Special Counsel Robert Mueller has
impaneled a grand jury to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016
election, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The move is seen as a sign the investigation into election interference
and possible collusion with the Trump campaign is heating up and
entering a new phase. Reuters also reported that grand jury subpoenas
have been issued in connection with the meeting Donald Trump Jr. had
with a Russian lawyer and others last year.
Russia has denied having a hand in the U.S. presidential election.
President Trump, too, has strongly denied allegations of collusion and
has frequently called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Grand juries allow prosecutors to subpoena documents and get witness
testimony on the record. They also can seek indictments.
Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, told Fox News on Thursday he
wasn’t aware that Mueller had impaneled a new grand jury but said, "We
favor anything that brings this investigation to a swift conclusion."
Cobb also told reporters that, "Grand jury matters are typically
secret," and the White House “is committed to fully cooperating with Mr.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow downplayed the significance of the grand
jury, calling it "a standard operating procedure when you've got a
situation like this."
“We have no reason to believe President Trump is under investigation,”
Trump attorney John Dowd told Fox News.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that former FBI
Director James Comey repeatedly said Trump was not under investigation
earlier this year.
Mueller, who now has a team of 16 attorneys, was brought on as special
counsel in May. Prior to his involvement, federal prosecutors reportedly
had been using another grand jury, in Alexandria, Va., to help with
their criminal investigation into former national security adviser
The Flynn case focuses on his work in the private sector on behalf of
Asked Thursday about the Journal report, the special counsel's office
had no comment.
Trump and his allies have in recent weeks openly criticized Mueller,
with one Republican lawmaker even calling for him to step aside.
Other lawmakers have responded with proposals that could serve to shield
Mueller from being fired.
Trump also has fumed about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to
recuse himself from the Russia case, which cleared the way for Mueller's
eventual appointment -- though Sessions has recently been told by the
White House his job is considered safe.
Thomas Zeno, a former federal prosecutor, told the Journal that
impaneling a grand jury is “confirmation that this is a very vigorous
investigation going on.”
Zeno cautioned the step does not automatically mean Mueller will bring
charges but added “it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if
[the investigation] were winding down.”
Fox News' John Roberts contributed to this report.