The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a Washington, D.C. grand jury for his probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
This latest development, according to the Journal, is “a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase.” Special counsel Mueller has been looking into collusion and Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 Election, such as possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
President Trump’s lawyer Ty Cobb said in a statement to the Journal: “Grand jury matters are typically secret. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly….The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
President Trump throughout at the onset of questions swirling about his camp and Russia involvement, has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and has publicly called into question the former FBI chief’s credibility as an impartial investigator.
Despite Trump’s disdain for anything involving the Russian probe, the intelligence community remains on task stating there is plenty of evidence of meddling—prompting an FBI probe, which Mueller was assigned to take over after Trump fired FBI Director, James Comey.
Thomas Zeno, a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm and a former federal prosecutor, told The Journal that the grand jury was “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”
“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges, but it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down” Zeno added
A grand jury, located in Alexandria, Va., had already been used by Federal prosecutors as part of their investigation of Michael Flynn—a Trump campaign supporter and ousted national security adviser.
Mueller’s prosecutors have taken over that probe, which includes looking into Flynn’s work as a private citizen for foreign interests.
While President Donald Trump has stopped short of saying he plans to fire Robert Mueller, his top aides have acknowledged the subject has come up. That, in turn, has prompted a sharp retort from top Republicans and Democrats alike. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
The reports of the Mueller impaneling a grand jury was announced at a time lawmakers introduced bipartisan Senate bills that aimed to protect Mueller should President Trump follow through on his desire to fire the special counsel.
Both bills would require judicial review of any move to oust Special Counsel Mueller. One of the measures would allow Mueller to challenge his firing by appealing to a panel of three federal judges.
The second bill would force Justice Department officials ordered to fire Mueller to go before the judicial panel before Mueller is “fired” to explain their reasons.
Mueller has reportedly expanded the probe to examine Trump’s business dealings and financial history. The special counsel recently added the 16th lawyer to his team of investigators: Greg Andres, a former DOJ official who managed the department’s program targeting illegal foreign bribery.
Insiders familiar with the investigation told CNN that federal investigators exploring whether the Trump camp colluded with Russian have seized upon Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward.
It is unclear how long the investigation will last, however, what’s clear is that the investigation has intensified.
By LeNora Millen 08-03-17