Special counsel utilizing DC grand jury in Russia investigation

The White House said it was unaware of the special counsel's action.

ByABC News
August 4, 2017, 3:19 PM

— -- The White House said Thursday that it was unaware of a federal grand jury being utilized in the Russian election interference investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but pledged cooperation in the probe.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the grand jury. ABC News later confirmed the panel's employment by Mueller's team with a source familiar with the matter.

Ty Cobb, the special counsel to the president, said he was unaware a grand jury was being utilized in relation to the inquiry, which is also investigating potential connections between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian effort, according to a statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

"Grand jury matters are typically secret," Cobb said in a statement.

"The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly ... The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller," he added.

The source reached by ABC News said the Washington, D.C. grand jury has been used for week, after a panel in Alexandria, Virginia was similarly used to investigate matters tied to the Russia probe. The panel permits Mueller's team to subpoena materials, question witnesses under oath and potentially issue formal charges.

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment for this story.

In an appearance on Fox News Thursday afternoon after the report of the grand jury became public, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said that the action was "not a surprise," categorizing it as "standard operating procedure" and repeating that there was no reason to believe Trump was being personally targeted.

"We have no reason to believe the president is under investigation here," said Sekulow.

Asked about the prospect of Trump firing Mueller, a decision that would have to be made by Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general in matters related to the election, Sekulow denied it was a consideration.

"The president is not thinking about firing Bob Mueller," he said.

Any attempt by Trump to coerce Mueller's firing could be made more difficult if bipartisan efforts in the Senate to prevent such an act are successful. Two separate bills introduced this week aim to hinder the firing of a special counsel. One, introduced by Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Thom Tillis, R-NC, would allow a counsel to challenge his or her removal, while the other, proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Cory Booker, D-NJ, could require a federal judge to approve a dismissal.

ABC News' Justin Fishel, Mike Levine, Jordyn Phelps, Geneva Sands and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the source who spoke with ABC News said the grand jury being used by Mueller was already in existence.

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