'Washington will change': What comes after Robert Mueller's Russia report
For almost two years a shadow has hung over the White House and Donald Trump in the shape of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
That shadow will soon clear.
Mr Mueller, the former FBI Director, deputy Attorney-General and US Marine, was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The President has spent months labelling the investigation “illegal”, “unnecessary”, “a hoax” and (most commonly) “a witch hunt”.
This afternoon he handed over that report.
“Special Counsel Robert S Mueller 3rd has concluded his investigation”, the Attorney-General William Barr wrote to congressional leadership.
The confidential report is likely to outline the Special Counsel’s reasoning behind the almost 200 charges that had been laid against 34 people including six former advisers to Donald Trump.
The report could also outline other wrong doings, both legally and morally, on the part of the White House, the President and his family.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The report has been handed to new Attorney-General William Barr.
As America’s chief legal officer, AG Barr is tasked with evaluating the report and summarising it for congress.
AG Barr said he will discuss the findings and potential recommendations with his deputy and Robert Mueller before sharing the results with the White House and with Congress.
The report itself is confidential and unlikely to be seen by the public.
“I remain committed to as much transparency as possible,” the Attorney-General said in his letter to congress.
AG Barr also said the “principle conclusions” may be shared with Congress “as early as this weekend”.
The President meanwhile is in Florida where he will wait for a copy of the report along with his legal team.
“The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr”, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report.”
The White House will have an opportunity to declassify
With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, it’s likely Democratic leaders will demand to see the report and make the findings public.
“We expect to see the full report”, Representative Jerry Nadlor said after congress voted unanimously to make the findings public.
“The need for public faith in the rule of law must be the priority”, he tweeted.
Should the report not be released to Congress, a legal battle will likely play out through subpoenas.
WHO’S BEEN CHARGED ?
In total, 34 people have been charged by the investigation as well as three Russian companies.
Seven people pleaded guilty, while five have been sentenced so far.
Among those close to the President are former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone.
Cohen and Manafort have both been sentenced to prison, while Stone is awaiting trial.
Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was also charged with making false statements to FBI agents about contact with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Donald Trump consistently and comprehensively denied any connection between these charges and himself, his campaign or his presidency tweeting “no collusion” more than 100 times since the investigation began.
IS THIS THE END?
The report itself has the power to make Donald Trump’s life very difficult or drastically easier – but it’s unlikely to be the final say.
If the report clears the President of collusion or involvement with Russia it will nullify one of the Democrats most effective and potent attacks for the next two or six years.
If the report outlines criminal behaviour, several key Democrats say they would begin impeachment proceedings.
However, collusion is not the only thing being looked at.
The report may provide recommendations or catalysts for Democratic congressional teams to begin further investigations using the power they have under the constitution.
Furthermore Attorneys-General in at least three provinces (New York, Maryland and the District of Columbia) are conducting their own investigations into the Donald Trump, his family, his businesses, his charity and his inaugural committee.
These jurisdictions have already handed out subpoenas for bank details and documents.
The Mueller report may provide further stimulus for these investigations or prompt others.
Importantly, the current protocol recommends sitting President’s cannot be indicted.
Today is a landmark day for the President.
Previous Special Counsel reports prompted the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon, Donald Trump has been fighting for two years to avoid joining this list.
If the conclusions are positive for the White House, Donald Trump will shed a weight from his shoulders, feel justified in his claims of a “Witch Hunt” and provide ammunition for his supporters in the lead up to the 2020 election.
If the conclusions are negative, Democrats will pounce and the President’s survival in the Oval Office will become completely reliant on Senate Republicans.
The best description doing the rounds in Washington was that waiting for the Mueller Report was like the third trimester of a pregnancy; Your tired and want it to be over, but deep down know the hard work is just about to begin.
Washington is about to change.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019