To paraphrase an old song, those final-report bells may be breaking up that ol’ gang of Robert Mueller’s. Over the last two weeks, a pair of high-ranking departures have stoked speculation that the special-counsel office has reached the end point of its nearly-two-year investigation. Multiple news outlets report that deputy special counsel Andrew Weissmann has submitted his resignation, not long after the most senior law-enforcement investigator left to run another FBI office:
NEW: Andrew Weissmann, Special Counsel Mueller’s top prosecutor, is leaving the office in the coming weeks, a source close to Weissmann tells @NBCNews.
And David Archey, Mueller's top FBI investigator, has also left the team, as he was named as FBI Richmond agent in charge.
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) March 14, 2019
Andrew Weissmann, Robert Mueller’s top prosecutor, is leaving the special counsel’s office within the next week or so, a source close to him confirmed to NBC News.
The news was first reported by National Public Radio, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Mueller’s top FBI investigator, David Archey, has also left Mueller’s team to become the agent in charge of the Richmond field office, according to an FBI announcement posted Friday. A top counterintelligence official, Archey had been the senior agent on Mueller’s team.
So much for giving two weeks’ notice, eh? That’s a pretty rapid brain drain from the top echelons of an active investigation. If Mueller still had work to do, that kind of rapid-fire exodus might signal dissent within the organization as to the direction the probe was taking.
As things stand, though, it just looks like Mueller’s ready to close up shop. NBC says it’s hearing that the end is now nigh on the Mueller probe, from both “law enforcement sources” and from Capitol Hill. These aren’t the only signs of impending closure either, although others might be a little more subtle. Politico’s Josh Gerstein noticed a curiously large presence at Manafort’s sentencing yesterday. Was that the swan song for the Mueller probe?
In addition, Manafort’s second sentencing Wednesday drew an unusually large crowd of prosecutors and investigators–about 30 in all. The massive presence could also be a signal that many involved in the probe wanted to see what could be one of the final public steps in Mueller’s probe.
Several other cases filed by Mueller’s office remain pending, but in nearly all of them Mueller’s team has lined up other, permanent prosecutors from the Justice Department or U.S. Attorney’s Office.
That’s some next-level tea-leaf reading by Gerstein, who’s usually quite adept at it. The last big case left over is that of Roger Stone, but Mueller’s already partnered up with the US Attorney in DC on that case too. Stone has to appear in court today to explain away his potential gag-rule violation of promoting his book by insinuating that Mueller framed him. Gerstein might want to check out the attendance on that hearing too, but it might mean less as the Stone hearing will be a draw on its own. It’s in the same courtroom as yesterday, as Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding over Stone’s prosecution as well as Manafort’s.
Otherwise, the only surprise left from Mueller appears to be the exits of his top aides before the report gets filed. If this is the end, Mueller’s not left with much to say about alleged collusion between Trump and Russia as not one of his indictments lays out even a single pathway for establishing it. That’s why former prosecutor and now Democratic Senator Doug Jones (AL) did some impressive goalpost-shifting with ABC yesterday. The expectation bar should be set, Jones argued, as to whether Mueller explicitly exonerates Trump:
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, a former prosecutor, said he doubts that the long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office will be the “blockbuster” that many of President Donald Trump’s critics are hoping for.
On the other hand, Jones said, he also doubts that the report will contain “information that’s going to exonerate a lot of people, as the president’s supporters would suggest and would hope.” …
In his experience, when attorneys decide not to prosecute, “in the overwhelming number of cases the file is simply closed,” Jones said.
We’ll see what Mueller produces, but it’s looking more sure now that what Mueller won’t be producing is more indictments. That will make for a rather dull report in the end, which Democrats now want to spin into something suspicious about Trump.