Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Russia Investigation Heats Up, Part 2


Well. Things are certainly getting interesting.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury today in the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, signaling that the investigation is entering a new phase. According to the Wall Street Journal, this could indicate that the investigation is still months away from any sort of resolution.

“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Ty Cobb (no, not that Ty Cobb) special counsel to the President said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.…The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.” This runs in direct contradiction to donald trump's own statements classifying the investigation as a "witch hunt."

Legal experts are weighing in with their opinions as to what today's actions mean. Stephen I. Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, says that “This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel. If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.” Similarly, Thomas Zeno, a lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs and a federal prosecutor for 29 years previous to joining the firm, says that the grand jury is “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.” He cautions that “This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges, but it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

To further fuel speculation that the investigation is heating up, Greg Adnres has joined Mr. Mueller's team. Mr. Andres is a top partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York. According to Mr. Zeno “People like Greg Andres don’t leave private practice willy-nilly. The fact he is being added after couple of months shows how serious this is and that it could last a long time.” As of this writing there has been no comment from Mr. Andres.

These developments come as Congress debates a pair of bipartisan bills originating in the Senate -- one from Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and another from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) -- which make it more difficult for trump to fire Mueller, as he has threatened to do.

Under the Coons-Tillis bill, a special counsel has the right to challenge his or her removal, with a three judge panel providing a ruling within 14 days. If the challenge is upheld the special counsel is immediately reinstated.

The Graham-Booker bill, which is being backed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), differs slightly in that the Justice Department would need to file a formal request prior to the firing, rather than appealing an existing termination.

More information can be found by following the links below.

The Hill: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/345212-mueller-establishes-grand-jury-in-trump-russia-probe-report

The Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/special-counsel-mueller-impanels-washington-grand-jury-in-russia-probe-1501788287

Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-mueller-idUSKBN1AJ2RA

CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/03/special-counsel-mueller-impanels-grand-jury-in-russia-probe-wsj-reports.html

Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-03/mueller-is-said-to-impanel-grand-jury-in-russia-probe-wsj-says

The Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/aug/3/robert-mueller-impanels-grand-jury-russia-probe/

The Week: http://theweek.com/speedreads/716352/russia-probe-special-counsel-robert-mueller-reportedly-impanels-washington-grand-jury

CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-robert-mueller-convenes-grand-jury-in-russia-investigation/

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