A separate criminal investigation is reportedly taking over into the President’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whilst investigators are casting a wider net in their probe of alleged connections between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The Trump administration tried to end sanctions on the Russians as soon as Trump took office, a report says.
Highly respected former FBI director Robert Mueller is heading the special counsel investigating the ties, which may also take a look into the roles of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the decision of Trump to fire former FBI director James Comey.
The probe into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials is predated by the criminal investigation into Mr Manafort, who was forced to leave the Trump campaign amid revelations that he had lucrative business deals in Ukraine years ago. Moscow’s influence in the 2016 election began being investigated by the counterintelligence probe since last July.
The actual range of the investigations into the Russian connections to the Trump campaign is so far unknown and Mr Mueller’s special counsel hasn’t commented publicly on the investigations. Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is also attracting more attention as the scope has grown, according to reports.
The Ukrainian connections to Mr Manafort are robust. Manafort once worked closely with a Russian billionaire and Russian politicians, he has also received millions of dollars in payments from pro-Russia sources. According to reports from US intelligence officials, those connections reportedly led some Russian officials to discuss the potential ways of influencing him during the 2016 campaign. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was also the focus of attention during those discussions.
Allegations that the President himself tried to obstruct justice in asking Mr Comey to stop the FBI’s investigation into Mr Flynn and the drip of revelations about the extent of Russian officials connections with Mr Trump’s team have rocked Washington in recent weeks and months.