Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House for documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with the FBI in January, a May meeting President Donald Trump had with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office, and a misleading statement he crafted in July about a 2016 campaign meeting at Trump Tower.
The requests, reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on Wednesday, indicate that Mueller is casting a broad net as he examines whether the White House sought to cover up any Russia-related episodes that occurred after Trump took office.
The FBI interviewed national security adviser Michael Flynn in January about the conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition that ultimately got him fired. Flynn reportedly told both the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence that he didn’t discuss US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak, which turned out to be untrue.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates has said she warned White House counsel Don McGahn in late January that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail because he had not been truthful with the White House about his conversations with Kislyak.
McGahn did not seem aware that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI when Yates went to discuss it with him in late January, Yates told The New Yorker earlier this year.
Instead, according to Yates, McGahn asked: “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official?”
McGahn apparently did know, however, that Flynn had come under FBI investigation for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist when he did lobbying work benefiting Turkish government interests last year.
Mueller also wants to know more about a meeting Trump had with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office one day after firing former FBI Director James Comey, according to the Times.
According to a summary of their meeting provided to The New York Times, Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that Comey was “a nut job” and that firing him had eased the pressure of the Russia investigation.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump reportedly told them. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
At that same meeting, Trump revealed highly classified intelligence on ISIS that the US had not even shared with close allies. That intelligence was later reported to have come from Israel.
The administration’s rationale for dismissing Comey gradually shifted in the days after he was fired. But the final straw appears to have been Trump’s anger with Comey after his testimony on May 3 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
White House special counsel Ty Cobb told Business Insider earlier this month that Trump wrote a letter outlining his reasons for wanting Comey removed just after the former director’s May 3 testimony.
That letter, which is now in Mueller’s possession, was ultimately sent to the Justice Department instead of Comey himself because it reportedly mentioned Russia, and McGahn thought it could pose legal problems for Trump.
Additionally, Mueller is reportedly examining why Trump crafted a misleading statement about his son’s meeting with two Russians – a lawyer and a lobbyist – at Trump Tower last June.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last month that “the president weighed in” on the Trump Tower meeting “as any father would based on the limited information he had.”
But Mueller’s interest in the initial statement – which did not mention that Trump Jr. had been offered incriminating information on Hillary Clinton in exchange for taking the meeting, or that more than one Russian attended – has reportedly been growing as he investigates whether Trump tried to cover up any interactions he or his associates had with Russians last year.