U.S. grand jury in use by Mueller

D.C. panel sec­ond he en­lists to get Rus­sia-in­quiry data

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON — Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is us­ing a fed­eral grand jury in Wash­ing­ton to help col­lect in­for­ma­tion as he in­ves­ti­gates Rus­sia’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lu­sion by Trump cam­paign as­so­ci­ates, sev­eral peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed Thurs­day.

Mueller is us­ing the Wash­ing­ton panel in ad­di­tion to one in Alexan­dria, Va., that’s al­ready been in­volved in the in­quiry, said the peo­ple, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive le­gal mat­ter. The grand jury in Alexan­dria has been used to gather in­for­ma­tion on Michael Flynn, Trump’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

Grand ju­ries are com­mon ve­hi­cles to subpoena wit­nesses and records, al­though their use does not sug­gest any crim­i­nal charges are near.

Mueller’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment, his spokesman, Joshua Stueve, said in an email. The Wall Street Jour­nal first re­ported on the spe­cial coun­sel’s use of a Wash­ing­ton grand jury.

Ty Cobb, spe­cial coun­sel to the pres­i­dent, said in a state­ment is­sued by the White House that he wasn’t aware that Mueller was us­ing a Wash­ing­ton grand jury.

“Grand jury mat­ters are typ­i­cally se­cret,” Cobb said. “The White House fa­vors any­thing that ac­cel­er­ates the con­clu­sion of his work fairly” and “is com­mit­ted to fully co­op­er­at­ing with Mr. Mueller.” He said “we have no rea­son to be­lieve” that Trump is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion per­son­ally.

John Dowd, an out­side lawyer for Trump, said he hasn’t re­ceived any com­mu­ni­ca­tion from a grand jury and that “Pres­i­dent Trump is not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

In re­cent weeks, Mueller ex­panded the fo­cus of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion to ex­am­ine a broad range of trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing Trump’s busi­nesses as well as those of his as­so­ci­ates, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the in­quiry.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also are look­ing into the busi­ness deal­ings of Trump’s son-in­law, Jared Kush­ner, now a White House ad­viser, and his

for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, ac­cord­ing to two other peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. They spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the con­tin­u­ing probe.

Mueller also has asked the White House to pre­serve all com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lated to a June 2016 meet­ing where the pres­i­dent’s el­dest son, Don­ald Trump Jr., Kush­ner and Manafort met with a Rus­sian lawyer, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, and Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist and for­mer Soviet coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Ri­nat Akhmetshin.

Mueller was ap­pointed spe­cial coun­sel in May by the Jus­tice Depart­ment af­ter the fir­ing by Trump of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey. Mueller has since as­sem­bled a team of more than a dozen in­ves­ti­ga­tors, in­clud­ing cur­rent and for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment prose­cu­tors with ex­pe­ri­ence in in­ter­na­tional bribery, or­ga­nized crime and fi­nan­cial fraud.

That team has been work­ing at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton, so a fed­eral court­house there would pro­vide a closer hub than Alexan­dria for pre­sent­ing ev­i­dence.

‘FABRI­CA­TION,’ TRUMP SAYS

At a Thurs­day night rally in Hunt­ing­ton, W.Va., Trump dis­missed al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia as “a to­tal fabri­ca­tion,” blam­ing the on­go­ing con­tro­versy on Democrats who still can’t get over the 2016 elec­tion re­sults.

The Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion has in­fu­ri­ated Trump, fre­quently pro­vok­ing out­bursts on Twit­ter, where he has railed against the probe as a “phony Rus­sian witch hunt” and “fake news.”

“The rea­son why Democrats only talk about the to­tally made-up Rus­sia story is be­cause they have no mes­sage, no agenda and no vi­sion,” Trump de­clared to an arena filled with sup­port­ers. “The Rus­sia story is a to­tal fabri­ca­tion. It’s just an ex­cuse for the great­est loss in the his­tory of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. It just makes them feel bet­ter when they have noth­ing else to talk about.”

The rally kicked off with West Vir­ginia’s Demo­cratic governor, Jim Jus­tice, in­form­ing the crowd that he was switch­ing par­ties to join the GOP, cit­ing his and Trump’s shared goal of get­ting things done. “He cares about Amer­ica. He cares about us in West Vir­ginia,” Jus­tice said.

Trump made no men­tion of Mueller in his re­marks, but ap­peared to re­fer to his and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mat­ter, say­ing: “I just hope the fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion is truly an hon­est one.”

Trump’s de­fense team has been look­ing into po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est among mem­bers of Mueller’s team, such as past po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to Democrats in­clud­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton, and Trump has warned that any ef­fort by Mueller to look into his fi­nances would fall out­side the scope of Mueller’s ap­point­ment.

