Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a Washington grand jury for his Russia investigation, a key procedural step as he looks into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, said two sources familiar with the investigation.
The sources said Mueller was now leaning on a closed-door panel housed at the federal courthouse on Constitution Avenue — just blocks from FBI headquarters and the Capitol — to present evidence and issue subpoenas as part of his expanding probe.
Mueller’s spokesman declined to comment. A top Trump White House lawyer told reporters he wasn’t aware of the move.
"Grand jury matters are typically secret," Ty Cobb, who started this week as Trump’s new special counsel, said in a statement released to reporters by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
"The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly,” Cobb said, noting the White House is “committed to fully cooperating” with Mueller.
This isn’t the first grand jury tied to the Russia probe. With Mueller’s appointment in May, he inherited the work that federal prosecutors had already done with a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., related to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over his foreign lobbying disclosures and contacts with Russian officials prior to the January inauguration.
Mueller’s probe — which now includes 16 attorneys — is covering a wide range of issues related to the 2016 election, including financial ties between Russia, Trump and his business partners; the hacks into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta; and Trump’s decision in May to fire FBI Director James Comey.
A former Justice Department official said Mueller’s use of a Washington grand jury is a strong signal the Russia probe has more than one line of inquiry cooking.
“It suggests he’s got multiple work streams going on and wants to do a higher volume than if they’re just using Virginia,” the former DOJ source said.
Mueller, a former George W. Bush-appointed FBI director, and his team of experienced lawyers, including Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, are also familiar with Washington courts, and their use of a local jury also makes sense “as a matter of convenience,” the source said.
“Logistically, it’s a whole lot easier getting from the Mall to federal court in Washington," the source said. "They’re three blocks away as opposed to five miles away to get to Alexandria.”