tax bill. “If the Democrats ever had the chance, the first thing they would do is get rid of it and raise up your taxes,” Trump said.

“Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” he added. “You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”

Trump also highlighted the doubling of the threshold for the estate tax – earning a standing ovation from the audience – and the ability for companies to immediately write off the full cost of new equipment. He said that “in every decision we make, we are honoring America’s proud farming legacy.”

Trump signed an executive order after his speech on rural broadband, aimed at easing the process to put private broadband infrastructure on federal property. The White House described the move, along with a memorandum directing the Interior Department to work on a plan to increase access to their facilities for broadband deployment, as “incremental,” but the start of an effort to make progress on the issue.

White House officials said all work was in the early stages and did not offer an overall timeline. Officials noted the price tag for rural broadband expansion has been estimated at $80 billion, but said the administration had not determined a cost.

Trump also called on Congress to renew the farm bill this year, adding he supports providing for federal crop insurance. The massive federal legislation funds federal agriculture and food policy, and it offers assistance to rural communities.

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