Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation appears to be on its last legs.
Since May 2017, the investigation has been examining possible efforts by foreign governments to interfere in the 2016 election, with a focus on Russia and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Recent developments, however, indicate that the investigation’s broad scope has been to little avail.
According to two U.S. officials, Mueller is expected to present the findings of the Russia probe soon after next week’s midterm elections. This news comes to Mueller in the face of escalating pressure to produce more indictments or shut down the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is reportedly one of the figures pressuring Mueller to wrap up the investigation, calling for the Special Counsel to issue his final report soon.
Mueller has broadened the scope of his investigation over the last year, branching out with a number of indictments not directly related to the Russia probe. So the question remains, has he uncovered any real evidence of collusion?
Consider this detail from the February 16 indictment of 13 Russians: “Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The individuals accused of foreign interference reportedly began their operations in 2014 — a year before Trump had even announced he was running for president.
The February indictment also reads, “Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.” If members of the Trump campaign did not know they were communicating with Russian actors, can this communication even be considered collusion?
According to Rosenstein, no. “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” the Deputy Attorney General stated in a press conference. “[…] There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
Whether intentional or not, the Mueller probe and its series of indictments have only proven that there was no collusion on the part of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Over the course of the next week, it is unlikely Mueller will take any overt action that could draw public attention. Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid making any major moves this close to an election, as they could be seen as influencing its outcome. As pressure on the investigation increases and all signs still point to no collusion, Mueller must make his choice: Offer a report on the specific subject he was instructed to explore, or bring this investigation to a close, once and for all.