The role of Donald Trump's private business in the investigation into the Russia scandal appears to be increasingly unavoidable. Last night, for example, Rachel noted on the show that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee reported that the Trump Organization was actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election. That's no small revelation.
And while it's not clear if today's news is related to the sanctioned Russian bank, the New York Times reports that the president's business has now been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump's businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump's business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.
When the president's attorneys assured him this investigation would end by the end of March, that was clearly wrong.
The next question -- well, one of them -- is whether and to what extent these developments cross the president's "red line."
As regular readers may recall, Trump sat down last summer with the New York Times, which asked, "If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia -- is that a red line?" Trump replied, "I would say yeah. I would say yes." He added, "I think that's a violation."
Asked specifically, "Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is?" Trump dodged, saying, "I can't answer that question because I don't think it's going to happen."
So, from the president's perspective, has this now happened?
There were points last year at which there was bipartisan support for legislation that would protect the special counsel in the event Trump tried to fire him. In time, Republicans lost interest, satisfied that Mueller would continue his investigation without presidential interference.
That confidence has always struck me as misplaced. Trump has already explored firing Mueller -- and by some accounts, he's lied about it -- and that was before the special counsel's team subpoenaed the president's private enterprise.
Perhaps now would be a good time for Congress to reconsider some legal protections for Mueller and his investigation?