CLEVELAND, Ohio: The new jobs numbers look good for President Donald Trump, with two exceptions. Special counsel Robert Mueller hired his 16th heavy-hitter criminal attorney to join his Russian investigation team. And Mueller has impaneled a Washington-based grand jury, whose job ultimately may be to decide if there’s probable cause to bring indictments against subjects of the investigation, if Mueller seeks them.
Much is being made of Mueller assembling a grand jury, but this development is more standard practice, than a significant surprise.
Grand juries are a standard investigative tool for prosecutors. They allow investigators to gather information/evidence through issuing subpoenas and compelling testimony under oath.
Mueller assembling a Washington-based grand-jury, instead of a currently standing grand jury, does not mean he’s moved to the stage where he’s seeking indictments. It is an indication that this is a long, large, complicated and ongoing investigation.
Although Trump would prefer a grand jury assembled in Trump-friendly West Virginia, Mueller impaneling a new Washington-based grand jury makes practical sense.
A general, currently standing grand jury has a set term limit and they hear testimony in multiple unrelated case. The new grand jury will just be able to focus on what is expected to be a long and involved Russian investigation and nothing else. It’s a case with multiple potential targets and lines of inquiry, including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, The Donald, The Donald Jr., collusion, obstruction, campaign law violations, bribery and money laundering, among others.
Testimony about Donald Trump Jr’s infamous 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives will certainly be heard by the grand jury. Not only will Donald Trump Jr. likely be called to testify under oath, President Trump also may be compelled to testify before the new grand jury. He could be expected to be asked if, as reported, he dictated Don Jr’s misleading response that his meeting with the Russians was only ever about adoptions.
Trump wouldn’t be the first sitting president to testify under oath before a grand jury. President Bill Clinton had done so. Under deposition, Clinton famously asked, “Define is” and declared “I never had sexual relations with that woman!” Trump will be asking “Define obstruction,” and declaring “I’m not a dictator and I never had collusion relations with that Russian.”