Trump Lawyer Says Mueller Illegally Obtained Transition Emails

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December 17, 2017

As the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has helped produce a series of indictments and guilty pleas, Republicans have increased their attacks on him, saying his investigation is being run by partisans. – Alex Wong/Getty Images

December 17, 2017

As the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has helped produce a series of indictments and guilty pleas, Republicans have increased their attacks on him, saying his investigation is being run by partisans. – Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A lawyer for President Trump has accused the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of illegally obtaining emails and other records from Mr. Trump’s transition team, the latest in the mounting attacks by the president and his surrogates on Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

The lawyer said in a letter to Congress on Saturday that the General Services Administration, the government agency that possessed the transition team’s emails, had handed over the materials to Mr. Mueller’s investigators in August without allowing lawyers for the transition team to review them. The documents, the lawyer argued, should have been shielded by various privileges, like attorney-client privilege.

In a rare public statement, a spokesman for Mr. Mueller’s office defended how the emails had been obtained.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office.

As Mr. Mueller has produced a series of indictments and guilty pleas in recent weeks, Republicans have increased their attacks on him, saying his investigation is being run by partisans. Democrats have called the attacks a blatant effort to discredit an investigation that seems to be pushing closer to the Oval Office.

Among the materials obtained by Mr. Mueller were emails, laptops and cellphones for nine members of Mr. Trump’s transition team who worked on national security and policy matters, according to the letter by the Trump lawyer, Kory Langhofer.

Mr. Mueller’s investigators have used the documents during interviews with transition team officials when questioning them about calls between Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and the Russian ambassador in which they discussed American sanctions.

The materials, Mr. Langhofer argued, were the property of the transition team, and therefore it should have had the chance to decide what was given to investigators.

“The materials produced by the G.S.A. to the special counsel’s office therefore included materials protected by the attorney-client privilege, the deliberative process privilege, and the presidential communications privilege,” Mr. Langhofer, the counsel to Trump for America, said in the letter, which was sent to the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate and House oversight committees.

Republicans have seized on the notion of a biased inquiry after the disclosure that Mr. Mueller removed one of the top agents working on the investigation, Peter Strzok, this year after the discovery of text messages between him and a colleague in which they described the possibility of an election victory by Mr. Trump as “terrifying” and said that Hillary Clinton “just has to win.”

In addition, Republicans have said one of Mr. Mueller’s top prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, may also be biased against Mr. Trump because he praised the acting attorney general in a January email for not enforcing Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, praised Mr. Mueller in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday for removing Mr. Strzok but said “there are others” whom Mr. Mueller needs to examine.

“There are plenty of F.B.I. agents and prosecutors who have not been politically involved on behalf of Democrats or overtly critical of the president that can serve in this important investigation,” Mr. Cornyn said.

He added: “So I have confidence in Director Mueller. I would just think he would be concerned about the appearance of conflicts of interest that would undermine the integrity of the investigation.”

The growing criticism of Mr. Mueller has fueled speculation that Mr. Trump may fire him. On Sunday, a top Trump administration official dismissed that possibility.

“There’s no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House,” Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Short said he had not communicated with Mr. Langhofer, the transition lawyer, but expressed concern that the length and scope of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry had tested public patience.

“Taxpayers have spent millions and millions of dollars on this investigation that has not yet proven any sense of collusion with the Russians,” he said. “I think the American people are ready to turn the page.”


Courtesy/Source: NY Times