Mueller Report Coming Soon?

Robert Mueller appears to be winding down his investigation and getting ready to submit a report to the Attorney General.

The Washington Post reported late yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may send his final report to the Justice Department as early as next week, but it’s unclear when Congress or the public might see it:

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.

An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the president’s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.

Even before he was confirmed by the Senate, Barr had preliminary discussions about the logistics surrounding the conclusion of Mueller’s inquiry, a second person said. At that time, though, Barr had not been briefed on the substance of Mueller’s investigation, so the conversations were limited.

CNN first reported Wednesday that Mueller could send a report to Barr as early as next week.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokeswoman.

How detailed either Mueller’s report and the attorney general’s summary of the findings will be is unclear. Lawmakers have demanded that Mueller’s report be made public, but Barr has been noncommittal on that point, saying that he intends to be as forthcoming as the regulations and department practice allow. He has pointed, however, to Justice Department practices that insist on saying little or nothing about conduct that does not lead to criminal charges.

(…)

According to people familiar with the special counsel’s work, Mueller has envisioned it as an investigative assignment, not necessarily a prosecutorial one, and for that reason does not plan to keep the office running to see to the end all of the indictments it has filed.

Mueller’s work has led to criminal charges against 34 people. Six Trump associates and advisers have pleaded guilty.

Among those who have pleaded guilty are Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; former deputy campaign manger Rick Gates; and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, as well as Manafort and Cohen.

Most of the people charged in Mueller’s investigation are Russians. Because there is no extradition treaty with that country, those 26 individuals are unlikely to ever see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.

None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election. Determining whether any Trump associates had plotted with the Kremlin in 2016 was the central question assigned to Mueller when he got the job, in a moment of crisis for the FBI, the Justice Department and the country.

Supporting the idea that Mueller has reached the effective end of his investigation are reports that many of the Justice Department employees, including attorneys and support personnel, who had been assigned to Mueller’s office were either preparing to return to their original assignments or had already done so. Other reporters have also stated that, in recent weeks, Justice Department employees have been seen removing boxes of what is presumed to be equipment and documentation from the building where Mueller’s offices have been located. This lends credence to the rumors that Mueller is basically completing the process of handing off some of the uncompleted parts of his investigation, as well a material that could prove relevant to other ongoing investigations, to other Federal prosecutors including most prominently the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has been at the forefront of the prosecution of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as the Attorney General of New York State, which is investigating The Trump Foundation and various aspects of the President’s financial dealings. In other words, Mueller sending his report to Attorney General William Barr will not be the end of the Administration’s potential legal problems.

At least initially, the Mueller report will not be made public, nor will it be made immediately available to Congress. Instead, pursuant to the rules inside the Justice Department governing the operation of the Special Counsel’s office, Mueller will instead hand his report to the Attorney General who will then decide how to proceed. As CNN notes, the options after that are multiple and don’t necessarily include the idea of the public or Congress getting a copy of the Mueller report itself:

Robert Mueller’s report could land within days, yet rather than offering definitive answers, his hotly anticipated filing might only ignite a new controversy — over how much of the special counsel’s conclusions most Americans get to see.

Sources told CNN on Wednesday that the Justice Department is preparing for Mueller to report to Attorney General Bill Barr as soon as next week after an investigation that started as an attempt to find out whether Trump campaign members conspired with a Russian election meddling effort.

But the big question is how much of what the special counsel concludes — after an investigation repeatedly blasted as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” by the President — will be made public or even sent to Congress.

Whenever it is filed, Mueller’s report will mark a critical point in the Trump presidency, given the gravity of the accusations against his team, and offer the theoretical possibility of conclusive answers about the last White House race.

The reclusive former FBI director’s findings could also put the United States on the road to a new and divisive impeachment saga, if he finds collusion with Russia and an attempt by the President to obstruct justice to cover it up.

If there is no case for Trump to answer, Mueller could at least partially lift a cloud that has haunted the White House every day of his presidency, though a flurry of spin-off cases mean the President’s legal exposure is far from over.

