When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein handed over the reins of the Justice Department’s Russia investigation to a special consel, he gave Robert Mueller the authority to look into “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” It has become clear that Mueller intends to use that clause to follow the money, NPR reports. The former FBI director has assembled a team of lawyers, many of whom specialize in white collar law and financial crimes, leading to speculation that he is diving into the finances of those on the inner and outer orbit of the Trump campaign.
“They’re looking for ties, they’re looking for relationships, and a lot of that will come down to money trails,” said Jennifer Rodgers of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School. When it comes to chargeable offenses Mueller could be zeroing in on, money laundering is at the top of the list. “Essentially, with any crime that generates money, the criminal needs to launder the money in order to use it,” says Stefanie Ostfeld of the U.S. office for Global Witness, a nonprofit focused on exposing economic networks that breed corruption. “The issue with money laundering is it tends to take two to money launder: You have the criminal who committed the original crime, but then you also have the bank, the lawyer, the accountant that actually moved the money into the financial system.” The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that between 2 percent and 5 percent of global gross domestic product is laundered each year. Even if you take the lowest end of that guess, it’s around $800 billion.