« August was riddled with speculation whether and when Special Counsel Robert Mueller might issue a report or take further major action in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The clock was ticking toward a 60-day window before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, a period when the Justice Department traditionally avoids significant public steps that might influence – or give the appearance of trying to influence – the vote. » (What Might Force Mueller ‘s Hand Before the Midterms? Exceptions to the DOJ 60-day « Rule » by Viola GiengerOctober 9, 2018)
Anticipation builds around Mueller as 60-day election window nears
By JOSH MEYER
The window closes next week for special counsel Robert Mueller to take any more bombshell actions before midterm season officially kicks off, and people in the president’s orbit and across Washington are watching with heightened anticipation that a final pre-election surprise could come soon.
Longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone emailed supporters Monday and asked for donations to his legal defense fund, saying he believes his indictment is imminent.
The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly called on Mueller to wrap up his investigation into Trump by the end of next week, when the midterms will be two months away.
“Just a few days before 60 day run-up to 2018 elections,” Giuliani tweeted Saturday from his golfing vacation in Scotland. “If Mueller wants to show he’s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction.”
The increased attention stems from Justice Department guidelines that recommend against law enforcement taking major investigative or prosecutorial actions close to an election, so as not to unduly influence voters. Although primaries have been underway for months, Giuliani and others have said the 60-day period before the election should be free of any big activity by Mueller’s team.
But a close read of Justice Department policy shows that the cutoff is not a hard and fast rule, according to more than a dozen current and former Justice Department officials and other legal experts.
Nonetheless, some former prosecutors said they expect Mueller — long known as a by-the-book federal lawman — to bend over backward to avoid doing anything that might be construed as improper right before the Nov. 6 midterms, which will determine who controls Congress for the next two years.
“I know of no Justice Department rule or regulation that limits the timing of an announcement related to an election,” said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti. “That said … I can’t imagine him taking any action that could be seen as influencing an election.”
Mueller’s grand jury meets on Fridays, and Stone, at least, appears to be on edge about possible action, though he told POLITICO on Thursday his concerns were not tied to the 60-day window, which he thought applied more to elected officials.
Stone, an informal Trump campaign adviser, has long been suspected of acting as an intermediary in the Russian conspiracy to hack and disseminate Democratic campaign-related emails. Although Stone has vehemently denied wrongdoing, Mueller has brought in several of the veteran operative’s associates and friends for questioning in the investigation.
Stone said this week that he believes Mueller is “coming for” him in an effort to silence him and pressure the longtime Republican operative “to testify against my good friend President Donald J. Trump.”
The anticipation of charges this week might be overhyped. One of Stone’s associates, Randy Credico, is not scheduled to appear before the grand jury until next Friday. And Mueller and his team have managed, so far, to keep their plans about the timing — and the targets — of indictments almost entirely under wraps.
“There is no rule. It is something that Giuliani has invented,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who served as deputy to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald during the George Bush-era CIA leak investigation. “In my opinion, absolutely nothing in this would prohibit or constrain Mueller from charging Roger Stone or anyone else connected to the Trump campaign in the next six weeks.”