Robert Mueller is getting closer to concluding and issuing findings in a major portion of the Russia investigation, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday. He is “close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice,” and will likely write up a report on them “after the November midterm elections.”
Several substantial portions of the investigation are done or nearly done: Paul Manafort has been convicted and could be sentenced this week, Michael Flynn is due to be sentenced in December, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to financial and campaign finance crimes in New York, and the special counsel’s office has indicted a number of Russians connected to Putin’s government on crimes involving hacking and distributing Democrats’ emails during the 2016 campaign.
The climax of Mueller’s investigation could come in the form of either indictments or a report delivered to the deputy attorney general. This only adds grave significance to the question of who will be deputy attorney general—currently it’s Rod Rosenstein—or who will be directly overseeing the Russia investigation when Mueller reaches his conclusions.
Many expect Jeff Sessions, who is recused from the investigation, to be fired or to resign after the midterm elections, thus removing a layer of protection for Rosenstein, who has his own joking-not-joking-wiretapping-the-president issues and may well be on his way out after Republicans are more able to absorb the political hit.
“Rosenstein has made it clear that he wants Mueller to wrap up the investigation as expeditiously as possible,” Bloomberg reported.
This could mean a flurry of activity by Mueller after the midterms—federal prosecutors are discouraged from taking major investigative actions in sensitive cases soon before an election—but before there’s an overhaul at the top of the Department of Justice. “The days and weeks immediately after the Nov. 6 election may be the most pivotal time since Mueller took over the Russia investigation almost a year and a half ago,” Bloomberg says.
Mueller has already given Trump’s attorneys written questions about collusion, CNN reported last week, and the team is “preparing answers.” There hasn’t, however, been any agreement on an in-person interview about possible obstruction of justice, namely around the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. If Trump continues to refuse an in-person interview, Mueller would have to issue a subpoena, and the resulting legal case could take months. It’s an open question how Mueller could wrap his investigation soon after the midterms without Trump’s direct testimony on obstruction of justice.