US federal prosecutors spent three years investigating suspected links between an Egyptian state-owned bank and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, it emerged on Wednesday.
CNN reported that the investigation sought to determine whether money passing through the unnamed bank could have been linked to a last-minute donation by Trump to his own campaign worth $10m.
The investigation did not determine a direct link between the funds and was closed earlier this year, but sources told CNN there was sufficient information to keep the probe open well past the closure of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
According to the broadcaster, the probe began as soon as Trump was elected into office, with Mueller taking on the case after the president fired FBI director James Comey in 2017.
CNN said the special counsel had a separate team that was partly dedicated to investigating the Trump finances linked to the Egyptian bank.
Mueller’s team probed several witnesses over a meeting between the then-presidential candidate and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the last weeks of the 2016 campaign.
Trump and Sisi met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and reportedly hit it off, with Sisi saying Trump would make a great president.
Trump called Sisi “a fantastic guy” with whom he had “good chemistry”.
Then, 11 days before the election, the Trump campaign – strapped for cash and in need of donations – received $10m from Trump himself. Investigators believed that the money could have come from an Egyptian bank.
Campaign finance laws in the US prohibit foreign contributions to political campaigns for public office. A financial link between a president and another country – such as owing debt – could also have explosive national security consequences.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, told CNN that “President Trump has never received a penny from Egypt.”
Mystery court battle
Mueller’s office interviewed numerous members of Trump’s presidential campaign, but the records remain heavily redacted and do not say whether those interviews discussed the links to the Egyptian bank.
The case had also been taken to court, secretively. CNN learned that a 2018 grand subpoena by Mueller had been made to obtain records from the Egyptian bank.
The ensuing court battle was kept under wraps, and eventually, the bank handed over nearly 1,000 documents.
The documents did not give the entire picture, according to Mueller’s team, and they asked for additional records.
The bank denied their request, and eventually, the matter ended in a stalemate.
The Mueller team also took their investigation as high as the Supreme Court, ultimately, it reached a dead end, sources told CNN.
After Mueller completed his investigation into Russian interference in 2019, the Egyptian bank investigation continued for months – before closing earlier this summer, sources told CNN.
Nowhere in the Mueller report was Egypt mentioned. The special counsel only left one hint, listing it among 11 cases he investigated, only labelling the investigation as looking into a “foreign campaign contribution”.