Mueller prosecutors ‘tying up loose ends’ as Trump-Russia investigation nears endgame

Tom Barnes

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is reportedly close to concluding his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Suggestions the former FBI director is reaching the endgame of his near two-year investigation into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign come in a week where prosecutors are also set to publish memos on three key defendants.

The documents are likely to reveal to what extent Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, long-time lawyer Michael Cohen and campaign chief Paul Manafort cooperated with the probe.

Mr Mueller’s prosecutors have told defence lawyers in recent weeks they are “tying up loose ends” as they now prepare to bring the long-running investigation to a close, Yahoo News reported.

There had been a suggestion that prosecutors would file their memo on Manafort under seal to prevent details of further offences Mr Mueller believes the lobbyist may have committed becoming public.

However, it is understood details involving Manafort, who has already been convicted of several fraud offences as a result of the investigation, will now be published, albeit with some redactions.

Manafort, Flynn and Cohen all accepted plea deals for various offences uncovered by the investigation.

Cohen, who previously claimed he would “take a bullet” for Mr Trump, appears to have particularly annoyed the president by co-operating with Mr Mueller’s team.

The former lawyer pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about negotiations he had on Mr Trump's behalf for a real estate deal in Moscow.

Though he initially claimed talks about a potential Trump Tower in the Russian capital ended in January 2016, he later recanted his story and admitted they lasted as late as June – after Mr Trump had secured the Republican nomination and after Russians had penetrated Democratic email accounts for communications later released through WikiLeaks.

Cohen said he lied out of loyalty to the president, who insisted throughout the campaign that he had no business dealings in Russia.

On Monday, Mr Trump attacked Cohen on Twitter following reports his defence were attempting to avoid a jail term, calling for the lawyer to serve a full sentence and claiming he “makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself.”

“You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term?” the president added.

Minutes later, Mr Trump lavished praise on his former campaign adviser Roger Stone, who Mr Mueller’s prosecutors are investigating over claims he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr Trump lauded Mr Stone for saying he would never testify against the president.

“This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump,’” he tweeted. “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”

The president’s outburst drew concern in some quarters, including from Democratic senator Mark Warner, who claimed the tweet could amount to witness tampering.

“The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign,” Mr Warner said.

David Weinstein, a former justice department prosecutor in Florida, said he was surprised by Mr Trump's comments, but didn't believe the tweet alone constituted obstruction or witness tampering because it did not explicitly tell anyone what to say or what not to say.

“What he seems to be saying is that people who continue to show support for him, in some way, may be rewarded for that support,” Mr Weinstein said.

“I don't think it rises to the level of obstruction yet, but it certainly would cause people who are conducting the investigation to start asking questions about whether or not the target has reached out to them.”

Additional reporting by AP