Marcy Wheeler, a journalist who has written extensively about government corruption and the ongoing Russian hacking investigation, predicted this week that special counsel Robert Mueller would be able to release his long-anticipated report without the permission of acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.
In a column on her Empty Wheel blog, Wheeler argued that Mueller has “guaranteed” that he will be able to issue a public report even if Trump’s acting attorney general plans to block a formal report to Congress.
Wheeler, who is also a witness in the Mueller investigation, points to court filings which accuse former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort of continuing to lie after he entered into a plea agreement with the special counsel’s office.
“Now, it is true that Trump can pardon Manafort (though that probably won’t happen right away),” Wheeler wrote. “That’s the only sane explanation for Manafort doing what he did, that he is still certain he’ll be pardoned. But many of these charges can still be charged in state court.”
But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them. That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.
According to Wheeler, Mueller can effectively embed his public report on ties between the Trump campaign and Russians in a status report to the court on Manafort’s breach of his plea agreement.
“And that ‘detailed sentencing submission … sett[ing] forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies’ that Mueller mentions in the report?” Wheeler explained. “There’s your Mueller report, which will be provided in a form that Matt Whitaker won’t be able to suppress.”
Wheeler later speculated that firing Mueller or an early pardon of Manafort would be the only ways to block the court filings.
“It’s not the kind of major decision that Whitaker would get to override,” she said.