The Slatest

Hold Onto Your Butts (Maybe): Report Says Mueller Wants to Conclude Trump-Russia Collusion Probe “by Fall”

Side by side headshots of Mueller and Trump.
Robert Mueller, Donald Trump. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Alex Wong/Getty Images, Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images.

Hey, remember Robert Mueller? The special counsel? Investigating potential various Russia-related crimes involving Trump advisers? Well, Bloomberg, citing an unnamed source, is reporting that Mueller plans to be “producing conclusions” about the central, most politically explosive question that he’s investigating—whether the Trump 2016 campaign knowingly accepted support from or collaborated with representatives of the Russian government—by this fall:

Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators have an eye toward producing conclusions – and possible indictments – related to collusion by fall, said the person, who asked not to be identified. He’ll be able to turn his full attention to the issue as he resolves other questions, including deciding soon whether to find that Trump sought to obstruct justice.

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This assertion, while vague, is credited to two reporters who’ve been writing about the case for some time. National security writer Marcy Wheeler, meanwhile, who been closely following Mueller’s court filings and news reports about his interactions with potential witnesses, recently wrote that she thinks the investigation is “coming to a head.” Wheeler believes that the special counsel “seems to be building a series of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States indictments” that would accuse a number of Trump associates of “obstruct[ing] a lawful function of the Government or its agencies by deceitful or dishonest means.” Some examples:

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Did Don Jr conspire with Aras Agalarov and his surrogates to defraud the fair management of elections when he stated, in the context of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, that he would revisit the Magnitsky Act sanctions when his father won the election (several witnesses gave sworn testimony that this happened)? Did Roger Stone conspire with Guccifer 2.0 when they (as reported but not yet substantiated with evidence) discussed how to find Russian hackers who had stolen Hillary’s emails? Did Brad Parscale conspire with Cambridge Analytica, not just to permit foreigners to illegally provide assistance to the Trump campaign, but also to use stolen models to heighten discontent among Democratic voters?

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You can read more about the specifics of those subjects here, here, and here; the gist is that Mueller seems to be gathering evidence that a number of Trump advisers engaged in behavior that meets the following legal definition (in the words of one of Mueller’s filings) of a conspiracy to circumvent laws against, for example, receiving foreign assistance in an election:

(1) two or more persons formed an agreement to defraud the United States; (2) the defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy with the intent to defraud the United States; and (3) at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the common scheme. 

However well-informed, though, this is all just Wheeler’s prediction, and even if it turns out to be accurate, we still don’t know if Mueller will use his indictments or an accompanying report to make any judgments about whether Donald Trump himself was involved in so-called collusion. If Bloomberg is right about Mueller’s timetable, though—and given that Election Day is, you know, something that happens during the fall—we’ll have plenty of time to examine that question soon enough.

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