Russia probe: Mueller accused of unlawfully obtaining e-mails

WASHINGTON • An organisation established for United States President Donald Trump's transition to the White House has said the special counsel investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election had obtained tens of thousands of e-mails unlawfully.

Mr Kory Langhofer, counsel to the transition team known as Trump for America Inc (TFA), wrote a letter to congressional committees on Saturday to say that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team had improperly received the e-mails from the General Services Administration (GSA), a government agency.

Career staff members at the agency "unlawfully produced TFA's private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel's Office", according to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

It said the materials included "tens of thousands of e-mails".

Mr Trump's transition team used facilities of the GSA, which helps manage the US government bureaucracy, in the period between Mr Trump's November presidential election victory and his inauguration in January.

The Trump team's accusation adds to the growing friction between the President's supporters and Mr Mueller's office as it investigates whether Russia interfered in the election and if Mr Trump or anyone on his team colluded with Moscow.

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said: "We continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel and expect this process to wrap up soon."

The Special Counsel's Office waved off the transition team's complaint. "When we have obtained e-mails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process," said its spokesman, Mr Peter Carr.

The GSA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Democrats say there is a wide-ranging effort by the President's allies on Capitol Hill and in some media outlets to discredit Mr Mueller's investigation. Mr Trump himself has loudly declared it a waste of time.

Mr Langhofer's letter asked for Congress to act immediately "to protect future presidential transitions from having their private records misappropriated by government agencies, particularly in the context of sensitive investigations intersecting with political motives".

On the transition team were a number of aides who were later caught up in Mr Mueller's investigation, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Mr Flynn pleaded guilty this month to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russia.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'Russia probe: Mueller accused of unlawfully obtaining e-mails'. Print Edition | Subscribe