Report: Trump lawyer alleges special counsel 'unlawfully' obtained transition emails

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey arrive at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington. A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery of an exchange of text messages seen as potentially anti-President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several people familiar with President Donald Trump's transition organization say special counsel Robert Mueller's team has gained access to thousands of private emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration.

The investigators did not directly request the records from the transition and may have raised legal issues by obtaining the messages from a separate federal agency.

A transition attorney sent letters Saturday to Congress saying Mueller's investigation was provided "unauthorized disclosure" of transition records by the General Services Administration. The agency often stores presidential transition records on its computers.

The people familiar with the transition spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the records' sensitivity. They say the materials included communications from more than a dozen Trump officials, including Michael Flynn.

Multiple news outlets have confirmed the report and the allegations of unlawful disclosure made by Trump transition team lawyer, identified as Kory Langhofer.

On Saturday, Reuters reported that Langhofer, the counsel to Trump for America, Inc. (TFA), wrote that Special Counsel Mueller’s team "had improperly received the emails from the General Services Administration."

The letter stated that career staff members at the General Services Administration (GSA) "unlawfully produced TFA’s private materials, including privileged communications, to the Special Counsel’s Office," according to Reuters.

The GSA is responsible for providing the president-elect and his incoming administration with services and facilities needed during the transition of power, including the preservation of documents.

Fox News also obtained a copy of Langhofer's letter which raised concerns about alleged "unauthorized disclosures" by the GSA to Mueller's team of investigators.

"We understand that the special counsel’s office has subsequently made extensive use of the materials it obtained from the GSA, including materials that are susceptible to privilege claims," Langhofer wrote.

Fox reported that the letter was delivered to the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight Committee.

It's unclear how revelatory the email accounts maintained by the GSA will be for Mueller. Several high-level Trump advisers sometimes used other email accounts to communicate about transition issues between Election Day and the inauguration.

Mueller's spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to comment. Jay Sekulow, an attorney on Trump's personal legal team, referred questions to the transition group. Neither GSA representatives nor Flynn attorney Robert Kelner were immediately available to respond to AP's emailed requests for comment.

Officials with Trump for America learned last Wednesday that GSA officials had turned over the massive cache of emails to Mueller's team. The transition group's top officials were alarmed because many of the emails that Mueller's investigators now have are sensitive records ranging from national security discussions about possible Trump international aims to candid assessments of candidates for top government posts, said those familiar with the transition.

Officials with Trump for America had been bracing for months for the prospect that Mueller's team would demand its emails, but they had been assured that any requests to the GSA would be routed to the transition organization, which claims legal ownership of the records. According to those familiar with the transition group, a top GSA official informed Trump for America last June that any request from Mueller's office would be referred to the transition.

On Sept. 1, after requests in late August from Mueller's office, the GSA turned over a flash drive containing tens of thousands of records without informing Trump for America of its move, those familiar with the transition said.

Those records included emails sent and received by 13 senior Trump transition officials.

The media site Axios first reported on the transfer of the emails to Mueller's team.

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