'First charges filed' in US probe into alleged Russian meddling

WASHINGTON • At least one person has been charged in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, media reports said, citing sources briefed on the matter.

The person could be taken into custody as soon as tomorrow, the sources said, according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

It was not clear, however, what the charges were or who the target or targets were, as the indictment was sealed under orders from a federal judge, reported Reuters.

The filing of charges by the grand jury in Washington was first reported on Friday by CNN.

US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help Mr Donald Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and embarrassing e-mails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with those Russian efforts.

"If the Special Counsel finds it necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorised to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters," Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein said in a May 17 letter appointing Mr Mueller.

Sources familiar with Mr Mueller's investigation said he has used that broad authority to investigate links between Trump aides and foreign governments as well as possible money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

AUTHORISED TO PROSECUTE

If the Special Counsel finds it necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorised to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.

DEPUTY ATTORNEY-GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN

Mr Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr Mueller, declined to comment on Friday.

Mr Trump, a Republican who was elected President last November, has denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and condemned investigations into the matter as "a witch hunt".

The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Mr Mueller's investigation also includes an effort to determine whether Mr Trump or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice.

The Special Counsel's team has conducted interviews with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House officials.

In July, FBI agents raided the home in Virginia of Mr Trump's former campaign manager, Mr Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mr Mueller's team.

Mr Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation a week after Mr Trump fired then FBI director James Comey, who was heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia.

Mr Trump initially said he fired Mr Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate and hurt morale, but in a later interview with NBC he cited "this Russia thing" as his reason.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline ''First charges filed' in US probe into alleged Russian meddling'. Print Edition | Subscribe