Mueller says Trump not criminal target

Robert Mueller, the US Justice Department's special counsel, is specifically authorized to investigate allegations that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, colluded with Russian Federation to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, a court filing showed late on Monday.

Mueller's staff told Trump's legal team that they want to ask Trump about why he fired FBI Director James Comey and what Trump knew about contacts between his team and Russian officials. He said he was sorry for what he had done.

At that time, van der Zwaan tried to hide from investigators his contacts with two of the main figures in the Russian Federation probe - former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his number two, Rick Gates, both of whom stand accused of about a dozen crimes, including money laundering. Mueller's team has kept most of the details of what van der Zwaan told them secret.

Alex van der Zwaan just became the first person sentenced in Robert Mueller's investigation.

Van der Zwaan, 33, is married to the daughter of prominent Russian billionaire German Khan, founder of the privately owned Alfa Bank. In other words, the "subject but not a target" designation is at best for Trump meaningless and at worst a sign he's in jeopardy at any moment of becoming a target.

In context, Mueller's statement seems like an attempt to induce Trump to be interviewed by Mueller.

The Post also cited legal experts who said that the president still could become a target of the investigation - particularly if investigators get the necessary information from Trump during a potential interview.

Additional sections of the 2½-page memo were blacked out by prosecutors, indicating that Rosenstein authorized other specific lines of investigation that remain a secret. The target of an investigation is likely to face charges, and Mueller could decide that Trump could never be a target while in office.

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Van der Zwaan received a 30-day prison sentence as well as a $20,000 fine and two months probation.

Manafort, who was indicted a year ago on a series of felony charges related to his work in Ukraine before joining Trump's campaign, has not been charged with any crimes connected to the presidential race.

Mueller's tantalizing disclosure presents Trump's legal team with quite the conundrum: Do they grant the interview and seek exoneration on the collusion front, knowing that Trump might gift-wrap an obstruction of justice case, transforming himself from subject to target in the process?

The judge said she would recommend to US authorities that van der Zwaan be confined at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, followed by two months of supervised release.

The special counsel tells the president's lawyers that he is a "subject", but not a "target", of the investigation.

Trump has consistently denied any links between his presidential campaign and Russian Federation and even called Mueller's investigation a witch hunt. Reportedly, he was opposed the idea of Trump talking to Mueller's team.

The Washington Post's Robert Costa on MSNBC noted that Mueller's report is due to come out in June or July - and that Trump's status could change.

Opponents of Mr Trump hope that the custodial sentence will be the first of many leading all the way to the White House. In that sense, technically speaking, Trump will never officially be a "target" of Mueller's investigation, but that doesn't mean he's out of the woods either politically or legally.