It will be a fraught political time, since so many Americans have invested so much emotion in the outcome, whether they are liberals who dream of Trump being ousted from power or supporters who buy his claims of a huge “hoax.”

Yet key players in Washington and many Americans beyond, transfixed by the barely believable drama leading up to the final report, at least at first, may be let down.

Mueller’s endgame is obscured because no one really knows exactly what he will report and the information that Barr will choose — or feel compelled — to share with Congress and the public on a scandal that has polarized the nation.

The uncertainty is almost certain to spark a new struggle between Congress, the White House and the Justice Department that could lead to litigation and has every chance of reaching all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Mueller’s filing could also herald the reclusive prosecutor’s own exit from the stage — likely after not speaking to the American people from the beginning to the end of his investigation.

That old fashioned reticence, as well as a stellar career in law enforcement, is one reason why Mueller’s conclusions will carry such weight — whether his report is ultimately critical of the President or leaves him in the clear.

(…)

According to Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to file a confidential report with Barr. It is not clear what form it could take.

One model would be for the special counsel to adopt a traditional, sparse prosecutorial approach to explain the cases he initiated and decisions he made not to charge other people linked to the case.

Barr and Mueller will likely seek to avoid the political furor whipped up by former FBI Director James Comey when he announced he would not charge Clinton after an investigation into her email server but hardily criticized her conduct all the same.

According to the regulations governing his appointment, Mueller is only required to deliver a confidential report to the attorney general outlining why he decided to prosecute some people and declined to pursue others.

Still, a pared down approach would risk coming across as deeply insufficient given the huge political ramifications of the Mueller investigation, which after all, at least indirectly centers of the behavior of a sitting President.

Given his by-the-book history, it’s likely that Mueller would follow the prevailing Justice Department opinion that a sitting President cannot be charged in a criminal case, even if he has evidence that Trump transgressed in some way.

After Mueller finishes and turns in whatever kind of report he chooses to right, the focus will shift to Attorney General William Barr, who will be charged with reviewing the report and deciding how to proceed from there. Among the options available to him are making the entire Mueller report, or a redacted version, available to the public and Members of Congress, preparing his own report based on the Mueller report and releasing that, or not making any report available at all. Given the political reality of the situation, it’s unlikely that Barr will be able to get away with not releasing any kind of report at all, whether it’s his report or some version of the Mueller report. Whatever decision Barr makes, he could find his choices somewhat constrained by practical concerns such as protecting the secrecy of ongoing Grand Jury investigations, the need to protect classified material, and general Justice Department policy to shield as best as possible the identity of persons who may have been interviewed or even tangentially investigated by Mueller’s office but not charged. This could potentially include the President of the United States given that current Justice Department policy that says that sitting President’s cannot be indicted.

Whatever Barr decides to do, or if he seems to be taking too long to make a decision about releasing the report, it’s certain that he’ll quickly come under scrutiny by House Democrats and by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is still investigating the Russia matter. If necessary, they may even attempt to subpoena the full Mueller report, although it’s likely that version of the report will remain classified for the aforementioned reasons. Given the fact that Barr seemed to assure members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that he would aspire to make as much of the report available as possible, it will be hard for Barr to walk those promises back once he has Mueller’s report in hand.  It will be difficult to walk that promise back.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    Don’t forget the Watergate option: bringing the evidence to the Grand Jury, not just the AG and having them send it directly over to Congress.

    After all, it can’t be both that the DoJ can’t indict as Impeachment is the sole remedy and Congress can’t see the evidence that might under-gird an impeachment.

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  2. @SKI:

    There are some reasons to believe that Mueller has done that. Also, as a legal analyst noted this morning on Morning Joe, Mueller’s indictments have been far more detailed than Federal Criminal Indictments typically are.

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  3. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There are some reasons to believe that Mueller has done that.

    What are they (other than his personality)? I haven’t seen any reporting indicating that this had already happened and would think it would be the final piece before delivering the report to the AG.

