The special counsel’s Russia probe is about to end, the acting attorney general said in an official statement.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s comments Monday were a surprising departure for the Justice Department, which rarely comments on the state of the investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election.
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“The investigation is close to being completed,” Whitaker said suddenly Monday at the end of an unrelated news conference in Washington. He said he had been “fully briefed” on the probe and that he expected it to finally come to an end shortly.
President Donald Trump has regularly dismissed the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” that has deviated from it’s original purpose, and has unfairly targeted his political allies.
Whitaker did not elaborate further on the end of a nearly two-year investigation that has cost taxpayers millions.
So far, Mueller has charged 34 people. But he has yet to accuse anyone close to the Trump campaign of actually conspiring with the Kremlin to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the election.
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Whitaker took over the Justice Department — and oversight of the Mueller probe — after Jeff Sessions resigned as attorney general in November at Trump’s request.
According to Justice Department regulations, Mueller has to provide a report to the attorney general at the conclusion of his investigation laying out his prosecution decisions.
But it remains unclear what form the report will take — or whether it will be released publicly.
And depending on when Mueller wraps up, the report may not go to Whitaker. Trump has nominated William Barr to serve as the next attorney general. His confirmation hearing was held this month and he’s awaiting a vote in the Senate.
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Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month that he wants to release as much information as possible about Mueller’s findings.
Trump has slammed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and says there was no collusion.
On Friday, longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone was charged by Mueller for omitting details on certain emails during his interviews. The FBI was criticized for seemingly inviting CNN reporters to film the raid targeting Stone, which was called unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Though most defendants facing charges tend to stay quiet for fear of inflaming prosecutors or a judge, Stone has opted for a different tack since his pre-dawn arrest Friday.
Stone staged a news conference outside a Florida courthouse, made the rounds on weekend television interviews and mocked the probe on Instagram, posting a cartoonish image of Mueller holding a “nothingburger” — just a hamburger bun with no meat.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article