Investigators on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team are taking an interest in Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia before he ran for president in 2016, it was reported on Tuesday.
Witnesses in the ongoing probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections are being asked by Mueller’s prosecutors about when Trump decided he would run for president.
Sources close to the investigation said that Mueller wants to know about any potential compromising information that Russia may have about Trump, CNN reported.
Mueller is also inquiring as to why plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through, sources told CNN.
Investigators on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team are taking an interest in Donald Trump’s (seen right in Moscow with Miss Universe Gabriela Isler of Venezuela in 2013) business ties to Russia before he ran for president in 2016, it was reported on Tuesday
Mueller wants to know details about a plan by Trump to build a Trump Tower in Moscow together with two Russian real estate developers – Aras Agalarov (seen right with Trump in Moscow in 2013) and his son, Emin Agalarov (left)
Trump has steadfastly denied that his presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.
One witness reportedly told Mueller’s team that Trump first became serious about running for president in 2014 – even though the president tweeted recently that he ‘didn’t know’ he was going to run for the White House until 2015.
Mueller’s investigators were also said to be interested in any compromising information that Russia may have on Trump.
Trump’s most well-known public appearance in Russia came in 2013, when he served as a judge at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
Last year, Mueller (seen above in 2008) was appointed as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election
This was the visit during which it has been alleged in a bombshell dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, that Trump stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
According to the dossier, the contents of which have been vehemently denied by Trump and the Russian government, Trump arranged to stay at the presidential suite where President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, had stayed on a prior visit.
During Trump’s stay, it is alleged that he watched as prostitutes urinated on one another while on the bed in a ‘golden showers’ routine.
The dossier alleged that Trump’s lewd sexual behaviour in Russia was recorded by the Kremlin’s intelligence agencies and held as ‘kompromat’, or damaging information which it has used to blackmail Trump.
Mueller is also reportedly trying to corroborate details from a dossier written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele (above)
Mueller’s investigators are reportedly interested in the financing of the Miss Universe pageant, an event that was once owned by the Trump Organization.
The Moscow pageant came about as a result of a partnership between Trump and Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer, and his son, Emin Agalarov.
Last year, Donald Trump Jr told Congress that the Trump Organization and the Agalarovs held ‘preliminary discussions’ to build a tower in Moscow.
Those plans, however, never came to fruition because of the economic downturn in Russia caused by Western sanctions.
Talks for a potential Trump Tower in Moscow were reportedly re-started by Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer.
But those talks ended in 2016.
While it has been known Trump pursued business opportunities in Russia, he has consistently said that he had ‘nothing to do with Russia.’
The relationships between Trump and his associates and officials from the Russian government have attracted scrutiny since the hacking of emails belonging to Democratic Party officials.
US intelligence officials believe that President Vladimir Putin directed Russian hackers to wreak havoc on social media and the internet as part of an overall effort to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Russia has denied the allegations.