(WASHINGTON) – Special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury in Washington to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing two unnamed people familiar with the matter.
The grand jury began its work in recent weeks and is a sign that Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and whether it colluded with President Donald Trump’s campaign is ramping up, the Journal said.
Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency, with U.S. congressional panels also investigating the Russian election interference that U.S. intelligence agencies believe was meant to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor.
Moscow denies any meddling and Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.
Mueller’s use of a grand jury could give him expansive tools to pursue evidence, including issuing subpoenas and compelling witnesses to testify.
A grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who, working behind closed doors, considers evidence and potential criminal wrongdoing that a prosecutor is investigating and decide on whether charges should be brought.
U.S. stocks and the dollar weakened following the news, while U.S. Treasury securities gained. The S&P 500 Index initially dropped about 0.20 percent and the dollar index , which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of trading-partner currencies, slid 0.18 percent.
Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, brought a former U.S. Justice Department official to join his investigative team.
Greg Andres started on Tuesday, becoming the 16th lawyer on the team.