By: Rex Nazarko
Since his first day in office, President Donald Trump has been tormented with reports which tie him and his campaign to the Russian Kremlin. While it has been confirmed by US intelligence that Moscow did meddle in the 2016 US Presidential election, the more severe fear is that the chief executive of America has direct ties to their most competent adversary. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that President Trump denies these claims, parroting his now trademark phrase “fake news”, but time is working against the president. The administration has their hands full, plagued by emerging facts and actions which cast further suspicion on the administration, bringing the Trumps, their campaign, and Russia closer together. Most recent includes Donald Trump Jr. and his willingness to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton from a foreign agent Trump’s actions in order to put the matter to rest.
Institutional machines were put into motion after doubt emerged that the 45th president had potentially worked with the Russians. The FBI, under the leadership of former director James Comey, launched a full-fledged investigation on Russia’s election meddling and Trump’s potential ties to foreign agents. Comey, however, could not finish his investigation. After constant pressure, alleged requests for personal loyalty, and anticipating Comey’s refusal to suspend his investigation, President Trump utilized his executive powers and fired the director. What followed was a wave of criticism, expanding suspicion and doubt. Many starting to say, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.”
In an attempt to restore some order to the chaos and “play it cool”, the Justice Department appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI Director under the Bush administration and renowned lawyer, to lead the investigation into Russia’s involvement with the Trump-campaign and matters that arise from it. Mueller turned out to be no less ferocious than his predecessor, if not more. Reports and leaks from inside the White House claimed that Donald Trump was considering firing Robert Mueller, but was advised against it. Why would he be forced to take such course of action? One can only speculate. Regardless, it seems like Robert Mueller is staying, and he is expanding his arsenal.
A GRAND JURY TAKES CENTER STAGE
A leak coming from the Wall Street Journal claims a grand jury has been set up in Washington by Robert Mueller to look into links between Trump and Russia, as well as potential attempts to obstruct justice. What is a grand jury? Should Trump fear it? What does it mean? First, a grand jury is a jury like any other, composed of regular citizens, but with some significant differences. Instead of a regular 12 member jury, a grand jury can hold from 13-16 members. It also meets exclusively behind closed doors. Unlike a normal jury, it holds the authority to subpoena witnesses and demand the production of documents related to the case. A grand jury can even demand the president testify in front of it, as in the cases of Nixon during Watergate, and Bill Clinton during Whitewater. This is a potentially fearsome development for Donald Trump, seeing as a grand jury may very well signify the final touches to an indictment. President Trump should be worried by the step special counsel Mueller has taken, as it could mean that the investigation has reached a grave or complicated stage which might turn catastrophic for the new chief executive.
THE JURY’S INVESTIGATIVE POWERS
Prosecutors and lawyers see a grand jury as a powerful investigative tool. Apart from the ability to subpoena witnesses and produce documents, it holds other exclusive powers which aid it in concluding an investigation. It can question witnesses for hours at a time, and the presence of a lawyer in the room is not allowed. The defendant can ask for their counsel’s advice outside the room, but it is a risky move. Lawyers warn against testimony in confidence which could trap witnesses by the line of questioning. It is very likely the jury will subpoena Jared Kushner, Donald Jr., Paul Manafort, and even the President himself. The jury will undoubtedly analyze documents in detail regarding finances, business deals, trips, meetings, and so forth. If a conclusion, which works against the president is reached, the jury does hold the power to indict Donald Trump.
WHAT IT MEANS
First, the investigation could come up empty. It is possible that the jury will not produce any significant results, but that is unlikely to happen. Even though the jury might not reach a final indictment verdict, proof, and evidence that proves useful to the investigation always emerges from their testimonies. On one side, people argue this step was expected of Robert Mueller, describing it as a mere legal formality to put it all to rest once and for all. Although that is plausible, one needs to take into account the timing, and the personality of the special counsel. Robert Mueller is a serious legal mind, it is extremely unlikely he is invoking his privilege to set up a grand jury as a mere formality. To Mueller, something is fishy. The step comes shortly after news that Jared Kushner, Donald Jr., and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer and in the presence of other Russian nationals. Coincidentally, just a week ago, the president was also considering firing special counsel Mueller. Coincidence or not, pieces of the puzzle can be very well brought together by this grand jury. Mueller could very well have relied on the grand jury in Virginia but he decided to establish one in Washington D.C. This means things are getting serious. Considering Mueller’s personality, this course of action is definite to surface missing fragments to the bigger picture. One has to wait and see what the former FBI director will conclude. The grand jury could either be Trump’s savior, or Trump’s final stop as the President of the United States. Is this a mere formality, or is it an outlined plan? Only time will tell.
Image Credit: The Associated Press