Special prosecutor Robert Mueller, investigating Russian meddling in last year's U.S. election, is now also looking at the financial affairs of President Donald Trump. Mueller is examining records about hundreds of millions of dollars in loans Deutsche Bank made to Trump's vast real estate empire, according to media reports.
Mueller subpoenaed the records several weeks ago, according to Reuters and Bloomberg News. The bank said it complied with the request, but offered no details about its transactions with the U.S. leader.
Mueller's examination of the financial records appears to open a new path in his investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia and whether he obstructed justice by firing former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey while he headed the Russia probe. That was before Mueller was appointed by a top Justice Department official to replace him.
Trump said several months ago he would consider it a "a violation" of Mueller's mandate to investigate Moscow's interference in the election if he expanded the probe into Trump family finances beyond any connection with Russia. Trump has often complained about the congressional and Mueller probes into Moscow's links with his campaign aides as a "witch hunt" and an excuse by Democrats to explain his upset win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
After the one-time White House national security adviser, former Army general Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty last week to lying to FBI agents investigating his conversations with Moscow's ambassador to Washington, Trump said he felt "very badly" for him. Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller's investigation.
According to various disclosures Trump has filed with U.S. and local government agencies, Deutsche Bank in recent years loaned him $106 million to buy the Doral golf resort in Florida, $170 million to restore the Old Post Office building not far from the White House where Trump has opened a luxury hotel and occasionally dines in its restaurant and $640 million for his hotel and condominium building in Chicago.
Before running for president, Trump turned to the German bank for credit after U.S. financial interests grew wary of extending him more money after he suffered a string of financial setbacks, including at his operation of casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Trump, unlike previous U.S. presidents dating back four decades, has refused to make public his U.S. tax returns that would show his year-to-year income. A billionaire, he is the richest U.S. president ever, although some analysts have questioned whether his assets total $10 billion as he claims.
While he still owns an array of companies, Trump, before he became president last January, turned over the day-to-day operation of the Trump Organization to his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and a long-time executive at the firm.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian interference in the election, said Mueller's subpoena of the Trump financial records from Deutsche Bank "would be a very significant development. If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family."
He noted that "Donald Trump Jr. has stated publicly that the Trump Organization has received substantial funding from Russia, and there have been credible allegations that Russian nationals may have used Trump properties to launder money."
Schiff said months ago, Democrats on the House Intelligence panel sought to subpoena Deutsche Bank's Trump records, but were rebuffed by the majority Republicans on the committee.