The New York Times reported on Thursday that the special counsel in the Russia investigation is seeking records from President Donald Trump’s company. While the subpoena’s scope “was not clear,” the requested documents include “some related to Russia.” I would hope so.
It’s certainly newsworthy that Mueller is taking this step. But it tells us little about the investigation, its progress, or its potential outcome. The first rule of Mueller’s inquiry is that we know less than we think we know about it. His apparently airtight operation—an impressive feat in leaky Washington—is keeping the president, the press, and the American people largely in the dark for now.
Not all of the Russia investigation’s roads run through Trump’s business empire, but many do. Questions remain on the breadth and depth of the president’s business relationships with Russian oligarchs and his three-decade-long interest in Russian real-estate projects. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, for example, claimed that the Trump Organization was “actively negotiating” with a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions for a potential business venture there. Trump excommunicated Steve Bannon from his inner circle after the former White House chief strategist raised the specter of money-laundering charges to journalist Michael Wolff.
A potential hazard in this information-starved atmosphere is reading too much into certain events and not paying enough attention to others—especially where Mueller is concerned. Here’s a good rule of thumb whenever there’s a new report about the special counsel’s latest move: Based on what we already know about the investigation, would it be more surprising if Mueller wasn’t doing it?