Robert Mueller probes Donald Trump's money links with Russia before US election

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia before he ran for the US presidency, it was reported today.

Witnesses in the ongoing inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election are reportedly being asked by Mr Mueller’s prosecutors about when Mr Trump decided he would run for office.

Mr Mueller’s office is said to have asked witnesses about Mr Trump’s business dealings in Russia prior to the election, whether the Kremlin may have had any compromising information about him, and why plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through.

A source told CNN that one witness claimed Mr Trump was serious in 2014 about launching a White House campaign even though the president tweeted earlier this month that he didn’t decide whether to run until later. The reports suggest Mr Mueller is moving beyond the presidential campaign to also examine Mr Trump’s finances and his past links with Russia, including the 2013 Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow.

Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia (AP)

“You ask everything even if you don’t think it’s credible,” said a source. “The allegations are out there.”

Both Mr Trump and the Kremlin are adamant there was no meddling in the US election and the president maintains that widening the investigation to include his family’s finances would breach Mr Mueller’s mandate.

Investigators are also reportedly trying to determine if the Russians have any information that could potentially be used to blackmail Mr Trump. This echoes claims included in a controversial dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Mr Trump’s Democratic opponents. The unsubstantiated dossier allegedly details lewd behaviour involving Mr Trump in his suite at Moscow’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. 

The FBI also wanted to know if the Trump Tower project in the Russian capital was shelved simply because the economy took a downturn, and is said to be probing the finances around the Miss Universe event, run by the Trump organisation, and the officials Mr Trump met while he was in Moscow for it. US intelligence officials believe Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered Russian hackers to interfere in the election to help Mr Trump beat Democrat rival Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile Hope Hicks, 29, the White House communications director, reportedly admitted telling white lies on behalf of him during nine hours of testimony to the Congressional Intelligence Committee yesterday. 

 But she denied lying about any alleged Russian collusion in the presidential race.

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