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The special counsel investigating Russian meddling in last year's presidential election has now expanded the probe and is examining whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice, according to a report.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Robert Mueller's investigation into the election has now widened to include the president. The probe reportedly zeroed in on Trump after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey in May, who testified last week he believed he was terminated because of his investigation into Russia's influence on the election.
“I was fired because of the Russia investigation… to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” Comey said. “That is a very big deal.”
Citing multiple unnamed officials, the Post reported that the investigation into Trump began within days of Comey's termination. As the head of the FBI, Comey had been in charge of the Russia investigation, which began last year.
Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment, but did not deny the Post report in a statement issued to media moments after the story was published.
“The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal,” Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for Kasowitz, said.
Investigators have also been looking into potential financial crimes committed by Trump's associates, the Post reported.
The investigation into Trump reportedly will involve interviewing Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers, and Richard Ledgett, who recently resigned his post as a deputy director at the NSA. Officials told the Post that investigators were interested in a March 22 conservation during which Trump pulled Coats aside and discussed the Russia investigation.
Coats reportedly said after that conversation that Trump asked if he could get the investigation to change its focus away from Michael Flynn, the president's first national security advisor who was ousted in February.
The conversation with Coats happened after Comey testified to congress that the FBI was investigating the possibility that Trump's campaign coordinated efforts with the Russians.
Comey's firing has been a source of considerable controversy for the Trump administration. Last week, in addition to saying he was fired over the Russia investigation, Comey accused the White House of spreading “lies, plain and simple” about him and the FBI.
The former FBI director also discussed detailed memos he kept after his interactions with Trump because “I knew there might come a day where I might need a record to defend not just myself but the FBI,” he said. The memos catalog several pivotal moments Comey allegedly had with Trump, including the president demanding “loyalty.”
Obstruction of justice is a serious crime. However, a finding that Trump committed wrongdoing wouldn't spark an ordinary criminal case because it is unclear, and according to many experts unlikely, that a sitting president could be indicted. However, Congress could review any findings of wrongdoing and decide to move forward with the impeachment process.