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Trump faces flurry of investigations despite conclusion of Mueller probe

Reuters archive | US Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on Russian election interference to the US attorney general on Friday, closing one of the key probes into Donald Trump. But the US president still faces a host of other investigations.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation into Russian election interference and has submitted a report to Attorney General William Barr, who will decide how much of the report will be made public.

The end of the 22-month probe without additional indictments by Mueller was welcome news to some in Trump's orbit, who had feared a final round of charges could ensnare more Trump associates or even members of the president's family.

Speculation has swirled about the possible legal jeopardy faced by Donald Trump Jr., who helped arrange a Trump Tower meeting during the 2016 election campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was interviewed at least twice by Mueller's prosecutors.

Mueller has charged 34 people, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Twenty-five Russians were indicted on charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign that spread disinformation on the internet. Three Russian companies were also charged.

Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller and a sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress about the Russia-hacked emails released by WikiLeaks and engaged in witness-tampering.

>> Trump's troika: Manafort, Page, Stone and the rush to Congress

The Mueller report is currently available to only a handful of Justice Department officials while Attorney General Barr prepares to submit the "principal findings" of the report to Congress, as required by law. In a Friday letter to lawmakers, he declared he was committed to transparency and speed, adding that he might provide more information as soon as this weekend.

With no details yet released, it's not known whether Mueller's report answers the core questions of his investigation: Did Trump's campaign collude with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 presidential election? And did Trump later take steps to obstruct the probe, notably by firing his FBI director?

Trump controversially fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 and later admitted he did so with the "Russia thing" in mind, thus sparking calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate possible obstruction of justice.

Trump was never interviewed in person for the probe; he submitted answers to Mueller's questions in writing.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Mueller had referred any additional investigations to the Justice Department. It is also unclear what steps Mueller might take if he uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Trump, given Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

But no matter the findings of Mueller's report, the investigation has already outlined Russia's attack on the US political system, revealed the Trump campaign as eager to exploit hacked Democratic emails and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia contacts.

Legal trouble brewing in New York

Nor does the conclusion of Mueller's investigation remove legal peril for the president. Trump faces a separate Justice Department investigation in New York into hush money payments made during the 2016 campaign to two women who say they slept with him years before. He has been implicated in a potential campaign finance violation by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty and said Trump asked him to arrange the transactions. Federal prosecutors in New York have also been investigating foreign contributions made to the president's inaugural committee.

>> 'Conman' Trump broke law in office, Cohen tells Congress in explosive testimony

Federal and state prosecutors are pursuing "about a dozen" other investigations that have been prompted in part by the Mueller probe, the New York Times reported. The number of additional investigations that have been launched based on Mueller's work is unknown, however, since many remain secret. 

It is known that the special counsel has transferred certain lines of inquiry for possible prosecution to other US attorneys' offices, including the Southern District of New York located in Manhattan, the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia.

Other investigations focusing on the president, the Trump Organisation or his associates are "being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn", wrote The New York Times. About half are centred in the Southern District of New York.

“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was a former US attorney in the Southern District, in comments to the Times.

“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Martin said.

The delivery of the confidential findings on Friday set off immediate demands from Democrats for Mueller's report and the supporting evidence collected to be made public. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared it "imperative" to release the full report.

"The White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public," they said in a joint statement.

After winning back the house in November midterms, Democrats launched sweeping probes into Trump, ensuring that the special counsel would not be the only one leading an inquiry into Russian interference or possible wrongdoing by the president.

Barr has said he wants to make public as much of the report as possible, and any attempt to withhold its details are sure to prompt a clash between the Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers, who could subpoena Mueller and his investigators to testify before Congress.

California Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, on Friday threatened to issue a subpoena if necessary to obtain all of the evidence Mueller collected over the course of the investigation.

In a letter earlier this month, the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees asked for information on the private in-person and telephone conversations Trump has had with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Thursday the White House rejected the request.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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