Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia could soon be coming to a close. CNN reports that, as early as next week, Attorney General William Barr is preparing to announce the probe has ended. Soon after the announcement, Barr will submit to Congress a summary of the special counsel’s report, which will cap a wide-ranging investigation that has spanned nearly two years and resulted in dozens of indictments. The news comes less than a week after Barr was sworn in as attorney general.
For months, there has been speculation that Mueller is on the brink of concluding his investigation, but CNN’s report is the strongest signal yet that the special counsel’s work may be all but done. The report also noted that employees of the special counsel’s office have been carrying boxes and pushing carts full of files out of their offices, and that four prosecutors working with the office have returned to their previous roles in the Justice Department. Though it does indeed appear that an announcement may be imminent, its timing is subject to change, as is the scope of what Barr will present to Congress.
Also unclear is whether Mueller’s report will be made public. Though Mueller must submit a confidential report to Barr, the attorney general is not required to submit the report to the public, or even to Congress. When Trump was asked Wednesday whether the report should be released, he said it would be “totally up to” his new attorney general. During his confirmation hearing last month, Barr refused to commit to releasing the report. Some Democratic lawmakers have demanded he do so.
Only Mueller should decide when his investigation is complete. And when he's done, the public should see his full report. Not a summary. Full stop.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 20, 2019
Many have speculated about the investigation ending so soon after Barr assumed control of the Justice Department, with loose ends seemingly still to be tied up regarding Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, among others. Protecting the integrity of the investigation was a central issue of Barr’s confirmation hearing, and though he refused to commit to releasing the probe’s results, he promised to allow Mueller to complete the investigation on his own accord, free of interference. “I believe it is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,” Barr said. “The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.”
Though the timing may seem suspicious, the special counsel’s office has known for months that the investigation was liable to end, and there’s no real reason to believe Mueller was forced into closing it prematurely.
Agree. Although it’s hard to figure how Mueller closes up shop with the Stone trial still pending, the timing will be his decision, not Barr’s. And Barr will have the chance to stand up for the institution & the rule of law with transparency regarding Mueller’s conclusions. https://t.co/t2Yqj4XXZP
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) February 20, 2019
The news comes as Trump’s attacks on Mueller and the Justice Department have intensified following the release of a new tell-all book by Andrew McCabe, who took over the FBI on an acting basis after Trump fired James Comey in May 2017. In the book, which quickly became a best-seller, McCabe details the fight to preserve federal inquiries into Trump’s relationship to Russia following Comey’s ouster, as well as the FBI’s decision to launch a new counterintelligence investigation to determine whether the president was operating on behalf of Russia. To promote the book, McCabe has made several media appearances in which he has elaborated on the concern among Justice Department officials that the president may have been compromised. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, McCabe said that he thinks it is “possible” that Trump was and and still is a Russian asset.
Trump has responded by tweeting obsessively about McCabe, the Justice Department and Mueller’s probe. “Remember this, Andrew McCabe didn’t go to the bathroom without the approval of Leakin’ James Comey!” the president wrote on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that McCabe has “made a fool out of himself,” is a “disgraced man,” a “complete disaster” and that “he really looks to me like sort of a poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover.”
President Trump says former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe "has made a fool out of himself" and "really looks to me like sort of a poor man's J. Edgar Hoover."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 20, 2019
Earlier this month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said that after interviewing more than 200 witnesses and reviewing over 300,000 pages of documents, the committee found no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” he told CBS.
We’ll (hopefully) see what Mueller has to say.