Why Robert Mueller's Russia Investigation Just Became A Lot More Urgent
A federal grand jury has reportedly given the go ahead for the first charges to be filed in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, CNN was the first to report late Friday. According to reports, the special counsel is expected to serve an indictment sometime Monday. A spokesman for Mueller's office did not immediately return Bustle's request for comment.
As of Saturday morning, it was unclear what exactly the charges were or who they'd been filed against as they were sealed under a federal judge's order. However, unnamed sources who were reportedly "briefed on the matter" told CNN plans had been put in place Friday to take those charged into custody as early as Monday. NBC News later confirmed reports of a Monday indictment.
Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told MSNBC it was common for indictments to be sealed at this stage on order to allow law enforcement to organize before making the arrest. "It may be that they don't arrest whoever this defendant is because they've worked out a relationship with his or her defense attorney to bring them in to appear on the case," McQuade said.
News of the charges came just one day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had claimed the Trump administration was seeing the Russian probe "getting closer to conclusion" in an interview on Fox News' America's Newsroom. Sanders had also said President Donald Trump "has confidence they're going to close this up soon." However, despite Sanders' comments, reports of charges being filed appear to signal that Mueller means business and that the investigation will likely continue well into 2018
President Trump has repeatedly denied allegations claiming he or his campaign colluded with Russia. The president has also repeatedly referred to the Russian probe as a "witch hunt" and, in recent weeks, has attempted to shift focus to his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
"It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump," the president wrote without citing any evidence in a tweet posted Oct. 27. "Was collusion with HC!"
Trump's tweet appeared to be a reference to a Washington Post story published earlier in the week alleging a law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had paid a commercial research and intelligence firm known as Fusion GPS for opposition research that later funded the Steele dossier. The dossier contained a list of allegations related to Trump and his ties to Russia.
The Washington Post story spurred some Trump allies to call for special counsel Mueller to step down from his role heading the Russian probe. "If the facts [in the Washington Post report] are true, then somebody with Bob Mueller's integrity will step aside, and should," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday during an interview with Fox News' Fox & Friends.
But some have accused the president of leaking – or at least pushing – the story regarding the Clinton campaign's alleged link to the Steele dossier as part of a strategic diversion. "So clearly target is in crosshairs, alerted Trumpsville, right wing media & Trump engineered mass diversion &main stream media fell for it," former Clinton adviser and president for the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden wrote in a tweet published earlier this week.
Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed special counsel in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Tasked with leading the investigation into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in their efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Mueller has reportedly been looking into potential ties between Trump aides and campaign staff and foreign governments.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn have both previously been reported as being high-profile, key figures in the investigation. However, it remains unclear if the charges revealed Friday pertain to either of them.