Federal prosecutors spent three years investigating whether millions of dollars flowed through a state-owned Egyptian bank to Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016, it has been revealed.
The investigation, which predated and outlasted the Robert Mueller Russian collusion probe, was looking into whether an illegal donation of $10million by a foreign power was made to the presidential campaign.
Mueller, the FBI and prosecutors conducted the inquiry in secret until it was shut down by acting US Attorney for DC Michael Sherwin with no charges filed, according to CNN.
Federal prosecutors spent three years investigating Donald Trump received campaign contributions from an Egyptian state bank
In the final days of the Trump’s presidential bid in 2016, he gave a huge $10million contribution to his campaign.
The investigation centered on whether Trump had financed the donation or whether it had flowed to him via Egypt’s state-owned bank.
It was kept so secret that investigators even locked down an entire floor of a courthouse so Mueller’s team could fight for the records of the Egyptian bank to be revealed in closed-door proceedings.
It is not known if there was any concrete evidence of Egyptian involvement but sources said there was enough suspicion to justify a grand jury subpoena, and keep the probe open after Mueller’s other investigation ended.
Questions have also been raised about Trump’s decision not to include Egypt in his travel ban against majority Muslim countries in 2017.
The investigation formed part of Robert Mueller’s probe into possible foreign interference, and it was passed onto federal prosecutors after his office was closed
A court filing from last month shows the Justice Department confirmed Mueller transferred his ongoing foreign campaign contribution investigation to prosecutors in Washington after his office shut down in 2019.
A source told CNN: ‘The case was first looked at by the Special Counsel investigators who failed to bring a case, and then it was looked at by the US attorney’s office, and career prosecutors in the national security section, who also were unable to bring a case.
‘Based upon the recommendations of both the FBI and those career prosecutors, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney, formally closed the case in July.’
Initial interest was raised after an informant suggested Trump’s $10million injuection could have come via the Egyptian bank.
The investigation even went as far as the Supreme Court, the only time during Mueller’s two-year probe that it reached that stage, although justices declined to hear the case.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, said: ‘President Trump has never received a penny from Egypt.’
In the final weeks of the 2016 election, Trump and Egyptian President Sisi met in New York during the UN General Assembly where they hit it off
Neither the special counsel’s office nor the prosecutors who continued with the case ever got a complete understanding of Trump’s financial web.
They sought to subpoena his financial records but top officials decided to close the probe at this point, deciding it had reached a dead end.
A spokesman for the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declined to comment.
Mueller was initially tasked with investigating Russian government interference in the election, but his mandate allowed him to investigate any potentially criminal activity.
He decided to make inquiries into the apparent Egypt connection which could have been a second instance of foreign influence connected to Trump.
But it was risky as Trump had issued a ‘red line’ early in the Mueller investigation, saying the special counsel would be fired if the President’s finances were probed.
The investigation on Egypt was led by Zainab Ahmad, a former international terrorism prosecutor and Brandon Van Grack, a national security and counterintelligence specialist.
Sisi was the first foreign leader to call and congratulate Trump after his election win
In the final weeks of the 2016 election, Trump and Egyptian President Sisi met in New York during the UN General Assembly, apparently organized by Steve Bannon.
They formed a strong relationship, with both praising the other publicly afterwards, with Sisi saying Trump would ‘no doubt’ be a strong president, and Trump labelling his counterpart a ‘fantastic guy’ and they shared ‘good chemistry’.
Sisi was also the first foreign leader to call and congratulate Trump after his election win.
When the Trump campaign was nearing election day with the polls tightening, the campaign was running low on funds.
Memos reportedly show top campaign officials urging Trump to inject more money to see them over the line.
He had previously pledged to spend $100million of his own money on the campaign but this had not quite materialised.
Trump then wrote a $10million check, which he publicly called a loan, and campaign finance records showed it was his largest political contribution by far and not one he was ever reimbursed for.
Campaign finance law forbids foreign contributions to campaigns for public office for fears over national security and influence.
When Bannon was asked in an interview with the special counsel’s office about Trump’s $10million contribution, he said the future President had tried to resist pumping such a huge sum into his campaign.
But the former advisor said Trump was convinced into paying after he was convinced by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Jared Kushner.
Trump himself has never been directly asked about the source of the money.
Mueller submitted to Trump’s lawyers a question asking whether any foreign government or leader other than Russia or Putin had offered support to his campaign.
They wrote back he had ‘no recollection of being told during the campaign’ of support from a foreign government.