As part of the investigation into Russian interference during the US presidential election, special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly impaneling a grand jury in Washington.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal from Thursday, the grand jury signals Mueller may be set to continue the investigation, perhaps for a number of months. It also signals that the investigation is proceeding into a new phase as it continues to expand, while the special counsel searches for signs that individuals from President Trump’s campaign team were involved with Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, but White House special counsel Ty Cobb said the White House is cooperating.
“Grand jury matters are typically secret. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly,” Cobb told the Journal. “The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
The news follows efforts by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) aimed at protecting Mueller from being dismissed by the president. They introduced a bill on Monday requiring the Justice Department to seek permission from a federal judge before any special counsel can be fired.
“Our bill allows judicial review of any decision to terminate a special counsel to make sure it’s done for the reasons cited in the regulation rather than political motivation. I think this will serve the country well,” Graham said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Mueller has hired eight confirmed Democratic donors to assist him on his legal team. Wednesday, he added attorney Greg Andres, a New York attorney that has donated at least a total of $3,700 to federal Democratic candidates. Andres’s wife Ronnie Abrams, was appointed as a federal judge by Obama in 2011.
Together, Democratic donors working for Mueller have donated $60,700 to Democratic campaigns, prompting concerns among conservatives and President Trump himself. His legal team is reportedly looking into Mueller’s team, searching for potential conflicts of interest.
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump said it would be a violation for Mueller to investigate his family’s finances.
“I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump said at the time. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
NEW: Special counsel Robert Mueller impanels grand jury to investigate Russia’s interference in 2016 election, Wall Street Journal reports. pic.twitter.com/pRCtEjOx03
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 3, 2017
Other reports are also suggesting Mueller is expanding the probe into Trump’s finances and “possible financial crimes.” This may create an issue, since Mueller can investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” and Trump’s expansive real estate web — like prior dealings with Russia involving the 2013 Miss Universe pageant — leaves his finances open to investigation. It also allows Mueller to force Trump business associates to cooperate.
During an interview with The New York Times, Trump said it would be “a violation” if Mueller made his finances a focus of the investigation.
The White House responded to the news of Mueller’s expansion. The statement can be read below:
— CNBC (@CNBC) August 3, 2017
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