Key Trump Adviser Said to Be Person of Interest in Russia Probe

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign is now focusing on a key White House official as a significant person of interest, The Washington Post reported Friday afternoon.

The newspaper based its report on unnamed “people familiar with the matter” and did not identify the individual now under FBI scrutiny.

According to the report, the investigation will intensify in the coming weeks but that does not imply that criminal charges are on the horizon or that anyone will ultimately be charged.

People familiar with the matter told the Post that investigators remain interested in key figures that played a role in Trump’s campaign and early administration, but have since departed, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after it became known that he had failed to disclose several meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified earlier this month that she had warned the White House Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail for lying to administration officials about the contacts.

Flynn had reportedly signaled to the ambassador that Russia could expect easing of U.S. sanctions under the new administration.

Both the FBI and the Pentagon inspector general are investigating Flynn for foreign payments his company — The Flynn Intel Group — received from the Turkish government for research on cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes instigated a coup attempt last summer.

Flynn’s company received $500,000 for the work, but Flynn registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department retroactively.

An Alexandria, Va. grand jury issued a subpoena last week for some of Flynn’s business-related documents.

The revelation that the Russian probe has reached the White House comes two days after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI chief Robert S. Mueller III to serve as special counsel to the investigation.

After Rosenstein briefed Senators about the investigation on Capitol Hill Thursday, some senators walked away with the impression that it had become criminal in nature.

“It was a counterintelligence investigation before now, it seems to me now to be considered a criminal investigation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Graham clarified, however, that Rosenstein did not explicitly call Mueller’s investigation criminal.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement Friday that the investigation would not uncover any evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling.

On Thursday, President Trump denied allegations of collusion. He called the appointment of Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia probe an unprecedented “witch hunt,” and said it “hurts the country.”

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign,” he said at a White House press conference.

 

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