As political spectators anxiously await the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's "report," one columnist noted that it may not come in a form many are expecting.
"There’s a more fundamental question surrounding the report than when the document will land, which is whether it will even exist," The Atlantic's David Graham wrote, "or rather, whether it will exist in a form worth the anxious wait."
Graham noted that the report generated by independent counsel Ken Starr, the investigator who probed former President Bill Clinton over the Whitewater scandal, may have created high expectations for Mueller's.
"The Starr Report casts a long shadow," the columnist wrote. "With its detailed chronology and salacious revelations about President Bill Clinton’s sex life, the more than 200-page document remains an astonishing read even now, more than 20 years on."
But experts Graham spoke to said it's not set in stone that the Russia investigation will produce a bombshell similar to the Starr report or the Iran-Contra report that came out five years prior.
“They are not going to get a narrative, multi-hundred-page, factually organized, appended-documents road map from Mueller,” John Barrett, a St. John's University law professor who was an associate counsel on the Iran-Contra investigation, said. “Mueller might send a five-page memo to [Attorney General William] Barr, saying, ‘I got a guilty plea from these people, and I didn’t charge these ones.’”
"I believe that many, including many in the press, have done the country a disservice by creating the impression that when he gets done, Mueller is going to write this scathing, lengthy report detailing what an asshole the president is, even if he’s not a criminal," Paul Rosenzweig, the former senior counsel in the Whitewater investigation, told The Atlantic. "If my thesis about Mueller is right, then that’s just not happening."
There are significant contextual differences between the Iran-Contra and Whitewater investigations and the Russia probe that extend beyond their subject matter, the columnist noted, writing that he was appointed under a different mechanism and reports to a different governmental body.
"Thus far, Mueller has not had to contend with pardons sabotaging his case, though it remains a possibility," Graham noted. "He does not seem to have any literary ambitions, and his feud with President Trump has been one-sided, rather than the hostile back-and-forth between Starr and Clinton."
Mueller's own "austere" and "tight-lipped" style, rooted in his history at the Justice Department, makes him all the more unlikely to reveal more than what he's already outlined in court filings, the writer added.
“Prosecutors who decline cases just close,” Rosenzweig noted. “They might write a memo to the file about why they didn’t prosecute. With very rare exceptions, which by the way get condemned—see James Comey—prosecutors who decide not to do anything put everything in a box and send it to archives.”