Far from wrapping up his probe, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team appears to have arrived at the senior tier of President Donald Trump’s advisers early this year. After CNN reported that Steve Bannon agreed to a voluntary informal interview with Mueller and his team, the New York Times is reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by Mueller and his team as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
However, unlike Bannon, the Sessions interview has a deeper significance: It marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel are known to have interviewed a member of President Trump’s cabinet.
A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed the story.
Sessions announced in March that he would recuse himself from all matters related to the 2016 election, including the Russia probe, before appointing Mueller, a former FBI director, to be special counsel in charge of the investigation. Sessions aroused suspicion by neglecting to tell Congress that he met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.
The NYT previously reported that Trump had lobbied Sessions not to recuse himself. Reports have surfaced in recent months that Mueller is pivoting his investigation to examine reports of obstruction of justice that have already been refuted by fired FBI Director James Comey.
Sessions was also deeply involved in Comey’s firing, which occurred after Trump asked Comey to “let this go” – referring to the DOJ’s investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
Sessions was accompanied by Chuck Cooper, a longtime Washington lawyer, to the interview. Mueller has brought charges against Flynn, former Trump Campaign executive Paul Manafort, Manafort’s No. 2 Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.