Robert Mueller may issue something very soon, but it won’t be a ‘final report’

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Bloomberg / YouTube Why Robert Mueller Is the Perfect...
Bloomberg / YouTube

That idea that “Robert Mueller is going to file a report any day now” has been a news staple since shortly after Mueller was appointed special counsel in 2017. Compared to other special counsel investigations, the look into Donald Trump’s “foreign relations” has still been relatively brief, but pundits have been appearing in the press and media on a regular basis to predict Mueller wrapping things up with such regularity, and similarity, that it wouldn’t take a super artificial intelligence fake news machine to crank out the weekly allotment of Real Soon Now stories.

The truth is that Mueller hasn’t provided, doesn’t provide, and isn’t about to provide the media with guidelines as to when he’s going to hand off that “final report” on what he learned, why some got indicted, why others skated clear, and why still others (or an other) earned an “unindicted co-conspirator” label. In fact, the date on which that report gets handed over to new Attorney General William Barr is still likely to be some time away. As in months away. Because there are a lot of things still to be cleared up. Mostly collusion, collusion, and collusion.

  • The raid on Roger Stone’s home and offices was conducted not as a simple arrest, but as a clear exercise in gathering evidence. Pair that with the news that Stone was indicted at least in part because his lies were revealed in data found in Russian sources, and it seems like there’s still a good deal of work to be done in cleaning up everything around the actions of Stone and his associates, most of which seem to have been in dissemination of stolen information.
  • There have been no indictments, outside of Russia, on issues directly related to assisting Russia’s social media effort. That includes no one from the Trump campaign or Cambridge Analytica, and not Republican strategist Aaron Nevins, who worked directly with the Russians to identify and distribute the most valuable of their stolen information. And that includes no charges directly aimed at Paul Manafort ferrying Trump polling data to a Russian agent.
  • There are still no charges resulting from the actions on which Michael Flynn cooperated with the FBI: the Trump campaign’s outreach to Russia, including discussions of both relaxing sanctions and finding a favorable outcome in Ukraine. Those two topics appeared again and again in conversations from Trump Tower to the Seychelles, and no one has yet received a single slap on the wrist for this “quid” partner to the Russian hacking and Moscow Project “pro quo.”

There are still no indictments related to the work Cambridge Analytica did in providing Russia with the benefits of its analysis engine. Still no one but Marina Butina charged in relation to the Russia-NRA pipeline and the mystery $30 million that was shelled out for the election. The list of people who could still be facing indictment—including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Jefferson Sessions, Erik Prince, Aaron Nevins, Brad Parscale, Alexander Nix, Felix Sater, and, Justice Department rules or not, Donald Trump—is longer than the list of those outside of Russia who have been charged so far. And even inside Russia, Mueller may not be done.

There are reasons to think that, far from being over, the Mueller investigation is continuing to expand. Recent revelations around the Moscow Project show that Trump’s business dealings may be an inevitable, inseparable part of any investigation into how and why he would cooperate with Russia in an effort to harm American democracy. And there have been reports that Mueller is looking not just at Russia, but at Trump and Kushner’s ties to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The number of potential lines of inquiry is so large, it’s hard to keep track of them all, even with charts, graphs, and a stack of timelines.

At this moment, despite a mountain of evidence that winds back through multiple routes, all of which indicate Russia working with the Trump campaign to steal information, weaponize social media, and do Vladimir Putin’s bidding in exchange for a really keen building project, direct charges of “conspiracy against the United States” to fatally damage an American election are still nonexistent. But there are some reasons to believe that, in the next two weeks, this could change. The best reason to believe that something important could happen in the next eight days is that there seems to be a countdown clock built into some recent documents and statements. For example, Michael Cohen delayed his testimony to Congress in “the interests of the investigation.” Paul Manafort, whose court documents still contain a sizable amount of information redacted from public view, is set to be sentenced on March 13, which suggests that, before that date, some parts of the investigation that were still considered open a few weeks ago will likely be revealed. Michael Flynn’s sentencing has been delayed, after a judge reminded Flynn in December just how good his deal with the special counsel really is, and about the kind of charges he could face if he insists on blowing that deal sky-high.

The fact that the court documents related to all these cases still contain significant redaction is a good indicator that parts—if not whole sections—of the Mueller investigation are still taking place outside the public view, with only hints and inference from court documents to suggest they’re happening at all. But some of those hints seem to say that something, and not a final report by any means, could happen in the next few days that removes some of those black bars.

If it does happen, it’s likely to come in the form of indictments. Because other than that final report to Barr on the the how and the why, the language the special counsel’s office speaks is just about who did what.

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