Russia

Federal prosecutors have lots of ways to intensify pressure on the people they're investigating, from early morning FBI raids to leaning on relatives of those under government scrutiny.

But even by those measures, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election is moving with unusual speed and assertiveness, according to half a dozen legal experts following the probe.

When people in several North Carolina precincts showed up to vote last November, weird things started to happen with the electronic systems used to check them in.

"Voters were going in and being told that they had already voted — and they hadn't," recalls Allison Riggs, an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

The electronic systems — known as poll books — also indicated that some voters had to show identification, even though they did not.

FBI agents raided former Trump campaign ChairmanPaul Manafort's home, a spokesman for Manafort tells NPR's Tamara Keith. Manafort's name has come up as part of the U.S. investigation into Russia's attempt to meddle with last year's election.

The raid reportedly took place in late July, one month after Manafort registered as a foreign agent.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Special counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, D.C., in connection with his investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and into possible collusion between Russia and top aides to the Trump campaign, a source with knowledge of the investigation confirms to NPR's Peter Overby. The source did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has penned a scathing Facebook post in response to new U.S. sanctions, decrying what he described as the Trump administration's "total weakness" and saying that the package "ends hopes for improving our relations with the new administration."

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Stung by new American sanctions, Russia's Foreign Ministry says the U.S. must downsize its diplomatic and technical staff in Moscow and other cities. The ministry is also suspending the U.S. Embassy's use of two sites — a storage facility and a dacha on an island in the Moscow River.

President Trump said Friday night he would sign the sanctions legislation because Congress was responsive to his input on the bill.

In a bucolic valley nestled in Romania's Carpathian mountains, herds of sheep graze the hillsides. Then, suddenly, all hell breaks loose.

Volleys of live artillery fire thunder across a wide hollow. Stryker fighting vehicles charge down a hillside as troops in camouflage brandish automatic rifles as they scramble through tall grasses.

Speaking at a news conference in Finland on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin derided the sanctions bill now in the U.S. Congress as "illegal under international law" — but he said Russia's response will depend on what ultimately gets passed.

"We haven't seen the final version yet, so we haven't got any kind of definitive view on it," Putin said, "but we can see that over a lengthy period they are trying to provoke us more and more."

Updated: 7:26 p.m.

The House overwhelmingly passed a sanctions bill on Tuesday that would punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and tie President Trump's hands in terms of lifting economic restrictions on Moscow.

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