WASHINGTON. On Friday, a federal judge extended the term of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s D.C.-based grand jury. Appointed on July 5, 2017, the panel faced a January 5, 2019 expiration date. This time frame is typical for most grand juries, which generally serve for 18-months. But judges often grant extensions for a variety of reasons. Accordingly, Beryl Howell, Chief District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved the last-minute extension for Mueller grand jury 17-1 on Friday without further explanation. Howell was a 2010 Obama nominee to that court.
Grand jury 17-1 has produced multiple indictments in relation to the Mueller probe, including charges against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates.
Rumors fly on the Mueller Grand Jury extension
Howell’s extension set off rumors among Trump opponents in the nation’s capital that Mueller may plan to file more indictments. Trump allies Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi previously said they have been threatened with indictment by Mueller’s team. Prosecutors also requested the submission of a sealed brief.
Without citing sources, The Hill, which often leans left, believes the panel’s extension is significant.
“…because Mueller reportedly already had a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., for an investigation into the business dealings and campaign contacts of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
“If Mueller felt the investigation did not extend beyond Flynn, he would not have needed to impanel a new grand jury in the nation’s capital, some say.”
“The existence of a grand jury also indicates Mueller will be pursuing criminal charges, even if the target of his investigation and the channels he might take remain a mystery.”
The Hill speculates further
“The top-level legal talent that Mueller continues to accumulate — most recently Greg Andres of the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, who left his partnership to join the team — is a sign to some that the special counsel is digging in for a months-long or even years-long slog.
“This is going well into 2018 and whether it lasts beyond that is anyone’s guess,” Robert Ray, the special counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater dealings, told The Hill. “This is an indication that it will not be wrapped up in 30, 60 or 90 days.”
It also provides evidence to Trump supporters that Mueller has little intention of wrapping up his activities any time soon. After all, why leave Trump unencumered by the Mueller probe when Campaign 2020 gets underway?
Adventures in prosecution
Mueller is currently facing off against Stone associate, Andrew Miller, who is claiming Mueller’s appointment is unconstitutional. An appeal is being considered at the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mueller continues to probe into possible collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russians.
Since being appointed as special counsel in 2017, Mueller has obtained guilty pleas from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort. George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October 2017 to making false statements to the FBI. Mueller first convened a grand jury in the summer of 2017. The extension of the grand jury’s term conflicts with recent reports that Mueller could wrap up his investigation and submit a report to the attorney general next month.
Prosecutors have the option of using a new grand jury once the term of a previously established term expires. But a prosecutor also may find it advantageous to continue the term of an experienced panel already possessing a deep background in a given investigation. With the panel’s extension given to Mueller in place, official Washington will be watching to see how the Democrat-controlled House may attempt to influence the Mueller probe and and conduct its own investigations.
— Headline image: The honorable Beryl A. Howell, chief judge for United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The judge is swearing in new U.S. citizens from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 16, 2016. She recently granted an extension to the term of Robert Mueller’s grand jury in the ongoing Trump-Russia probe. (Via Wikipedia entry on Judge Howell, U.S. government employee photo in the public domain)