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  4. @SKI:

    Some of it is just speculation, but it’s based in no small part in the details that the indictments that have been handed down go into. Ordinarily, Federal criminal indictments only state the facts necessary to establish probable cause, which suggests that he has exposed the Grand Jury to a multitude of facts regarding the overall narrative.

    Additionally, as I state in the post, it’s clear that he is preparing (or may have already started) to hand off parts of the investigation to prosecutors in New York, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Mueller may finish, but the investigation seems likely to continue.

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  5. @SKI:

    Also, because Grand Jury proceedings are secret we don’t know what has been submitted to the two Grand Juries (in Virginia and D.C.) that Mueller has been operating through.

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  6. CSK says:

    Barr releases the report. Trump fires Barr. All hell breaks loose.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Looks to me like Dennison got Barr to shut down Mueller and there ain’t nothing anyone is going to be able to do about it.
    Welcome to Trumpistan…the end-result of the Conservative movement.

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  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    Wonder if there will be a flurry of indictments in the run up to the report?

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  9. @Sleeping Dog:

    As do I. FWIW, Mueller typically announces his indictments on Fridays.

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Wonder if there will be a flurry of indictments in the run up to the report?

    I believe there are a bunch of sealed indictments that have been filed for some time.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    Barr seemed to assure members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that he would aspire to make as much of the report available as possible

    “Seemed” and “aspire” (at least in public) may turn out to be the operative words there. Fasten your seat belts, it’s likely to be another bumpy couple of years.

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  12. Jimbo in OPKS says:

    1. Mueller report is a nothing burger.
    2. Trump tells Barr to release entire report.
    3. Dems freak out and spend 2019/20 freaking out.
    4. Trump wins in 2020.
    5. Trump replaces Ginsburg/Breyer/Sotomayor/Kagan
    6. Dems really freak out.

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  13. Kathy says:

    The Cheeto administration is in an impossible position.

    If they withhold the report and claim “See, we looked at it and there was no collusion,” no one outside the Dennison base will believe them. The rest of the world will be certain they’re hiding deep collusion.

    If they release portions of the report and say “See, look and tell me where you see collusion,” the base may be satisfied, but the rest of the world will be certain the unreleased parts contain evidence of collusion (or some other crimes).

    If they release the whole report and say “See, you can read the whole report and find no evidence of collusion,” then there will certainly be parts that Dennison will find embarrassing, and there may be evidence or indications of other crimes.

    but then, we all knew a lose-lose-lose situation is El Cheeto’s specialty.

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  14. al Ameda says:

    @Jimbo in OPKS:
    7. Trump binges out at Burger King, collapses, hospitalized.
    8. Melania starts prison romance with Roger Stone.
    9. Pence caught on video in men’s room stall at Minneapolis Airport with retired Idaho Senator Larry Craig.
    10. Pence says there’s no story here, that he was not alone in that stall with a women not his wife.

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Tomorrow could be interesting.

    Question on process, Daryl mentioned that there appear to be several secret indictments out there, if Mueller reports before announcing them, is the JD compelled to move forward on them?

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  16. James Pearce says:

    Please, in the name of all that’s holy, please bring this investigation to a conclusion so that we can reorient the Dems away from magical thinking and divisive rhetoric towards a practical politics that can influence policy by winning elections.

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  17. Jimbo in OPKS says:

    @al Ameda: this seems homophobic, calling someone gay as a slur. Can’t believe Doug let’s this pass.

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  18. @Sleeping Dog:

    If there are sealed indictments I suspect Mueller will have them unsealed before the report is released and then hand off prosecution to the appropriate US Attorney

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  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jimbo in OPKS:

    this seems homophobic, calling someone gay as a slur.

    I don’t see the slur?
    If they are gay, which they both deny, then they should be proud.
    Why do you assume it’s a slur?

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  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    towards a practical politics that can influence policy by winning elections.

