Five things to watch for as White House readies for Mueller report

Washington is consumed with speculation that the Justice Department will announce the end of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation in the coming days.

Mueller’s team has shed key prosecutors in recent weeks, and the end of the court battle with former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Kremlin: No evidence of election interference in Mueller report Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered MORE has underscored the sense that things are winding down.

Here are five things to watch for.

The prospect of new indictments

Mueller could unveil new indictments before completing his investigation.

ADVERTISEMENT

The special counsel already has indicted more than two-dozen Russians in plots to use social media to meddle in the 2016 election and to hack the emails of high-level Democrats. Mueller has also charged six Trump associates with false statements, obstruction, financial fraud and other crimes.

But Mueller has not accused any Americans of conspiring with Russians to interfere in the election, and it remains an open question whether he will.

Some believe the special counsel is likely to unveil a single conspiracy indictment at the end of his probe; others, the president included, say Mueller has not found and will not uncover evidence of “collusion” between the campaign and Moscow.

Mueller could charge individuals in connection with other cases.

Mueller’s team has referenced “uncharged individuals” in court filings in the cases against a Russian troll farm and Manafort in a bid to keep certain information secret, a sign prosecutors are investigating other unknown subjects.  

In addition, the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee recently shipped dozens of transcripts of interviews with witnesses in its own Russia probe to Mueller.

This has raised the prospect of future perjury charges.

What parts of Mueller’s report will be public?

There has been plenty of discussion about Mueller’s final report — but it remains unknown what, if any of it, will see the light of day.

The regulations governing Mueller’s appointment require that he deliver a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, but the special counsel has broad discretion on what to include. Regulations only require that it explain the decisions he made to prosecute or not prosecute certain individuals.

Ultimately, the decision on what to release to Congress and the public is up to Barr.

He has committed to releasing as much about Mueller’s conclusions as possible while adhering to the law, but has also been careful not to commit to releasing Mueller’s report in its entirety. Legal experts expect that any documentation made public will be redacted to conceal sensitive national security information or grand jury material.

House Democrats have signaled they are prepared to issue subpoenas for the report if they aren’t satisfied with what the Justice Department gives them.

There is also another report Barr is required to deliver to Congress that could shed more light on the investigation.

Specifically, the attorney general is required to notify the House and Senate Judiciary Committees if he took any actions to block Mueller from taking certain steps — such as pursuing specific indictments or issuing subpoenas for documents or testimony — and to explain why.

DOJ vs. White House?

Barr has broad discretion over how to handle Mueller’s closing documentation — including whether to share it with the White House before informing Congress or the public of its findings.

It is possible if not likely that Trump’s legal team would then assert executive privilege over communications between the president and his advisers to keep portions of the report under wraps. This could ultimately trigger a legal fight over executive privilege that could advance to the Supreme Court.

Trump has repeatedly said he will defer to Barr, his second attorney general, on whether to release Mueller’s final report. On Wednesday, Trump also leaned toward making it public.

“Let it come out. Let people see it,” he told reporters at the White House before traveling to appear at a campaign fundraiser in Ohio.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump continued. “Let’s see whether or not it’s legit.”

But those remarks came less than a week after Trump suggested on Twitter that there “should be no Mueller report.”

His personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, at one point suggested Trump’s legal team should be able to “correct” Mueller’s final report before it is released to Congress or the public. Giuliani has since sought to walk back that remark.

Does Mueller speak?

Mueller has kept a tight lid on his investigation for close to two years, despite being the focus of tremendous national attention.

Mueller and his team have spoken only through “speaking indictments,” other filings and court appearances. His office also never comments on news reports. One exception was when it disputed a bombshell BuzzFeed News report that investigators had evidence Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenNew normal: A president can freely interfere with investigations without going to jail Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered Mueller report rebuts claim Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress MORE, to lie to Congress about plans to build a real estate property in Moscow.

The investigation’s conclusions could change things, however.

Mueller’s report, if the public sees it, could offer his account of what happened when Russia interfered in the 2016 election, though many doubt that it will resemble the sprawling 500-page report written by Kenneth Starr on the relationship between then-President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

It’s also possible that Mueller will have the chance to testify before Congress when he is no longer special counsel. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMueller's done, and Dems should be too — because Trump is no Nixon Trump blames Obama for 'anything the Russians did' in 2016 election Mueller report poses new test for Dems MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters last week that it may be necessary for Democrats to call him to testify if the Justice Department tries to stifle his report.

“I think that if the Justice Department either attempts to conceal the Mueller report or the underlying evidence, then requiring Mueller to testify may very well be necessary,” Schiff said last week. “We certainly would not take that off the table.”

The ongoing cases

Several loose ends remain in the probe, leading some legal observers to doubt the general consensus that Mueller will submit his closing documentation to the Justice Department as soon as this week.

For one, Mueller is locked in an unresolved dispute with a mystery foreign government-owned company that is asking the Supreme Court to take up its challenge to a grand jury subpoena.

And former Trump deputy campaign chairman Richard Gates is still cooperating with prosecutors in “several ongoing investigations,” Mueller’s team told a judge last week in a bid to delay his sentencing.

A judge has scheduled the trial for longtime Trump friend Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneHeavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today Live coverage: Frenzy in DC as Congress, White House brace for Mueller report MORE for early November. It’s a possibility, though some think it unlikely, that Stone will ultimate strike a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty.

Any active cases or investigations stemming from Mueller’s probe will continue even after the special counsel has completed his work. Mueller’s office is jointly prosecuting Stone’s case with the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C., a potential signal he is preparing to hand off Stone’s case.

More information could come out about the nature of Gates’s cooperation and the investigations he is assisting when prosecutors and his defense attorneys file their next status report, due by mid-May. It is possible prosecutors are keeping him on the hook to cooperate in other investigations and that his cooperation will Mueller is complete.

When Mueller is done, much of the attention will turn to the ongoing investigation into Cohen’s campaign finance violations that is being run by federal prosecutors in Manhattan — a probe that grew out of the special counsel investigation. Cohen has implicated Trump in the campaign finance charges stemming from a hush-money scheme, but the president has denied wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, prosecutors unsealed search warrants and other documents underlying the April 2018 raid on Cohen’s properties that shed more light on the investigation that eventually led to his guilty pleas last year. The documents were heavily redacted in sections discussing the campaign finance violations — a sign the probe into them is very much alive.