WASHINGTON – The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and e-mail correspondence from the White House, covering everything from the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director to his White House's handling of a warning that the Trump national security adviser was under investigation, according to two people briefed on the requests.
White House lawyers are now working to turn over internal documents that span 13 different categories that investigators for the special counsel have identified as critical to their probe, the two people said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed in May in the wake of Trump firing FBI Director James Comey, took over the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians in that effort.
The list of requests was described in detail by two people briefed on them. Both insisted on anonymity.
The requests broadly ask for any document or e-mail related to a series of highly publicized incidents since Trump became president, including the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Comey, the people said. The list demonstrates Mueller's focus on key moments and actions by the president and close advisers that can address whether Trump sought to block the FBI investigations of Flynn and of Russian interference. His team is also eyeing whether the president sought to obstruct the earlier Russia probe.
The special counsel team's work has zeroed in recent months on Paul Manafort, a former chairman of the Trump campaign, and Flynn. An official close to the probe said both men are under investigation.
Mueller's agents have questioned witnesses and business associates of both men about whether the men sought to conceal the nature of consulting work they did that could benefit foreign governments. In a raid of Manafort's home last month, agents sought to seize records related to Manafort's finances.
Over the past few weeks, White House lawyer Ty Cobb began sending a series of records to the special counsel. Cobb is working within the White House to gather more documents and has told staff and other lawyers that he hoped to turn over more this week.
Cobb declined to discuss the subjects that Mueller's team has questioned him about. "We are committed to cooperating fully. Beyond that I can't comment," Cobb said.
Mueller also asked for any e-mail or document the White House holds that relates to Manafort, the two people briefed said. He resigned from the campaign before the election, amid scrutiny of his work for a Ukrainian political party aligned with the Russian government.
Mueller has requested that all internal communications and documents related to the FBI interview of Flynn in January, days after he took office, as well as any document that discusses Flynn's conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December. Mueller has also asked for records about meetings Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates held with White House Counsel Don McGahn in late January to alert him to Department of Justice concerns about Flynn and all documents related to Flynn's subsequent firing.
Mueller has asked for all documents related to meetings between Trump and Comey while Comey served at the FBI, records of any discussions regarding his firing and any documents related to a statement by then-press secretary Sean Spicer made on the night Comey was fired. That includes documents related to a meeting Trump held with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov the day after Comey was fired.
Mueller has also asked for all records related to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer hosted by the president's son, as well as all documents related to the White House's response to the publication of that meeting in July 2017.