Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election has drawn closer to President Donald Trump than ever before.
In recent weeks, Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization, the president's sprawling business and real estate empire, and ordered it turn over all documents pertaining to Russia as well as to other matters being investigated, two people briefed on the matter told the New York Times.
The subpoena marks the first time Mueller has inquired directly about the Trump Organization's role, but the scope of his investigation remains unclear, as do reasons as to why Mueller didn't just request the documents rather than order them, as the Times noted. It is also another clear indication that Mueller's ongoing investigation is likely to last many more months, despite assurances from Trump's lawyers that it would be wrapped up hastily. When elected, Trump turned over daily business operations to his two sons, but he has retained a revocable trust that he can pull money from at any time.
Mueller has expanded the scope of his investigation as of late and has delved into the international financial backing that may have helped Trump's bid for office during the campaign.
The president signed a "letter of intent" in 2015 for a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, the Times noted. The proposal was first sent to the president's lawyer Michael Cohen, and originated from Felix Sater, a longtime business associate of Trump's who said that the deal could help Trump's campaign. Trump discussed the potential construction project with Cohen on three occasions.
The Trump Organization has cooperated with and turned documents over at the request of Congressional investigations, and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have said the president's business empire. was "actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank," The Guardian reported.
It's not yet known if House Democrats were referring to the same proposal made by Sater and discussed between Trump and Cohen, or if it is something entirely different. The announcement by Democrats came only days after House Republicans had determined in their own (ideologically compromised) investigation that there was "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the election, a report that has fueled concerns that the investigation has turned increasingly partisan.
Trump, however, has repeatedly and confidently denied any and all wrongdoing. He has previously threatened a "red line" if Mueller began digging into his family's financial dealings. Trump has not yet issued a tweet on the latest news, but with the White House in a state of chaos amid staff shake-ups, an even bumpier ride might be ahead.