Trump-Russia collusion investigations

Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization, as Democrats allege it  dealt with a sanctioned Russian bank

US stocks fall after report that special counsel has set his sights on Trump’s business links to Russia

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 3:07am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 9:45pm

The Trump Organization, which is owned by US President Donald Trump and run by his sons, took a pummeling on Thursday as Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed it for documents and claims emerged of dubious Russian dealings.

Mueller has demanded documents from the organisation, including some related to Russia, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing two people briefed on the matter.

Meanwhile, Democrats in a separate investigation into possible collusion have alleged in a memo that the Trump Organization was “actively negotiating” a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election campaign.

US stock prices fell on the report of Mueller’s subpoena with the S&P 500 reaching session lows, while the dollar slipped against the euro and yen and yields on US government debt moved lower.

The Trump Organization, an umbrella company including global real estate, hotel, and golf course properties as well as licensing, sales and brand development operations, did not directly confirm the latest subpoenas, and downplayed the Times report as “old news”.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Asked for comment on the development, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We are going to continue to cooperate” with Mueller.

Details of the subpoena were not available, the Times reported. Mueller is investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and potential collusion by Trump aides.

Republican-led House panel finds ‘no evidence’ of Trump-Russia collusion

This is the first known time he has demanded materials directly related to US President Donald Trump’s businesses. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on the Times report.

Witnesses interviewed by Mueller have been asked about a possible real estate deal in Moscow, although the Trump Organization has denied having any real estate holdings in Russia, the Times reported.

Also on Thursday, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee – who have had access to internal Trump Organization documents and interviewed key witnesses – announced the alleged 2016 bank deal.

Trump has personally denied that he ever had business dealings with Russia. In a tweet that was published shortly before his 2016 inauguration, he said he had “nothing to do with Russia – no deals, no loans, no nothing”.

But doubts about the veracity of that statement began to emerge last August, when The New York Times published emails from a long-time business associate of Trump called Felix Sater, who boasted that he had lined up financing for a Trump Tower in Moscow with VTB Bank, which is under US sanctions.

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It is not clear from the Democrats’ memo whether the deal they are referring to is the same deal mentioned in Sater’s emails.

In another email obtained by the newspaper, Sater wrote that he would get “Putin on this programme and we will get Donald elected”.

Trump eventually signed a non-binding “letter of intent” for the project to go forward and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, told The New York Times that they had discussed the project three times. The Moscow project did not go ahead.

Now the memo released by Democrats suggests investigators have confirmed that the Trump Organization was deeply involved in Moscow talks, and that the talks involved a bank that was under US sanctions. The Democrats did not indicate the source of their information.

The Democrats’ statement came days after Republicans on the House intelligence committee said they had concluded that Trump’s 2016 campaign had not colluded with Russian operatives and that the committee was nearing the end of its investigation.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, called the decision a “capitulation” to the White House. 

The Democrats then released a 21-page memo detailing some of the committee’s findings, outstanding questions and a long list of witnesses that had yet to be questioned by the committee.

Trump ‘asked witnesses what they told Mueller’: New York Times

The memo stated that congressional investigators had – among many open questions – not yet determined whether Trump campaign officials had received advanced knowledge of or access to emails that had been hacked by Russians from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The memo stated that there were “critical unanswered questions” about the sources of Trump’s personal and corporate financing, including his relationship with his biggest lender, Deutsche Bank.

 It said it needed answers about whether the Russian government, through “business figures close to the Kremlin”, was seeking to launder funds through the Trump Organization, and whether Trump’s financial exposure – through his debt with Deutsche Bank – gave a point of leverage to Russia.

Republicans on the House intelligence committee shared their own draft report about the committee’s investigation with Democrats this week.

Mueller turns his spotlight on Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen

Mike Conaway, a Republican from Texas, said they had not found any signs of collusion but that the panel had found some incidents of “bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment at taking meetings”.

It was an apparent reference to a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Russian nationals and Trump campaign officials.

Russia itself has denied US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it meddled in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion with Moscow.

Mueller has charged several Trump associates and more than a dozen Russians.