The investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia will take a step forward today when the first charges are handed down.
CNN says a federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first indictments in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, and that people are expected to be taken into custody as soon as this afternoon.
It is not yet known who has been charged - or with what - but the development “sharply escalates the stakes for Donald Trump and his administration”, says The Independent.
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Among those investigated are Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, General Michael Flynn, his short-serving national security adviser and Carter Page, his Russia adviser during the election campaign.
CNN reports that Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas for testimony to a handful of figures close to Manafort and others involved in the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials last summer. FBI agents raided Manafort’s home in July.
Mueller was appointed by the Department of Justice to look into links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Kremlin. He has now extended his investigation to include the business dealings of former Trump aides, the President’s own financial affairs – and whether anyone in the administration tried to obstruct the investigation.
Charging a Trump aide with criminal offences “could upend the presidency and significantly undermine Republican chances in next November’s mid-term elections”, says The Sunday Times.
Democrats are determined to impeach Trump but will need to win back control of the House of Representatives to have any chance of moving against him.
The President has accused the Democrats of a conspiracy against him.
Reviving an old campaign line, Trump said the timing of the indictments was “not coincidental”, before accusing the Democrats of “using this terrible Witch Hunt for evil politics”.
One of his most bullish supporters also jumped to the president’s defence, “to cast doubt on the reach and integrity of the special counsel”, reports The Guardian.
Appearing on multiple TV news shows, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie raised the possibility that Mueller’s team was engaged in criminal leaks to the media and insisted that Trump himself is not under investigation.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board accused Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee of colluding with Russia over the Trump dossier and called for Mueller to resign and the FBI to be investigated for its “role in Russia’s election interference”.
In addition to Mueller’s probe, three congressional and senate committees are conducting their own investigations into alleged election meddling by Russia.
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