Donald Trump loves to complain about the cost of the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller during his declarations that the whole thing is a ‘witch hunt.’ Republican Congressmen attack not just the dollars, but the time, insisting that Mueller “wrap it up.” But based on the most recent accounting, it doesn’t appear that the special counsel is spending too much on too little. Instead, he’s having a hard time stretching his budget to cover all the crimes the investigation is turning up.
With 20 indictments and 5 plea deals down, Mueller isn’t close to being finished with all the aspects of this investigation. And with Paul Manafort heading to trial before the end of July, members of Mueller’s team will soon after to spend some of their time in courtrooms. Analysts describe the Manafort case as an “all hands on deck” situation. Not only does it represent the core of several issues going forward—from contact with Russian operatives during the campaign, to money-laundering that happened before the campaign—the case can also be expected to deal with both the legality and scope of the special counsel investigation. Winning the Manafort case might not guarantee that Mueller is going to win ‘em all … but losing it means, more or less, going home.
Previous reports had indicated that Robert Mueller had seconded a few DOJ prosecutors to pick up the slack on some cases, and the SDNY office has been tasked with most of the prosecution of Michael Cohen. But Bloomberg reports that the new numbers show that Mueller has turned to asking for help from prosecutors in “New York; Alexandria, Virginia; Pittsburgh and elsewhere.” As a result, more money is being spent on the investigation elsewhere in the DOJ, than is being spent by Mueller’s team. Of the $17 million spent on the investigation, $9 million was spent by DOJ workers outside Mueller’s team. Which is a little deceptive when calculating the cost of the investigation. These are full-time Department of Justice employees. They would have been paid anyway, That $9 million isn’t an extra cost to taxpayers for the investigation, it’s just how the department allocated its existing resources.
Manafort’s pre-trial maneuvering has also forced Mueller to reveal some documents providing background information and items such as his instructions from Rod Rosenstein. For those interested in the case, these documents have given a good deal of the insight currently available. However, the ability of Manafort to force Muller into revealing information about the investigation hasn’t been overlooked. Internet Research Agency, the Russian web and social media firm indicted by Mueller, has been attempting to force Mueller to give up more information about the methods and source of the investigation, resulting in still more time spent playing defense.
With defendants trying to slow him down, and Trump allies screaming to wrap the investigation up, the biggest squeeze on Mueller might not be on a spreadsheet—it’s on the calendar.
“He’s a busy guy,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor. ...
“You don’t have unlimited resources in a sense that you’ve got an unlimited cadre of prosecutors and agents,” Cramer said. “There does come a time where they can only do so much.”
In testimony before Congress, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has stated that Mueller is “sensitive” to the fact that he needs to “expedite” the case. Despite protection from Rosenstein and loud support from Democrats, Donald Trump has signaled several times that he is willing to end the Russia investigation, and even hand out a self-pardon if one is required. It would be completely unsurprising at this point to see Trump move against Mueller, and issue a blanket pardon to all involved. Himself included.
That kind of pressure may be why, two weeks ago, Mueller surprised some observers by announcing that he was ready to schedule a sentencing hearing for George Papadopoulos. Papadapolous has cooperated with Mueller after having been caught lying to investigators. But the statement that Mueller is ready for his sentencing must mean that the investigation has run down not just everything that Papadopoulos has contributed, but everything related.
And since that includes an offer of Russian help to the Trump campaign that appears to be connected to the DNC email theft, the Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives, and the later release of information through Wikileaks, Mueller’s willingness to end things with Papadopoulos may signal that he’s also done, or nearly so, with the complete investigation of cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign.
As Politico reported ...
The move indicates that a sentencing for Papadopoulos could come this summer — without him testifying at the trials of others who may have been involved in alleged collusion with the Kremlin on its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. No one faces such charges at the moment.
Of all the information that’s come out of the Mueller investigation so far, the willingness to go on with the sentencing of Papadopoulos may be the one thing that is genuinely “good news for Donald Trump.” Or it could mean that Mueller has enough information that he can charge others in the campaign without further testimony from Papadopoulos.
Either way, Mueller may be finished with one aspect of the case, but his team is still buried in work.