Paper says Mueller probe looking at obstruction


President Donald Trump is reportedly being investigated by the special counsel for possible obstruction of justice.

The probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI chief, "marks a major turning point in the almost year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin", The Washington Post reported.

Former FBI Director James Comey suggested in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that Mueller would consider whether a crime was committed when Trump allegedly told him "I hope you can let this go", referring to the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey's firing is a "central moment that's being looked at" in the investigation, Post reporter Devlin Barrett told NPR's Ari Shapiro, "but it's not the only thing".

Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and Rogers's recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller's investigators as early as this week. No longer is he merely focused on Moscow's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, meaning Mueller appears also to be zeroing in on Trump's actions since taking office on January 20.

The NSA said in a statement that the "NSA will fully cooperate with the special counsel".

The news is also more likely to push Trump toward forcing Mueller out as he continues to look for a way to lift the cloud of the Russian Federation scandal that has hovered over the White House since he took office.

"The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal", the statement read.

Trump hasn't invoked executive privilege so far, but the two intelligence chiefs were careful about publicly discussing anything that could fall under that protection. Experts point out that the Supreme Court ruled during the Watergate scandal that officials can not use privilege to withhold evidence in criminal prosecutions.

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The obstruction of justice investigation into Trump began days after Comey was sacked on May 9, the Post said.

Mueller, himself a widely respected former head of the FBI, has now taken up the angle of possible efforts by Trump to obstruct justice in the investigation, the Post said.

Sessions criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which the White House had initially cited as the ostensible reason for his firing.

In his testimony on June 8, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believed Trump had fired him over his role as lead of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the USA election and Trump campaign associates' possible ties to Russia. The Post said both men refused the president's request.

Mueller is overseeing a host of investigations involving people who are or were in Trump's orbit, people familiar with the probe were quoted as saying.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the accusation in the Post unfounded and said it "changes nothing".

Coats was attending a briefing at the White House together with officials from several other government agencies.

The Washington Post previously reported that Trump also asked Rogers and Coats to push back against the FBI's investigation.

He also said Comey should have shared his concerns about the Trump conversation with another Justice Department official, Dana Boente, who was then acting deputy attorney general, and would have been Comey's direct supervisor.