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Trump-Russia Investigation: What’s A Grand Jury & Why Does Mueller Need One?

by Countable | 8.4.17

News broke on Thursday evening that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller had "impaneled a grand jury" for his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Although most people are familiar with the term, few actually know what a grand jury looks like, what it does and when it was started. Here’s a quick explainer.

What’s A Grand Jury?

While there can be as few as six members, a grand jury is typically made up of between 16 and 23 jurors. (Which is why they’re "grand," at least compared to a trial jury.) Like traditional juries, the members of a grand jury are meant to be impartial. The jurors are chosen at random and vetted by the federal district court.

The grand jury is presented an outline of the case by a prosecutor, who also presents evidence and witnesses. Grand juries then go off and vote in secret about whether enough evidence exists to charge a person with a crime.

Unlike traditional court cases, all the proceedings before a grand jury are sealed—only those in the room know what’s been discussed. Also, there’s no cross-examination or a presentation by the defense. In fact, witnesses may not have lawyers during the questioning by the grand jury.

A Grand Jury’s Purpose

Grand jurys traditionally fill two functions: investigative and charging.

  • Investigating. A grand jury has the power to subpoena documents and witnesses that a federal prosecutor deems necessary for the case. In the current investigation, it means Mueller can go to the grand jury and ask it to issue subpoenas of, say, documents or records related to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin associate. The grand jury could also subpoena everyone at the above meeting to testify, under oath, about what went on.

  • Charging. Before a person can be charged for a crime, a grand jury must determine that probable cause exists to believe the person has committed a crime. This is why grand juries are given the above powers: by hearing and reading evidence, they can hopefully ascertain whether probable cause exists. The grand jury itself doesn’t decide if a party is guilty, only if there’s enough evidence to indict them with a crime.

Where Do Grand Juries Come From?

In fact, grand juries originate from one of our nation’s founding documents: the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment reads: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury."

What Can You Do?

What do you think of Mueller’s grand jury to investigate possible connections between Trump and Russia? Do you think the grand jury should be allowed to look into Trump’s finances? Do you think that Congress should make it harder for President Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: * Nick Youngson / Creative Commons)*

Countable

Written by Countable

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(75)
  • Justin
    08/04/2017
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    It's time to finally get some truth out of this administration. Enough games and lies, if he's innocent or guilty let's find out once and for all. Then we can move forward.

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  • MontclairMike
    08/04/2017
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    Yes, it was right for Mueller to impanel a Grand Jury. Yes, they should look into the Trump family's finances. Yes, Congress needs to ensure Meuller can complete his investigation.

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  • Dara
    08/04/2017
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    A jury of peers, great idea. If they agree the case has merit it moves forward. It's impartial. Sad that Donald Trump attacks a patriot with impecable credentials. Sad that Donald Trump has no moral terpitude.

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  • Phyllis
    08/04/2017
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    Great idea get this done before he completely destroys our country.

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  • Vanessa
    08/05/2017
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    This is one for the books and I would love to have been one picked to serve. This process has been so disruptive to our democracy, it may take years for public to find out the truth. As campaigns continue to confuse and deflect, media and tv shows square off, I only hope, we, the people, are allowed to find out the truth in a fair and honest manner soon. Prosecutor Mueller, if you need another juror.....( I still want to see what's in his taxes, anybody else??)

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  • Lawrence
    08/05/2017
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    Yes, Attorney Mueller shall have the right to a grand jury to investigate possible connections between Trump and Russia. Yes, the grand jury should be allowed to look into Trump’s finances. Yes, the Congress should make it harder for President Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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  • Sandra
    08/05/2017
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    Trump and his administration have not been honest or upfront about the connections to Russia that have been revealed, the grand jury is necessary to follow the financial trail, subpoena relevant documents, and get statements under oath so we can finally get to the bottom of all this one way or another. It's completely appropriate and within the bounds of how our democracy runs, Trump should not be able to fire the people investigating him.

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  • KansasTamale
    08/05/2017
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    Mueller’s grand jury should investigate all possible connections between Trump and Russia. The grand jury MUST look into Trump’s finances BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THE CONNECTIONS ARE. TRUMP IS A MONEY LAUNDERER FOR RUSSIA. WHY ISN'T Congress making it harder for President Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Makes one wonder how many of them are involved with the Russian involvement with our 2017 elections.

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  • David
    08/05/2017
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    A Grand Jury!!!??? This Grand Jury is operating outside the Constitution!. The Grand Jury is supposed to investigate a crime where there is evidence that it was committed. The Grand Jury has NO jurisdiction on investigating a person to try to FIND a crime! This is nothing more than a Witch hunt. Trump must FIRE them all!

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  • Sarah
    08/05/2017
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    A grand jury would not be called unless Mueller and his team had sufficient reasons to defend so. He should definitely be allowed to proceed and the GJ will determine if the evidence & witnesses provide adequately to proceed with indictments. With US governance in the balance he must not be impeded by the President or Congress. We want the Truth be told!

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  • John
    08/05/2017
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    This investigation is about Russian collusion. If Trump was involved so be it. If Hillary is not investigated, with all of her actions selling our uranium reserves and getting Bill 500k per speech from them, It will prove that this was indeed a witch hunt by the democrats and that the special investigator whom Comey spoke so highly of is simply a hack for the democratic party. There is FAR more evidence against Hillary then against Trump.

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  • Azrael
    08/04/2017
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    Yes to the grand jury Yes to the special prosecutor and more than yes to following the money The trumps do nothing for free, so if they sold our democracy to a hostile foreign government, we need to know How much was our democratic election worth?

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  • Surender
    08/04/2017
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    When Congress has to step in to curb white house actions detrimental to its own citizens ... it diminishes this country and its institutions. The enemy from within! Trump supporters are myopic ... or with their heads in the sand unable or unwilling to see their 'hero' lie right to their face about all the good stuff he is going to do for them! And they just lap it all up.

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  • Charles
    08/05/2017
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    Yes we need to see the investigation threw to the end, Mr Trumps financial records should be a part of this. Mr Mueller should be protected by the Senate.

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  • AmberLGould
    08/05/2017
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    I'm disgusted that the GOP continues to allow this man and his cronies to destroy America. Prosecute this president to the full extent of the law... I know things will come out. He's a narcissistic, jerk!

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  • Carol
    08/04/2017
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    This is an important investigation. Please keep this going without interference from the Whitehouse.

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  • Mike
    08/05/2017
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    I just wonder why no Democrats were screaming for a grand jury when in 2015 President Obama gave tax payer money to a campaign to oust Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu? Isn't that sort of the same thing they claim happened with Russia and Trump? I don't care if a grand jury is called even though a crime usually needs to be identified first. Let the Democrats have their way. But this just shows that this whole thing is partisan witch hunt and anti-Trump.

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  • Bibi2418
    08/05/2017
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    Hopefully, a grand jury can get down business and enough impartial people can get to the bottom of the lies and deception that is so much a part of this adminstration.

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  • Mary
    08/05/2017
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    The investigation should proceed to the truth. No attempt to hinder the investigation should be tolerated.

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  • Ethel
    08/07/2017
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    I think it's a waste of tax dollars! Why investigate Trump's son, Trump's financial report AND not once investigating Hillary and others who committed worst crimes against America's safety, etc. Why should we trust this Grand Jury? Dirty politics and sore losing Democrats!

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