by Renato Mariotti, Partner, Thompson Coburn LLP
Ever since word surfaced last week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining financial transactions involving President Trump’s businesses and associates, the Trump legal team has leveled charges that Mueller has strayed “beyond the mandate of the Special Counsel.” There is no reason to believe that Mueller has done so.
As a starting point, it is worth noting that Mueller’s mandate is extraordinarily broad. He is not only empowered to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” but he is also permitted to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
That means that if Mueller’s team uncovers evidence of a crime that is related in any way to the crimes they are investigating, that is within the scope of his investigation. For instance, an individual could have structured a cash transaction to hide money payments to a hacker who obtained emails or to an American in exchange for assistance, an entity could have laundered money used to aid in coordination efforts, or evidence of a financial crime could have been used by the Russian government to blackmail an American into cooperating with them.