2 more Trump associates lawyer up as Mueller's investigation escalates – Business Insider

reince priebusFormer
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Associated Press/Alex Brandon

President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff and current White
House counsel have hired a lawyer following reports that special
counsel Robert Mueller wants to interview them as part of
his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Reince Priebus, Trump’s former chief of staff, and Don McGahn,
the White House counsel, have hired William Burck, a prominent
white-collar criminal defense attorney from Quinn Emanuel
Urquhart & Sullivan, Law360 reported
this weekend. 

On Friday, it emerged that Mueller is
seeking to question
Priebus and McGahn as his team
examines whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt
the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. In addition to the two
men, Mueller also reportedly wants to speak to Hope Hicks,
the interim communications director; Sean Spicer, the former
press secretary; James Burnham, McGahn’s deputy; and Josh Raffel,
a top aide who works with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and
senior adviser.

Each of the aides, The Washington Post reported, was
witness to critical discussions that have drawn Mueller’s
scrutiny. Those events include Trump’s
bombshell 
decision
to fire FBI director James Comey
 in May, the
administration’s inaction after it was informed that former
national security adviser Michael Flynn 
could
be vulnerable to Russian blackmail
, and
Trump’s 
role
in crafting Donald Trump Jr.’s initially misleading
statement
 about a meeting he took with a
Kremlin-connected lawyer last June.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti noted on
Sunday that Priebus and McGahn’s decision to hire the same lawyer
could indicate that the two will mount a joint
defense in Mueller’s probe. It may also point to the fact
that Burck believes the two men will not be at odds with each
other in the investigation, and that both will be witnesses
rather than defendants.

Priebus was privy to many significant discussions when he
served as chief of staff, and he’ll likely be questioned about
what he knows regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting at Trump Tower
last June with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, per
Law360. Kushner, whom Raffel works for, was also present at
the meeting, as was former Trump campaign chairman Paul
Manafort. 

Don McGahnWhite House counsel Don
McGahn.
Drew Angerer/Getty
Images

McGahn was involved in several important discussions
involving ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, and
former FBI director James Comey.

McGahn first drew focus after former deputy attorney
general Sally Yates told the Senate
Judiciary Committee
 in May that she had warned the White
House about Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s former ambassador
to the US, Sergey Kislyak, which took place during the transition
period. Flynn did not disclose his contacts with Kislyak, and
Yates said that she had “two in-person meetings and one phone
call” with McGahn in January to discuss the matter. Yates also
briefed Burnham, McGahn’s deputy and another aide Mueller wants
to interview, on the Justice Department’s findings about
Flynn.

When Yates told McGahn that Flynn could potentially be
subject to Russian blackmail because they were aware he had
misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with
Kislyak, McGahn asked her why the department cared if “one
White House official lied to another,” according to Yates’
testimony. 

Yates told Democratic Sen. Chris Coons that, in the course
of their meetings, “Mr. McGahn demonstrated that he understood
that this was serious.”

Flynn did not resign until mid-February, following The
Post’s report and weeks after Yates first warned
McGahn about his vulnerability. 

McGahn was
also a critical part of the process
 when Trump fired
Comey in May, the New York Times reported. Comey’s firing
prompted deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to appoint
Mueller as special counsel heading up the Russia probe. As part
of his investigation, Mueller is reportedly looking into whether
Trump fired Comey in an effort to obstruct the FBI’s
investigation into his campaign.

The weekend before officially dismissing the FBI director,
Trump put
together a draft letter laying out his reasons for firing
Comey
, with the help of White House aides Stephen Miller,
Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump. 

McGahn reportedly advised Trump against sending the
letter to Comey, and marked up the copy he was given to remove
and alter certain details that he may have believed to be
problematic. 

“We don’t know exactly what McGahn said, but the mere fact that
he put a stop to that letter is another piece of evidence that
Mueller could use” as part of the obstruction-of-justice case he
is building, Mariotti told Business
Insider
 last weekend. If he finds out
the details of what McGahn said to Trump, Mueller could “say
that ‘Donald Trump was warned by the White House counsel that
this was a problematic step and decided to do it anyway,'” he
said.

The substance of what McGahn told Trump is important — and
there’s no guarantee that it could be withheld as privileged
information, because attorney-client privilege does not hold
between a government lawyer and a government employee in response
to a grand jury inquiry.  

If it emerges that McGahn “said anything along the lines of,
‘There’s potential criminal liability if you shut down this
investigation,’ that would be extraordinarily powerful evidence
against Trump,” Mariotti said. 

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