Members of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team were told to save materials relevant to the federal investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a memo obtained by Politico and The New York Times.
The instruction, which came from the team’s lawyer, Kory Langhofer, details how both volunteers and aides must “preserve any physical and electronic records that may be related in any way to the subject matter of the pending investigations.” The Times reports:
The so-called preservation order covers any transition team information involving Russia or Ukraine. It also seeks any background investigation records involving the former manager of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, and his business partner, Rick Gates; the former foreign policy adviser Carter Page; and the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
Records involving Roger Stone, the informal Trump adviser and confidant, must be similarly preserved.
The memo includes specific instructions for travel-related materials, as well. According to Politico’s reporting, transition-team members must turn over: “emails, voicemails, text messages, instant messages, social media posts, Word or WordPerfect documents, spreadsheets, databases, telephone logs, audio recordings, videos, photographs or images, information contained on desktops, laptops, tablet computers, smartphones or other portable devices, calendar records, and diary data.”
Failure to follow protocol, the memo warns, “could result in criminal or civil penalties, and could form the basis of legal claims, legal presumptions, or jury instructions relating to spoliation of evidence.”
The Times and Politico reports join a flurry of recent news stories that suggest the Russia inquiry led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is ramping up. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Mueller, who was appointed in May, “is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.” The House and Senate intelligence committees are also examining Russia’s influence on the election.
The president, meanwhile, continues to characterize these investigations as a “witch hunt.” He hired Marc Kasowitz, a New York corporate attorney and his longtime legal fixer, last month to represent him personally. And on Thursday, the Post reported that Vice President Mike Pence hired former federal prosecutor Richard Cullen as his outside counsel.