National Security

Mueller looking into suspicious Russian transactions in US: report

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators is looking into a number of transactions between the Russian government and entities in the U.S. flagged to the Treasury Department as suspicious.

BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday that the transactions have raised concerns about how the Russian government operated in the U.S. even before the 2016 presidential election. 

Mueller's investigation is focusing on Russian meddling in the election, as well whether the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow to influence the outcome of the race. But he also has broad authority to look into issues that arise from that investigation. 

The suspicious transactions flagged to the Treasury Department's financial crimes division by CitiBank, the bank that handles the Russian Embassy's accounts, include a $120,000 payment to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in November 2016. The payment was marked as suspicious because it did not resemble prior payment patterns.

In January 2017, five days after Trump's inauguration, bankers flagged an attempt to withdraw $150,000 in cash from the Russian Embassy's account. The transaction was blocked, but it was marked as abnormal activity. 

The Treasury Department handed the suspicious activity reports to the FBI after it requested documents that might be related to its investigation into the 2016 election, according to BuzzFeed News. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee has also requested suspicious activity reports related to Kislyak, BuzzFeed reported, though it is not clear if the panel has received the documents. 

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy, Nikolay Lakhonin, told BuzzFeed that the embassy's transactions in the U.S. are in compliance with the law and said that the leaked suspicious activity reports were intended to "discredit Russian official missions."

"We are not going to comment on any concrete names and figures mentioned in BuzzFeed articles," said. "We see such leaks by US authorities as another attempt to discredit Russian official missions."