HEAT ADVISORY today in Western Washington

First charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, reports say

WASHINGTON  — A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, news organizations, reported, citing sources briefed on the matter.

CNN was first to report the news, but it was later reported separately by The Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday,  sources said, according to both CNN and The Wall Street Journal.  It is unknown who was indicted or what the charges are.

[The Wall Street Journal said at least one person was charged Friday in connection with Mueller’s criminal investigation.]

A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment.

Mueller was appointed in May to lead the U.S. investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the campaign of now President Donald Trump.

[The Wall Street Journal said Mueller is also probing the separate business dealings of former aides to Trump, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is under investigation for alleged money laundering and tax issues. A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment, the Wall Street Journal said. The newspaper said Manafort previously said he had done nothing wrong.]

Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the courtroom at the  District of Columbia federal court, where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

Shortly after President Donald Trump abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel. Mueller took the reins of a federal investigation that Comey first opened in July 2016 in the middle of the presidential campaign.

Mueller is authorized to investigate “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” according to Rosenstein’s order.

The special counsel’s investigation has focused on potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as obstruction of justice by the president. CNN reported that investigators are scrutinizing Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia.

Mueller’s team has also examined foreign lobbying conducted by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others. His team has issued subpoenas for documents and testimony to a handful of figures, including some people close to Manafort, and others involved in the Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials.

Last year, the Comey-led investigation secured approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor the communications of Manafort, as well as former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling.

In addition to Mueller’s probe, three committees on Capitol Hill are conducting their own investigations.