White House could use ethics rule to hamper special counsel on Russia: report

White House could use ethics rule to hamper special counsel on Russia: report
© Greg Nash

The White House is looking into a federal ethics rule barring recently hired government employees from investigating their law firm's clients for two year after leaving the practice, Reuters reported Friday.

If the White House invokes the rule, it could hamper the special counsel investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel for the probe on Wednesday. But Mueller's former law firm Wilmerhale also represents Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort. That fact could significantly stymie Mueller's ability to conduct a sweeping investigation of Trump and his associates, according to Reuters.

The Justice Department, however, can waive the wait period for Mueller. It is a wait period that Trump extended from one year to two years with an executive order signed in January.

Trump called Mueller's appointment as special counsel a "witch hunt" that "hurts our country terribly." He has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Russia is accused of attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

The White House faced a series of controversial revelations over the past 10 days following the president's abrupt firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the agency's Russia investigation. 

On Tuesday, a report uncovered evidence that Trump asked Comey in February to end the FBI's probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned in February amid revelations that he misled senior White House officials about the nature of his conversations with Russia's ambassador.

The Washington Post reported earlier on Friday that the FBI has identified a White House official close to Trump as a person of interest in its Russia investigation, and that the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks.