- Thomson Reuters
- The special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents related to its financial dealings, including with Russia, The New York Times reported.
- The move brings Mueller one step closer to the “red line” President Donald Trump said the special counsel would cross by venturing into the Trump family’s finances.
- In particular, Mueller is said to be scrutinizing the company’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in late 2015 and early 2016, at the height of Trump’s presidential bid.
The special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents, including those related to Russia, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The move would mark the first time Mueller has sought documents related to Trump’s businesses, bringing the special counsel closer to the “red line” the president said he would cross by venturing into the Trump family’s financial dealings.
The Russia investigation has expanded to encompass whether foreign governments, including those other than Russia, sought to influence Trump’s platform.
Witnesses interviewed by Mueller told The Times that, in particular, Mueller was scrutinizing the Trump Organization’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in late 2015 and early 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign.
Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was in touch with Felix Sater, a Russia-born businessman, about the Trump Tower Moscow deal in October and November 2015, when Trump was a Republican presidential candidate.
Sater first sent a letter of intent to Cohen outlining the terms of the “Trump World Tower Moscow” deal on October 13, 2015, The Times previously reported. Andrey Rozov, a Russian investor, had already signed it by the time Sater forwarded it to Cohen for Trump’s signature.
Sater attached a note addressed to Cohen that The Times’ Maggie Haberman shared on Twitter last year.
“Lets make this happen and build a Trump Moscow,” Sater wrote. “And possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce & business are much better and more practical than politics. That should be Putins message as well, and we will help him agree on that message. Help world peace and make a lot of money, I would say thats a great lifetime goal for us to go after.”
Weeks later, the two men exchanged a series of emails gearing up to celebrate the Trump Tower Moscow deal. In the emails, obtained by The Times, Sater bragged about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and told Cohen he would “get all of Putins team to buy in” on the deal.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote, according to The Times.
Sater added: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”
- Stephanie Keith/Reuters
Sater told Talking Points Memo last August that his “last Moscow deal” for the Trump Organization “was in October of 2015” but that it “didn’t go through because obviously he became president.”
“Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally,” Sater said. “We were still working on it, doing something with it, November-December” of that year.
Cohen was apparently advocating the project as late as January 2016, when he contacted Dmitry Peskov, a top aide to Putin, about pushing the Trump Tower Moscow deal through.
“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote to Peskov, according to The Washington Post, which cited a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled.”
Cohen continued: “As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Cohen told Vanity Fair last year that the proposal from Sater was “business as usual and nothing more,” describing it as “just another project, another licensing deal.” He added that he had “really wanted to see this building go up, because the economics were fantastic.”
Asked by The Times’ Michael Schmidt and Haberman last year about whether an investigation into Trump’s finances would breach that red line, Trump answered, “I would say yeah.”
“By the way, I would say, I don’t – I don’t – I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?” Trump said. “I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make – from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t.
“They said I made money from Russia; I don’t,” Trump continued. “It’s not my thing. I don’t – I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years.”
Trump did not say how he might respond if Mueller were to cross the line.
“I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he told The Times.
The Trump Organization didn’t respond to The Times’ request for comment on Thursday, though the newspaper noted that the organization had previously cooperated with the congressional committees’ Russia investigations.