White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday disputed reports by Bloomberg and Reuters citing an anonymous source saying special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Trump’s bank records, expanding the probe of Russian influence in the 2016 election to the president’s personal finances.
“We confirmed that the news reports [that] the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records related to the president are completely false,” Sanders told reporters at the daily briefing.
“No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources. I think this is another example of the media going too far and too fast and we don’t see it going in that direction,” she said.
Bloomberg earlier reported Mueller was widening his probe to include Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG, issuing a subpoena to the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family.
Bloomberg said Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real-estate dealings prior to becoming president.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and other Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia.
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to FBI agents, becoming the fourth associate of the president ensnared by Mueller’s probe.
Reuters reported a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation said one reason for the subpoenas was to find out whether Deutsche Bank may have sold some of Trump’s mortgage or other loans to Russian state development bank VEB or other Russian banks that now are under U.S. and European Union sanctions.
Holding such debt could give Russian banks some leverage over Trump, especially if they are state-owned, a second U.S. official familiar with Russian intelligence methods told Bloomberg.
The apparent false reports came after ABC News was forced to retract a report Friday by Brian Ross that Trump, while a candidate, directed Flynn to contact the Russians. ABC has suspended Ross for a month and barred him from reporting on Trump.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, in an editorial, charged Mueller is too conflicted to investigate Russian influence and “should step down in favor of someone more credible.”
“The investigation would surely continue, though perhaps with someone who doesn’t think his job includes protecting the FBI and [former FBI director James Comey] from answering questions about their role in the 2016 election,” the editorial board said.
The Journal said that recently disclosed evidence of political bias that was kept hidden from the public reinforces doubts about the ability of the special counsel’s team to conduct a fair and credible investigation.
“While there is no evidence so far of Trump-Russia collusion, House investigators have turned up enough material to suggest that anti-Trump motives may have driven Mr. Comey’s FBI investigation,” the paper said.
The Journal pointed out Washington Post and New York Times reports that a lead FBI investigator on the Mueller probe, Peter Strzok, was demoted this summer after it was discovered he had sent anti-Trump texts to a mistress.
“As troubling, Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department kept this information from House investigators, despite Intelligence Committee subpoenas that would have exposed those texts,” the paper said. “They also refused to answer questions about Mr. Strzok’s dismissal and refused to make him available for an interview.”
The Journal noted Strzok was a chief lieutenant to Comey and that Mueller gave him a top role in his special counsel after leading the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, which resulted in Comey publicly exonerated her in violation of Justice Department practice amid evidence she should have been prosecuted.
In addition, the woman with whom Strzok supposedly exchanged anti-Trump texts, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, worked for both Mueller and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.
McCabe was accused of a conflict of interest in the Clinton investigation when it was revealed Clinton allies had donated to the political campaign of his wife.
Further, the Daily Caller reported two Clinton associates, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, made misleading statements to Strzok regarding Clinton’s mishandling of national secrets but faced no consequences.
And Fox News reported a top prosecutor who is now a deputy for Mueller’s Russia probe, Andrew Weissmann, praised then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she was fired in January by Trump for refusing to defend his controversial travel ban.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the new Weissmann document an “astonishing and disturbing find.”
“How much more evidence do we need that the Mueller operation has been irredeemably compromised by anti-Trump partisans?” he asked.
Trump should argue, the paper said, that Mueller has no authority to investigate the president, because the Constitution gives that responsibility to the House of Representatives.
“Preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States requires, inter alia, preserving, and protecting each branch of its government, including the presidency,” says the Sun’s proposed text for the president. “I have learned much in the past year, but nothing more clearly than how important it is to protect the office I hold. This means – under what the courts call the ‘rule of necessity’ – that I have a responsibility to act even when it is awkward.”
Politico reported people close to Vice President Mike Pence are trying to make it clear that the VP was out of the loop and unaware of contacts between the Trump campaign and various foreign actors, including the Russian ambassador.
‘Morning Joe’: Trump team ‘going to jail’
Despite the calls for Mueller to step aside, the New Republic reported Mueller’s investigation, particularly Flynn’s guilty plea, has made liberals giddy at the prospect of impeaching the president.
“Can Democrats finally start talking about impeachment, Nancy Pelosi?” Errol Louis asked in a column for CNN, referring to the House minority leader.
On “The View,” Joy Behar “bubbled,” the New Republic said, when she announced the ABC News report, before it was exposed as false, that Flynn was willing to testify that then-candidate Trump had instructed him to make contact with the Russians.
The New Republic said the “impeachment frenzy has gone so far that even the normally sober Ezra Klein, Vox’s founder, argued last week that impeachment be normalized as a regular procedure in American democracy.”
The magazine said, however, the excitement is unfounded.
The “practical problem is that for impeachment to be meaningful, Trump would not just have to be impeached by the House of Representatives (which requires a simple majority) but also removed by the Senate (requiring a two-thirds vote).”
“It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018 and have the necessary votes for impeachment. But even in that best-case scenario, in which Democrats win every toss-up race for the Senate, they would still be well short of the votes they need in the Senate. Which means that kicking Trump out of the White House by necessity has to be a bipartisan effort with significant Republican buy-in.”
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, nevertheless, said Tuesday that as the “noose” of Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump team’s contacts with Russia is “tightening,” members of the administration are starting to understand they’re going “to jail … for the rest of their lives.”
“Knowing them, I think they’re shocked that the noose is tightening,” Brzezinski said. “I don’t know if they were arrogant or incredibly un-self-aware and really dumb about what the job was about, how important it was, and how under the microscope every move you made would be. I think they just thought they’d go in there and riff through it. And I think they’re shocked that the noose is tightening and that people might go to jail.”
Her co-host and fiancé, Joe Scarborough, agreed.
“You’re exactly right,” he said.
“For the rest of their lives,” Brzezinski added.
Trump, Scarborough said, only ran for president as part of a money-making scheme, and did not actually expect to win.
“You know, the campaign – Trump didn’t think he was going to win even on Election Day,” he said. “But it was all about money. It was all about making contacts. We’ve said this before. But the most remarkable thing about it is that even now that he’s president, it’s still all about money. Like, he’s not sitting there thinking what Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan thought. Like, what is my legacy going to be? He’s thinking every day, how can I leverage this so when I get out of the White House I can make even more money?”