The U.S. special counsel’s investigation of potential links between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election season has now expanded to include the president’s own finances, according to Bloomberg.
The investigation will reportedly examine several real estate deals involving Trump-owned properties and Russian buyers, as well as the Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow in 2013.
The probe’s expansion comes amid revelations that the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., received an email informing him that a Russian government-linked source had damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that the effort was part of a Russian government attempt to help the Trump campaign. Trump, Jr. did not report the email to the FBI but rather agreed to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, in a meeting that is now the focus of intense scrutiny. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump Jr. attended the meeting, which was held at Trump Tower.
One of Trump’s lawyers said that the probe should not extend to the president’s own business matters.
“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the special counsel,” lawyer John Dowd wrote in an email to Bloomberg. He also said that they are “unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code.”
In a letter released on May 12, Trump lawyers Sherri Dillon and William Nelson stated that there are only two cases in which Trump received payments linked in some form to Russia — the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and a Florida estate sold to a Russian in exchange for $95 million. The letter cited the president’s tax returns, which have not been publicly released.
Trump, Jr. and Manafort are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26 in a hearing about foreign influence in U.S. elections.
In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, Trump said that it would be a “violation” if the special counsel, Robert Mueller, were to look into his business dealings, adding, “I don’t make money from Russia.”
When pressed if he would fire Mueller if he looked into his personal or business transactions, Trump replied, “I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
The news of the expansion of Mueller’s investigation has fueled speculation that Trump may fire him as he did former FBI director James Comey.
Alex Wong/Getty Images