January 19, 2019

Robert Mueller’s Legal Masterpiece

“It’s been 18 months since Robert Mueller took over the Russia investigation, and still nobody really knows what he’ll do next. The Daily Beast reported on Thursday morning that the special counsel’s inquiry is entering a new phase focused on influence from Middle Eastern countries. Later that evening, The Washington Post reported that final sentencing for some of Mueller’s cooperating witnesses could indicate his investigation is nearing the end. Some have even speculated that the lack of charges against the Trump campaign itself may mean he hasn’t found anything worth charging.

“Investigators certainly know more than they’re saying—they often repeat as much in court appearances and documents in their various cases,” NPR’s Philip Ewing wrote on Saturday. “But an ostensible conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russians who attacked the election is nowhere near close to being proven.” I’ve argued previously that what’s publicly available so far points toward soft collusion at a minimum: a mutually acknowledged confluence of interests between Trump and Moscow. At the same time, federal investigators have yet to formally allege hard collusion—an explicit quid pro quo between the two sides.

This tension is a staple of the Russia investigation coverage. According to press reports in recent months, Mueller’s inquiry has been at once expanding and narrowing, gaining steam and losing momentum, intensifying and “wrapping up.” Mueller himself has kept virtually silent about where his investigation is headed next or what form its conclusion will take, making him the most mysterious man in Washington. Unless he’s prematurely ousted by the president, the American people won’t find out what the special counsel is truly up to until it’s all over.”

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