The Department of Justice’s Russia probe appears to have greatly accelerated in intensity. On the same day that two senators, a Republican and a Democrat, unveiled two bills aimed at protecting the special counsel from being removed from his job by President Donald Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported that Robert Mueller has now impaneled a grand jury.
Unnamed sources familiar with the matter told the Journal that Mueller has impaneled a separate grand jury to solely focus on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The grand jury, the Journal reported, "began its work in recent weeks."
One year after the FBI opened its investigation, it looks like things might be starting to get serious.
A grand jury is a very powerful investigative tool, and Mueller has broad latitude to expand the probe wherever the evidence leads. CNN reported on Thursday that Mueller’s probe “has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 elections, alongside the ongoing scrutiny of possible illegal coordination with Russian spy agencies and alleged attempts by President Donald Trump and others to obstruct the FBI investigation.” Bloomberg additionally reported last month that Mueller’s probe “also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.”
Two senior federal law enforcement officials recently told Vox that the potential case against Trump is stronger than outsiders have thought, and said top FBI officials should be prepared to testify against Trump:
“What you are going to have is the potential for a powerful obstruction case,” a senior law enforcement official said. “You are going to have the [former] FBI director testify, and then the acting director, the chief of staff to the FBI director, the FBI’s general counsel, and then others, one right after another. This has never been the word of Trump against what [James Comey] has had to say. This is more like the Federal Bureau of Investigation versus Donald Trump.”
Trump's attorney, Ty Cobb, told the Journal that he was not told about Mueller’s grand jury.
“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. . . . The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”