Mueller's investigation is far from finished

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has been busy interviewing witnesses, running a grand jury and movin...

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 4:39 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 4:39 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.

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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.

Confirmed Cases: 116617

Reported Deaths: 3283
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7987178
DeSoto713479
Harrison527284
Jackson462285
Rankin398286
Madison383794
Lee360080
Forrest306978
Jones295784
Washington259299
Lafayette251343
Lauderdale2485135
Lamar227138
Oktibbeha202854
Bolivar201977
Neshoba1854111
Lowndes180262
Panola170240
Leflore168787
Sunflower163449
Warren155156
Monroe152173
Pontotoc147920
Marshall145329
Lincoln141157
Pike139256
Copiah138136
Scott125729
Coahoma125437
Grenada122639
Yazoo122634
Simpson121749
Union119225
Tate117739
Leake115242
Holmes114960
Itawamba114825
Pearl River114560
Adams108944
Prentiss106920
Wayne102022
Alcorn101112
George99919
Covington97927
Marion95443
Tippah91323
Newton86927
Chickasaw85726
Hancock85028
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84421
Tishomingo81641
Attala79726
Clarke76151
Clay70021
Jasper69117
Walthall64027
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59917
Smith59616
Montgomery55223
Yalobusha54914
Claiborne53816
Tunica53517
Lawrence52514
Perry49823
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47714
Humphreys44916
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41211
Webster37613
Benton3456
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32715
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27710
Franklin2463
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 159439

Reported Deaths: 2699
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23443377
Mobile16934315
Tuscaloosa10414140
Montgomery10298197
Madison939496
Shelby743663
Baldwin669469
Lee655065
Calhoun462161
Marshall441150
Etowah431251
Morgan418235
Houston418034
DeKalb346129
Elmore322753
St. Clair299942
Limestone289330
Walker282392
Talladega267435
Cullman250824
Lauderdale231342
Jackson217515
Autauga207431
Franklin206131
Colbert204132
Russell19533
Blount194225
Chilton189332
Dallas187227
Coffee179511
Dale177251
Covington175529
Escambia173030
Clarke135317
Chambers135244
Pike134413
Tallapoosa133087
Marion109729
Barbour10339
Marengo102522
Butler101340
Winston93713
Geneva9167
Lawrence86132
Pickens86018
Bibb84314
Randolph82916
Hale77730
Clay74912
Washington74912
Cherokee74514
Henry7196
Lowndes71428
Bullock64917
Monroe64810
Crenshaw60930
Perry5936
Fayette58413
Cleburne5738
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56113
Macon53720
Lamar5065
Sumter47321
Choctaw39212
Greene34616
Coosa2053
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