CNN reporter details Mueller's recent activity

CNN's Evan Perez reports on what special counsel Robert Mueller has been up to since former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 3:21 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 3:39 PM

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has been busy interviewing witnesses, running a grand jury and moving along its cases during the pre-election quiet period that Justice Department rules specify, CNN reported Wednesday.

Bloomberg reported, citing two US officials, that Mueller "is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections," including "two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry": whether Donald Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, and whether the President's actions constitute obstruction of justice.

Given political uncertainty over who will lead the Department of Justice after the midterms, Mueller would be wise to issue a report to preserve his findings and to prevent his work from being watered down or concealed from Congress or the public. Regardless, Mueller's investigation is -- or at least should be, if it is properly insulated from political interference -- far from over.

While it remains unclear what the political world will look like after November 6, one thing seems nearly certain: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a goner. Trump has berated Sessions publicly, calling him "weak," "beleaguered" and "scared stiff and Missing in Action." Trump's primary complaint is that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election -- a move Trump has called "very unfair to the President."

As a result, Sessions has not been able to influence Mueller's investigation -- much to the dismay of Trump, who has explicitly called on the attorney general to reverse his recusal and "stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now." The future of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe in light of Sessions' recusal, also hangs in the balance following reports he considered secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment.

If Trump replaces either Sessions or Rosenstein, then Mueller will have a new boss. While there is no way to predict how that person would handle the special counsel, Trump has made it perfectly clear through tweets and public statements that he wants Mueller's "Rigged Witch Hunt" to be either curtailed or terminated. To safeguard against this possibility, Mueller needs to preserve the work he has done and the findings he has made, which surely extend beyond the indictments and other court filings that have been made public.

By filing a report on the investigation thus far, Mueller can put a message in a bottle for Congress and the public, should his ship be upended by political forces. (It's not clear that such a report would be made public; the decision whether to do so is up to Rosenstein.)

While Mueller has already issued criminal charges against more than 30 people -- including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos -- he still has plenty of work ahead. In September, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and reached a cooperation agreement with Mueller.

Prosecutors do not hand out cooperation agreements casually, particularly to defendants like Manafort who have already been convicted at trial. Mueller, therefore, must believe that Manafort can provide valuable information leading to new indictments of major players. Mueller will be particularly interested in any knowledge Manafort has regarding the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting he attended with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a team of Russian emissaries who offered the Trump campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

CNN reported that Michael Cohen met Wednesday with state and federal law enforcement officials investigating President Trump's business and charitable foundation. According to Vanity Fair, which cited two sources familiar with the matter, Cohen has spent more than 50 hours meeting with federal investigators. (While Cohen has been charged by the Southern District of New York, based on a referral from Mueller, there is no impediment to the Southern District sharing Cohen's cooperation with Mueller; in fact, federal agencies commonly share information from cooperators that might relate to overlapping investigations).

Cohen has made it abundantly clear that he will cooperate, and no prosecutor would spend 50 hours debriefing a witness unless that witness has valuable and actionable information about significant targets. Prosecutors are likely to focus on Cohen's guilty plea to campaign finance violations relating to efforts to pay hush money to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal.

During his guilty plea, Cohen stated under oath that he had committed the campaign finance offenses "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office." Prosecutors are likely working with Cohen to develop corroborating evidence relating to Trump and others who may have been involved in the illegal campaign payments.

Finally, Mueller does not seem ready to walk away from Trump himself just yet. While Mueller is reportedly willing to accept written answers from the President in lieu of grand jury testimony on Russian collusion, it does not appear the special counsel is willing to settle for written answers regarding obstruction of justice. If Trump's team resists Mueller's efforts to question the President in person, the special counsel could issue a subpoena -- which could kick off a lengthy legal battle that is likely to wind up at the Supreme Court.

Trump's defenders have tried to convince the public that Mueller's investigation has taken too long. Former Trump attorney Ty Cobb played this card as early as August 2017, when Mueller was only four months into the investigation.

In June 2018, Congressman Trey Gowdy told Rosenstein to "finish the hell up." The fact is, Mueller's investigation -- which is not yet a year and a half old -- has not remotely approached the duration of other politically volatile special counsel or independent counsel investigations, including Whitewater, Scooter Libby and Iran-contra.

Given the dynamic political situation that is rapidly approaching with midterm elections, Mueller might decide to protect himself -- and his investigation -- by filing a formal written report memorializing his findings to date. But such a report should not be mistaken for the end of Mueller's probe. Mueller still has plenty of work to do, and his most consequential prosecutorial actions likely still lie ahead.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Oxford
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 66°
Thursday will start off once again in the unseasonably cool 60s. We will top off just a few degrees warmer on out Thursday, in comparison to our Wednesday. Most of the high temperatures will be in the lower 90s.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather