The Slatest

Some Advice to Robert Mueller on How to Finish That Big Writing Assignment

Muller is seen through the windshield of a car in the rainy pre-dawn dark.
Robert Mueller arriving at his office in Washington on Thursday. Given what appears to be the pre-dawn lighting, it seems possible that he was attempting an “I’ll go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep and start on it first thing tomorrow” approach. Andrew Harnik/AP

Way back in the second-to-last week of February, a few outlets reported that Robert Mueller was on the verge of submitting a summary of his Trump-Russia investigation to Attorney General William Barr. (It would then be up to Barr to decide what should be released publicly.) Now, we’re in the second-to-last week of March and there still isn’t a Mueller report. Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy speculated on Thursday that this might be a matter of procrastination:

Here at Slate, we have all “been there,” looking at the computer on Friday afternoon at the end of a week in which we begged off of regular posting duties to “finally make some progress” on a big feature, wondering how it is possible that we’ve added only 247 words to our Google Doc over the course of five days, four of those words being “LEAD/THESIS GOES HERE.”

In the end, though, we’ve all managed to power through and finish the job, and with that in mind, we put together some advice for Mueller as he races to file a draft to his impatient boss and/or makes a last desperate attempt to redeem the rule of law and the viability of democracy in the United States.

Our pointers:

• Skip the lede and come back to it once you have a better sense of where the rest of the draft is going.

• Try talking to a friend or deputy attorney general over a beer about what you’ve been working on—explaining your project from the start will clarify your thoughts.

• See if you can capture your idea in a single sentence. Honing an “elevator pitch” might seem reductive, but even complicated information is best presented in the context of simple, high-level themes. (For your purposes, we might suggest something like “The pee tape is real.”)

• Close your Twitter tab.

• Close Slack.

• Close the Slack and Twitter apps on your phone.

• Stop obsessing over individual turns of phrase. Your editor will tell you if “More like no no collusion” scans or not.

• If you can’t figure out what order to put everything in, just go chronological.

• If possible, close the Twitter app on the president’s phone as well.

• If you’re not sure whether to keep something or cut it, ask yourself: Does this develop the larger themes of the piece? Does it tell the reader something she didn’t already know? Does it help avert a constitutional crisis?

Above all, just remember: You can do this. You did the research; you have the authority; you’ve done it before. You’re Robert Mueller!

Kicker TK.