Grand jury in Rus­sia probe

Mueller tak­ing full con­trol of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into any Trump ties

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Carol D. Leon­nig, Sari Hor­witz and Matt Za­po­to­sky

WASH­ING­TON» Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller be­gan us­ing a grand jury in fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton sev­eral weeks ago as part of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Krem­lin and the Trump cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the in­quiry.

The de­vel­op­ment is a sign that in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to ag­gres­sively gather ev­i­dence in the case and that Mueller is tak­ing full con­trol of a probe that pre­dated him.

In re­cent weeks and months, Mueller has been ex­pand­ing the le­gal team work­ing on the mat­ter, and re­cently added Greg An­dres, a long­time white-col­lar lawyer spe­cial­iz­ing in for­eign bribery who pre­vi­ously worked in the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s crim­i­nal di­vi­sion.

Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion now in­cludes a look at whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ob­structed jus­tice by fir­ing FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, as well as deep dives into fi­nan­cial and other deal­ings of for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn and for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors had pre­vi­ously been us­ing a grand jury in

the East­ern District of Vir­ginia and, even be­fore Mueller was ap­pointed, had in­creased their ac­tiv­ity, is­su­ing sub­poe­nas and tak­ing other in­ves­tiga­tive steps.

The Wall Street Jour­nal on Thurs­day first re­ported the ex­is­tence of the Wash­ing­ton grand jury.

A White House ad­viser said the pres­i­dent and his son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, had not re­ceived sub­poe­nas, nor had the White House. Mem­bers of the pres­i­dent’s le­gal team met with Mueller three weeks ago to say they would work with his in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

A spokesman for Mueller de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

Ty Cobb, whom Trump ap­pointed as White House spe­cial coun­sel, said of the grand jury: “This is news to me, but it’s wel­come news to the ex­tent it sug­gests that it may ac­cel­er­ate the res­o­lu­tion of Mr. Mueller’s work. The White House has ev­ery in­ter­est in bring­ing this to a prompt and fair con­clu­sion. As we’ve said in the past, we’re com­mit­ted to co­op­er­at­ing fully with Mr. Mueller.”

Mueller has largely re­moved the orig­i­nal pros­e­cu­tors from the case, re­plac­ing them with a for­mi­da­ble col­lec­tion of le­gal tal­ent and ex­per­tise in pros­e­cut­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, fraud and pub­lic cor­rup­tion cases, ar­gu­ing mat­ters be­fore the Supreme Court and as­sess­ing com­pli­cated le­gal ques­tions.

In fed­eral cases, a grand jury is not nec­es­sar­ily an in­di­ca­tion that an in­dict­ment is im­mi­nent or even likely. In­stead, it is a pow­er­ful in­ves­tiga­tive tool that pros­e­cu­tors use to com­pel wit­nesses to tes­tify or force peo­ple or com­pa­nies to turn over doc­u­ments.

It’s un­clear why Mueller chose to use a panel in the District of Columbia, although there are prac­ti­cal rea­sons to do so. The spe­cial coun­sel’s of­fice is lo­cated in south­west D.C. — much closer to the fed­eral court­house in the city than the one in Alexan­dria, Va.

Mueller also had pre­vi­ously worked in the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in D.C., giv­ing him some fa­mil­iar­ity with the court­house and the judges.

Ex­perts said that Wash­ing­ton would be the ap­pro­pri­ate place to con­vene a grand jury to ex­am­ine ac­tions taken by Trump since he be­came pres­i­dent and took up res­i­dence at the White House.

Many of the po­ten­tial crimes Mueller’s team is in­ves­ti­gat­ing would have oc­curred in D.C., such as al­le­ga­tions that Trump aides or ad­vis­ers made false state­ments in dis­clo­sure records or lied to fed­eral agents. The Post has pre­vi­ously re­ported that Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the pres­i­dent tried to ob­struct jus­tice lead­ing up to his fir­ing of Comey.

Oth­ers said the choice could re­flect Mueller’s rep­u­ta­tion for plan­ning ahead and gam­ing out a pos­si­ble trial. He could have bet­ter chances con­vict­ing aides to Trump in a city in which 90 per­cent of vot­ers sup­ported Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016.

The spe­cial coun­sel team took over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when Mueller was ap­pointed in May, and pros­e­cu­tors from the East­ern District of Vir­ginia were largely taken off the case.

The only pros­e­cu­tor known to have stayed was Bran­don Van Grack, a na­tional se­cu­rity di­vi­sion pros­e­cu­tor whose name was on the sub­poena con­nected to Flynn. Mueller’s team also ab­sorbed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Manafort that was at­tempt­ing to trace his sources of in­come and pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to the Rus­sia case.

The grand jury in Vir­ginia had is­sued a sub­poena re­lated to Flynn’s busi­ness, the Flynn In­tel Group, which was paid more than $500,000 by a com­pany owned by a Turk­ish Amer­i­can busi­ness­man close to top Turk­ish of­fi­cials, said peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. A sub­poena re­lated to Manafort also was is­sued from Alexan­dria.

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