Mueller is looking into possible correlations between Trump's Russian business dealings and the timing of his 2016 campaign
Robert Mueller, the special counsel conducting a broad investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election, is asking witnesses about the timing of President Donald Trump's campaign, in relation to his prior business dealings in Russia, CNN reported on Tuesday night.
Specifically, Mueller wants to know if there is any correlation between Trump's 2016 foray into US presidential politics, a 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and a yearslong effort to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump mentioned the potential real-estate project in a 2013 tweet in which he said "Trump Tower-Moscow is next."
Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman sent a letter of intent for the project to Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in fall 2015. Trump signed the letter, but the non-binding agreement was scrapped by late January 2016.
It was not immediately clear what possible leads Mueller and his investigators are following with this line of questioning, but it parallels the broader inquiry into whether Trump or his associates cooperated with the Kremlin politically as his presidential campaign took off in the US.
Mueller is also deep into an investigation of Russian meddling that occurred during the 2016 election season, which US intelligence officials have said was part of Russia's effort to buoy Trump's campaign and hamstring his rivals, including the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
The questions about Trump's possible business affairs in Russia represent a potentially new wrinkle in the Russia probe, which has taken numerous turns in the last few months, resulting in criminal charges against several Trump associates, 13 Russian nationals, and three Russian businesses.
Trump threatened last summer that Mueller's investigation could find itself in trouble if it strays into his or his family's personal financial affairs.