Impaneling a grand jury, 72-year-old former FBI Director now Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller looks to marshal evidence to potentially charge Trump campaign officials if not the president himself. While there’s no guarantee of indictments, Mueller’s decision to impanel at least 16 federal jurors suggests, at the very least, he’s looking to either charge or vindicate suspects in the Special Counsel’s Russian probe into the 2016 election. Democrats and the media have leveled criminal charges at the president and his campaign officials, including his son, Donald Trump Jr., for colluding with Russia to gain an advantage in the 2016 election. Mueller must wade through all the partisan smoke to see whether or not any laws were broken. Unfortunately for Trump, he’s not looking into whether former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton broke any laws.
Speaking at rally in Huntington West Virginia last night, Trump emphatically said the Russia story was a hoax, designed by Democrats and the media to discredit his Nov. 8, 2016 election win over Hillary. Yet Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation has plenty of red meat to investigate with a grand jury, forcing various suspects to provide evidence and testify to ascertain whether or not there’s substance to the charges. Mueller’s decision to use the grand jury system hopes to speed up an investigation started by former FBI Director James Comey in July of 2016. Comey received Hillary’s paid political dossier from Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) accusing Trump of everything but the kitchen sink when it came to Russian collusion in the 2016 campaign. Working with the Obama administration Justice Department, Comey sought warrants from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] Court.
Trump can only complain, cry foul and condemn Mueller’s FBI investigation as a witch-hunt but the focus of the investigation remains squarely on Trump. There’s little silver lining for Trump, including the idea that Mueller’s moving ahead to either indict someone or end the year –long probe into Russian collusion. Grand juries have no special powers other than deciding based on Mueller’s grand jury instructions whether or not to charge anyone with a crime. Grand juries often get the charges wrong indicting suspects even though there’s insufficient evidence to convict. Unlike Comey who decided to play grand jury himself, deciding whether or not to charge anyone, Mueller smartly put the burden to charge in the hands of a grand jury. When you look at certain suspects, like former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, grand juries have plenty of discretion.
Among all of Mueller’s targets, Flynn is probably the most vulnerable, since he was forced to resign in disgrace, after discovering he met or talked with former U.S. Russian Amb. Sergei Kislyak without disclosing it. Flynn didn’t disclose before approved as National Security Advisor that he conducted foreign transactions without registration as a foreign agent. Whether that violated U.S. laws is anyone’s guess. Democrats and the media accuse Trump campaign operatives of coordinating with the Kremlin to release hacked campaign material from the Democratic National Committee and former Hillary campaign Chairman John D. Podesta. Leaked by WikiLeaks before the election, Hillary campaign advisers accuse Trump officials of sabotaging her campaign with Russian help. Comey couldn’t come up with one iota of evidence to prove Trump’s Russian collusion.
Democrats and the media have made a federal case over the leaked tidbit to the Wall Street Journal that Mueller was using a grand jury. If there’s any logic at all to impaneling a grand jury, Mueller seeks to take the pressure off himself, putting onto a grand jury, commissioned with the decision-making authority. In point of fact, Mueller gives the grand jury the instructions to meet the threshold of a criminal indictment, deciding whether to charge a given suspect. Comey was fired by Trump May 9 for bungling the Hillary email investigation by deciding himself whether to charge or end the investigation July 5, 2016 or reopen the investigation Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the Nov. 8, 2016 election. Detuty Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein gave a detailed three-page explanation why Comey was fired, primarily for usurping the Department of Justice.
Mueller’s decision to impanel a grand jury takes the prosecutorial burden off him and puts it onto a less partisan grand jury. While Mueller will give all the instructions and set the threshold for charges, it still takes the onus off him and puts it on the grand jury. Given that Mueller sets the standards for indictment, it’s likely that some Trump campaign officials will get charged with something . Whether or not those charges stick or meet the “beyond and reasonable doubt” threshold isn’t guaranteed. Because grand juries deliberate in secret, it gives Mueller more breathing room, despite past leaks that made Comey’s investigation all the more questionable. Sacrificial lambs like Flynn could get snared by Mueller, while Donald Trump Jr. remains more slippery. Meeting with a Russian lawyer with possible ties to Hillary’s campaign is hardly a sure thing.