(National Sentinel) Showdown: Critics of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation have argued for months that if his team of Democrat-aligned prosecutors still haven’t found any evidence the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia in 2016 or has other done anything illegal that it should shut down.
Now, as the 2018 midterms approach, Mueller may not have much of a choice, though it might only be a temporary stoppage.
As The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, Justice Department rules forbid prosecutors and investigations from appearing political ahead of national elections.
The paper reported further:
With six months to go until November’s midterm elections, Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign will soon run into a dead zone of sorts, in which former prosecutors say they expect him either to wrap up, or lie low and take no visible steps until after the election.
Though Mr. Mueller doesn’t face any specific legal deadline, the fall midterms amount to a political one, according to experts and prosecutors. He will reach a point this summer when Justice Department habits dictate that he will have to either finish his inquiries or go dark and stretch out his work until past November so he doesn’t appear to be trying to sway voters’ decisions, which would be at odds with Justice Department guidelines for prosecutors.
The paper noted further that Mueller has a lot of work ahead of him including preparing a number of reports and perhaps bringing charges against alleged Russian hackers for breaching the Democratic National Committee’s servers — though there is credible evidence to suggest Moscow wasn’t behind the breach if there ever was one.
He will also have to decide on whether to pursue other prosecutions and whether or not he will seek to depose President Donald J. Trump, which legal experts say the president is not obligated to sit for and over which Mueller cannot indict him in any event.
“He might get all those things done in the next few months. But if he can’t, he may have to go quiet during the political season and resume afterward,” the WSJ reported.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russian collusion portion of Mueller’s investigation, told a House committee in April he understands the president’s frustration over the ongoing probe which has produced guilty pleas for process crimes including lying to investigators and indictments on charges completely unrelated to the original intent behind Mueller’s appointment.
“This thing needs to conclude,” Sessions said.
As for Mueller potentially being forced to ‘go dark’ for the midterms, the WSJ reports that, according to the Justice Department’s handbook for federal prosecutors, the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, employees are barred from using their official capacity “to interfere with or affect the result of an election.”
Though the rules are not explicit, the WSJ noted, a March 2012 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder also instructed DoJ employees to be “particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.”
He specifically told law enforcement officers and prosecutors to never time investigative steps or criminal indictments “for the purpose of affecting any election” or to give “an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.”