WASHINGTON • Special counsel Robert Mueller has alerted the White House that his team will likely seek to interview six top current and former advisers to President Donald Trump who were witnesses to several episodes relevant to the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the request.
Mr Mueller's interest in the aides, including trusted adviser Hope Hicks, former press secretary Sean Spicer and ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus, reflects how the probe that has dogged Mr Trump's presidency is starting to penetrate a closer circle of aides around the President.
Each of the six advisers was privy to important internal discussions that have drawn the interest of Mr Mueller's investigators, including Mr Trump's decision in May to fire FBI director James Comey and the White House's initial inaction following warnings that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had withheld information from the public about his private discussions in December with Russia's ambassador to the US, according to people familiar with the probe.
The advisers are also connected to a series of internal documents that Mr Mueller's investigators have asked the White House to produce, according to people familiar with the special counsel's inquiry.
In addition to Mr Priebus, Mr Spicer and Ms Hicks, Mr Mueller has notified the White House he will likely seek to question White House counsel Don McGahn, and one of his deputies, Mr James Burnham.
Mr Mueller's investigators may also want to interview Mr Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Mr Spicer declined to comment, while Mr Priebus did not respond to a request for comment. Mr Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer focused on the probe, declined to comment on behalf of current White House aides Mr McGahn, Mr Burnham, Ms Hicks and Mr Raffel.
Mr Mueller's team is waiting to first review the documents, which the White House has been working to turn over for the last three weeks.
But people familiar with the probe said the documents Mr Mueller has requested strongly suggest the topics that he and his investigators would broach with the aides.
Courts have held that the President does not enjoy attorney-client privilege with lawyers in the White House Counsel's Office and their testimony about their Oval Office dealings can be sought in investigations.
Mr Spicer had been drawn into the White House's handling of the Flynn matter before the inauguration. As chief of staff, Mr Priebus was involved in many of Mr Trump's decisions, including the situations involving Mr Flynn and Mr Comey.
Ms Hicks, who is now White House communications director, and Mr Raffel were both involved in internal discussions in July over how to respond to questions about a Trump Tower meeting that Mr Donald Trump Jr organised with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign in the summer of 2016.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she was not aware of a specific request by Mr Mueller, but said the White House will not try to block any interviews. "We've been very clear that the White House will be fully cooperative and transparent through this process," she said on Friday.
Mr Mueller will seek to interview other aides, and the staffers will have to obtain their own legal counsel, a White House source said.
WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG