Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading up the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between associates of Donald Trump and the Kremlin, has empaneled a grand jury, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The move suggests that Mueller’s investigation is “ramping up,” according to the paper.
“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,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told the Journal. Vladeck told the paper that the grand jury, which was established in the past few weeks in Washington, DC, was an indication that Mueller’s investigation has extended far beyond the scandal swirling around for National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. “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,” Vladeck said. “This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”
Ty Cobb, one of Trump’s lawyers, told the paper he was unaware of the DC grand jury and added: “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of [the special counsel’s] work fairly.”
Also on Thursday, CNN reported that Mueller’s team has “seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.” Some of the ties reportedly being scrutinized are unconnected to the 2016 election.
CNN noted that Trump told the New York Times in July that if Mueller began to look into his financial dealings and didn’t focus solely on Russia, Mueller would be crossing a red line.
“President’s outside counsel has not received any requests for documentation or information about this,” Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, told CNN when asked about Mueller’s reported investigation into Trump’s financial ties. “Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to.”
Also Thursday, Reuters reported that the Mueller grand jury has issued subpoenas in relation to the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer.