Midterms loom over Mueller’s Russia probe – Politico

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Special counsel Robert Mueller. |
AP Photo
Special counsel Robert Mueller has only just begun investigating whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in last year’s election and whether Trump himself obstructed justice, but there are already fears that he’ll face pressure to reveal his conclusions before the 2018 midterms.

While it’s unclear how long it will take Mueller to wrap up his investigation, veterans of past White House scandals say that with the midterms already being framed as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, both Republicans and Democrats can be expected to push Mueller to go public with whatever he has before voters go to the polls.

But Mueller will also be shadowed by the criticism heaped on former FBI Director James Comey over his public statements about the Hillary Clinton email probe in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s going to be déjà vu all over again with respect to everyone being angry whatever he has to say,” said Douglas Kmiec, a former top Justice Department lawyer during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and U.S. ambassador to Malta under President Barack Obama.

The special prosecutor doesn’t face a set deadline, and the regulations establishing Mueller’s office only say he must issue a final report to the Justice Department when he’s finished investigating spelling out why he believes criminal prosecutions are warranted or not – and nothing prevents him from pressing charges or speaking out before the entire report is complete.

Most other major modern scandals involving the White House have dragged on for years, colliding with election campaigns. It took more than 1,200 days between the break-in at the offices of the psychiatrist for Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, for example, and the final convictions of senior Nixon White House aides. During that time period, Nixon won a second term and he became the only president in U.S. history to resign from office.


First break-in to convictions: 1,216 days

Archibald Cox appointed as independent special prosecutor

House impeachment

hearings begin

Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky

special counsel appointment to Senate acquitTal: 1,857 days

Kenneth Starr replaces Robert Fiske as special prosecutor

Starr’s probe expands

to include alleged affair

between Bill Clinton and

White House intern

Monica Lewinsky

House votes to begin impeachment investigation

dec. 19, 1998 | Day 1,802

House passes two articles of impeachment against Clinton

State of the Union to commuted conviction: 1,616 days

oct. 28, 2005 | Day 1,004

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is indicted on obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury charges in leak case

Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from leak investigation. Deputy Attorney General James Comey announces new special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Jury finds Libby guilty

on four of five counts

DNC hack to present: 727 days

The FBI confirms it has opened an investigation into the hacking of the DNC computer network

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any investigation into Russia and possible collusion with the Trump campaign

FBI Director James Comey confirms an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign

Former FBI Director

Robert Mueller appointed as special

counsel

First break-in to convictions: 1,216 days

Archibald Cox appointed as independent special prosecutor

House

impeachment

hearings

begin

Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky

special counsel to Senate acquitTal: 1,857 days

Kenneth Starr replaces Robert Fiske as special prosecutor

House votes to begin impeachment investigation

Starr’s probe

expands

to include

alleged affair

between

Bill Clinton and

White House

intern

Monica

Lewinsky

House passes two articles of impeachment against Clinton

Valerie Plame Identity Leak

State of the Union to commuted conviction: 1616 days

Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from leak investigation. Deputy Attorney General James Comey announces new special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is indicted on obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury charges in leak case

Jury finds Libby guilty

on four of five counts

Trump-Russia Investigation

DNC hack to present: 727 days

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election

The FBI confirms it has

opened an investigation

into the hacking of the

DNC computer network

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any investigation into Russia and possible collusion with the Trump campaign

FBI Director James Comey confirms an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign

Former FBI Director

Robert Mueller

appointed as special

counsel

First break-in to convictions: 1,216 days

Archibald Cox appointed as independent

special prosecutor

House impeachment hearings begin

Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky

special counsel apointment to Senate acquiTtal:

1,857 days

Kenneth Starr replaces Robert Fiske special prosecutor

Starr’s probe expands to include alleged affair

between Bill Clinton and White House intern

Monica Lewinsky

House votes to begin impeachment investigation

House passes two articles of impeachment against Clinton

Valerie Plame Identity Leak

State of the Union to commuted conviction: 1,616 days

Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from leak investigation. Deputy Attorney General James Comey announces new special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

oct. 28, 2005 | Day 1,004

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to President Dick Cheney, is indicted on obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury charges in leak case

Jury finds Libby guilty on four of five counts

DNC hack to present: 727 days

The FBI confirms it has opened an

investigation into the hacking of the DNC

computer network

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any investigation into Russia and possible collusion with the Trump campaign

FBI Director James Comey confirms an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

appointed as special counsel

First break-in to convictions: 1,216 days

Archibald Cox appointed as independent special prosecutor

House impeachment

hearings begin

Whitewater/Monica Lewinsky

special counsel appointment to Senate acquiTtal: 1,857 days

Kenneth Starr replaces Robert Fiske as special prosecutor

Starr’s probe expands

to include alleged affair

between Bill Clinton and

White House intern

Monica Lewinsky

House votes to begin impeachment investigation

dec. 19, 1998 | Day 1,802

House passes two articles of impeachment against Clinton

Valerie Plame Identity Leak

State of the Union to commuted conviction: 1,616 days

oct. 28, 2005 | Day 1,004

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is indicted on obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury charges in leak case

Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from leak investigation. Deputy Attorney General James Comey announces new special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Jury finds Libby guilty

on four of five counts

DNC hack to present :727 days

The FBI confirms it has opened an investigation into the hacking of the DNC computer network

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announces that it will investigate “Russian intelligence activities” during the 2016 U.S. election

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from any investigation into Russia and possible collusion with the Trump campaign

FBI Director James Comey confirms an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign

Former FBI Director

Robert Mueller

appointed as special

counsel

Note: The exact date of the July, 2015 DNC attack has not been released.

President Bill Clinton was under investigation for more than 1,850 days over two terms as special prosecutors examined everything from his Whitewater land dealings while serving as Arkansas attorney general to his sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The Democrat was impeached by the House but the Senate acquitted him in early 1999 after a five-week trial.

Monica Lewinsky |
Getty Images
A former senior Obama-era Justice Department official said the complexity of the case in front of Mueller could take considerable time because of international financial and intelligence information that won’t be easy to track down. But the source, who has worked with Mueller, said the former FBI director is well known for pushing staff to work overtime.

“If he has one flaw or virtue it’s impatience. He moves people very hard and moves them very quickly,” the former DOJ official said. “The team will be sleep-deprived and sweating bullets as he drives them to wrap it up.”

Any public disclosures on the Russia probe will be prime fodder for both Democrats and Republicans heading into the midterms. “It’s going to be hanging over every single congressional candidate,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington-based national security attorney. “Do you believe the president obstructed justice? Do you believe the president should be impeached?”

Mueller so far has tried to operate out of the media spotlight as he learns the intricacies of what the FBI and Congress have already done on the Russia case, prepares his budget and hires a team of experienced investigators who have pursued such high-profile targets as Al Qaeda, Enron executives, the Mafia and Watergate. His spokesman, Peter Carr, declined comment for this story.

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