The Justice Department’s special counsel probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 election took a new turn this week, according to an exclusive report from The New York Times.
Multiple sources confirmed the new development, revealing that special counsel Robert Mueller is scouring old tweets from President Donald Trump’s account in a search for evidence that he tried to obstruct justice.
Three individuals spoke to Times reporters about the purpose of collecting tweets from the notoriously volatile account.
The sources cited a few key topics Mueller’s team is interested in parsing through a closer examination of Trump’s social media musings. Investigators are said to be interested in tweets about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey, both of whom have frequently and publicly been on the president’s bad side.
In addition to his public pronouncements on Twitter, the sources briefed on the investigation say Mueller is also interested in questioning Trump about private conversations he has had with and about both men.
Sessions and Comey are central figures in the wider Justice Department probe and the special counsel is considering whether the combination of Trump’s actions and statements rise to the legal definition of obstruction. Specifically, The Times reported that Mueller is attempting to determine if the president intimidated either witnesses or law enforcement officials in an attempt to close the investigation against him.
Mueller is also said to be looking into Trump’s possible promise of pardons to potential witnesses.
The current direction of the investigation is based on the three anonymous sources and as of the latest reports available, Mueller’s office had not released a statement on the matter.
Trump’s legal team contends that neither the content of the tweets themselves nor anything else being collected by the special counsel can be construed as obstruction. Some of the president’s lawyers told reporters that they were concerned about how the totality of the evidence could be interpreted by opposing counsel.
Earlier this year, The Times broke another story related to the investigation by revealing a series of topics Mueller wanted to cover in an interview with Trump.
Obstruction of justice was among the topics covered in the list of probable questions, which prompted Trump to react on Twitter, as CNN reported at the time.
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
“It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened!” he tweeted. “Witch Hunt!”
Though Trump himself has expressed an eagerness to sit down for an interview with Mueller, his attorneys have publicly and privately advised him against it.
Rudy Giuliani has imposed a series of restrictive terms under which he would consider letting his client testify.
“If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity,” he said earlier this month.
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