Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report is only getting closer — but the timing of its completion has now been clarified by an anonymous Justice Department official speaking soon after reports circulated that it would drop very soon. According to the official, who’s apparently shared his account with a wide range of different media outlets at this point, the report is not expected next week, although they did not provide any explanation of why it’s coming farther in the future than when its arrival had previously been expected was possible.
Whenever the report does drop, it won’t be immediately public. The special counsel’s office’s findings of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump team involvement in those efforts will be submitted to William Barr, who was recently confirmed as Attorney General months after President Donald Trump pushed out Jeff Sessions. In the interim, Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker had been serving as acting Attorney General, which concerned many observers pondering the future of the Mueller investigation because of his repeatedly expressed opposition to the endeavor.
He’s now out of the equation for the probe’s conclusion, though. Although a Justice Department official has now discredited the notion that it could come as soon as next week, it’s still certainly close. Mueller has secured the cooperation of a number of key witnesses at this point, including the president’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had his sentencing delayed so he could continue to cooperate with the special counsel’s office — until March.
Another key deadline is looming too. A sentencing memo for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s case is required from the special counsel’s office by Friday at midnight. Manafort’s sentencing is set for March 13, but in the meantime via that memo, significant new information could come to light about the former senior Trump team member’s criminal activity.
Manafort secretly worked for years as a lobbyist for the now-defunct, pro-Kremlin government of Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, who currently lives in exile in Russia.
He was charged with a wide range of crimes over that activity, ranging from money laundering to conspiracy against the United States, the latter of which are the focus of his imminent sentencing. He was declared guilty by a jury of some of the crimes before pleading guilty to some others before what would have been a second trial — and then lying during the cooperation he’d agreed to as part of his plea agreement. He had been slapped with witness tampering accusations before he first went to trial, and been sent to jail over the behavior before even being sentenced for his initial crimes. That didn’t stop him from keeping on with his efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, however.
Recently, Mueller also hit former Trump ally Roger Stone with serious federal criminal charges including witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of justice, and that case remains ongoing.
The arrival of Mueller’s report, whenever it does drop, will not mean the end of the Russia investigation. Barr will transmit at least a version to Congress, and to say House Democrats have made clear their intention to keep investigating the Russia scandal would be an understatement.
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