New York Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman break the story that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents. They say that some of the subpoenaed documents are “related to Russia,” but they don’t know what documents Mueller has subpoenaed. They have taken their information from “two people briefed on the matter,” so the story is at least one remove from anyone with personal knowledge. Despite the reporters’ ignorance of the “breadth of the subpoena,” Schmidt and Haberman assert that the subpoena applies to “all records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating[.]” This is another way of saying they don’t know what documents Mueller has subpoenaed.
The reporters note that the Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller’s order. They quote Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas: “Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests. This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
The Times reporters try to create something out of nothing here: “The Trump Organization has said that it never had real estate holdings in Russia, but witnesses recently interviewed by Mr. Mueller have been asked about a possible real estate deal in Moscow.” They appear to dispute the assertion that the Trump Organization has never had real estate holdings in Russia because “witnesses recently interviewed by Mr. Mueller have been asked about a possible real estate deal in Moscow.”
Did the real estate deal come to fruition? Apparently not. Even so, they purport to contradict this or at least raise a question of fact about it: “In 2015, a longtime business associate of Mr. Trump’s emailed Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, at his Trump Organization account claiming he had ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and said that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would help Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” Indeed, “Mr. Trump signed a nonbinding ‘letter of intent’ for the project in 2015 and discussed it three times with Mr. Cohen.”
Only in Timesworld does the latter point about a “nonbinding letter of intent” to build a Trump Tower that was never built contradict the former point about the Trump Organization’s lack of real estate holding in Russia. Beyond the reported fact of the subpoena to the Trump Organization, if it is indeed a fact, every sentence is pumped in to inflate their lack of knowledge into a story.
Schmidt and Haberman also drag in a quote from a Trump friend who advised him that doing the deal for a Trump Tower in Russia would make him president. They link to the story where the friend explains that it would show him to be a great dealmaker, but leave the implication hanging that something more nefarious was meant.
If accurate, Schmidt and Haberman have a legitimate story in the subpoena of the Trump Organization by Mueller. The rest of their story is low-grade piffle.