Hot off the presses from the Wall Street Journal comes news that special investigator Robert Mueller has impaneled a Washington grand jury in the ongoing probe into collusion between the Trump administration and Russia. The basics:
The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months….
Before Mr. Mueller was tapped in May to be special counsel, federal prosecutors had been using at least one other grand jury, located in Alexandria, Va., to assist in their criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser. That probe, which has been taken over by Mr. Mueller’s team, focuses on Mr. Flynn’s work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests.
Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.
Representatives from Mueller’s office and the White House have issued their own versions of “no comment” and “this is totally fine!” It’s hard to know exactly what this means in terms of the scope of the investigation, but legal experts in general, quoted by the Journal, agreed that it’s a step up in order of magnitude:
“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”
Again, this does not guarantee that Mueller will even bring charges, much less render any verdict that will stick to Trump. But this is not the only sign that things are ramping up—Greg Andres, formerly of the Justice Department, has left his private practice in New York to join Mueller. Meanwhile, legislation introduced to the Senate by Thom Tillis, a Republican, and Chris Coons, a Democrat, aims to make it harder for Trump to fire Mueller. That’s probably a wise move, as Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and openly contemplated getting rid of the investigator.
For an an interesting Twitter thread on how this could spiral into something very serious for Trump, go here.
As of now, there is no deadline for Mueller’s investigation to conclude.
UPDATE: We now know what some of the grand jury subpoenas are for:
UPDATE 2: DNC Ceo Jess O’Connell has released a statement on the grand jury:
“Special Counsel Mueller impaneling a grand jury is further confirmation that this is a serious investigation and not a ‘witch hunt.’ As the investigation proceeds, it is more important than ever that all of our leaders draw a line in the sand and make clear to the President that he must respect the rule of law and refrain from continuing the pattern of threats and interference he has engaged in over the past several months. The American people deserve answers, and they deserve a president who will allow our system of justice to produce them.”