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The special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election is now also probing whether President Donald Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, The Washington Post said in a report.
The move by special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump's conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, the daily said in the report on Wednesday night.
The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the President began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to sources with the knowledge of the development.
Mueller's office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.
Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates.
Trump had received private assurances from former FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. However, that changed shortly after Comey's firing, the sources said.
Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and Rogers's recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller's investigators as early as this week.
The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI, the sources told The Washington Post.
The NSA said in a statement that it will "fully cooperate with the special counsel" and declined to comment further. The office of the director of national intelligence and Ledgett has not responded.
In response to the report, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, said: "The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal."
Comey testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he gave a detailed account of his conversations with the president, whom he said asked him for his "loyalty" and insinuated that his job as FBI chief might depend on providing such a pledge.
Mueller, who headed the FBI for 12 years and was Comey's predecessor in the post, has the confidence of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
The crime of obstruction of justice could lead to a move to impeach Trump in Congress, something that some Democratic lawmakers have called for, provided that the unfolding facts prove that to be warranted.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)