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Former federal prosecutors said the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe into Russian collusion on Friday does not spell the end of litigation against President Donald Trump and his associates.
As no details of Mueller’s final report have been released, the special counsel's conclusions currently remain unknown. However, there will be no more indictments from Mueller’s office now that the investigation has concluded, NBC News reported.
But that doesn’t mean that people like the president, his son Donald Trump, Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner are not in the crosshairs of ongoing investigations at the state or federal level, the prosecutors said.
“One of the big-ticket questions was what really happened at the Trump Tower meeting, and you can’t have that unless you interview Don Jr. and Jared Kushner — but Mueller didn’t do that,” said NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a longtime federal prosecutor who worked with Mueller at the Department of Justice. “And why didn’t he do that? It wasn’t an oversight. He’s the most thorough investigator I’ve ever met. That was a tactical measure.”
Kirschner said that Mueller likely did not subpoena those individuals, who met with a Kremlin-connected attorney during the 2016 election at Trump Tower, because they remain targets of ongoing investigations.
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The former prosecutor also emphasized that the special counsel was tasked with producing an investigative report — not prosecuting crimes, which would have taken many more years of work.
“I think this was phase one of what will likely be a multi-phase process,” Kirschner said. “The rest of the phases will be undertaken by the Department of Justice and all its components.”
Cases operated by other jurisdictions may also limit what is ultimately disclosed by Attorney General William Barr in the public and congressional release of the Mueller report.
Mimi Rocah, an NBC News legal analyst and former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, said that Mueller may have passed along portions of his probe to other arms of the Justice Department, which will limit what Barr can share.
Rocah warned that those who want a full disclosure should be prepared for disappointment.
“If there are ongoing investigations that he referred out, then there will be information that he has gathered that he doesn’t want to come out now,” Rocah said. “The same way we’ve seen in every court document that he’s filed.”
That is one of the reasons Barr is reportedly in deep consultation with Mueller about what can be released. Another reason is that — as Richard Serafini, a former Justice Department prosecutor who also worked with Mueller, put it — the federal agency is not in the business of indicting people in the court of public opinion.
“Certainly the Justice Department does not want to disclose information that would prejudice an ongoing investigation,” Serafini said.
The public has heard a bit about some of the state investigations that are looking into the Trump family and their businesses. Though the special counsel investigation's is over, those continue.
“Now the question is how many other heads of the monster are out there,” Rocah said. “Are there new ones that will turn up now that Mueller has wrapped up?”
Serafini, Kirschner and Rocah agreed that the release of the Mueller report likely means that state probes along with inquiries led by numerous Justice Department arms — such as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — will be able to ramp up their efforts in earnest.
“If people were holding off so they didn’t come into conflict with Mueller’s investigation, that’s over now,” Serafini said. “I suspect some of those investigations will pick up steam and likely interface with the ongoing federal investigations to make sure there aren’t multiple jurisdictions overlapping. They’ll start carving out who is looking at what.”
All prosecutors agreed that they could foresee Mueller and Barr being called in front of Congress at some point, especially if Democrats in the House of Representatives are displeased with the summary Barr offers them.
While it’s uncertain what the layman will see from the report in the near future, it is clear that there will be a loud public outcry if what Barr offers is fairly minimal.
“I think the public clamor will be deafening,” Kirschner said, "and for the health of our republic we need that report released.”