Try as he might, President Donald Trump can not escape the scrutiny of the Russia investigation. While he continues to rant and rave, more condemning news keeps making its way out — like that his current chief of staff John Kelly answered questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Investigators questioned Kelly “in recent months,” according to CNN, keeping their focus on his take on a reported presidential effort to fire Mueller. Those efforts — which have compounded in the time since — had him push the now former White House counsel Don McGahn to get Mueller out and fit right into a pattern of obstruction of justice that the special counsel was already investigating.
The administration itself reportedly tried to obstruct Kelly’s interview with investigators, but it eventually proceeded. CNN did not note in their initial report whether the chief of staff had, in fact, corroborated the story of Trump seeking to push Mueller out via inappropriate exercise of executive authority. The CNN report doesn’t note any details about how the interview itself went at all.
That’s hardly to say, though, that Trump has smooth sailing ahead of him. The special counsel’s office’s initial effort to interview Kelly emerged shortly after authorities raided former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on suspicion of a wide range of crimes. He’s since pleaded guilty to an illegal hush money scheme that also involved Donald Trump meant to silence women the eventual president had affairs with. The scheme also involved American Media, Inc.’s David Pecker.
When the government initially burst their criminal investigation into the operation out into the open via the raids, Trump lost it.
His previously private railings against Mueller as an individual became public explosions and paranoid rants about the supposed “rogue, out of control prosecutor” carrying on with a stain on the country’s history. Trump’s babbling always conveniently skips around the fact that Mueller has successfully defended his investigation in court numerous times and procured guilty pleas from five former Trump associates at this point.
The tension has culminated in Kelly being reported to be on the way out and poised to be replace by Nick Ayers, who currently serves as chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence.
According to CNN, Trump resents the fact that Kelly isn’t as “politically savvy” as he’d like, and although the outlet’s report doesn’t say as much, there’s little reason to dismiss the idea that the chief of staff’s interaction with Mueller’s team helped spark the president’s resentment. We all know how Trump feels about Mueller.
After months and months of negotiation, Trump himself has finally submitted answers to questions from the special counsel although they reportedly did not cover the obstruction of justice questions the president’s drawn.
There remain a number of fixtures on the horizon as Mueller’s inquiry proceeds, including the ongoing case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The special counsel revealed just recently that he’d misled investigators and thereby broken his plea agreement.
There’s also the continuing specter of Mueller’s final report.
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