First charges could be unsealed in U.S. special counsel's Russia probe

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - The first charges from the probe of possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election could be unsealed as early as Monday and a target taken into custody, possibly marking a dramatic turn in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

A federal grand jury approved the indictment on Friday and a federal judge ordered it sealed, a source briefed on the matter has told Reuters, adding it could be unsealed as soon as Monday.

The Russia investigation has cast a shadow over U.S. President Donald Trump's 9-month-old presidency and widened the partisan rift between Republicans and Democrats.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her.

Mueller is also investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with those Russian efforts.

Trump has denied the allegations of collusion with the Russians and called the probe "a witch hunt." The Kremlin also has denied the allegations.

RELATED: Trump allies lash out at media after news of Mueller's Russia probe charges

14 PHOTOS
Trump allies lash out at media after news of Mueller's Russia probe charges
See Gallery
Trump allies lash out at media after news of Mueller's Russia probe charges
.@donlemon stop lying about about the Clinton's and Uranium you ignorant lying covksucker !!!! You fake news you dumb piece of shit.
.@donlemon must be confronted, humiliated, mocked and punished. Dumber than dog shit.
.@donlemon you come across on tv as a dull witted arrogant partyboi. You lie constantly and no one who knows you thinks you r bright
.@donlemon you come across on tv as a dull witted arrogant partyboi. You lie constantly and no one who knows you thinks you r bright
No .@CharlesBlow YOU Lie- u have no cried you fast talking arrogant fake news piece of shit !
Bill Kristol packing on the pounds #porky #Warmonger https://t.co/kJr8e3Q07C
When AT&T aquires Time Warner the house cleaning at CNN of human excrement like @donlemon @jaketapper & dumbfuck @ananavarro will be swift
If Carl Bernstein says something the overwhelming odds are that it's false lied about Watergate lying lying now https://t.co/8VxXaAG4pC
If this man's team executes warrants this weekend he should stripped of his authority by @realDonaldTrump. Then H… https://t.co/Jtpok6zNIM
Guess;Mueller and Media working hand in hand. Media to be tipped off. Mueller was FBI Director Who knew of Russian crimes before Uranium one
Left needs a dramatic change in the narrative!! Uranium One, Fusion GPS dossier, all out this week. This is a distraction! TICK TOCK....
When will @HillaryClinton be indicted?
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been looking into possible links between Trump aides and foreign governments, as well as potential money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes, according to sources familiar with the probe. He also is exploring whether Trump or his aides have tried to obstruct the investigation.

Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation a week after Trump's May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia. Trump initially said he fired Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate. In a later interview with NBC, he cited "this Russia thing" as his reason.

'ANGER AND UNITY'

On Sunday, Trump tried to shift the focus back to Democrats and Clinton, tweeting that the Russia issue was being used to sidetrack the Republican push for tax reform and praising Republican "anger and unity" on the need to look into whether Democrats and the Clinton campaign paid for a portion of a dossier that detailed accusations about Trump's ties to Russia.

Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said the president's tweets were "unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate.”

Investigators led by Mueller have interviewed former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House and campaign officials.

RELATED: Photos of Mueller

23 PHOTOS
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
See Gallery
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Former FBI director Robert Mueller attends the ceremonial swearing-in of FBI Director James Comey at the FBI Headquarters October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey was officially sworn in as director of FBI on September 4 to succeed Mueller who had served as director for 12 years. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama applauds outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Robert Mueller (L) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 as he nominates Jim Comey to be the next FBI director. Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller applauds key staff members during a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
391489 03: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference as he stands with Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller, left, who he has nominated to head the FBI, and Attorney General John Ashcroft July 5, 2001 the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller stands for the national anthem during a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) reacts to a standing ovation from the audience, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (C) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) during Mueller's farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures during his remarks at a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) and FBI Director Robert Mueller speak about possible terrorist threats against the United States, in Washington, May 26, 2004. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and FBI Director Robert Mueller make their way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (C) delivers remarks at a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Also onstage with Mueller are Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (FROM L), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA Director George Tenet and TSA Administrator John Pistole. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: (L-R) Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton attend the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services' scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. Mueller said on Thursday that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to hold confessed leaker Edward Snowden accountable for splashing surveillance secrets across the pages of newspapers worldwide. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (L) welcomes FBI Director Robert Mueller during their meeting in Kiev June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Efrem Lukatsky/Pool (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)
FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) arrives for the Obama presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. Woman at right is unidentified. REUTERS/Win McNamee-POOL (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON, : FBI Director Robert Mueller answers questions before Congress 17 October 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller was testifying before the House and Senate Select Intelligence committees' final open hearing investigating events leading up to the September 11, 2001. AFP Photos/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
399994 02: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller visits the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller (L) stand during the National Anthem alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (C) during a farewell ceremony in Mueller's honor at the Department of Justice on August 1, 2013. Mueller is retiring from the FBI after 12-years as Director. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
399994 01: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller greets American forces on the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, talks with Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, talk before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: OVERSIGHT HEARING ON COUNTERTERRORISM--Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, before the hearing. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In July, FBI agents raided the Virginia home of Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mueller's team.

Mueller also has investigated Michael Flynn, an adviser to Trump's campaign and later his national security adviser. Flynn was fired from that post in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year.

The indictment in Mueller's probe was first reported by CNN, which said the target could be taken into custody on Monday.

That possibility spurred some of Trump's conservative allies to call for Mueller's firing. Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken former adviser who left the White House in August, said on Twitter that Mueller "should be stripped of his authority" and investigated if he executed warrants in the probe.

The White House said in the summer that Trump had no intention of firing Mueller even though he questioned his impartiality.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and and Peter Cooney)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.