Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia
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from The New York Times
It was not clear why the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, issued the subpoena instead of simply asking for the documents from the company. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
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 instance of the special counsel demanding records 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 records 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.
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’s order.
“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,” said Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reiterated during her daily briefing that the president was cooperating with the inquiry and referred questions to the Trump Organization.
The Trump Organization has said that it never had real estate holdings in Russia, but witnesses recently interviewed by Mr. Mueller have been asked about a possible real estate deal in Moscow. In 2015, a longtime business associate of Mr. Trump’s emailed Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, at his Trump Organization account claiming he had ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and said that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would help Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Trump signed a nonbinding “letter of intent” for the project in 2015 and discussed it three times with Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Mueller could run afoul of a line the president has warned him not to cross. Though it is not clear how much of the subpoena is related to Mr. Trump’s business beyond ties to Russia, Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times in July that the special counsel would be crossing a “red line” if he looked into his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia. The president declined to say how he would respond if he concluded that the special counsel had crossed that line.
A month before Mr. Trump spoke of his red line, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, threatened to quit after Mr. Trump asked him to have Mr. Mueller fired because the president believed he had conflict-of-interest issues that precluded him from running the special counsel investigation.
Mr. Mueller was appointed in May to investigate whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election and any other matters that may arise from the inquiry. He is also examining whether the president has tried to obstruct the investigation.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are in negotiations with Mr. Mueller’s office about whether and how to allow his investigators to interview the president. Mr. Mueller’s office has shared topics it wants to discuss with the president, according to two people familiar with the talks. The lawyers have advisedMr. Trump to refuse an interview but the president wants to do it, as he believes he has done nothing wrong and can easily answer investigators’ questions.
At the same time, Mr. Trump is considering whether to bring on a new lawyer to help represent him in the special counsel’s investigation. Last week, Mr. Trump spoke with Emmet Flood, a longtime Washington lawyer who represented former President Bill Clinton during the impeachment process, about coming into the White House to deal with the inquiry.
Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.