WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s legal team is looking at ways to push back against the special counsel’s Russia investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday evening.
The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the effort, said Trump’s legal team was trying to find ways to undercut Mueller’s role by amassing allegations of conflicts of interest against him and Trump’s lawyers are also exploring how Trump can use his presidential pardoning powers.
One source with knowledge of the discussion disputed the reports that the legal team is seeking to undermine the Mueller investigation, emphasizing to CNN that the intention is to cooperate fully.
Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of the president’s external legal team, told The Associated Press that the lawyers “will consistently evaluate the issue of conflicts (with Mueller and his investigators) and raise them in the appropriate venue.”
Two people with knowledge of that process told the AP that those efforts include probing the political affiliations of Mueller’s investigators and their past work history.
A source in the Post’s report also said Trump asked if he would be able to pardon himself as it relates to the probe.
According to The New York Times, Trump’s team of lawyers and aides are undertaking a wide-ranging search for conflicts of interest among Mueller and his team — including Mueller’s relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year.
The reports about the effort by Trump’s team come after weeks of Trump publicly airing his grievances over the Justice Department probe, repeatedly calling it a “witch hunt.”
And a senior administration official told CNN that the spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, resigned Thursday.
Trump, in an interview on Wednesday with The New York Times, rebuked current and former law enforcement officials and took issue at length with the executive branch investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and any potential coordination his associates might have had with Russia.
Trump said it would be a “violation” for Mueller to dig through Trump family finances as part of his investigation and left open the possibility that he would try to force Mueller out.
In response to Trump’s comments in the Times, several Republican senators told CNN they were dismayed at what he had said, and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said it would be “catastrophic” for Trump to fire Mueller.
Trump has built up a legal team outside of the White House as the special prosecutor’s office has grown. On Saturday, the White House announced Trump had appointed Ty Cobb, a former federal prosecutor, as White House special counsel.