Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents, including those related to potential business dealings and communications between President Donald Trump's (former?) umbrella company and Russia.
This is the first such subpoena Mueller has issued and indicates that his investigation is inching ever-closer to the President himself. Though issued weeks ago, the subpoena was made public today through reporting by the New York Times.
The subpoena indicates that the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and perhaps other crimes is far from winding down, despite claims by Trump's legal team that the probe was nearing its conclusion.
The New York Times spoke with two people who were briefed on the subpoena:
Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said. 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 issuance of a subpoena by Mueller and his team of investigators also hints that the Trump Organization may not have been as forthcoming in providing documents requested by the Special Counsel, although lawyers for the Trump Organization maintain that they have acted in full compliance and cooperation with the Special Counsel's investigation.
Mueller's jurisdiction includes the authority to investigate any potentially illegal activities that are discovered as part of the Russia probe, which may include financial crimes. One particular area of interest is Trump's attempt strike a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, the goal of which was rumored to be a boost to Trump's campaign.
Also of note was last week's bombshell report of a secret meeting in the Seychelles between Trmp associates and Emirati and Russian businessmen. "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 New York Times wrote. Trump has insisted that neither himself nor his company colluded with Russia during the campaign, and has called any probing of his personal finances a "red line."
“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 Trump Organization lawyer, in a response to the subpoena. “This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to questions about the subpoena during a press conference Thursday afternoon. "We're going to continue to fully cooperate...we're not going to comment for any specific questions about the Trump Organization," Sanders told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent John Karl.
The news surrounding Mueller's latest legal tactic is fueling speculation that Trump may be seeking an avenue which would allow him to fire the Special Counsel. The President is purportedly considering firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with current Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt. Appointments of attorneys general typically require Senate confirmation, but Trump could exercise executive authority and swap Sessions for Pruitt during the Senate's next recess, which will take place from Monday, March 26th to Monday, April 9th.
The irony, however, is that in firing Mueller, Trump would completely undermine his own assertions that he hasn't done anything wrong. Mueller is the only person who could exonerate Trump—firing him would only make the President guilty of something, be it collusion, financial crimes, or any as yet unreported illegal activity during or after the campaign.