Robert Mueller investigation brings first indictment

October 29, 2017 GMT

Washington is steeling itself for the next phase in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the presidential election last year, and the first charges stemming from the probe are reportedly imminent.

Several reports over the weekend said a federal grand jury in Washington had approved the first charges in Mr. Mueller’s probe, and CNN reported that the target could be taken into custody as soon as Monday.

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment over the weekend on the reports.

The criminal charges are reportedly filed under seal, so it was unclear who the target is or what the charges entail.

But the development comes months after the special counsel team intensified its focus on President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and raided his Virginia home in search of tax documents and foreign banking records. Mr. Manafort previously worked for a Ukrainian political party.


Mr. Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, said he had heard nothing about any criminal charges as of Sunday.

Mr. Mueller was appointed in May to investigate Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election and any coordination between the Kremlin and associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign. He is also authorized to investigate any matters that arise directly out of that probe.

Mr. Mueller’s team is also said to be looking into why the White House kept on Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser after the Justice Department warned that he had withheld information about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

An attorney for Mr. Flynn declined to comment Sunday.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday that he suspects the indictment is tied to either Mr. Manafort or Mr. Flynn.

Mr. Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week” that Mr. Manafort apparently told others that he expected to be indicted.

“If it is him, it may ultimately help to answer” questions about information flowing back and forth during the campaign between the Trump campaign and Russia-linked intermediaries, Mr. Schiff said.

The New York Times reported last month that Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors apparently told Mr. Manafort to expect an indictment, which could be tied to breaches of tax and money-laundering laws for activity that took place before his involvement with the Trump campaign.

Mr. Mueller’s team also has expressed interest in events said to be significant to the investigation, including Mr. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey and the president’s involvement in crafting an initial statement about his eldest son’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. Investigators sought interviews with six current and former White House advisers on those matters.


Mr. Trump hit back Sunday, saying Democrats are using questions surrounding Russia’s interference in the campaign for “evil politics.”

He said the issue is uniting Republicans.

“They look at phony Trump/Russia,....‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s...are now fighting back like never before,” the president tweeted.

“There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” he said.

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said Sunday that Mr. Trump is being “too defensive” on issues surrounding Russia’s interference in the election and that the various investigations should be allowed to play out.

“I mean, look, he won. And I think you would agree he won the election fair and square. He’s duly elected,” Mr. Portman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“And we ought to instead focus on the outrage that the Russians meddled in our elections, not just this last election. They did it long before Donald Trump. They’re going to do it long after Donald Trump, if we don’t do something about it. So we need to get to the bottom of it. And we need to go where the facts lead us,” he said.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday that while the outcome of the Mueller probe is uncertain, he implored his party colleagues “to give the guy a chance to do his job.”

“The result will be known by the facts of what he uncovers,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Gowdy said he had stressed to Mr. Mueller the importance of cutting out leaks with respect to serious investigations.

“So, it is kind of ironic that the people charged with investigating the law and executing the law would violate the law,” he said. “And make no mistake, disclosing grand jury material is a violation of the law. So, as a former prosecutor, I’m disappointed that you and I are having the conversation, but that somebody violated their oath of secrecy.”