Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have reportedly hinted during questioning of witnesses at multiple possible routes to President Trump — what he may have known about WikiLeaks and the theft of Democratic emails, and whether he was leaning on Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.
Citing “multiple people familiar with the probe,” NBC News reported that his lawyers have asked about Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the email releases, which were timed to be damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton, plus such related matters as the relationship between GOP operative Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
U.S. intelligence officials have said that Wikileaks got from Russia the emails from the Democratic National Committee and key Clinton ally John Podesta. Coordination with the Trump campaign on their release, plus whatever the candidate knew about the matters, would be, if true, at the heart of Mr. Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Also on Wednesday, other “people familiar with the matter” told The Washington Post that Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors are focusing on a period last summer when the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions seemed badly frayed and the tycoon-turned-president seemed determined to drive out his Justice Department head.
The questioning, according to the Post, seemed aimed at whether those efforts were part of a lengthy pattern of actions aimed at obstructing the Russia probe, a matter on which Mr. Trump had been publicly critical of Mr. Sessions.
Mr. Trump, before and after his stunning election victory, has denied any collusion with Russia, and has often called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.”
According to NBC News, Mr. Mueller’s investigators are focusing on an off-the-cuff remark Mr. Trump made in July 2016, when Mrs. Clinton’s missing emails — she had deliberately wiped her server clean — were at the front of the news, as were the first Wikileaks reports.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said.
According to NBC’s sources, witnesses have been asked about why Mr. Trump said that and what knowledge it may have reflected.
The Trump team has dismissed that remark as the kind of impromptu crack, mashing together the day’s headlines, that Mr. Trump already had long been known for, and on every topic.