    Insipid…again.
    Your idea of practical politics is to give Dennison what he wants.
    EG – go ahead and give him his 5.7B for his vanity project.
    Not very practical…and certainly not why we won 40 house seats.

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  21. Tyrell says:

    Mueller’s so-called “report” – well fine, it should be released, subject to review by the Justice Department and Homeland Security to make sure that security concerns are addressed. Once it is released and Mueller has packed up his Commodore 64 computer and hit the ski trails, then I think that it is only fair that the news media give this a week long break. And the members of Congress get to work solving some problems, like the 5G issue.
    Now, someone please tell me why the Federal government will not release these files:
    Booth Conspiracy (including the missing pages of Booth’s diary, and the records of the trial)
    Kennedy assassination, and the Oswald records
    UFO files – Kecksburg, PA crash incident. Area 51 files
    1946 US military operation in Antarctica (even Truman was not allowed to see the file)
    Why are these still confidential after all this time? I don’t think anyone can answer this.

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  22. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Not very practical…and certainly not why we won 40 house seats.

    You know why you’re so awfully proud of those 40 seats? Because there aren’t any more accomplishments to point to in the last 5 years.

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  23. Mark Ivey says:

    #James Pearce Whos paying for the Wall?

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  24. Jen says:

    And here I was hoping for an Ides of March release. I guess Mueller isn’t a Shakespeare fan.

    Seriously, this does seem like a no-win situation for the administration. Given how irked Trump has been on a number of occasions, Mueller’s investigation has clearly gotten close to several areas that Trump hasn’t been happy with. Money laundering? Coordinating with the Russians? Who knows.

    Barr will have to release something of substance or he’ll damage his own reputation. If he releases something that embarrasses Trump or his family members, Trump will be angry. Drama ahead.

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  25. Paul L. says:

    What is the odd reason for Mueller to ignore Carter Page. The Obama DOJ got multiple FISA warrants to spy on a US Citizen to investigate him. You would think they got enough to convict him.

    Mueller should have indicted and charged Page on day one.

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  26. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    And here I was hoping for an Ides of March release. I guess Mueller isn’t a Shakespeare fan.

    I wonder, if someone told Dennison “Beware the Ides of March,” what would he say in reply? I’m 90% sure he wouldn’t know what it means.

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  27. just nutha says:

    Considering that just a few days ago, people were calling for everyone to remind Senator Snowe that Justice Boof went back on his word about Roe being settled law, I have to conclude that lying to Congress–particularly in confirmation hearings is not as hard as it might seem. Barr will be able to ignore his promise to the Senate easy peasy.

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  28. al Ameda says:

    @Jimbo in OPKS:

    @al Ameda: this seems homophobic, calling someone gay as a slur. Can’t believe Doug let’s this pass.

    Doug probably let it pass because the Larry Craig point is based on fact and reality.
    Back in 2007 Senator Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport.

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  29. al Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    1946 US military operation in Antarctica (even Truman was not allowed to see the file) Why are these still confidential after all this time? I don’t think anyone can answer this.

    I’ve heard that it remains sealed and confidential because that is where Barack Obama’s grandmother formed her plan wherein her daughter would have a son by a Muslim man, in Kenya, and they would have a birth certificate forged to document the birth as being in Hawaii, hopefully by that time an American state, and not a territory. As you know, this was critically important to ensuring that her grandson could later run for president.

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  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    The JCPOA was adopted 4 years ago.
    While you and your cult are too dumb to recognize its value, the rest of the signatories do, and Iran is still complying with its terms.

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  31. Jen says:

    @just nutha: Sadly, Senator Snowe is no longer in office–I know you meant Sen. Collins (they’re both from Maine), but I don’t think that Olympia would cave like Collins does routinely. Sigh.

    And yeah, lying to Congress apparently is NBD anymore.

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  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: Thank you for the correction. In addition to being ignint, I’m also simple minded and confuse Snowe and Collins often. Living on the Left Coast doesn’t help either as y’all are sooooooo far away.

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