Donald Trump has reportedly been experiencing anxiety over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign — so much so that Trump in July drew a “red line” which, if Mueller crossed that line, Trump implied that the special counsel would be fired. That “red line” was drawn at Trump’s own personal finances.
But now Mueller (pictured above right), according to reports out of Washington D.C., is indeed extending his investigation to Trump’s personal finances, and in fact, according to the political site Axios, Mueller is now “going for the kill” on Trump, zeroing in not only on Trump’s finances but on the Pandora’s Box of “questionable Russian characters” who could be drawn into the investigation once the complex web of Trump’s own and his business’ financial transactions over the years is picked apart by Mueller.
“Republicans close to the White House say every sign by Mueller — from his hiring of Mafia and money-laundering experts to his aggressive pursuit of witnesses and evidence — is that he’s going for the kill,” Axios reported on Tuesday.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump publicly insisted that he had no financial or business deals in Russia, but his denials have since been revealed as untrue. In the following video from 2013, Trump himself talks about his involvement in Russian deals, specifically his plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
This video of Trump in Russia needs to break the internet
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) September 13, 2017
Reporting by investigative journalist David Corn, published on Tuesday in Mother Jones Magazine, shows that one of those “questionable” Russian characters is Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant who, according to another of Sater’s business partners Jody Kriss, “had a decades-long involvement with the New York and Russian mafia.”
Kriss, Trump, and Later were partners on the troubled Trump Tower Soho project, a development in lower Manhattan, New York City. But Sater was also involved in Trump’s planned Trump Tower Moscow endeavor — even though as late as December of 2015, six months into his run for president, Trump denied that he even knew Sater.
“At that very moment,” Corn reported, “Trump was in the middle of the deal to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital and… Sater had put together the venture. As he was running for president, Trump was hiding this project from the American public, and he was insisting he barely knew the man at the center of it.”
In fact, Trump claimed that even if he were in the same room with Sater, he would not recognize the Russian — who was once convicted of stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass. Watch Trump deny knowing Sater in the following video, taken from a November 2013 sworn deposition.
Republicans in Congress as well as in the White House are now fearful that Mueller’s hiring of a legal team specializing in organized crime and money laundering prosecutions could mean that the Special Counsel is on the verge of linking Trump directly to such characters as Sater and potentially other Russian oligarchs and mobsters, the Axios report states.
They also fear that Mueller’s “kill” of Trump will focus as well on Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey — the man who presided over the Trump Russia investigation before Mueller was appointed as special counsel — on May 9. Even Trump’s own former chief strategist and close friend Steve Bannon has called the canning of Comey the worst mistake made by a president in “modern political history.” The fear is that Trump could face an obstruction of justice charge over the firing.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Mueller is now in possession of a secret letter drafted by Trump himself, but never sent, in which he outlined his real reasons for firing Comey, before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote his own letter explaining that Comey was fired for supposedly mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
That Trump letter, written in what Times sources described as an “angry, meandering” tone, was considered too politically volatile by Trump’s advisors, who persuaded him to scrap it. It remains unclear exactly what Trump said in the letter, but in a nationally televised interview just days after firing Comey, Trump described his thinking, effectively admitting that halting the Russia investigation was foremost in his mind when he handed the FBI chief a pink slip.
“I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'” Trump said in the NBC News interview.
Even Vice President Mike Pence saw that letter but has said nothing about it, meaning that Pence could also be implicated in Trump’s potential scheme to obstruct justice by firing Comey, an angle that Mueller is pursuing, according to some legal experts.
[Featured Images by Evan Vucci/AP Images]