Donald Trump has largely remained out of the line of fire regarding the Russia investigation, but that could soon change.
While Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has brought a number of indictments related to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, there has not yet been any public evidence connecting any directly to Donald Trump. But Mueller’s team is planning to make the closest link to Trump yet, CNN reported, arguing at the trial of former campaign manager Paul Manafort that his fraud was directly related to work on Trump’s campaign.
Manafort’s trial is scheduled to start in Virginia later this month and he faces a number of charges including fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, and conspiracy. While the evidence presented so far ties this to Manafort’s work in Ukraine and before he joined Trump’s campaign, Mueller’s team said they planned to show a direct link to Donald Trump’s campaign.
As The Hill noted, lawyers representing Donald Trump’s former campaign manager had asked that Trump not be mentioned at all during the trial, but it now appears that Mueller has plans to tie Manafort’s fraud directly to his work with Trump.
“The development marks the first sign that Manafort’s role as Trump campaign chairman will be mentioned in this month’s trial,” the report noted. “Manafort’s lawyers had previously requested that any mention of Trump be kept out of the trial, over concerns that it could influence jurors who already have a strong opinion of the president.”
While Donald Trump still has not been implicated in any conspiracies to collude with Russia, this marks the closest the Mueller investigation has come to the president himself. It also comes as Trump team has made attempts to put off an interview with Mueller’s investigators.
Trump lawyer and media surrogate Rudy Giuliani said they want Mueller to provide evidence that Trump committed a crime before they agreed to an interview.
“Trump and his team have become increasingly frustrated with how long Mueller’s probe is taking to complete, and Trump in particular has taken a more aggressive stance toward Mueller since the Department of Justice criticized the FBI’s actions in 2016 in relation to the Hillary Clinton email probe,” Fox News noted. “The new demands by Trump’s legal team indicate that it is likely to take a more aggressive and combative stance toward Mueller going forward.”
Paul Manafort’s trial is scheduled to start July 25 in Virginia.