White House braces for Mueller report

The White House is bracing for Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report, which the special counsel investigating President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister 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 BarrTrump says he has 'total confidence' in Barr In defense of William Barr Trump suggests he may sue over Mueller investigation 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 PapadopoulosA tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat DOJ releases new tranche of Mueller witness documents MORE, Richard Gates, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrump says he has 'total confidence' in Barr Judges' association calls emergency meeting in wake of Stone sentencing reversal A tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice MORE, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump calls the Russia investigation 'bulls---' CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge MORE and Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneTrump says he has 'total confidence' in Barr Judge refuses to delay Stone sentencing In defense of William Barr 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 SchiffTop intelligence community lawyer leaving position Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump 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 CicillineTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Democrats criticize FCC for not taking action against DC station broadcasting Russian disinformation 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 HawleySenate Democrats introduce legislation to change impeachment trial rules Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts four Chinese military officers over Equifax hack | Amazon seeks Trump deposition in 'war cloud' lawsuit | Inside Trump's budget | Republican proposes FTC overhaul GOP senator proposes overhauling federal agency to confront Big Tech MORE (R-Mo.) said on “Fox and Friends.” 

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