Mueller does not consider Trump a criminal target ‘at this point’

WASHINGTON: US Special Counsel Robert Mueller told President Donald Trump's lawyers last month he was continuing to investigate the president but did not consider him a criminal target in the Russia probe "at this point," the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Mr Mueller, in private negotiations early last month about a possible presidential interview, described Mr Trump as a subject of his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, said the Post, which cited three unnamed people familiar with the discussions.

Mr Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and his former lawyer John Dowd did not immediately comment.

The Post said Mr Mueller also told Mr Trump's lawyers that he was preparing a report about the Republican president's actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice.

"Mueller reiterated the need to interview Mr Trump - both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe,"the newspaper said.

It said Mr Trump and some in his inner circle interpreted Mr Mueller's words as assurance that his risk of criminal jeopardy was low, while other advisers cautioned that Mr Mueller was baiting the president into an interview.

Mr Mueller is also investigating potential collusion between Mr Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.

Legal experts said Mr Mueller's description of Mr Trump as a subject of a grand jury probe does not mean he is in the clear.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will try to convince a federal judge to throw out criminal charges filed against him by Mr Mueller, arguing Mr Mueller has overstepped his legal authority.

Manafort filed a civil lawsuit on Jan 3 against Mr Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a key legal test of how far the special counsel's mandate extends.- REUTERS