Donald Trump 'seeking to pardon himself' in Russia probe

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President Trump has reportedly asked advisors how he can pardon himself, his family and his inner circle if they face legal action as a result of the deepening investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.

The president is examining ways to protect himself from the probe, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Trump is said to have asked his lawyers about the pardon option as his legal team look into limiting or undercutting inquiries by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI investigation into possible links between the Kremlin and the president’s election team.

‘This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ a close aide told the paper.

The president’s legal team is also said to be hard at work trying to prove conflicts of interest on Mr Mueller’s staff. The aim is to thwart the investigation by forcing out those investigators, reported the New York Times.

A conflict of interest is possible grounds for a Special Council to be removed from office under US Department of Justice rules.

In an interview this week, Mr Trump warned Mr Mueller to stay away from his financial affairs and focus solely on the accusation that Moscow meddled in the last presidential election. He is reportedly furious that his tax returns could be scrutinised.

Every president since Jimmy Carter has made their tax returns public, but Mr Trump has repeatedly refused to release them.

Turmoil behind the scenes burst into the open last night with the resignation of Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Mr Trump’s legal team.

He was said to be opposed to publicly criticising Mr Mueller and insiders told Politico he believed there was too much ‘in-fighting’ for him to do his job properly.

Mr Trump has branded the probe a ‘witch hunt’ and is particularly concerned that the inquiries have expanded way beyond the original remit.

He is already under investigation for alleged obstruction of justice for firing FBI Director James Comey after reportedly asking him to drop inquiries into his national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Mr Trump has refuted Mr Comey’s accusation, saying the conversation never happened.

In an interview yesterday, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, said the legal team will steadfastly defend the president’s position.

‘The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel’s office and any changes in the scope of the investigation,’ Mr Sekulow told the Post. 

‘The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate. If there’s drifting, we’re going to object.’

The day after Mr Trump said he would consider an expansion into Mr Mueller’s probe into his business dealings ‘a violation’, Bloomberg News claimed the Special Counsel was looking into some of his property deals, including one with a Russian oligarch who purchased a Palm Beach mansion from Mr Trump for in 2008. 

‘They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago. In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation,’ added Mr Sekulow.

Mr Mueller’s appointment following Mr Comey’s dismissal gave him the authority to investigate ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’ and any crimes committed in response to the investigation, such as perjury or obstruction of justice, said the Post.

The president vehemently critcised his Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week for his decision to remove himself from the Russia probe and effectively pave the way for the independent Special Counsel to be brought in to oversee the investigation.

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