White House staff are reportedly so worried about the ongoing Russian probe, some of them fear their colleagues are secretly wearing recording devices to surreptitiously collect conversations for special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
As the White House begins handing over documents requested the team led by Mr Mueller and investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, there is mounting anxiety – and disagreement – about how to respond to the prosecutor’s demands.
This disagreement spilled out in public at a steak restaurant close to the White House, where two lawyers working for Donald Trump held a loud and indiscreet conversation in earshot of a reporter from the New York Times.
The reporter said one of the lawyers, veteran Washington attorney Ty Cobb, was telling, John Dowd, who earlier this year took over as Mr Trump’s lead personal lawyer, that the White House needed to “get ahead” of the issue. He criticised the actions of another lawyer, White House Counsel Don McGahn, who he said was being too slow.
“The White House counsel’s office is being very conservative with this,” Mr Cobb reportedly said.
The report said anxiety in the White House was such that some staff no longer felt able to trust their colleagues.
“Not only do Mr Trump, Jared Kushner and Mr. McGahn all have lawyers, but so do other senior officials,” the newspaper said.
“The uncertainty has grown to the point that White House officials privately express fear that colleagues may be wearing a wire to surreptitiously record conversations for Mr Mueller.”
Mr Mueller, himself a former FBI Director, is heading an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged attempt to interfere with the 2016 election. He was asked to do so after Mr Trump fired his own FBI Director, James Comey, in May.
Mr Trump has repeatedly denied colluding with Russia. Russia has denied trying to interfere with the election, even though the US intelligence community believes there is clear clear evidence it did.
Mr Mueller, whose team of 17 prosecutors includes experts in transnational crime and money laundering, has in recent week started to focus on Russia’s potential manipulation of social media, including platforms operated by Facebook and Twitter.
He said obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election. Facebook…