Mueller unleashes IRS on Russiagate probe
This broke last night. You may have missed it, but it’s yuuuge.
Special counsel Bob Mueller has teamed up with the IRS. 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.
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. A former colleague of Mueller’s said he always liked working with IRS’ special agents, especially when he was a U.S. Attorney.
And it goes without saying that the IRS has access to Trump’s tax returns—documents that the president has long resisted releasing to the public.
Potential financial crimes are a central part of Mueller’s probe. One of his top deputies, Andy Weissmann, formerly helmed the Justice Department’s Enron probe and has extensive experience working with investigative agents from the IRS.
“From the agents, I know everyone has the utmost respect for both Mueller and Weissmann,” said Martin Sheil, a retired IRS Criminal Investigations agent.
And he said Mueller and Weissmann are known admirers of those agents’ work.
“They view them with the highest regard,” Sheil said. “IRS special agents are the very best in the business of conducting financial investigations. They will quickly tell you that it took an accountant to nab Al Capone, and it’s true.”
Meanwhile, another barrier to the extradition of a Ukranian mobster with ties to The Donald has collapsed:
The likelihood that Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Firtash will be forced to answer racketeering charges in a Chicago courtroom increased this week when the Austrian courts rejected an alternate bid to extradite him to Spain.
But Firtash — who has ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort — continues to hope he can stay out of the United States.
Late Wednesday his lawyers acknowledged in court papers that, the Spanish request having been rejected, “Firtash has no right to any further court proceedings in Austria.” Still, they hope U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer will render his extradition moot by dismissing the case before he can be put on a plane by the Austrian government.
Firtash, who is free on bail in Austria after posting a $174 million bond, has been fighting extradition since his 2014 arrest in Vienna on charges he orchestrated an international titanium mining racket involving Chicago-based Boeing. His case had been in legal limbo while the Austrian courts considered the rival bid to extradite him to Spain.
Vanity Fair’s Chris Smith has a telling observation on the many Russiagate stories that are starting to look more like an open faucet than drip. drip. drip.
More of what’s going on behind Mueller’s office door is showing up in public, though, a sign of the growing momentum of his probes into possible collusion, money laundering, election hacking, and obstruction of justice. NBC News reported that Mueller has obtained notes from the phone of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, that include a cryptic reference to “donations” and “RNC.” The notes were apparently taken during a meeting with Russian nationals at Trump Tower. And Politico’s Josh Dawsey broke the news that Mueller has begun working with the office of New York state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. (The offices of Mueller and Schneiderman declined to comment.) …
The beginning of this drama lasted seven months and assembled a bewildering array of characters and scenarios. “From January to July it felt like all these plotlines were tossed out there and you couldn’t tell if anything was going to cohere,” a Senate Democratic operative who has kept close tabs on the investigation says. “Then you had Don Jr.’s e-mails about the Trump Tower meeting, and it was like the curtain came down on Act One: ‘A-ha!’”