US special counsel subpoenas Trump Organization: report

US special counsel subpoenas Trump Organization: report
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U.S. President Donald Trump looks up during a meeting about healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Washington: The special counsel investigating Moscow’s influence on the US election has subpoenaed the company founded by Donald Trump to turn over documents related to Russia, a report said today, bringing the probe closer to the president. For the first time since launching his investigation, Robert Mueller had subpoenas delivered to the Trump Organization in recent weeks ordering it to hand over all documents related to Russia and other issues under investigation, The New York Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter.

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. The revelation comes as Mueller, who is also examining Moscow’s alleged collusion with the Trump campaign, has appeared to try to broaden his investigation to include the influence that foreign money may have played on Trump’s political activities.

Mueller has begun probing efforts by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to get foreign investors beyond Russia to provide financing for his company during the presidential transition, CNN reported last month. The special counsel has so far indicted 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 US presidential race, and six other people including four former Trump aides or staffers.

Trump has warned Mueller against stepping beyond the original scope of his investigation and zeroing in on the Trump family’s business transactions. In an interview with the Times last July, the president said that the special counsel would be crossing a “red line” if he probed his family’s finances beyond any relationship with Russia.

But he stopped short of saying whether he would seek to fire Mueller for taking such action. Among the documents that might be targeted by Mueller are those related to proposals to build a Trump Tower skyscraper in Moscow in 2015. Last year a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the Kremlin had received an email in January 2016 from the Trump Organization’s chief counsel at the time, Michael Cohen, asking for support for the project.

The email was never passed to Putin, the spokesman said, and the project never materialized. On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly denied ties to Russia. In a July 2016 interview with CBS he said he had “nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.” The report of the subpoena came on the day the Trump administration announced it was slapping sanctions on Russia’s top spy agencies and more than a dozen individuals for trying to sway the election.

AFP