Special counsel Robert Mueller will be losing a top deputy, according to reports on Thursday, in another sign that the investigation might soon be ending.
President Donald Trump has been at the center of the special counsel’s investigation since May 2017. Deputy special counsel Andrew Weissmann (shown above right) is reportedly planning on leaving the investigation soon; National Public Radio first reported on his possible departure based on two of its sources close to the matter.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed the special counsel investigation in May 2017.
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Mueller and his team have been looking into possible crimes committed by the president or his associates, with a particular focus on whether or not they colluded with Russian interests during the presidential election of 2016.
The special counsel team reportedly is nearing the end of its investigation and has been for the past couple of months. Reports citing sources familiar with the matter and comments from top officials have fueled this speculation. Former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker even said the inquiry was close to completion during a press conference on January 28.
The special counsel team has taken down a handful of former associates of the president since launching its investigation. But it has yet to connect the president himself directly to any collusion allegations.
Weissmann has played an important role in the investigation, including overseeing the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Manafort was indicted by a grand jury on multiple charges. The special counsel requested the indictment, which was related to consulting work Manafort did for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, prior to his work on the Trump campaign. Manafort later agreed to cooperate with prosecutors but allegedly violated his plea deal by lying to investigators.
He was recently sentenced to about seven-and-a-half years in federal prison following two cases that stemmed from the investigation.
Weissmann reportedly will move into teaching and study at New York University. He also plans to work on a variety of public service projects, including preventing wrongful convictions by establishing better forensic science standards used in courts.
Trump has been highly critical of the special counsel investigation and has called it the single greatest “witch hunt” in the country’s history. The president has also accused Mueller of having conflicts of interests for his close history with people like former FBI Director James Comey.
House Republicans have also accused agents who were part of the team of bias against the president.
Trump repeatedly has said he doesn’t plan to end the special counsel probe despite his own issues with it. Lawmakers have sought to ensure the investigation is able to finish; the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act was reintroduced in early January to protect the special counsel investigation from actions by the president.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on the eventual special counsel report to be transparent. But there are limits to what Mueller can provide to lawmakers. Special counsel regulations dictate the team will submit a confidential report to the attorney general, but the rules don’t require those findings to be shared with Congress.
Senate Judiciary Committee members introduced a bipartisan bill on January 28 to ensure the report is made public. The Special Counsel Transparency Act requires a special counsel to submit a report directly to Congress and the public within two weeks of concluding its investigation. Some lawmakers have even considered subpoenas to get the report.
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