Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker told reporters Monday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Russian government and Trump for President campaign colluded to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is “close to being completed.”
CNN reports that Whitaker has been “fully briefed” on Mueller’s investigation and that he anticipates a swift end to the probe. Whitaker added that he will urge Mueller to “summarize his findings” in a simple report issued to Congress, which could eventually be made public. The official report will go directly to the Department of Justice.
Close observers seem to agree with Whitaker’s assesment, though Mueller’s probe has reportedly been in a “wrapping up” stage since late November of last year. CNN noted that campaign associate Roger Stone was “one of the last key campaign associates” to be investigated, and Stone was indicted last Friday. Cases against other Trump associates — including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort — have already been adjudicated. Both Flynn and Manafort are headed towards sentencing.
Only one campaign associate — a close aide to Stone named Andrew Miller — remains to be interviewed. His lawyer is speaking to Mueller’s team this week, according to CNN reporter Marshall Cohen.
Members of Mueller’s team are also being reassigned to other operations. “Some of the investigation’s prosecutors moved to different jobs outside of Mueller’s office” and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing Mueller’s operation, will leave his post next month.
While the White House likely celebrated news that Mueller’s probe is wrapping up, Democrats were already mashing the panic button, concerned that Whitaker was unduly influencing Mueller’s timeline, and that the parade of Mueller indictments may be coming to an end without a high-profile White House or Trump team arrest. Although plenty of associates have been caught in Mueller’s web, the investigation has not snagged several of the Left’s top targets, from Donald Trump, Jr., to the President himself.
This is exactly why Whitaker should have recused himself from overseeing the SCO probe. We should be able to have faith & trust that the AG is acting in the interests finding the truth & not (as many will be) skeptical that he is in some way pressuring Mueller to wrap it up.
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) January 28, 2019
Hopefully it goes without saying that just because Mueller is said to be close to completion doesn’t mean he isn’t going to allege serious wrongdoing in his report. It appears to suggest that no massive conspiracy indictment is in the works, however.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) January 28, 2019
Others speculated that Mueller could be planning follow-up investigations to “prove” that there was White House interference in the original probe.
I couldn’t agree more. I hope that when this is over, Mueller will publicly make clear the extent of any interference with his investigation from anyone. https://t.co/oenJs2VnyX
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 28, 2019
Others — including federal lawmakers — publicly worried that Whitaker’s announcement was, itself, compromising Mueller’s investigation.
Sen. Coons says it’s “chilling” to hear Matt Whitaker say there would be a review of Mueller report
“I don’t have full confidence that the acting attorney general Whitaker intends to respect the independence of the special counsel and simply support and sustain“ Mueller report
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 28, 2019
Members of Congress moved swiftly to make sure that Mueller’s report will be available to the public, however, introducing bipartisan legislation Monday that would guarantee the report’s release even if the special counsel “is fired or resigns.”
The Hill reports that “Mueller, or another special counsel, would have to turn over the report within two weeks and must include all factual findings and underlying evidence.” Congress would then compile a redacted, de-classified version of the report to make available to the public.