Follow the money: Robert Mueller investigating Russian payouts to Donald Trump associates
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation into the Donald Trump universe even further. After yesterday’s news that Mueller is investigating Trump himself for obstruction of justice, now comes word that Mueller is also investigating the money flow from Russia to Donald Trump associates.
Mueller is operating under the suspicion that “any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff,” according to a New York Times report (link). It’s already been long documented that Paul Manafort was paid tens of millions of dollars by a pro-Kremlin oligarch, and that Michael Flynn indirectly took money from the Kremlin for his services.
But this is notable new territory in that Mueller is now trying to connect the dots between those payments and the Donald Trump campaign’s close relationship (and alleged collusion) with the Russian government. Based on what’s publicly known, those payments were only illegal because both men failed to register as foreign agents while they were taking the money. If it can be proven that Trump campaign members in fact paid in exchange for doing Russia’s bidding, the Trump-Russia scandal will run much deeper. But there’s more.
That same NYT report says that according to the premise Mueller’s investigation “there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers,” and therefore he’s looking into money laundering by Trump associates. Although Flynn and Manafort are the only names mentioned in the story, it’s possible that additional Trump associates from outside of his campaign may also be under investigation in this regard. And then of course there’s the ultimate question: can these alleged Russian payoffs and money laundering on the part of Trump advisers and associates be connected back directly to Donald Trump’s own bank account?
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report