Special counsel Robert Mueller will reportedly interview three key White House officials in his ongoing probe into whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 presidential race.
On Nov. 20, sources familiar with the Russia investigation disclosed that the Mueller team was slated to interview White House communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn and communications aide Josh Raffel.
"It is my hope and expectation that shortly after Thanksgiving, all the White House interviews will be concluded," White House special counsel Ty Cobb told CNN.
Mueller is probing the extent of the Russian government's meddling during the 2016 election, whether members of the Trump campaign aided those efforts and whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.
On Oct. 30, the Mueller probe indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate, Rick Gates, for several financial crimes and conspiracy against the U.S. Manafort and Gates have been accused of laundering millions of dollars from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party into the U.S. without disclosing the funds in their taxes. Both men have pleaded not guilty, The New York Times reports.
That same day, the Department of Justice unsealed a guilty plea from former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who had lied to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Hicks, who served as a Trump campaign spokesperson, reportedly received several emails during the presidential race that were believed to be relevant to the Mueller probe. Considered a close Trump confidante, Hicks would potentially be able to confirm or deny whether the president was aware that several of his campaign associates had contacts within the Russian government.
McGahn, the head of the White House legal team, was involved in the firing of former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and the subsequent dismissal of Comey.
Raffel is a communications aide for Trump's son-in-law, White House special adviser Jared Kushner. Raffel reportedly helped craft the White House response to the controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised compromising information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
On Nov. 19, the Mueller probe requested the DOJ turn over a trove of documents related to the Comey dismissal and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, ABC News reports.
Former White House lawyer Adam Goldberg of the Clinton administration said the Mueller probe's planned interview with Hicks marked a sign that the investigation had reached a late stage.
"Any time you can get someone who is the right-hand person or who's been around the primary target of an investigation, under oath, answering detailed questions, means you've progressed very far along in the investigation," Goldberg told Politico.