President Trump has called the investigation into the Trump Russia scandal a political “witch hunt,” that he says is only occurring as a result of the biggest political loss in American election history. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller, investigating the Trump Russia scandal, may see otherwise. This week announced that a grand jury has convened on the Trump Russia matter, just “a few hundred yards away from the White House,” reports The Guardian. The Guardian also reports that the White House is now a potential crime scene for obstruction of justice.
This week’s news that Robert Mueller has had a grand jury convened for many weeks now in Washington, D.C., indicates that Mueller and his team are indeed closing in on key facts of the Trump Russia scandal. Whether or not there will be criminal indictments remains to be seen.
A grand jury’s powers extend and are limited to issuing subpoenas on an ongoing investigation, and also issuing indictments upon the request of prosecutors. Find Law notes that grand jury proceedings are similar to preliminary hearing proceedings in a criminal matter. They function as mini-trials to assess evidence and are frequently used to determine the efficacy of a case and its possibility for prosecution.
Evidence is reviewed during the course of a grand jury investigation, and testimony can be heard by witnesses. During the course of those investigations, the grand jury has the power to subpoena information and witness testimony. At the conclusion of the investigation, the grand jury can not determine guilt or innocence, but can extend indictments on a criminal matter, which are the equivalent of criminal charges.
If any indictment results from the Robert Mueller grand jury, it would be a criminal charge and a federal charge. But Robert Mueller is nowhere near that yet, that we know of, although the fact that a grand jury has been made public and official suggests his investigation is not hampering down any time soon, but is instead widening. A unanimous vote by a grand jury is not necessary for an indictment to occur.
Either two-thirds of the jury must vote in favor of the indictment, or three-quarters, depending on jurisdiction. According to Rule 6 Section (f) of the Criminal Rules of Washington, D.C., courts, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., can only indict when a minimum of 12 jurors concur an indictment based on the evidence and witness testimony is warranted.
A Washington, D.C., grand jury contains between 16 and 23 grand jurors. It is unclear how many jurors are on Robert Mueller’s grand jury.
The New Yorker reports that the grand jury in the Trump Russia investigation is significant because “it means that Mueller is in the midst of a predicated criminal investigation.” There are very specific rules required to even warrant the existence of a grand jury convening.
“Grand juries don’t investigate hoaxes, and there are rules against using them for anything resembling a political witch hunt.”
The New Yorker further reports the existence of the Trump Russia grand jury under special prosecutor Robert Mueller means that Mueller has “reached the point where he has evidence of criminal conduct.”
Even so, this does not mean that criminal indictments are a sure thing. A grand jury convened over the Hillary Clinton email case. Its powers were used to issue subpoenas, but no criminal indictments resulted.
The Trump Russia scandal, in the wake of recent information of a meeting with a Russian lawyer to obtain opposition research against Hillary Clinton, appears broader in scope than the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is well-liked and well-respected by both sides of the aisle in Washington. The Guardian reports that the grand jury convening is not politically favorable to Trump, who only garnered 4 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia. A professor for Columbia Law School, Scott Horton, told The Guardian the following on the matter.
“This sets the scene of action for criminal trials, where charges will be laid, in the worst possible jurisdiction for Trump. Compared to Virginia [where grand juries are often held on political matters] Republicans in D.C. are few and far between.”
In addition to the new information coming to light about the now famous Russia meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., also briefly attended by Jared Kushner, the New York Times reported this week that the grand jury has requested documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. To add to the growing list of evidence that the Robert Mueller investigation is widening, Vox reported this week that senior FBI officials have been advised they could be potential witnesses in an obstruction of justice investigation.
The Guardian reports that when Trump allegedly worked to persuade former FBI Director James Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, upon White House grounds, he allegedly made the White House grounds the “crime scene” of that alleged obstruction.
Additionally, with subpoenas issued on the Russia meeting, Reuters reports the grand jury could also be closing in on the Trump family. The Guardian reports that Robert Mueller’s team of investigators includes 16 lawyers versed in money laundering and financial crimes. Greg Andres is a former deputy assistant attorney general and has just been added to the team. He brings experience in foreign bribery to the table for the Robert Mueller team.
Malcolm Nance, author of The Plot to Hack America, and a former U.S. intelligence officer, says that all key parties are being looked at in the Trump Russia investigation. He also described the investigation like a “wood chipper.”
“The Mueller dream-team now has the top 14 financial crimes prosecutors in America. The wheels of justice grind finely and slow but this is a wood chipper, and all these various items and going to get fed into it – Flynn, Kushner, Trump, Manafort, and anyone who has been assigned to the White House over this period. No one is getting out unscathed. That’s why Trump is so terrified.”
But President Trump has not appeared terrified at recent rallies, although it is unclear what the purpose of his rallies are. He recently told West Virginia that those investigating the Russia scandal were trying to cheat America.
“They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want.”
Although Trump does have supporters that appear to remain deeply committed to him, he also does have supporters that are leaving him. A bevy of Trump supporters in the last week have tweeted the president directly, calling him a liar, a disappointment, and one Trump voter even asked him to resign.
@realDonaldTrump I voted for you but I'm asking you to resign. There is a fresh scandal every week. Nothing is getting done. Please go.— Michael Reid (@mjr5211515) July 28, 2017
I'm disappointed in you. I voted for you but now I believe you to be a liar. Please prove me wrong. Earth is flat.— David Hicks (@daveflatearth) July 30, 2017
I won't join you for anything. I voted for you, but your outrageous tweets have turned me and many others off. We HATE this.— Rodger Bloch (@rodger_bloch) June 29, 2017
Newsweek reports that on the Trump Russia scandal there are three indisputable facts. Those are, first that a presidential candidate engaged in a very public, political courtship of a foreign power.
The second indisputable fact is that the foreign power in question engaged in aggressive conduct intended to influence the election, as evidenced by the multiple intelligence agencies reports on the matter.
The third indisputable fact is that direct communications are on record between members of the Trump presidential campaign and the foreign power, in which the campaign “invited that help.” The president’s legal team has brushed those matters off as a political witch hunt, and saying that there was nothing wrong with said communications, or even the Russia meeting that the campaign team claims was about adoption.
But the emails that Donald Trump, Jr. himself tweeted have the words “Russia Clinton — private and confidential” in the subject header.
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
But, the campaign finance laws say otherwise, that it is wrong to obtain help of any kind from a foreign power. Cornell Law notes that Section 52 U.S.§ 30109 of the United States Criminal Code provides for both civil and criminal enforcement of a violation to campaign finance laws.
There are fines, civil penalties, and possible imprisonment statutes under this section for violations to campaign finance laws. Exchanges between a foreign power and a campaign team do not need to be monetary in order to be deemed illegal.
If a contribution from a foreign power involves “contribution, donation, or expenditure from a foreign source” or “a thing of value” that would “advance the electoral objectives” of a candidate, that could be deemed a violation of the criminal code.
That would be something that Robert Mueller and his team are trying to sort out. As it stands now, the very reason that the Obama dministration placed sanctions on Russia is a result of the known and indisputable fact that Russia interfered with the American election.
Thus, at least one presidential administration has had a problem with that interference. It is unclear why the Trump administration calls the investigation into that interference a political witch hunt. That would be another question for Robert Mueller to explore as he closes in on the key figures in the Trump Russia scandal with the Trump White House as a possible crime scene for obstruction of justice.
[Feature Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]