Will Congress ever get to see Robert Mueller’s final report? Will we? Naaah, John Dowd told ABC News, because he doesn’t think there will be a report at all from the special counsel. Donald Trump’s former lead attorney claims that he’s seen everything that Robert Mueller’s got, and in the words of Gertrude Stein about her Oakland neighborhood, there’s no there there:
The veteran criminal defense attorney who headed President Donald Trump’s legal team during a crucial stretch of the special counsel investigation believes the entire affair will end in silence from special counsel Robert Mueller, and called the massive two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign “a terrible waste of time.”
“I don’t think there’ll be a report,” John Dowd told ABC News in a wide-ranging interview for the premiere episode of “The Investigation,” a new podcast focused on the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I will be shocked if anything regarding the president is made public, other than ‘We’re done.’” …
“I know exactly what [Mueller] has,” Dowd said. “I know exactly what every witness said, what every document said. I know exactly what he asked. And I know what the conclusion or the result is,” he said, describing the sweeping efforts by Trump’s legal team to assess the case by speaking to dozens of witnesses. Based on that knowledge, Dowd said, “there’s no basis. There’s no exposure. It’s been a terrible waste of time.”
Color me skeptical on this point. The prisons are filled with people whose attorneys thought they knew exactly what prosecutors had before trials started. Besides, Dowd hasn’t been formally involved with Trump’s defense for almost a year now, after getting the heave-ho for publicly attacking Mueller. He’s been quiet ever since, at least until now, which may be a measure of just how unhappy Trump and his other attorneys were with Dowd for complicating matters with the special counsel. Mueller may have developed a case for collusion or obstruction much farther over the last eleven months.
On the other hand, the Senate Intelligence Committee apparently came to the same conclusion — after two years of investigation. The Washington Post notes that Mueller hasn’t demonstrated that he’s done any better, either. He’s indicted a lot of people, but either on charges that Dowd dismisses as “process crimes,” criminal operations that originated well before the Trump campaign’s existence (Paul Manafort and Rick Gates), or Russians with no allegations of connections to the Trump campaign in the indictments:
Nearly two years into his investigation, Mueller has charged 34 people and secured guilty pleas from some of Trump’s closest advisers, including his former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal lawyer. The special counsel has alleged 25 Russians, including 12 military officers, conspired to hack Democrats’ emails and wage a social media influence campaign to sway the outcome of the 2016 election, and described in astonishing detail how they did so.
Notably, though, Mueller has not brought criminal charges against any members of the Trump campaign for coordinating in that effort. He has charged several with lying to his investigators or to Congress — adding most recently to that list Roger Stone, a friend of Trump’s for decades whom Mueller has accused of trying to thwart lawmakers’ effort to investigate Russian interference in the election.
We’re coming up on three years since the FBI first began its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian activities. We have yet to see any indictments that even posit a connection between the two. Not even in the indictments of the Russian entities or in the Paul Manafort prosecutions — both involving non-process crimes — has there even been a hint at any connection. It’s possible that something more will be coming later, but we passed “later” a year ago, too.
That may explain why Mueller gets mixed reviews in today’s Washington Post/Schar poll. Mueller beats Trump on credibility 56/33, which isn’t much of a surprise. However, the public splits 43/43 on whether Mueller has even proven whether Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and 43/45 on whether Mueller has proven that anyone on Trump’s campaign lied about contacts with the Russians. After almost two years and this many indictments later, those aren’t impressive numbers.
These, however, are worse:
One point of order: Mueller hasn’t actually proven anything on either question. In fact, Mueller hasn’t even alleged either proposition. That’s part of the growing problem with the special counsel probe — it’s spending a lot of time finding process crimes without finding anything related to its central mission. That puts Mueller in the same position as almost every other special counsel or independent prosecutor ever appointed in the Watergate period and beyond.
That may be where Dowd is most mistaken. At the end of this, Mueller will surely realize that he will have to explain himself if he comes up empty. That impulse will compete with Department of Justice policies that require discretion when no charges will be filed, but Mueller will have to issue some kind of report to William Barr other than just “We’re done.” At the very least, Mueller will have to explain where the money for this adjunct DoJ went.