The latest development in special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling Russia investigation has brought him to the door of the Internal Revenue Service, and tax authorities there are helping.
CNN reported Tuesday that Mueller is seeing cooperation from the IRS following months of conflict and negotiations.
The result is that financial documents stretching back 11 years are now available to his investigators, mostly covering former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Manafort was reportedly under investigation before the 2016 election, CNN reported, with IRS Criminal Investigation division agents looking into a possible money laundering and tax fraud case.
Flynn is under the microscope for payments he received for a speech in Russia and for lobbying work his firm did in Turkey.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a probe that reportedly widened with a July raid on Manafort’s home.
Search warrants indicate Mueller’s team is now looking into tax and financial crimes, according to CNN, buoyed by a May directive from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to probe ‘any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.’
IRS records, including individual income tax returns, are among the federal government’s mostly tightly held documents.
In ordinary circumstances, a federal grand jury would have to issue a subpoena to the IRS in order to compel the agency to share tax returns with another government department.
There is no evidence President Donald Trump’s tax returns have become part of the investigation.
CNN reported Tuesday that the Manafort raid was the subject of inter-agency acrimony, with the IRS refusing to participate because of fears Mueller’s team would interfere with their earlier financial probe.
Ultimately, Mueller green-lighted the raid with only FBI agents, and no one from the IRS, participating – an unusual quirk for a tax-focused case.
Manafort’s possible legal exposure includes payments related to work in the Ukraine, a host of real estate transactions, and offshore bank accounts he has maintained in tax-haven countries.
According to CNN, Mueller’s team has alerted Manafort that he might be charged with a crime.
Longtime Manafort friend and former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone told reporters Tuesday outside a Senate hearing room where he answered questions in secret that he expects dirty tricks from Mueller.
‘I think what’s happening here is that the special counsel will try to manufacture a crime and say, “Look, Manafort, we won’t prosecute you for this if you simply admit you were colluding with the Russians and that Donald Trump knew everything” – in other words, bear false witness against the president,’ he said.
‘I’ve known Paul Manafort for over 40 years and I don’t believe he is going to do that. He is not going to lie. And that would be a lie.’