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Mueller Said to Weigh Putting Off Trump Obstruction Decision

Issued: 2018-03-12

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case -- the part that may hit closest to Trump personally -- witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Mueller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges -- as the president’s lawyers have requested -- could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.

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Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The timing for whether -- and when -- to interview Trump or his family members is one of the most sensitive decisions Mueller faces at this stage of his investigation. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.

Trump, who has branded the probe a “witch hunt,” is growing increasingly frustrated as Mueller’s work continues, and the president’s lawyers have signaled that they expect the investigation to wrap up quickly.

Recent reports provide a glimpse into how expansive and aggressive Mueller’s investigation is. The New York Times and Washington Post, for example, suggest Mueller’s team recently began probing efforts by the United Arab Emirates to influence the Trump team, including a meeting the Gulf kingdom apparently helped organize in the Seychelles where an informal Trump adviser also met with a Russian banker.


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