Total fabrication, says Trump as Mueller convenes grand jury

05 Aug 2017


Amid reports of a grand jury being empaneled as a part of an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, US President Donald Trump retweeted an earlier tweet, which said "We won. Move on".

Trump displayed increasing anger over the last couple of days on the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Amid the reports of a grand jury being convened, Trump said "I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one".

Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, is looking into potential links between Russia and the Trump campaign in the presidential election. He is using a grand jury in Washington as part of an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

A Reuters report adds that grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr, a Russian lawyer and others.

The use of a grand jury, a standard prosecution tool in criminal investigations, suggests that Mueller and his team of investigators are likely to hear from witnesses and demand documents in the coming weeks and months.

Grand juries are common vehicles to subpoena witnesses and records and to present evidence, though they do not suggest that any criminal charges are near or will necessarily be sought, but it is a step towards possible criminal indictments.

Trump has described Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a ''total fabrication'' amid reports of a grand jury being convened. We won because of you,'' Trump said on Thursday at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia.

Trying to build support among his core supporters, he said his enemies were ''trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.

''The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda, and no vision,'' he said. ''The Russia story is total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.''

The WSJ, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported that the grand jury had begun its work in the US capital Washington ''in recent weeks''. The move is a sign that the sweeping federal investigation, which includes allegations that Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russia to tilt the election in the Republican's favour, is gathering pace.

''It's a significant escalation of the process,'' national security attorney Bradley Moss told AFP. ''You don't empanel a grand jury unless your investigation has discovered enough evidence that you feel reflects a violation of at least one, if not more, criminal provisions. If you secure an indictment, your next step is to arrest the defendant.''

Presidential lawyer Ty Cobb said he was not aware that a grand jury had been convened. ''Grand jury matters are typically secret,'' Cobb said, adding that ''the White House favours anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.'' ''The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr Mueller.''

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was not likely the subject of the investigation. ''Former FBI director Jim Comey said three times the president is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed,'' she said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment on the report. Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of collusion, saying he is the victim of a political ''witch hunt'' and ''fake news''.

But he has been forced to acknowledge that his eldest son, Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then campaign advisor Paul Manafort did meet a Kremlin-connected lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Mueller is also said to be investigating Trump's financial records unrelated to Russia or the election, CNN reported. Trump has publicly warned Mueller that his financial dealings should be out of bounds and investigating them would cross a red line.

If called to testify before a grand jury, Trump would not be the first president to do so. Former president Bill Clinton was forced to give details about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, evidence that was used in his failed impeachment.

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