2 more Trump associates lawyer up as Mueller's investigation escalates

President Donald Trump's former chief of staff and current White House counsel have hired a lawyer following reports that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to interview them as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Reince Priebus, Trump's former chief of staff, and Don McGahn, the White House counsel, have hired William Burck, a prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Law360 reported this weekend. 

On Friday, it emerged that Mueller is seeking to question Priebus and McGahn as his team examines whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in Trump's favor. In addition to the two men, Mueller also reportedly wants to speak to Hope Hicks, the interim communications director; Sean Spicer, the former press secretary; James Burnham, McGahn's deputy; and Josh Raffel, a top aide who works with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.

RELATED: Reaction to Mueller's appointment to Russia investigation

Reaction to Robert Mueller's appointment to Russia investigation
See Gallery
Reaction to Robert Mueller's appointment to Russia investigation
Trump statement https://t.co/uXbFDYpIqP
My statement on DAG Rosenstein's decisions to appoint a special counsel https://t.co/s7i5LjPcg1
.@SpeakerRyan Statement on the Appointment of Special Counsel https://t.co/YhKhf5YVcV
Appointment of special counsel is very positive. Mueller is a solid choice who will help reestablish public confide… https://t.co/IJnOCOnZIw
Robert Mueller’s appointment is a positive step. I am hopeful that he will help us get to the bottom of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
A special counsel is very much needed in this situation and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has done the right thing.
(1/2) I support the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation. https://t.co/AUVNzmzUk6
(2/2) Bob Mueller was a great U.S. attorney & FBI director. He’s respected, talented and has the knowledge & ability to do the right thing.
Having known him for years, I believe special counsel Mueller is a very good thing. He is one of the best -- indepe… https://t.co/IUnElVxegr
Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder on appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel in Trump/Russia affair: https://t.co/Sowez3yFyl
"He has the expertise and experience, and the guts and backbone to uncover truth," Sen. Blumenthal says of Robert M… https://t.co/gr11ooOMXl
Mueller is a good first step -- but can't take the place of an independent commission free from Trump's meddling. https://t.co/Dv6m4eC7xw
I commend @TheJusticeDept for taking the appropriate step of appointing a special counsel. https://t.co/tBgRzNrMGO
Robert Mueller's appointment as special counsel is a positive step. My statement: https://t.co/6pDM4z8hD4
Senator Collins’ statement on appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel #mepolitics https://t.co/Ku6hk5V75e
Murphy statement on appointment of special prosecutor for investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia https://t.co/yjvIckje66
My full statement on the appointment of Special Counsel to oversee #TrumpRussia investigation… https://t.co/aEphkfSnKs
Mueller does not erase the need for an independent commission. #ProtectOurDemocracy https://t.co/q3ev9tfMWf
.@RonWyden's statement on the appointment of special counsel https://t.co/3DAdwJvJem https://t.co/JV9b1DA3Iu
Here's my statement on appointment of a special counsel to lead FBI Russia investigation: https://t.co/vsGhi6yiXp
My statement on the appointment of a #SpecialCounsel to investigate the troubling #TrumpRussia ties: https://t.co/iGlCWjTxd0
I’m encouraged to see @TheJusticeDept has appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation into #TrumpRussia https://t.co/0WNjIEJSqw
Mr. Mueller is a man of integrity and well chosen. Must ensure he has resources necessary for a rigorous investigation #SpecialCounsel
Bob Mueller is a man of integrity. I have every confidence he will pursue this investigation and follow the facts,… https://t.co/ZYXnqF1QYu
The issue of Russian meddling in our election must be investigated fully & former FBI dir. Mueller is well qualified to oversee this probe.

Each of the aides, The Washington Post reported, was witness to critical discussions that have drawn Mueller's scrutiny. Those events include Trump's bombshell  decision to fire FBI director James Comey  in May, the administration's inaction after it was informed that former national security adviser Michael Flynn  could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail , and Trump's  role in crafting Donald Trump Jr.'s initially misleading statement  about a meeting he took with a Kremlin-connected lawyer last June.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti noted on Sunday that Priebus and McGahn's decision to hire the same lawyer could indicate that the two will mount a joint defense in Mueller's probe. It may also point to the fact that Burck believes the two men will not be at odds with each other in the investigation, and that both will be witnesses rather than defendants.

Priebus was privy to many significant discussions when he served as chief of staff, and he'll likely be questioned about what he knows regarding Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower last June with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, per Law360. Kushner, whom Raffel works for, was also present at the meeting, as was former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 

McGahn was involved in several important discussions involving ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former FBI director James Comey.

McGahn first drew focus after former deputy attorney general Sally Yates told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May that she had warned the White House about Flynn's conversations with Russia's former ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, which took place during the transition period. Flynn did not disclose his contacts with Kislyak, and Yates said that she had "two in-person meetings and one phone call" with McGahn in January to discuss the matter. Yates also briefed Burnham, McGahn's deputy and another aide Mueller wants to interview, on the Justice Department's findings about Flynn.

When Yates told McGahn that Flynn could potentially be subject to Russian blackmail because they were aware he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak, McGahn asked her why the department cared if "one White House official lied to another," according to Yates' testimony. 

Yates told Democratic Sen. Chris Coons that, in the course of their meetings, "Mr. McGahn demonstrated that he understood that this was serious."

Flynn did not resign until mid-February, following The Post's report and weeks after Yates first warned McGahn about his vulnerability. 

McGahn was also a critical part of the process when Trump fired Comey in May, the New York Times reported. Comey's firing prompted deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as special counsel heading up the Russia probe. As part of his investigation, Mueller is reportedly looking into whether Trump fired Comey in an effort to obstruct the FBI's investigation into his campaign.

The weekend before officially dismissing the FBI director, Trump put together a draft letter laying out his reasons for firing Comey, with the help of White House aides Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump. 

McGahn reportedly advised Trump against sending the letter to Comey, and marked up the copy he was given to remove and alter certain details that he may have believed to be problematic. 

"We don't know exactly what McGahn said, but the mere fact that he put a stop to that letter is another piece of evidence that Mueller could use" as part of the obstruction-of-justice case he is building, Mariotti told Business Insider last weekend. If he finds out the details of what McGahn said to Trump, Mueller could "say that 'Donald Trump was warned by the White House counsel that this was a problematic step and decided to do it anyway,'" he said.

The substance of what McGahn told Trump is important — and there's no guarantee that it could be withheld as privileged information, because attorney-client privilege does not hold between a government lawyer and a government employee in response to a grand jury inquiry.  

If it emerges that McGahn "said anything along the lines of, 'There's potential criminal liability if you shut down this investigation,' that would be extraordinarily powerful evidence against Trump," Mariotti said. 

SEE ALSO: It's finally dawned on Trump how much people 'hate' him — and he's pivoting to a new strategy

NOW WATCH: Putin says Trump is not his bride and claims Americans don't know the difference between Austria and Australia

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.