She has been right on just about everything regarding Trump/Russia/Muller. One of the few experts on this topic. She doesn’t post clickbait and doesn’t make gutsy predictions. Wheeler is calm, measured, knowledgeable. Her record on all-things-Muller has been impeccable.
We almost certainly are NOT getting The Mueller Report next week. But we are likely to get a pretty damning report about “collusion” this week.
A report talking about “collusion” is coming this week
But maybe NBC’s sources are speaking metaphorically, and mean something else that isn’t the conclusory report but that will more closely resemble what everyone thinks of when they talk about The Report.
That’s likely to happen, but if it does, it’ll just be a partial report.
That’s because both Mueller and the defense have to submit a sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case Friday. As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain.
So, as noted, Mueller will have an opportunity to lay out:
- The details of Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling, including his modus operandi of projecting his own client’s corruption onto his opponents
- The fact that Manafort already pled guilty to conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence asset
- The details about how Manafort — ostensibly working for “free” — got paid in 2016, in part via kickbacks from a Super PAC that violated campaign finance law, possibly in part by Tom Barrack who was using Manafort and Trump as a loss-leader to Middle Eastern graft, and in part by deferred payments or debt relief from Russian-backed oligarchs
- Manafort’s role and understanding of the June 9 meeting, which is a prelude of sorts to the August 2 one
- The dates and substance of Manafort’s ongoing communications with suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, including the reasons why Manafort shared highly detailed polling data on August 2, 2016 that he knew would be passed on to his paymasters who just happened to be (in the case of Oleg Deripaska) a central player in the election year operation
- The ongoing efforts to win Russia relief from the American Ukrainian-related sanctions by pushing a “peace” plan that would effectively give Russia everything it wants
- Manafort’s ongoing discussions with Trump and the Administration, up to and including discussions laying out how if Manafort remains silent about items two through six, Trump will pardon him
Because those items are all within the substance of the crimes Manafort pled guilty to or lied about during his failed cooperation, they’re all squarely within the legitimate content of a sentencing memo. And we should expect the sentencing memo in DC to be at least as detailed as the EDVA one; I expect it, like the EDVA one and like Manafort’s plea deal, will be accompanied by exhibits such as the EDVA one showing that Manafort had bank accounts to the tune of $25,704,669.72 for which suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik was listed as a beneficial owner in 2012. Heck, we might even get to see the polling data Manafort shared, knowing it was going to Russia, which was an exhibit to Manafort’s breach determination.
The only thing limiting how much detail we’ll get about these things (as well as about how Manafort served as a secret agent of Russian backed Ukrainian oligarchs for years) is the ongoing sensitivities of the material, whether because it’s grand jury testimony, SIGINT collection, or a secret Mueller intends to spring on other defendants down the road.
It’s the latter point that will be most telling. As I noted, thus far, the silences about Manafort’s cooperation are — amazingly — even more provocative than the snippets we learned via the breach determination. We’ll likely get a read on Friday whether Mueller has ongoing equities that would lead him to want to keep these details secret. And the only thing that would lead Mueller to keep details of the conspiracy secret is if he plans to charge it in an overarching conspiracy indictment.
We may also get information, however, that will make it far more difficult for Trump to pardon Manafort.
So, yeah, there’s a report coming out this week. But it’s not The Report.
Any overarching conspiracy indictment will not be coming this week
It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.
Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding.
But that indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, won’t be coming on Friday or Monday, as Williams predicts, because it likely requires whatever it is Mueller is trying to parallel construct from that foreign-owned company. And even if SCOTUS denies its appeal today, it’s unlikely that evidence will be in hand in time for a Friday indictment.
Mueller could ensure a report gets delivered to Jerry Nadler next week … but that’s unlikely
There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public.
Upon conclusion of the Special Counsels investigation, including, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.
The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.
The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President.
I think this is unlikely, for all the reasons the first possibility laid out here is unlikely: that is, Mueller is still waiting on two details he has been chasing for quite some time, and I doubt he’d be willing to forgo that evidence just to trigger a report. It’s also unlikely because Mueller is a DOJ guy, and he’s unlikely to ask to do what he knows OLC says he should not do.
Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.
But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news.
All of which is the lesson of this post: If you’re being told — or telling others — that Mueller’s report is imminent, then you’re either being told very very big news, or bullshit. Do yourself and us a favor of learning the base level regulations to understand which it is.
She went on to write a follow-up:
As I noted here, CNN has a report that not only backs NBC’s report, but provides flesh to the logic that Mueller is providing his report to DOJ next week. That would mean several things I said in this report are incorrect — mostly that Mueller would wait until the Andrew Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges are resolved (remember, as I noted, he knows what both of those challenges will get him).
I don’t know what to expect next week. I have suspicions but won’t share them because I don’t want people to treat my suspicions with any more weight than suspicions deserve, which is not much.
I do, however, want to talk about the timing.
This is happening in the window of time when Rod Rosenstein is still around and — because William Barr has presumably not been through an ethics review on the investigation — presumably back in charge of sole day-to-day supervision of the investigation. But it is happening after Barr has been confirmed, and so any problems with the investigation that might stem from having an inferior officer (an unconfirmed hack like the Big Dick Toilet Salesman) supervising Mueller are gone.
I’m fairly certain the concerns about Barr coming in and forcing Mueller to finish this are misplaced. I say that, in part, because Mueller seemed to be preparing for this timing. I say it, too, because Barr is too close to Mueller to do that to him.
That says that Mueller is choosing this timing (and choosing not to wait for the appeals to be done). Whatever reason dictates this timing, by doing it in this window, Mueller can ensure the legitimacy of what happens, both legally (because Barr will be in place) and politically (because it will be clear Rosenstein presided over it).
So whatever comes next week, people on both sides should accept that it is the outcome of the investigation that Mueller deemed appropriate.