Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators have now publicly cast President Donald Trump as a central figure in their probe of possible collusion with Russia — complete with a legal code name: "Individual 1," The Washington Post reported.
Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress when he insisted Trump was not pursuing plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after January 2016, casting Trump's repeated claims he had no business interests in Russia in a new light.
And a draft special counsel document revealed Tuesday also indicates prosecutors are closely scrutinizing Trump's interactions with a longtime adviser, Roger Stone, as he was seeking information about WikiLeaks' plans to release hacked Democratic emails.
Trump's prominence in the prosecutors' papers puts the president in an awkward starring role as, in criminal investigation parlance, a major person of interest, the Post reported.
"It's deeply troubling," former federal prosecutor Glen Kopp said. "It's not a place that anybody wants to be, or where you would want your friends or family to be. And it's certainly not a place that you would want your president to be."
Trump, identified as "Individual 1" in Cohen's guilty plea, was said to have received direct updates from Cohen as he pursued a Moscow Trump Tower project with the Kremlin, up until June 14, 2016.
The president also appears in the draft charging document for Trump ally Jerome Corsi, who allegedly told Stone about WikiLeaks' plans to release damaging Democratic emails in October of that year because he knew Stone was in "regular contact" with Trump.
"This is politically damaging, but I'm not sure how legally damaging it is," constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz told the Post. "This is all about questionable political behavior. It's a good reason for people voting against Trump. But I don't see a crime yet."
But Tim O'Brien, a Trump biographer and frequent critic, said the developments pose new challenges for the president.
"I think the unforgiving grinding force of the U.S. justice system, which he has tried to undermine since he became president, is encircling him," O'Brien told the Post. "I don't think we know where he will land. But he is certainly mired in something that he is ill-equipped, legally and personally, to handle."
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