Special Counsel Robert Mueller included a mysterious note in a court filing Tuesday that suggests his team is busily working on a project that will soon be over.
The filing came in response to a request from the Washington Post to unseal the redacted records in Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort, who has been sentenced to around seven years in jail for crimes uncovered in the investigation. Mueller’s team was supposed to respond to this legal motion by Thursday, March 21.
But instead, Mueller requested in a new filing that the deadline be extended to April 1; he said that the Post’s attorneys had not objected to the adjustment. Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the request.
Here’s what’s interesting: According to Mueller, the lawyers who would respond to the request “face the press of other work and require additional time to consult with the government.”
That means there’s some other, pressing matter that Mueller’s team thinks should be prioritized before it responds to the Post’s request by the initial deadline.
Vox reporter Andrew Prokop noted: “The lawyers referenced are Michael Dreeben and Adam Jed. But it’s unclear what they’re busy with at the moment. There are no imminent deadlines in Roger Stone’s case, or the two appeals from a Stone associate and a mystery company. There’s a March 25 deadline in the Russian troll farm case, but Dreeben and Jed don’t appear to be involved in that filing.”
So there’s a big open question left by the filing: What is keeping Mueller’s team so busy?
Two immediate possibilities come to mind. They could be working on more indictments, or they could be working on the much speculated about “Mueller report.” There has been extensive reporting for months now that some kind of report from the special counsel is imminently forthcoming, but no one knows exactly when; all previous predictions that were at all precise have proven false. Of course, it could be another matter entirely.
There’s a related possibility, though I should note it’s largely speculative. It’s possible that Mueller wants to put off responding to the Post’s request not only because the lawyers are busy, but also because the matter of the Manafort redactions could be resolved once the lawyers in question are finished. If the Mueller team is putting its final touches on its report, that may effectively close the investigations surrounding Manafort, and thus obviate the need to seal much of the information regarding his case in the court records.