Spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion en­ters 2nd year

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

WASH­ING­TON — Un­like the pres­i­dent, Robert Mueller hasn’t ut­tered one word in pub­lic about his Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the year since he was ap­pointed spe­cial coun­sel. And that is rat­tling just about ev­ery­one in­volved.

What’s he up to? When will he bring the probe to and end?

He doesn’t have to say, and he’s not.

A year into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the stern-look­ing pros­e­cu­tor is ev­ery­where and nowhere at the same time. In that time, the breadth and stealth of his in­ves­ti­ga­tion have un­set­tled the White House and its chief oc­cu­pant, and have spread to Capi­tol Hill, K Street, foreign gov­ern­ments and, as late as last week, cor­po­rate board­rooms.

With law­mak­ers eye­ing midterm elec­tions and Pres­i­dent Trump pub­licly mulling whether he will sit for an in­ter­view with Mueller, Re­pub­li­can calls are grow­ing for the spe­cial coun­sel to end his in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and oth­ers have said it pub­licly. GOP law­mak­ers in­sist they’ve seen no ev­i­dence of col­lu­sion be­tween Rus­sians and Trump’s 2016 elec­tion campaign.

The longer the in­ves­ti­ga­tion runs, those calls are likely to am­plify.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has stead­fastly sup­ported the spe­cial coun­sel, seemed to change his tone a bit Thurs­day.

“I think he should be free to do his job, but I would like to see it get wrapped up, of course,” Ryan said of Mueller. “I mean we want to see this thing come to its con­clu­sion, but again I’ve al­ways said he should be free to fin­ish his job.”

Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion, whether Trump’s campaign was in­volved and pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. And by the stan­dards of pre­vi­ous spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tions, his ac­tu­ally has so far gone fairly quickly. Since he was ap­pointed on May 17, 2017, Mueller’s of­fice has charged 19 peo­ple and three Rus­sian com­pa­nies. He has charged four Trump campaign ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn and ex-Trump campaign chair­man Paul Manafort.

The probe has also en­snared count­less Wash­ing­ton in­sid­ers who have been called to tes­tify or found them­selves un­der scru­tiny, in­clud­ing lob­by­ists and foreign rep­re­sen­ta­tives who may have il­le­gally sought to in­flu­ence the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Large cor­po­ra­tions like AT&T and No­var­tis have been con­tacted by Mueller and caught up in an off­shoot in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s long­time per­sonal at­tor­ney Michael Cohen. The com­pa­nies ac­knowl­edged last week that they paid Cohen for “in­sight” in the early days of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

While Mueller him­self still en­joys gen­er­ally broad bi­par­ti­san sup­port in Congress, par­tic­u­larly in the Se­nate, the se­crecy of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has cre­ated some anx­i­ety about what is next.

The pres­i­dent’s lawyers have rushed to fill that vac­uum, re­cently sug­gest­ing they’ve been told Mueller won’t in­dict Trump and couldn’t force the pres­i­dent to com­ply with an in­ter­view. Per­sonal at­tor­ney Rudy Gi­u­liani sug­gested that a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with Mueller’s team led him to be­lieve the spe­cial coun­sel, cit­ing a Jus­tice Depart­ment opin­ion, had ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of try­ing to in­dict a sit­ting pres­i­dent.

Trump has seemed con­fi­dent of that on Twit­ter, where he fre­quently throws barbs at the in­ves­ti­ga­tion — a strat­egy that is in­creas­ingly res­onat­ing with many Repub­li­cans. On Thurs­day, he marked the an­niver­sary by calling the probe a “dis­gust­ing, il­le­gal and un­war­ranted Witch Hunt.”

Andrew Harnik / As­so­ci­ated Press

Robert Mueller’s of­fice has charged 19 peo­ple and three Rus­sian com­pa­nies. He has charged four Trump campaign ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort.

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