If Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russiagate, pulls the right threads, what might unravel is the underside of the tangled financial and real-estate empire owned by Donald Trump, his two sons, his daughter Ivanka, and the person who could be the weakest, most vulnerable link in that chain: Jared Kushner, his son-in-law. All five could face criminal charges—and for President Trump, impeachment proceedings. The first thread to pull on, hard, is the skulduggery surrounding the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a group of Russians with ties to Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, and a direct line to Vladimir Putin.
It was at that meeting, of course, that the trio of Trump associates met with a Russian delegation offering to provide the Trump presidential campaign with “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary,” which the go-between described as “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Since then, the Trump family has been scrambling to obscure, deflect, and cover up what actually happened at that meeting, a pattern that could strengthen the case that Trump is engaged in obstruction of justice, a charge that gained momentum when the president fired FBI director James Comey. Subsequently, Trump unfurled a string of attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself in the Russiagate investigation because of his still-unexplained meetings with Russia’s ambassador, and against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the Mueller inquiry.
Alarmingly, Trump warned Mueller to stay away from his unseemly web of financial and real-estate transactions. In a rambling interview with The New York Times on July 19, Trump was asked if an effort by Mueller to “[look] at your finances and your family finances” would cross the president’s “red line.” Trump answered, “I would say yes,” and he went on to say that the Mueller investigation “is about Russia,” not the Trump family’s money. In that same interview, Trump declined to say whether or not he’d fire Mueller if the president’s finances came under scrutiny.
But “Russia” and Trump’s “family finances” are inextricably linked—something that Mueller, who has hired a high-powered team of prosecutors and investigators, some with expertise in New York real estate and money laundering, well knows. The Trump and Kushner families, a marriage (via Ivanka) between two of New York’s leading real-estate dynasties, are multiply connected to Russian real-estate deals. “We don’t rely on American banks,” said Eric Trump back in 2014. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
The June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower could well be a smoking gun precisely because it involves both Russiagate—i.e., potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence—and Trump’s and Kushner’s ties to a tangled money-laundering scandal involving Russian oligarchs close to Putin.