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Mueller ‘downsizes’ special counsel team, suggesting investigation is near conclusion
In another indication that the Russia investigation is winding down without having produced any evidence of collusion, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller is downsizing his investigative team.
Scott Meisler will return to his normal duties as an appellate attorney with the Justice Department’s criminal division, although he remains an active member of the special counsel available to consult on areas of the investigation related to his expertise.
The downhill stretch
“Scott Meisler concluded his detail with the Special Counsel’s Office in December 2018 and returned to the Criminal Division but continues to represent the office on specific pending matters that were assigned to him during his detail,” spokesman Peter Carr explained.
The special counsel was appointed in May 2017 after President Donald Trump invited accusations of obstruction of justice by firing then-FBI Director James Comey, who previously led the government’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. However, Mueller appears to have given up on pursuing an obstruction case against the president, and he ignored the offense altogether in a series of written question that Trump received from the special counsel in October 2018.
Meisler joined the special counsel shortly after Mueller was appointed, and he joined a highly-controversial team of partisan prosecutors whom many Americans dismissed as “politically motivated.” Of the 17 veteran prosecutors making up the special counsel, 14 are registered Democrats, and 12 have donated to Democratic causes or candidates.
At one time, the special counsel also included two documented Trump haters who are on record conspiring to “stop” the real estate mogul from getting elected in 2016, floating an “insurance policy” to take him down in the unexpected event that Hillary Clinton lost, and executing a media leak campaign designed to hurt Trump’s candidacy.
Meisler, however, was one of just three special counsel prosecutors without any publicly-known political affiliation. Mueller didn’t hire any Republicans.
A 2005 Georgetown University Law Center graduate and fluent Spanish speaker, Meisler has worked at the DOJ’s criminal division since 2009. He was one of several appeals court prosecutors on the special counsel with valuable experience in federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, all of his experience in federal courtrooms hasn’t helped Meisler when it comes to proving that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. Shortly after Mueller’s appointment, Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, predicted that the special counsel would only succeed at filing “charges of false statements,” rather than any incriminating evidence of collusion.
“That is almost the full extent of charges brought against former Trump associates; the remaining charges against people such as Paul Manafort are entirely unrelated to the campaign,” Turley explained. “Mueller has charged a variety of Russians with hacking and interfering with the election, but these filings notably do not implicate Trump and actually exonerate Trump campaign officials who ‘unwittingly’ had contact with these individuals,” he said.
Meisler’s departure isn’t necessarily a sign that the special counsel investigation will conclude immediately, or that the special counsel is done issuing indictments. In October, Mueller relieved prosecutors Brandon Van Grack and Kyle Freeny of their duties, sending them back to their respective jobs at the DOJ’s national security and criminal divisions. Despite consolidating his manpower, Mueller still succeeded in carrying on with his prosecution of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and GOP political operative Roger Stone.
Still, there are plenty of other signs suggesting that the special counsel is currently experiencing its last days. In late January, acting Attorney General Michael Whitaker said that he believes Mueller’s inquiry is “close to being completed.”
Regardless of the special counsel’s end date, and no matter what conclusions Mueller produces, Democrats will be sure to hang onto their fringe conspiracy theories as long as Trump remains in office.
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