Donald Trump’s claims that Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has no evidence against him could be taking a major hit.
Special counsel Robert Mueller requested on Thursday that a portion of Paul Manafort’s trial related to Trump remain secret and off the official record because it will reveal “substantive evidence” related to the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the New York Daily News reported. That would seem to stand in contrast to Trump’s constant claims on Twitter that the investigation is a “witch hunt” being conducted by “angry Democrats” with a political grudge against him.
In the filing, Mueller asked that a discussion between trial attorneys and Judge T.S. Ellis be kept secret because the transcript would “reveal details of the ongoing investigation.” That sidebar conversation has not been made public yet.
“Disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” the filing states. “The government’s interest in protecting the confidentiality of its ongoing investigations is compelling and justifies sealing the limited portion of the sidebar.”
As the New York Daily News noted, the request could mean that Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, would be working with investigators related to Trump’s campaign and possible connections to Russia.
The request came as Mueller’s team has been in negotiations with Trump’s lawyers for the president to sit down for an interview. The two sides have reportedly been unable to agree to the terms of this interview, with Trump’s team trying to narrow the scope of questions and ask that those about obstruction of justice be left out.
As CNN analyst Stephen Collinson noted, it appears that these negotiations will drag on and could cast a dark cloud over the upcoming midterm elections that could culminate with a subpoena of the president if he does not agree to sit down for an interview.
“If Mueller does brandish a subpoena and the President’s legal team decides to fight it, they will be taking a major political risk, since it could look to some midterm voters like the President fears sitting down with the special counsel and has something to hide,” the report noted.
A previous report from the Associated Press noted that Trump has been watching the Manafort trial closely and sees it as a “warning shot” from Robert Mueller.
It was not clear if Judge Elliott would agree to keep the Trump-related portion of Paul Manafort’s trial secret.