Special counsel Robert Mueller's federal probe into the Russian government's role during the 2016 election has reportedly expanded to President Donald Trump's business transactions with Russian nationals. Trump recently stated that he considered his business empire off-limits in the federal probe.
An anonymous source familiar with the federal probe asserted July 20 that Mueller's investigators were scrutinizing the president and his associates' business transactions with Russians, Bloomberg reports.
The probe is allegedly looking into a Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow, Trump apartments bought by Russian nationals, and a Trump development deal with Russian financiers. The probe is also allegedly scrutinizing whether Trump's son-in-law, White House special adviser Jared Kushner, sought financing from Russians for real estate projects.
On May 18, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to head the federal probe into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 presidential race. Mueller was brought on after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey, according to CNN.
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Rosenstein granted Mueller wide latitude in leading the federal probe, stating that the special counsel was "authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters."
On July 19, Trump stated in a long-ranging interview that investigating his businesses would be crossing a red line.
"I don't make money from Russia... I think that's a violation," Trump told The New York Times. "Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company."
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The president declined to speculate whether he would fire Mueller from the probe if he investigated his businesses "because I don't think it's going to happen."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions originally led the Russian probe but recused himself after it was revealed that he had had undisclosed contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race. Trump blamed Sessions for Mueller's appointment.
"Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else," Trump concluded.
Trump lawyer John Dowd blasted the reports that Mueller was probing Trump's business ties to Russian nationals.
"Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; 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," Dowd said in a statement.
The 2013 Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow appears to be the most relevant Trump enterprise in Mueller's probe. Russian real estate developer and Trump associate Aras Agalarov contributed $20 million to finance the pageant. In June 2016, Agalarov's son, Emin, reached out to Donald Trump Jr. through a third party and offered to introduce him to a contact who allegedly possessed damaging Russian intelligence on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On June 12, Newsmax Media CEO and Trump confidante Chris Ruddy alleged that the president had been openly considering firing Mueller.
"I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel," Ruddy told PBS.
That same day, Ruddy stated in a separate interview that he believed firing Mueller would be a massive mistake.
"It could trigger something well beyond anything they ever imagined," Ruddy told Politico. "I think firing Mueller could trigger an impeachment process. It could be very dangerous. I don't think it'd be very smart at all."