As President Donald Trump prepared to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, there’s little doubt the specter of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe hung in the air.
It had to.
Multiple media reports have indicated that Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference of America’s 2016 election and any wrongdoing on the part of the president has, at long last, neared its completion.
Legal experts have speculated that Trump may at least be on the hook for obstruction of justice — a crime that can carry a prison sentence.
But because the likelihood of a sitting president being indicted or going to prison is as remote as one can imagine, Trump could face impeachment — particularly with Democrats now controlling the House.
What’s more, one of Trump’s allies, Former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, told MSNBC this week that he believes a new probe that now has set its sights on the president’s inaugural committee and other investigations currently underway by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, as “much more concerning” than Mueller.
“I’ve always thought the Southern District of New York’s investigation was much more concerning than the Mueller investigation for a simple reason: They have tour guides and no restrictions,” Christie said on MSNBC.
He described the “tour guides” as Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and Rick Gates, who was the executive director of the inaugural committee.
“Unlike Bob Mueller who has restrictions placed upon him by the deputy attorney general when he was appointed — that his inquiry is on Russia, interference in the election, and potential Russian collusion — and you saw that Mueller reacted to those restrictions by sending the Michael Cohen matter that he discovered to the Southern District of New York,” Christie said. “The Southern District of New York has no restrictions. When I was a U.S. attorney — any U.S. attorney will tell you, they call them the ‘Sovereign District’ of New York. Their jurisdiction is everywhere around the world, there will be no restrictions on SDNY.”
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said during a radio interview last week that he expects Mueller will release a report on the Russia probe “within a month.” That was just before acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said the investigation “is close to being completed.”
Whitaker told reporters he has been “fully briefed” on the investigation.
“I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report,” he said.
The Russia investigation, which began when Mueller was appointed in May 2017, has showed other signs of nearing its end. CNN reported that some of the investigation’s prosecutors moved to different jobs outside of Mueller’s office and the office moved some of its cooperators such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn toward sentencing.
The arrest of former Trump adviser Roger Stone, one of the last key campaign associates in the president’s orbit, was also a long-anticipated move from Mueller, according to CNN.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also will leave soon after attorney general nominee William Barr’s confirmation hearings. Rosenstein previously signaled to other officials that he would leave when he was satisfied that Mueller’s investigation was either complete or close enough to completion that it was protected from potential interference.
Barr’s confirmation hearings began Jan. 15, meaning that a vote could occur in mid-February at the earliest.