Word has leaked that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team just sent his first known Russia related records subpoena to the Trump Organization.
Two people familiar with the Special Counsel’s investigation say that a Russia related subpoena duces tecum to supply documents has been received by the president’s personal holding company – the Trump Organization – which owns a complex worldwide web of over 500 subsidiaries.
Last July, President Trump personally said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a ‘red line’ if they inquired into his business dealings in Russia, which has necessitated subpoenas for his financial records from Deutsche Bank. But the Times reports today that Mueller doesn’t put much stock in Trump’s threats, with that red line having been firmly been crossed:
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.
Neither White House officials nor Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, immediately responded to requests for comment.
Donald Trump spent the entire 2016 presidential campaign denying having any business ties with Russia, which we know now to be an utterly shameless lie.
A Russian Trump Tower project was announced in 2013 concurrently with the decision to hold the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow with Aras Agalarov, a Putin-connected real estate developer, but the sanctions levied against Russia in response to their invasion of Ukraine put a cork in those ambitions.
During the election, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen personally wrote a high ranking Kremlin official asking for help in another Trump Tower project.
But today’s news of a subpoena for Trump’s Russian documents ups the ante to comply with Mueller’s demands significantly, as MSNBC’s Ari Melber notes.
Senior congressional source says that Mueller beginning with a subpoena, rather than typical document request, suggests special counsel intends to put every Trump Org staffer on alert not to destroy evidence.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 15, 2018
If the Trump Organization fails to comply with Mueller’s demands, they could be hauled in front of the judge to face criminal contempt of court charges.
But there’s another alternative which could direct the Special Counsel’s investigation down investigative avenues; the Trump Organization could plea the Fifth Amendment and refuse to turn over self-incriminating evidence.
It has been eight months since Donald Trump publicly announced his theoretical ‘red line’ to Special Counsel Mueller, now, we will see just how firm that line stands in the face of a very real demand for information that the Trump Organization probably does not want to hand over.