The Rachel Maddow Show – TheMaddowBlog
Mueller interviews one of Trump’s ‘closest friends and confidants’
By Steve Benen May 7, 2018
Then FBI Director Robert Mueller arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2012, to testify during a hearing. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team have spoken to a long list of people, but the Associated Press added an important name to the list over the weekend.
Investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller have interviewed one of President Donald Trump’s closest friends and confidants, California real estate investor Tom Barrack, The Associated Press has learned.
Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
We don’t yet know what topics Mueller’s team covered with Barrack. One of the AP’s sources, for example, said the discussion “focused entirely” on former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates. Another AP source said, however, that the interview with Barrack “was broader and did include financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration.
And while I have no idea which of the sources is correct, the fact that Mueller’s investigators sat down with Barrack at all is an important development – because when it comes to the cast of characters surrounding the president, Barrack is a highly interesting figure.
He and Trump have been associates for decades, for example, and when the Republican launched his presidential campaign, Barrack became a prominent fundraiser.
But that’s not all he did. As the New York Times reported last spring, it was Barrack who brought Paul Manafort onto Trump’s campaign team (where Manafort worked for free, despite his financial difficulties). The Washington Post added in the fall that when Manafort was forced to resign from the Republican candidate’s team, he “left the country and headed for Barrack’s yacht off of the coast of Greece.”
The same article went on to note, “Barrack then hired Manafort’s right-hand man, Rick Gates, as deputy chair of Trump’s inaugural committee.” (Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy and lying to the FBI, and he’s now a cooperating witness.)
That inaugural committee, of course, was led by Barrack, and it also became controversial over its questionable finances.
Or put another way, there’s no shortage of things federal investigators might want to talk to him about.