President Donald Trump shook up his personal legal team this week as former FBI Director Robert Mueller's special counsel probe into Russia reportedly widens to include Trump's personal and business finances.
CBS News reported late Thursday that Marc Kasowitz is out as Trump's personal attorney and that Kasowitz's spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned. The president's personal legal counsel is now comprised of Ty Cobb, Jay Sekulow and John Dowd.
It was not immediately clear why the president decided to shake up his personal legal team. What was clear, however, was that the change comes as Trump's lawyers are reportedly looking to discredit Mueller, who is leading the special counsel investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with the Kremlin.
As TheBlaze reported previously, a number of investigators who are part of the special counsel have donated exclusively to Democrats. Investigators' political contributions are just one area that the president's lawyers are focusing on, though, according to the New York Times. Trump's lawyers are also looking into investigators' previous clients, as well as investigators' connections to fired FBI Director James Comey, whose ousting led to the appointment of the special counsel.
Special prosecutors are not allowed to take part in investigations if they have “a personal or political relationship” with the subject of their investigation, the Times reported. Political contributions do not count as "a personal or political relationship."
During an off-camera press briefing on Thursday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “the president’s making clear that the special counsel should not move outside the scope of the investigation,” which she said should be Russia.
The special counsel's investigation into Trump's finances is likely to include a look at the billionaire businessman's tax returns, according to Bloomberg. According to the Washington Post, Trump "has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.
Trump has so far refused to publicly release his tax returns, despite decades of precedent.
Trump said at various times throughout the campaign that he would not release his tax returns because he was under routine audit by the IRS. After Trump's election, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said the public "didn't care" about seeing Trump's tax returns.
"We litigated this all through the election," Conway told ABC News in January, according to The Hill.
During an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Trump said the special counsel's expanded focus on his finances would be a "red line."
"Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?" New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt asked Trump. "Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?" Times reporter Maggie Haberman followed up.
The president responded by saying, "I would say yeah. I would say yes." Trump added that "it's possible" that he has sold "a condo or something" to Russia.
But "who knows?" Trump said. "I don't make money from Russia."
Despite the president's insistence during the New York Times interview on Wednesday that he "didn't do anything wrong," Trump has reportedly asked his lawyers about the extent of his presidential pardoning powers and whether a president has the power to pardon himself.
Legal scholars disagree on whether presidents can use their pardoning power for themselves, as courts have never adjudicated such a case.