Special counsel Mueller is digging into the one area that scares Trump the most.
If Trump took any comfort from Tuesday’s report stating that he is a subject — but not currently a target — in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, he may want to reevaluate that position in light of new revelations.
CNN reported Wednesday evening that Mueller’s team is employing an aggressive new approach as they investigate Trump’s financial ties to Russia, going as far as stopping Russian oligarchs upon entry to the U.S. and questioning them about potentially illegal contributions to the Trump campaign and/or inauguration.
According to CNN, the investigators have “taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport…”
A second Russian oligarch was also stopped during a recent trip to the U.S., CNN reported, and Mueller’s team issued an interview request for a third Russian oligarch.
In all of these instances, investigators are probing whether Russian billionaires may have illegally funneled cash to Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration.
As CNN noted, Mueller’s interest in questioning Russian oligarchs reveals that his team has “intensified its focus into the potential flow of money from Russia into the US election” as it investigates Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign.
One area of interest is whether Russians may have given money to companies or think tanks that donated to the campaign through political action committees.
It has previously been reported that Mueller is investigating whether a Kremlin-linked Moscow businessman funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the election.
Another area under scrutiny by Mueller is whether Russians pumped money into the Trump campaign and inaugural fund though straw donors, using Americans with citizenship as a vessel for the illegal donations.
Mother Jones previously reported that Andrew Intrater — the head of the American subsidiary of a major Russian company owned by an oligarch linked to Putin — had donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund on Jan. 6, 2017. Intrater, an American citizen, is also the cousin of the Putin-linked oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg.
The same month that Intrater poured a quarter of a million dollars into Trump’s inaugural fund, Vekselberg publicly expressed his desire for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Russia.
Trump’s inaugural committee also accepted other contributions from Americans with ties to Russian oligarchs and businesses. According to Mother Jones, “Russian American businessman Alexander Shustorovich and Access Industries, a firm owned by Len Blavatnik, a Soviet-born American citizen and Vekselberg’s longtime business partner, each gave $1 million to finance Trump’s inauguration.”
The latest CNN report shows that Mueller is interested in these flows of cash, and he’s willing to use aggressive tactics in his quest for answers. Trump may be able to dodge Mueller’s interview request (for now), but he can’t evade scrutiny — nor can he hide from the very, very long arm of the law.