White House braces for Mueller report

The White House is bracing for Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE’s report, which the special counsel investigating President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE’s campaign and Russia could submit to the Department of Justice as early as next week.

The filing would potentially bring to a close one of the dominant threads of Trump’s time in office, which he refers to as a “witch hunt.”

The president and his allies for months have called for an end to the special counsel’s investigation, and Trump, who often insists there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, could benefit politically if the report vindicates him.

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“Anything short of them saying the president colluded with Russia and is now being indicted is going to depress Democrats,” a source close to the White House told The Hill.

But Mueller’s report won’t end Trump’s legal headaches, and it could raise new questions about the investigation itself.

Lawmakers will pressure Trump to make the document public, and Democrats are likely to pursue any stray leads. As a result, the report is bound to lead to new headaches at the White House.

“I think any report in the short term is going to be a political problem for Republicans, but in the long term I think it’s going to be a problem for Democrats,” said the source close to the White House, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the Mueller investigation.

Multiple news outlets reported on Wednesday and Thursday that Justice Department officials are readying for the end of Mueller’s investigation, underlining the sense that the long drama could be coming to some kind of close.

The special counsel would be expected to submit a confidential report on his findings to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Five takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats MORE, who was just confirmed a week ago by the Senate.

The special counsel’s office and a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment. 

Trump and his attorneys in the last year have issued multiple calls for the probe to end, and Trump reportedly sought to fire Mueller on at least two separate occasions.

If Mueller does file his report, Trump will face a new decision on whether it should be made public.

“That’ll be totally up to the new attorney general,” Trump said Wednesday when asked whether the Mueller report should be released while he’s traveling to Vietnam next week.

“He’s a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department,” Trump added. “So that’ll be totally up to him.” 

Justice Department regulations state that an appointed special counsel will provide the attorney general with a confidential report explaining decisions to prosecute or not prosecute specific incidents.

During his confirmation hearing, Barr called it "vitally important" for Mueller to be allowed to complete his investigation. But he rankled Democrats when he did not fully commit to releasing any final report in its entirety.

Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the attorney general “has some flexibility” in terms of the report, but that he would try “to get as much as I can of the information to Congress and the public.”

It's unclear what formal response Trump or the White House could issue once Mueller submits his findings. The president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have previously suggested they may give a “counter report” to address the special counsel’s determinations.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Trump attorney Jay Sekulow.

“I think what he’ll say is ‘I told you all along there was nothing to any of this,’” the source close to the White House said.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington, D.C., for nearly two years. Breathless coverage has focused on who had or hadn't spoken with Mueller’s team, who could be in investigators’ crosshairs and whether Trump would move to shutter the probe entirely. 

Mueller has thus far charged more than 30 people as part of the investigation, including more than two-dozen Russians and six former Trump associates: Michael Flynn, George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFormer FBI lawyer defends agency's probe into Trump campaign officials GOP senator calls Comey a 'hack politician' who 'knows what's coming' Trump gives sarcastic shoutout to media on 'spying' reports MORE, Richard Gates, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGovernment moves to seize Manafort's condo in Trump Tower Giuliani meets with former Ukrainian diplomat to get info on Dems Banker charged for allegedly approving Manafort loans for Trump job MORE, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenCohen challenges Sekulow to testify about Trump Tower meetings George Conway contrasts Trump denying 'cover-ups' with check to Michael Cohen Avenatti indicted for allegedly defrauding Stormy Daniels MORE and Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI Stone claims unfair prosecution by Mueller MORE

But none of the charges have alleged any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow to interfere in the election, the question at the core of Mueller's investigation.

Should the special counsel submit his report without filing additional charges, it will not mean the end of Trump’s legal predicaments.

Prosecutors in New York are reportedly looking into potentially illegal contributions to Trump’s inaugural committee, and the New York attorney general is pursuing a lawsuit against the president’s charity.

Democrats — many of whom have resisted coming down on the impeachment debate without a final account from Mueller — have pledged to pursue evidence raised in the special counsel's final report.

“The American people are entitled to know if there is evidence of a conspiracy between either the president or the president's campaign and a foreign adversary,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN. 

Schiff has previously threatened to issue a subpoena for any parts of Mueller’s report kept private, and Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillinePelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Facebook says it will not remove doctored Pelosi video Justice to recommend blocking T-Mobile-Sprint merger: report MORE (D-R.I.) said Wednesday he will introduce legislation that would require the report be made public.

Some Republicans, such as Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), have said they’d like for the American people to see the report.

If and when that happens, the reactions are likely to be split along partisan lines.

Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, predicted that Trump's approval rating would suffer regardless of whether the president is directly implicated or whether his associates are the only ones named in any final report. Those problems could be compounded by any prolonged fight over the document’s release, he said.

“My guess is if the report is damning it is probably going to renew calls for impeachment,” he told The Hill. “I’m guessing at least a couple of the Democratic candidates (for president) are going to start, in order to create some separation, are going to start talking about impeachment.”

Republicans, some of whom have echoed the president's concerns about Mueller's investigation dragging on, are likely to seek to move on quickly.

“The special counsel needs to bring his evidence forward if he has any, and let’s get on with it,” Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 'time out' on facial recognition tech | DHS asks cybersecurity staff to volunteer for border help | Judge rules Qualcomm broke antitrust law | Bill calls for 5G national security strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE (R-Mo.) said on “Fox and Friends.” 

“The American people deserve to have this thing wrapped up and over with.”