Breaking: Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization for Russia Documents

Ken AshfordBreaking News, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

From The New York Times reporting:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

Neither White House officials nor Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, immediately responded to requests for comment. The Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller about it.

Much more at the link, but the real outstanding question is why use the subpoena rather than the normal investigator to corporate legal counsel request letter or letters. The reason for the Special Counsel’s decision to go this route is unclear and/or unknown at this time.

UPDATE: This might be the answer…

Another big consideration: In July Trump told NYT that Mueller would be “crossing a red line” if he investigated his family’s finances, which he argues is outside of the scope of Russia-related matters. This subpoena crosses that line. It is the first known demand for Trump’s business records.

Two people familiar with the subpoena told NYT that Mueller is requesting some documents related to Russia from the Trump Organization, though the organization maintains that they have never had real estate in Russia.

  • But in 2015 Felix Sater, one of Trump’s longtime business associates, sent an email to Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, bragging about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also encouraged Trump to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, saying it would help him win the election. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in the email, according to NYT. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
  • NYT notes that Trump signed off on a “letter of intent” for the Trump Tower project in Moscow in 2015 (though it was nonbinding) and he later discussed it with Cohen three times.
  • Witnesses recently interviewed by Mueller’s team have been asked about this real estate deal, per NYT.

Will Mueller get fired for crossing the line? One way to get a sense of the White House reaction to this revelation is to turn on Fox News.

Immediately after the report, Fox News turned to its chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge. Herridge revealed she had already spoken to Trump’s lawyers about the the New York Times report. She then articulated a harsh criticism of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

Herridge noted that it has already been reported that Mueller has been investigating whether the United Arab Emirates tried to financially influence the Trump campaign. This, Herridge claimed, meant that Mueller had already exceeded the authority granted to him by the Justice Department.

She then set her sights on Rod Rosenstein. “Every time Mr. Mueller goes beyond that mandate,” Herridge said, “it’s not like he’s a rogue actor. He has to get the permission of the deputy attorney general. What we know is that he’s had Rod Rosenstein’s permission to go beyond that original mandate…”

Herridge suggested the subpoenas could indicate another expansion of the investigation approved by Rosenstein.

Another consideration — this subpoena was served WEEKS AGO, so Trump has known about it for a while

The knives are out….