Can the special advocate Robert Mueller's investigation finally be completed?
According to reports from NBC News and CNN, the answer is yes. Both agencies said this week that the special council could submit its final report to the attorney general next week.
These reports sparked a torrent of skepticism on the part of Mueller's social media observers, and even fear of interference from Trump's appointees to the Justice Department, such as Attorney General Bill Barr. . And in view of President Trump's earlier efforts to interfere with the investigation and Mueller's secrecy about his plan, a certain amount of caution is required for these reports.
But there are long-standing signs that Mueller's work is coming to an end. Some prosecutors have left his office in recent months. In other cases, Mueller's team collaborated with other DOJ prosecutors, such as the US District Attorney's Office. Tea leaf readers have long considered this a preparation for imminent transfer.
In December, Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian of NBC News announced that Mueller "was about to complete his historic investigation" and had even written that he could submit his report "as early as mid-February," and That is to say now. On Tuesday, Williams reiterated this assessment and added the moment the report could be tabled "maybe this week, maybe next week, that soon."
On Wednesday, CNN's Evan Perez, Laura Jarrett and Katelyn Polantz also wrote that a Mueller report could be tabled next week. They reported other potentially revealing details, including:
- Mueller's grand jury in Washington does not appear to have met since Roger Stone's indictment last month.
- Mueller's team recently met with prosecutors from other offices of the Department of Justice.
- Several days last week, they saw Mueller's employees carrying cartons and taking files out of their offices – which, he wrote, was "an unusual gesture that could foreshadow a legal handover".
We do not know for sure what Mueller's plans are, but all of this might suggest that Mueller is about to complete his main conclusions regarding President Trump and Russia's interference in the elections, and points to further questions not resolved elsewhere in the Department of Justice.
What will Mueller's report look like – and what will he say?
Many in Washington seemed to expect the Mueller report to be used to answer public questions about Trump and Russia, or expose an allegedly overwhelming case as the Starr report did for President Bill Clinton.
But we have no idea what such a report would look like, and that's all the regulation says:
One thing to note here is that the report provided by the regulation is for the Attorney General – not in Congress and not in the public. This does not seem particularly intended for the public, since the report is said to be "confidential". The only specific information we have on its content is that it should explain "Mueller's decisions on prosecution and refusal", but the level of detail that it will include is not clear. .
Once the report is in the hands of Barr, the next question is whether it will be made public in one form or another. Barr is not formally obliged to make the report public, but congressional Democrats will pressure him to disclose as much as possible the findings of the special council. And if the Attorney General was trying to compartmentalize things, there was another way to make Mueller's findings public – through leaks, and even testimony before the Special Advocate Congress itself.
But the big question is, of course, what Mueller has found. Has he exposed a damning pattern of facts implicating the US president in potential crimes? If that is the case, and if this is known, Democrats in the House could argue in favor of impeachment – which means that there will still be months of Trump-Russia tragedy. But if Mueller did not end up involving Trump after his long investigation, the political world would probably consider it an exemption for Trump and the conclusion of the scandal that overshadowed his presidency more than any other.
To learn more about the Mueller Inquiry, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and read Vox's guide to the Trump-Russia survey.