Special counsel off to a quick start in Russia probe — but don’t expect charges anytime soon
Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to oversee the Trump-Russia probe, has gotten off to a fast start — but his investigation will likely take years to complete.
The former FBI director was tapped May 17 to lead the Department of Justice probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and he has already started building a team, setting a budget and issuing orders, reported the Wall Street Journal.
But the complicated nature of the investigation, along with political and legal challenges that will be presented throughout its course, will likely take years to be concluded.
Mueller directed the agency he led under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to withhold from Congress documents he might be interested in reviewing, especially memos written by his predecessor, James Comey, about his meetings with President Donald Trump.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has asked for all of Comey’s notes on his meetings with the White House and senior Justice Department officials by June 8, but the FBI has notified Congress that it would hold onto those documents for now.
That’s likely a preview of coming clashes between the special counsel appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and parallel investigations by lawmakers in various House and Senate panels, the newspaper reported.
Mueller brought two attorneys from his former law firm, WilmerHale, to join him at his new assigned office in the Justice Department’s civil rights and environment and natural resources divisions.
Justice Department ethics experts ruled last week that Mueller did not have to recuse himself from investigating WilmerHale clients such as Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, as long as he had not represented them himself or was not privy to any confidential client information.
He’s expected to recruit additional lawyers from the Justice Department to fill out his staff.
Mueller has 60 days from his appointment to propose a budget, which would then be approved by Rosenstein and paid out of a special Treasury Department account known as permanent indefinite appropriations.
The fund isn’t capped and doesn’t require congressional approval, which gives the special counsel political independence.
Mueller must issue a confidential report at the end of his work explaining decisions on criminal charges, which Rosenstein will review and then decide whether to publicly release any of those explanations.