Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury as part of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to two people close to the investigation.
The grand jury began its work in recent weeks and provides the surest sign yet that the investigation is intensifying, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mueller's team is investigating not only Russia's actions but also the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign.
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Despite President Donald Trump calling the Russia investigation a "witch hunt," his counsel expressed support for the grand jury.
"Grand jury matters are typically secret," Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, told the Journal. "The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. … The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller."
Trump has previously criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. On Twitter he has said that the whole matter is a witch hunt.
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2017
A grand jury located in Alexandria, Va. was already impaneled in the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Mueller's team has taken over that probe. Former FBI Director James Comey has said that Trump pressured him to drop the investigation into Flynn, a point he repeated to lawmakers in congressional testimony after Trump fired him.
Others said that the grand jury's existence indicates that prosecutions are being considered in the Russia probe beyond just Flynn.
"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," University of Texas law professor Stephen I. Vladeck told the Journal. "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."
Some on the right have cast doubt on Mueller's investigation after he hired attorneys and prosecutors who had donated to Democrats. As of this writing, at least eight members of Mueller's team have donated to Democratic candidates.
UPDATED 4:34 P.M.: This post was updated to include new information that grand jury subpoenas have been issued.