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Reports say Robert Mueller could conclude his Trump-Russia investigation next week

Both NBC News and CNN are reporting this.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Could special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation at last be reaching its conclusion?

According to reports from NBC News and CNN, the answer is yes. Both outlets reported this week that the special counsel could submit his final report to the attorney general as soon as next week.

These reports have been met with a torrent of skepticism from Mueller watchers on social media, and even fears of interference from Trump appointees at the Justice Department, such as Attorney General Bill Barr. And given President Trump’s past efforts to interfere with the investigation, and Mueller’s own secrecy about his plan, some caution is certainly warranted for these reports.

But there have long been potential signs that Mueller’s work is nearing its conclusion. Some prosecutors have left his office in recent months. In other court filings, Mueller’s team has worked together with other DOJ prosecutors, such as the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Tea leaf readers have long viewed this as preparation for an imminent handoff.

In fact, in December, NBC News’s Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian reported that Mueller was “nearing the end of his historic investigation” and even wrote that he could submit his report “as early as mid-February” — that is, around now. On Tuesday, Williams reiterated this assessment, and added the timing that the report could be filed “possibly this week, maybe next week, that soon.”

Then on Wednesday, CNN’s Evan Perez, Laura Jarrett, and Katelyn Polantz also wrote that a Mueller report could be filed next week. They reported other potentially telling new details, including:

  • Mueller’s grand jury in Washington, DC, seems to have not convened since before the indictment of Roger Stone last month.
  • Mueller’s team has frequently met with prosecutors from other Justice Department offices of late.
  • On several days last week, they saw Mueller employees carrying boxes and carting files out of their office — which, they wrote, was “an unusual move that could foreshadow a hand-off of legal work.”

We don’t know for sure what Mueller’s plans are, but all of this could certainly suggest that Mueller is close to completing his main findings about President Trump and Russian interference in the election, and is referring other unresolved matters elsewhere in the Justice Department.

What will Mueller’s report look like — and what will it say?

Many in Washington seemed to expect the Mueller report would serve to answer the public’s questions regarding Trump and Russia, or lay out a purportedly damning case like the Starr report did for President Bill Clinton.

But we have little idea what such a report would look like, and this is all the regulation in question says about it:

One thing to note here is that the report envisioned by the regulation is meant for the attorney general — not Congress and not the public. It seems particularly not meant for the public, since the report is said to be “confidential.” The only specific information we have on its contents is that it should explain Mueller’s “prosecution and declination decisions,” but the level of detail it will include is not clear.

Once the report makes it into Barr’s hands, the next question is whether it will be made public in some form. Barr is under no formal obligation to make the report public, but he’ll face immense pressure from congressional Democrats to release as much of the special counsel’s findings as possible. And if the AG did try to bottle things up, there are other avenues through which Mueller’s findings can become public — through leaks, or even perhaps congressional testimony by the special counsel himself.

But the big question is, of course, what Mueller found. Has he laid out a damning fact pattern implicating the president of the United States in potential crimes? If so, and if that becomes known, House Democrats may well push for impeachment — meaning there will be months more of Trump-Russia drama. But if Mueller did not end up implicating Trump after his long investigation, the political world will likely view that as an exoneration for Trump, and the conclusion of the scandal that’s overshadowed his presidency more than any other.

For more on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox’s guide to the Trump-Russia investigation.

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