Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is set to end as early as next week — and the mainstream media doesn’t seem very happy.
All the liberal talking heads looking for a grand narrative on President Donald Trump, Russian election interference, and all the juicy details that will lead to Trump’s impeachment will end up disappointed, experts say.
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Attorney General William Barr may have already been briefed on the contents.
He’ll deliver the report to Congress after the special counsel delivers it as early as next week. After two years of build-up by the media, insiders are saying the report is expected to be “anti-climactic.”
Already the media has started to spin the investigation’s conclusion, and calling for more investigations.
“Why investigations WON’T end after the Mueller report,” was CNN’s “New Day” latest segment, promising viewers that more is coming.
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But the reality is that Mueller’s investigation is done — and it’s expected to end with a whimper, not a roar.
“I think the hope is that the Mueller investigation will clear the air on [Russian-Trump collusion] once and for all,” Former National Intelligence chief James Clapper told CNN on Wednesday. “I’m really not sure it will, and the investigation, when completed, could turn out to be quite anti-climactic and not draw a conclusion about that.”
According to The Associated Press, here’s what happens next —
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE INVESTIGATION ENDS?
Mueller will have to turn in an official report of some kind when he’s done. It could be pretty bare-bones.
Justice Department regulations require only that Mueller give the attorney general a confidential report that explains the decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions.
That could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.
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Mueller has given no guidance on what it will be. Asked repeatedly over the past year, Mueller spokesman Peter Carr has cited the regulations and declined to elaborate.
WHAT DOES BARR SAY HE’LL DO?
Barr said he envisions two reports, and only one for congressional and public consumption.
Barr has said he takes seriously the “shall be confidential” part of the regulations governing Mueller’s report. He has noted that department protocol says internal memos explaining charging decisions should not be released.
During his confirmation hearing, Barr said that he will draft, after Mueller turns in his report, a second one for the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. But here again, the regulations provide little guidance for what such a report would say.
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The attorney general is required only to say the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed “was so inappropriate or unwarranted” that it should not be pursued.
Barr indicated that he expects to use his report to share the results of Mueller’s investigation with the public, which the regulations allow him to do. But he hedged on specifics and said his plans could change after speaking with Mueller and Rosenstein.
WHAT WILL TRUMP DO?
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said the president’s legal team wants to review any report before it’s released. Giuliani also raised the prospect that Trump lawyers could try to invoke executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of any confidential conversation the president has had with his aides.
It’s not clear whether the president’s lawyers will get an advance look at Mueller’s conclusions. Mueller, after all, reports to the Justice Department, not the White House.
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Barr himself seemed to dismiss that idea. When Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Barr whether Trump and his lawyers would be able to correct the report before its release and put their own spin on it, Barr replied: “That will not happen.”
WILL THERE BE A FINAL NEWS CONFERENCE?
It seems unlikely, especially if prosecutors plan to discuss people they never charged.
Then-FBI Director James Comey broke from Justice Department protocol in extraordinary fashion with his July 2016 news conference announcing the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Barr has made clear his disapproval of Comey’s public move.
“If you’re not going to indict someone, you don’t stand up there and unload negative information about the person,” Barr said.
There have been times when the department has elaborated on decisions not to pursue criminal charges. Also, there is some precedent for special counsels appointed by the Justice Department to hold news conferences.
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Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel who investigated the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame and who was granted even broader authority than Mueller, held a 2005 news conference when he charged I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. But even then, Fitzgerald drew a clear line.
“One of the obligations of the prosecutors and the grand juries is to keep the information obtained in the investigation secret, not to share it with the public,” Fitzgerald said at the time. “And as frustrating as that may be for the public, that is important because, the way our system of justice works, if information is gathered about people and they’re not charged with a crime, we don’t hold up that information for the public to look at. We either charge them with a crime or we don’t.”
CAN DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS SUBPOENA MUELLER AND HIS REPORT?
Yes, and they plan to start right away.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said as much.
“We could subpoena the final report. We could subpoena Mueller and ask him in front of the committee what was in your final report. Those are things we could do,” Nadler told ABC’s “This Week” in October.
The investigation is coming to an end… but expect the Democrats to use every trick in the book to draw it out until at least the 2020 presidential election.
The Associated Press contributed to this article