Mueller Russia Probe: What Do We Know About Special Counsel's First Charges?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election is continuing and produced what appeared to be its first results on Friday, after a federal grand jury issued the first charges against at least one person.

The disclosure, reported by CNN and the Wall Street Journal, who both cited sources familiar with the matter, suggests an acceleration of the probe into what intelligence agencies concluded in January was Russian meddling in the vote that saw President Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

But what do we know so far about the charges?

10_28_Robert_Mueller Special counsel Robert Mueller (C) leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty

No Identity

The charges remain sealed on the orders of a federal judge, so the identity of the person or people they were filed against remains unknown. Speculation will be mounting on Capitol Hill as to who is subject to the charges but that person will not be identified until they are unsealed.

No Clear Number Of People Charged

It was reported that at least one person was subject to the charges linked to Mueller’s investigation. But it is yet to be determined if these charges relate to one person or multiple people. Until the charges are unsealed, the number of subjects the charges accuse will remain unknown.

An Arrest As Soon As Monday

The charges issued on Friday were coupled with plans to ensure that the one person or multiple people charged would be taken into custody as early as Monday, sources told CNN. It means that the identity of those subject to the criminal charges could be revealed as soon as next week.

09_27_Trump_Comey_Mueller_ceremony President Donald Trump shakes hands with James Comey, then director of the FBI, on January 22. Trump fired Comey in May. Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty

The Nature Of The Charges Remains Unclear

The specific detail of the charges is unknown, only that they are related to Mueller’s probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller has the authority to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” according to a May order issued by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation.

So the issues at hand could range from collusion between Trump’s campaign team and the Russian government, to obstruction of justice by those involved in Trump’s bid for the presidency, to financial crimes. The probe is also analysing the possibility that Trump himself obstructed justice by asked former FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into his then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February.

Rosenstein will have knowledge of the charges, as he would have had to be informed of them before their filing.

Mueller’s spokesperson has declined to comment on the new charges.

Trump Team’s Reaction

President Trump had not reacted to the reports of charges filed in the Russia investigation. Observers will be awaiting his response, particularly his Twitter account, to see how he tries to manage the progress of the probe that he has long decried as a witch-hunt. Members of his inner circle, including his sons, are yet to comment on the latest developments.

Trump, like the Russian government, has denied any form of collaboration or collusion between his campaign team and Moscow.

But his campaign officials have been implicated in the probe. In July, FBI officers raided his former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home in Virginia to obtain evidence. The political consultant previously worked for pro-Russian political figures in Ukraine.