Reuters, the Associated Press, and other major news sources are reporting that they have learned that prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller are now telling defense lawyers that they are wrapping up their investigations, which were ostensibly into Russia’s interference and/or collusion with Americans in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
While reliance on unofficial sources is usually risky, there does seem to be something in the air about closure. The latest Michael Cohen plea, President Trump’s written responses to Mr. Mueller’s questions, and the scheduling of sentencing dates for those having pled guilty to prior Mueller indictments are certainly fueling this notion.
And there is much speculation over the import of the various plea bargains entered into by Trump campaign underlings with the most prevalent observation being that no one has been charged with cooperation of any kind with the Russians – only that they lied to investigators about some peripheral issue or issues during their questioning. Thus, issues of legal liability have assumed lives of their own separate and apart from any illegal collusion with the Russians.
With respect to President Trump, no connection has as yet surfaced of any cooperation with the Russians. And even if he colluded with the Russians to secure information adverse to Hillary Clinton, why would that not merely constitute perfectly legal opposition research?
Of course, the issue of obstruction of justice by a president is an additional concern. Yet, it is hard to see any possible legal liability here either. President Trump has the constitutional authority to decide who gets prosecuted and who does not. He has the constitutional authority to order the initiation, and closing, of any federal prosecution. And there is no constitutional room for second-guessing a president in this regard in order to pursue the possibility of a corrupt presidential motive.
So the chances are that Mr. Mueller will end his work with a report on what he thinks transpired and possibly also draw some non-binding conclusions. His report will have to be taken with a grain of salt because it will only reflect his view of the facts. There will have been no cross examination of witnesses or adjudications by a neutral court.
But the end of the Mueller investigation should be welcomed by those wishing the duly-elected president of the United States can finally go about his official business free from the distractions of an out-of-control investigation that has sharply veered off course. The Trump administration’s success on tariffs last week and the news of a 44-year low in unemployment demonstrate what’s possible.