The Mueller Investigation Is Reportedly Wrapping Up, For Real This Time

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Since May 2017, the federal Russia probe has loomed over Donald Trump's presidency. Every so often, a new indictment or revelation forces it back into the spotlight, complicating the web of what could have happened in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Now, nearly two years after its start, CNN reports there are hints that the Mueller investigation is nearly over.

According to CNN's inside sources, newly confirmed Attorney General Bill Barr is planning to announce the end of the investigation next week. CNN reporters noted several additional signs the probe might be coming to end, including that Mueller's team of prosecutors seems to be diminishing, with many returning to their jobs elsewhere in the Justice Department. Additionally, CNN reports, member of Mueller's team have been seen carting boxes and files out of their offices, an indication they might be ready to hand off their findings.

But should the investigation end next week, don't expect to see those nearly two years of work immediately made public. In fact, according to NBC News, there's a chance Americans will never get to see everything Mueller has found. That's because the special counsel's position was set up to operate under strict confidentiality.

Mueller's investigation is directly overseen by the attorney general (or prior to Barr's appointment, the deputy attorney general), meaning that Barr will be the first to obtain the report once the investigation is over. As attorney general, Barr is required to report to Congress about the findings of the investigation, but according to Department of Justice (DOJ) rules, he is limited to "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them."

According to NBC, there is one exception to that rule: If Mueller's investigation turns up impeachable offenses by the president, Barr would have to submit those sections of the report in full to Congress. Congressional Democrats have long argued that the full report should be made public, just like Special Counsel Ken Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton was. But that's not guaranteed.

Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation following the firing of former FBI Director James Comey in early May 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave Mueller's investigation broad authority to examine any potential collusion between Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign to influence the presidential election.

Importantly, Mueller was also directed to look into "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." President Trump, who has criticized the investigation and Mueller himself in statements and on Twitter, has consistently denied any form of collusion. In fact, he's repeatedly referred to the probe as a "witch hunt." Moreover, Russia has denied any wrongdoing or election meddling.

So far, the investigation has turned up indictments or guilty pleas from at least 34 people and three companies, according to Vox. But Americans are going to have to wait several more days — at the very least — to find out what else is coming. And even then, it's possible you still won't have access to the final report.