Trump probed over Russian Federation poll meddling

Alex van der Zwaan arrives at court in Washington

Mueller's team is seeking to find out if wealthy Russians illegally funnelled cash donations directly or indirectly to the Trump campaign.

Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and by showing interest in Russian oligarchs, it reveals his team is focusing on the possible flow of foreign money to President Trump's campaign and inauguration fund, CNN reports.

Mueller's description of the president's status has sparked friction within Trump's inner circle as his advisers have debated his legal standing.

CNN reported Wednesday at least one of the oligarchs had his electronic devices searched upon landing at an airport in the New York City area.

The president's legal team has been in contact with the special counsel in recent months, negotiating the terms for a potential interview with Trump and the special counsel. Ty Cobb, the lawyer in the White House handling the Mueller probe, declined to comment.

Mueller's tantalizing disclosure presents Trump's legal team with quite the conundrum: Do they grant the interview and seek exoneration on the collusion front, knowing that Trump might gift-wrap an obstruction of justice case, transforming himself from subject to target in the process?

Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law expert who once served as a federal special counsel, said Mueller's actions are not out of the ordinary.

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Reuters, which first reported on the coming sanctions, said the affected oligarchs have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the Kremlin.

In his interview with CNN, Gowdy said that the distinction between "target" and "subject" is meaningless to him. The target of an investigation is likely to face charges, and Mueller could decide that Trump could never be a target while in office. "Depending on what he says, it could wind up changing how the special counsel is thinking about him".

But experts have noted the risk involved in a testimony from the president, particularly as he has become more direct in his criticism of the investigation.

To prepare for the crisis that Mueller's firing would cause, Howell should review plans made by John J. Sirica, her predecessor as chief judge, to deal with the firing of special prosecutor Watergate Archibald Cox in October 1973. Any interview will be a fraught experience for Trump.

There also remains a legal question about whether a sitting president can be indicted for a crime.

"Mueller hasn't hesitated to [charge] people for lying on some pretty tangential stuff", said Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy independent counsel in the probe of President Bill Clinton.

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