In the Se­nate, con­cerns that Trump might want to re­place Mueller prompted bi­par­ti­san ef­forts to spon­sor leg­is­la­tion, pre­sented Thurs­day, “al­low­ing ju­di­cial re­view” if a spe­cial coun­sel is re­moved. Ac­cord­ing to one mea­sure spon­sored by Sens. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del., if a panel of judges finds no good cause for the re­moval, the in­di­vid­ual would be im­me­di­ately re­in­stated as spe­cial coun­sel.

“This re­flects in my view a broader bi­par­ti­san con­cern that the pres­i­dent may take in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion to in­ter­fere with the on­go­ing, im­por­tant work of Bob Mueller,” Coons told re­porters.

A separate bill would al­low only the at­tor­ney gen­eral or act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral to fire a spe­cial coun­sel for proper cause, and pro­vides for such ac­tion to be re­viewed by a panel of fed­eral judges. It was in­tro­duced by Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Coons told re­porters that he would con­tact Gra­ham, Booker and lead­ers of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee about work­ing on a com­bined mea­sure.

Trump at­tor­ney Jay Seku­low told Fox News on Thurs­day that “the pres­i­dent is not think­ing about fir­ing Robert Mueller so the spec­u­la­tion that’s out there is just in­cor­rect.”

Any fir­ing of Mueller would have to be done by Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, who ap­pointed Mueller and who has said he has seen no ba­sis for dis­missal.

Trump in re­cent weeks had also be­rated At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions for re­cus­ing him­self from is­sues re­lated to the Rus­sia probe, say­ing he wouldn’t have picked the for­mer Alabama sen­a­tor for the job if he thought Ses­sions would make that de­ci­sion.

But new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Ses­sions in a phone call over the week­end that Trump doesn’t in­tend to fire him and that his po­si­tion is safe, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion.

FLYNN, FIRM TIES

Flynn, whose busi­ness deals and for­eign con­nec­tions are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in re­la­tion to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­vealed a brief ad­vi­sory role with a firm re­lated to a data

anal­y­sis com­pany that aided the Trump cam­paign, The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

The dis­clo­sure of Flynn’s link to Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica came late Thurs­day in an amended pub­lic fi­nan­cial fil­ing in which the re­tired U.S. Army lieu­tenant gen­eral also dis­closes in­come that in­cludes pay­ments from the Trump tran­si­tion team, ac­cord­ing to a per­son close to Flynn who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity Thurs­day to de­scribe de­tails of the fil­ing to be made to the White House.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and Trump crit­ics have seized on Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica’s role as they’ve pushed con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors to scru­ti­nize the Trump cam­paign’s data op­er­a­tion as part of the Rus­sia probe.

The amended dis­clo­sure shows that just be­fore the end of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Flynn en­tered into a con­sult­ing agree­ment with SCL Group, a Vir­ginia com­pany re­lated to Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, the data-min­ing and anal­y­sis firm that worked with Trump’s cam­paign.

Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica was heav­ily funded by the fam­ily of Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund man­ager who also backed the cam­paign and other con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates and causes. Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica also worked for the suc­cess­ful pro-“Leave” cam­paign in 2016 to pull Bri­tain out of the Euro­pean Union. Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non was a vice pres­i­dent of Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica be­fore he joined the Trump cam­paign.

The AP source said Flynn didn’t per­form work or ac­cept pay­ment as part of the agree­ment with SCL Group. The de­tails of Flynn’s role with SCL weren’t spec­i­fied, the per­son said, not­ing that Flynn ter­mi­nated his in­volve­ment shortly af­ter Trump won the pres­i­dency.

Flynn’s amended fil­ing comes about six months af­ter he was ousted from the White House for mis­lead­ing the vice pres­i­dent about con­ver­sa­tions he had with the for­mer Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the U.S.

Flynn’s pre­vi­ous fil­ing, sub­mit­ted to the White House and Of­fice of Govern­ment Ethics in March, listed some $1.3 mil­lion in earn­ings, in­clud­ing be­tween $50,000 and $100,000 from his con­sult­ing com­pany, Flynn In­tel Group Inc.

The per­son close to Flynn said he is dis­clos­ing the in­for­ma­tion in an amended fil­ing to make sure the “pub­lic record is ac­cu­rate and trans­par­ent.”

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Chad Day, Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun, John Raby and Bill Bar­row of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Chris Strohm, Shan­non Pettypiece, David Voreacos, Laura Lit­van, Billy House, Justin Sink and Tom Schoen­berg of Bloomberg News; and by John Wag­ner of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Mueller

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