In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: “Individual 1.”
New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, The Washington Post reports.
Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.
On Thursday, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress when he insisted that Trump was not pursuing plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after January 2016, casting Trump’s repeated claims that he had no business interests in Russia in a new light. A draft special counsel document revealed Tuesday also indicates that prosecutors are closely scrutinizing Trump’s interactions with a longtime adviser, Roger Stone, as Stone was allegedly seeking information about WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked Democratic emails.
Legal experts said it’s still unclear how much peril the president might face as a result of the new evidence Mueller has gathered about the Moscow project and WikiLeaks, but his prominence in the prosecutors’ papers puts the president in an awkward starring role.
“It’s deeply troubling. It’s not a place that anybody wants to be, or where you would want your friends or family to be,” former federal prosecutor Glen Kopp said. “And it’s certainly not a place that you would want your president to be.”
Trump, identified as “Individual 1” in Cohen’s guilty plea, was said to have received direct updates from Cohen as he pursued a Moscow Trump Tower project with the Kremlin, up until June 14, 2016. The president also appears in the draft charging document for Trump ally Jerome Corsi, who allegedly told Stone about WikiLeaks’ plans to release damaging Democratic emails in October of that year because he knew Stone was in “regular contact” with Trump. The Washington Post reported this week that Trump spoke with Stone the day after he got the alert from Corsi.