One year into the FBI’s Russia investigation, Mueller is on the Trump money trail

CNN reports: Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign, these sources said.

One year after the FBI opened an investigation, the probe is now managed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 elections, alongside the ongoing scrutiny of possible illegal coordination with Russian spy agencies and alleged attempts by President Donald Trump and others to obstruct the FBI investigation. Even investigative leads that have nothing to do with Russia but involve Trump associates are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate, according to two law enforcement sources.

The increased financial focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Trump, who warned Mueller, via an interview with The New York Times, that his financial dealings were a red line that investigators shouldn’t cross. But the order establishing the special counsel makes clear Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” [Continue reading…]

The Hill reports: The Senate blocked President Trump from being able to make recess appointments on Thursday as lawmakers leave Washington for their summer break.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), doing wrap up for the entire Senate, locked in nine “pro-forma” sessions — brief meetings that normally last roughly a minute.

The move, which requires the agreement of every senator, means the Senate will be in session every three business days throughout the August recess.

The Senate left D.C. on Thursday evening with most lawmakers not expected to return to Washington until after Labor Day. [Continue reading…]

James Hohmann writes: If President Trump ever lost the support of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), he just might be doomed. A former state House speaker, Tillis is a reliable Republican apparatchik whose vote party leadership can count on. So it was a big deal yesterday when he introduced legislation with a Democratic colleague, Chris Coons (Del.), to prevent Trump from firing Mueller without cause.

Tillis, known as a savvy political strategist, is clearly thinking ahead to what he realizes will be a very difficult reelection campaign in 2020. “It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” he said in a news release. [Continue reading…]

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