At least, and law professor Jonathan Turley sounds much more skeptical that Robert Mueller will ever bridge that gap. On CNN this morning, Michael Smerconish asked the existential and universal special-counsel question: Is that all there is? Turley gave the existential and universal special-counsel answer, which is there isn’t even that much.
Turley says the most likely answer to the specific question of collusion, based on Mueller’s indictments thus far is none:
.@smerconish: “Doesn't the absence of additional indictments against [Roger] Stone suggest, as the President would say, no collusion?”
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) February 23, 2019
It’s worth pointing out that one predicate of this conversation turned out to be in error. Despite widespread rumors — in part from CNN — the special counsel probe will not close up shop this week. The Department of Justice let everyone know that yesterday:
Mueller’s report will not be delivered next week, according to a DOJ official.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) February 22, 2019
Still, we’re closing in on 21 months of special-counsel operations, which means we’re at the least 21 months closer to whatever finish line there is. Rod Rosenstein’s departure may or may not matter to Mueller, but if it does, mid-March might be the deadline. If the end isn’t rapidly approaching, it’s got to be getting closer, anyway.
Mueller’s team has managed to produce a significant number of indictments, but as Turley says, none of them relate to collusion by Trump’s campaign. The most substantive indictments were against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on a case that the Department of Justice had developed in 2014 but put aside after the overthrow of Manafort’s clients in the pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. Mueller also indicted several Russian entities and individuals for their disruption operations, but those will never get prosecuted. Otherwise, as Smerconish notes, the rest of the indictments are all “process crimes” — lying to investigators, for the most part.
If Mueller really is wrapping up the probe, then Roger Stone would be the last hurrah on collusion, and there’s nothing special there either. Reporters were hoping to glean a little more intel on Mueller’s mindset in a filing on the Manafort case, but that remained under seal at least until this morning:
The critical filing had a midnight Friday deadline set by the federal court, but the report was not publicly released.
It is possible prosecutors have sent the document to Judge Amy Berman Jackson under seal with proposed redactions. It is up to Jackson to determine what happens next.
The memorandum is the last major requisite court filing in Mueller’s longest running case, a sprawling prosecution of the former Trump campaign manager that led investigators to gather exhaustive information about his hidden Cypriot bank accounts, Ukrainian political efforts in Europe and the US and into Manafort’s time on the 2016 presidential campaign. …
The special counsel has kept details about Manafort’s cooperation have been especially guarded, since his interviews are a significant part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Even that seems like a long shot for any hint of collusion-y goodness. Mueller torched Manafort as a witness by formally accusing him of lying and forcing an end to the plea deal on that basis. The sentencing memo might indicate what other avenues Mueller had hoped to pursue with Manafort, but the value of that cooperation is all but toast now anyway.
There are still a couple of wild cards left, however. We still have seen nothing from Mueller about Carter Page, the informal Trump campaign adviser whose activities drew so much interest from the FBI that they sought a FISA warrant to surveil him. Early on, former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg got immunity in the Michael Cohen case; his name has also been conspicuously absent in Mueller filings.
One might suppose that if those avenues were to bear any investigative fruit in a collusion probe, they would have already done so. That’s still only an assumption at this point, but the absence of any indictment involving either or both also raises questions about just how much there was to find in the first place. If Mueller closes up shop in the next couple of weeks without anything relating to either, then it seems very likely that the rest of us will be asking that same existential and universal special-counsel question … Is that all there was?