Mueller Impanels Grand Jury in Russia Probe; Digs into Trump's Finances

Let me start with my usual annoying caution to maintain measured expectations about what all of this means: It means that Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation is proceeding. That's it. But that's good news, especially considering that Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to intimidate Mueller with belligerent public statements and suggested he will interfere with the investigation.

News that the investigation is proceeding is good!

So, be optimistic, but don't misunderstand that this news means that a particular outcome is any more likely than another at this point.

Okay, that said: Here's the latest...

1. Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau at the Wall Street Journal: Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller's inquiry will likely continue for months.
2. Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, and Shimon Prokupecz at CNN: [Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] One Year into the FBI's Russia Investigation, Mueller Is on the Trump Money Trail.
Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

...In recent weeks, investigators have also started looking into the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower and how the White House responded to news of that meeting. The session included Trump Jr., Manafort, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Russian attorney.

Trump has denied any collusion and maintains that his business empire has "no involvement with Russia" and that he has "no loans, no nothing" from Russia. His lawyers have detailed a few exceptions, including the Miss Universe pageant he held in Moscow and the Florida mansion he sold to a Russian oligarch in 2008. Trump earned more than $100 million from those deals, according to his lawyers.

...Investigators are looking both at whether financial laws were broken and whether there are any dealings that could put the President or his associates in a compromising position.

"There's always been a concern about his exposure to blackmail in his financial dealings," says the person briefed on the investigation.
This, of course, is why Trump has stubbornly refused to disclose his taxes. There's something, or many things, in there them that would look suspicious, at best.

Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort is another primary target of the investigation — and may be the key to proving the collusion that we've all seen happening right out in the open was also happening behind the scenes.
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

Manafort faces potential real troubles in the probe, according to current and former officials. Decades of doing business with foreign regimes with reputations for corruption, from the Philippines to Ukraine, had led to messy finances.
Emphasis mine.

If Manafort's finances are "messy" enough that he stands to face charges, he's going to roll on Trump. No one knows better than one of Trump's multiple fired campaign managers that Trump's veneration of loyalty only goes one way.

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