Penn State / Flickr robert mueller...
Penn State / Flickr

Betsy Woodruff is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working with yet another investigative team.

According to sources familiar with his investigation into alleged Russian election interference, his probe has enlisted the help of agents from the IRS’ Criminal Investigations unit.

Finances have long been at the heart of the Trump–Russia investigation. Trump was on the receiving end of hundreds of millions from oligarchs attempting to get funds out of Eastern Europe. That money recharged Trump’s bankrupt real estate business and gave him a second wind as a premiere route for money laundering.

In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

Donald Trump’s purposely entangled “empire” of over 500 companies, the obscure foreign sources of much of his funding, and the contradictions between his claims and reality are all big reasons that Trump has panicked over the thought that Mueller was looking hard at financial crimes. For Republicans looking for an excuse to limit the investigation, this latest word may provide fuel.

The team-up between the IRS and Mueller probe could come with political complications. Mueller has already taken some criticism for the number of Democratic donors on his team. Those critiques intensified yesterday, when word leaked that Mueller was coordinating some of his activities with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a long-time Trump adversary.

The IRS has always been a target of Republican attacks, a situation that was inflamed by exaggerated claims that the IRS had targeted conservative groups under Obama. With Republicans already doing their best to discredit members of Mueller’s team for past connections to Democrats, and working to paint former FBI Director James Comey as a Hillary Clinton supporter, adding the IRS to the mix only gives them a target their base is used to attacking. But considering how many issues in the Trump–Russia investigation come with dollar signs, it was inevitable that the IRS would have to be enlisted to provide information and assistance.

And it’s been clear from the beginning that there is something in Donald Trump’s taxes that he really, really doesn’t want people to see. Maybe something that would require the use of the IRS’s top criminal team.

This unit—known as CI—is one of the federal government’s most tight-knit, specialized, and secretive investigative entities. Its 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. 

On Thursday it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was joining with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate Trump’s former campaign chair and strategic adviser, Paul Manafort. Trump’s pardon of ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio raised the specter that witnesses and low-level members of Trump’s Russia connection might be encouraged to keep quiet and count on Trump to pardon any charges away. Bringing in a state attorney general greatly affects Trump’s ability to weaken the investigation.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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