During a press conference Monday, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker gave what amounts to the first official indication that the Mueller investigation is—may be?—coming to a conclusion. “I have been fully briefed on the investigation and I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report,” Whitaker said during a press conference. “Right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed.”
How seriously you take Whitaker’s comment is predicated on how seriously you take Whitaker really. The acting attorney general said he had been “fully briefed” on the state of the Mueller investigation, which even if half-true certainly gives him greater insight into the inner workings of the probe than most, but what does “close” to being done mean really? The “Mueller’s close” line has seemingly been a talking point from every side in Washington, D.C. at some point or another for what feels like years now. More realistically it’s been batted around for many months: Trump’s said it; Giuliani’s said it; everyone seems to have ingested the idea that, surely, this puppy is about to get wrapped up. It used to be a Trump world talking point that seemed to be born out of the desire to make the investigation look like a trifle—oh this little old thing—something that wasn’t too serious and would surely be done soon. But here we are.
What does “close” mean? This month? This summer? This year? Or maybe, just maybe, it was a throwaway line of a new, face-sweatingly nervous government official that has been given a job above his pay grade? And then there’s Whitaker’s “I think” qualification and the fact the the comment came as part of a word jumble of a response from the acting attorney general about why he shouldn’t have to recuse himself from an oversight role of the Muller investigation. In any case, no matter how close the investigation is to completion, Whitaker likely won’t be overseeing it for much longer with attorney general nominee William Barr expected to be confirmed by the Senate in February.