A grand jury has been impaneled in Washington, D.C., to investigate Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election — a development that has nearly no bearing on the final outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping probe.
The news, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, means Mueller will be armed with an additional investigative tool to look into the alleged hacking and interference by Russian operatives.
But a grand jury doesn’t necessarily mean much more beyond that.
Experts noted the FBI investigated the email servers of Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, and came up with nothing. And despite reporting from the time of the investigation, from March 2015 to June 2016, federal prosecutors did indeed issue grand jury subpoenas in connection with the Clinton investigation.
It was widely assumed by Republicans that former FBI Director James Comey didn’t convene a grand jury. But Comey did, according to Politico — the existence of the grand jury simply did not leak.
The Mueller grand jury apparently leaked immediately, within days of its creation.
But what it might prove, as some pundits noted, is that the creation of a grand jury doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere. The FBI punted on prosecuting Clinton in July 2016.
And in 2005, after a two-year investigation, Justice Department special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald ended an exhaustive investigation into the leak of the name of a CIA covert operative. But Fitzgerald didn’t indict any of the leakers.
Instead, he indicted and later convicted Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, for perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice. The investigation, using a grand jury, did not actually lead to the conviction of anyone who committed the original wrongdoing.
Still, the creation of a grand jury indicates Mueller may believe there is some sort of criminal wrongdoing to target, according to Andrew McCarthy, a contributing editor at National Review and a former U.S. prosecutor. McCarthy had previously said the FBI investigation was principally a counterintelligence investigation.
“This is officially criminal now. You don’t impanel a grand jury for a counterintelligence investigation,” McCarthy tweeted after the late Thursday afternoon news.
There is already a grand jury convened in Alexandria, Virginia, to look into the conduct of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, and his financial dealings.
But the creation of a new one, right down the street from the U.S. Department of Justice, indicates a a determination to expand the probe beyond Flynn. Still, it doesn’t mean there was wrongdoing ,and it remains unclear who the potential targets of the grand jury may be.
McCarthy noted, in National Review, “The fact that there is a criminal investigation does not mean charges are imminent, or indeed that they will ever be filed.”
Mueller has hired top D.C.-area attorneys who are skilled, people who had lucrative careers. Most of them are Democrats who have made large campaign donations to Democratic candidates.
They apparently have signed on for big trophy hunting.
And despite the White House assurances that there is still no indication that Trump is being targeted, some believe there is no reason to assume that Mueller is not targeting Trump. CNN is reporting that Mueller is digging through old leases in Trump Tower in Manhattan, and looking at a wide array of financial dealings of Trump, his family, and his friends.
There are even reports that Mueller will ask Donald Trump Jr. about his meeting with a Russian attorney in June 2016.
Trump supporters are wary of Mueller’s wide-ranging scope.
Bill Bennett, President Ronald Reagan’s former education secretary, noted an old saying by journalist Robert Novak: If the federal government comes after you on financial crimes, they will get you. In the end, there is no doubt, Bennett told Fox News’ Dana Perino on Thursday night, that Mueller and his team are coming after the president.