WASHINGTON – A federal judge Friday extended the term of the grand jury that has weighed evidence in the Russia investigation headed by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.
Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell extended the panel's 18-month term that was set to expire in the coming days.
The panel, whose deliberations are secret, was seated for its regular term in July 2017.
It was not immediately clear whether the extension represented a perfunctory measure to keep the panel intact during what was expected to be the final stages of the inquiry or if the action signaled a more prolonged period of investigation.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for an end to the investigation, which he has described as a "witch hunt."
At the same time, former members of his inner circle – including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former personal attorney Michael Cohen and campaign chairman Paul Manafort – have been convicted of crimes ranging from lying to the FBI to financial fraud.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Robert Mueller grand jury gets more time; judge extends 18-month term set to expire in coming days