The Russian investigation seems to have taken a big step forward with the decision by Robert Mueller to impanel a grand jury, but President Trump reiterated a familiar theme to supporters at a West Virginia rally Thursday night. "Total fabrication," he said of the idea his campaign colluded with Russians, per NBC News. Trump said he won not because of Russians but because of American voters."Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania?" he asked. "Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?" Related coverage:
- Protecting Mueller: Trump couldn't fire Mueller directly, reports the Washington Post, but he could, say, put a new attorney general in place who would be willing and able to do so. To prevent that, two bipartisan pairs of senators—Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker, and Chris Coons and Thom Tillis—have introduced separate bills to curb the executive branch's ability to fire a special counsel. Both would require federal judges to weigh in.
- No recess moves: If Trump hoped to make any related recess appointments during the Senate's August break, he's out of luck. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski made a procedural move to block that, reports the Hill.
- Money trail: It's possible Mueller's investigation could result in prosecutions against Trump or his associates for reasons that have nothing to do with the election. Instead: financial crimes. CNN reports that investigators are poring over financial ties between Trump associates and Russia that could provide "a more concrete path to potential prosecution." The story notes that Trump has suggested Mueller would be crossing a "red line" if he started investigating Trump family finances.
- Subpoenas out: The grand jury already has begun issuing subpoenas, reports the New York Times. Details are skimpy, but some involved ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has been under investigation over his conversations with the Russian ambassador and his foreign lobbying.
- Tipping his hand: The Power Line blog notes that those subpoenas will likely give Trump's legal team a good idea of where the investigation is headed. If the president thinks Mueller is indeed crossing red lines unrelated to the original inquiry, he might be more likely to try to fire him.
- Powerful tool: Above the Law explains why impaneling the grand jury is such an important step. "We think of a grand jury merely as a charging tool, but it’s also an investigative tool." In addition to those subpoenas mentioned earlier, it can also take testimony under oath from witnesses.
- White House response: "The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of (Mueller's) work fairly," said Trump attorney Ty Cobb in the wake of the grand jury news. "The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller."
(Read more Robert Mueller