WASHINGTON - Special counsel Robert Mueller, widening his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has subpoenaed documents at the Trump Organization, President Donald Trump’s global business empire.
It was not immediately clear about the extent of the records Mueller was seeking, but The New York Times reported that the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, ordered the New York-based Trump Organization to turn over all documents related to the company's dealings with Russia and other issues Mueller is investigating.
Mueller's quest appears to move his investigation closer to Trump himself, beyond the array of election campaign aides Mueller already has indicted or secured guilty pleas from that were linked in one way or another with Trump’s successful run to a four-year term in the White House. Trump has said that Mueller would be crossing a “red line” if he started investigating the family’s business operations beyond any relationship with Russia.
Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said, “Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the Special Counsel, and is responding to their requests. This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
Mueller’s investigators have appeared in recent weeks to be probing the role money played in Trump’s political operations as the billionaire mogul moved away from running a vast real estate business with sideline consumer product companies offering clothes, wine, steaks and more, to run for public office for the first time.
In one aspect of the probe, Mueller’s investigators have recently questioned an adviser to the United Arab Emirates about the movement of Emirati money into the U.S.
Mueller also has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities on charges of meddling in the U.S. election, accusing them of sowing discord online in the U.S. with an array of fake news stories and commentary about divisive American issues in the months ahead of the 2016 election. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two dozen Russian individuals and entities for their alleged cyber attacks linked to the U.S. election and other malicious online activities.
Trump ignored government ethics critics who said he should divest his business holdings to avoid conflicts of interest with government decisions he would be making when he assumed power in January 2017. He instead opted to hand over day-to-day management of the Trump Organization to his two eldest sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, and other company officials, but retain ownership of his worldwide business operations.
While the White House repeatedly has said it is cooperating with Mueller in handing over campaign documents and other information the investigators have sought, Trump has often ridiculed the notion that his campaign colluded with Russian interests to help him win. He has branded investigations into any Russian connections with his campaign as a “witch hunt” employed by opposition Democrats to explain Trump’s upset win over former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.