A white sedan whisked a man into the loading dock of a glass and concrete building in a drab office district in Southwest Washington. Security guards quickly waved the vehicle inside, then pushed a button that closed the garage door and shielded the guest’s arrival from public view.
With his stealth morning arrival Thursday, White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II became the latest in a string of high-level witnesses to enter the secretive nerve center of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Twenty hours later, Mueller and his team emerged into public view to rattle Washington with the dramatic announcement that former national security adviser Michael Flynn would plead guilty to lying to the FBI.
The ensnaring of Flynn, the second former aide to President #Trump to cooperate with the inquiry, serves as the latest indication that Mueller’s operation is rapidly pursuing an expansive mission, drilling deeper into Trump’s inner circle.
In the past two months, Mueller and his deputies have received private debriefs from two dozen current and former Trump advisers, each of whom has made the trek to the special counsel’s secure office suite.
Once inside, most witnesses are seated in a windowless conference room where two- and three-person teams of FBI agents and prosecutors rotate in and out, pressing them for answers.
Among the topics that have been of keen interest to investigators: how foreign government officials and their emissaries contacted Trump officials, as well as the actions and interplay of Flynn and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Mueller’s group has also inquired whether Flynn recommended specific foreign meetings to senior aides, including Kushner. Investigators were particularly interested in how certain foreign officials got on Kushner’s calendar and the discussions that Flynn and Kushner had about those encounters, according to people familiar with the questions.
Often listening in is the special counsel himself, a sphinx-like presence who sits quietly along the wall for portions of key interviews.
This picture of Mueller’s operation — drawn from descriptions of witnesses, lawyers and others briefed on the interviews — provides a rare look inside the high-stakes investigation that could implicate Trump’s circle and determine the future of his presidency.
The locked-down nature of the probe has left both the witnesses and the public scrutinizing every move of the special counsel for meaning, without any certainty about the full scope of his investigation.