The special consul in charge of looking into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is now investigating whether U.S President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice.
This marks a major turning point in the FBI investigation, which has been ongoing for nearly a year now, as it is the first time that Trump himself has been potentially implicated.
The Washington Post has reported that the federal probe, overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller, into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia is now also examining whether the president tried to thwart the investigation.
Up until now the probe focused on Russian meddling during the campaign and whether Trump coordinated with the Kremlin.
What they are currently investigating, obstruction of justice, is an impeachable offence – which has lead Seth Abramson, an attorney and Professor at the University of New Hampshire to label the White House a ‘crime scene’.
(16) Not to put too fine a point on it—the White House is now a crime scene. Mueller is focusing on crimes that occurred in the White House.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 15, 2017
Officials have also said that they are looking for any evidence of financial crimes among Trump’s associates.
Trump’s efforts to encourage former FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn are at the centre of the allegations of obstruction of justice.
Last week Comey testified under oath to Congress that Trump called him into a private meeting saying:
I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.
Trump has denied this claim and has stated that he is willing to testify before Congress.
Meanwhile the probe is also examining undisclosed conversations that Flynn had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and what he told vice-president Mike Pence about the nature of his contacts with Kislyak.
Trump also reportedly tried to encourage Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, to persuade Comey to back off the investigation into Flynn, an ally of the now president.
It is also claimed that Trump asked Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, to put out statements denying evidence that he conspired with Russia during his election campaign.
Both Coats and Rogers reportedly declined.
The White House referred a request from The Guardian for comment to Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal attorney.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz, said:
The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.
In response to a question about whether the Washington Post story was inaccurate, Corallo repeated his previous statement.