The week that could reveal Mueller’s end-game

Buckle up: The next five days could reveal how the Mueller probe will play out.

Paul Manafort will know how long he’ll be serving in prison, closing the book on special counsel Robert Mueller’s most visible legal fight. Roger Stone will know his trial date, putting a timeline on when the public will get more details about his alleged contacts with WikiLeaks. And status reports are due for two of Mueller’s biggest cooperators — Michael Flynn and Rick Gates — that will signal whether the special counsel has tapped them for all the information investigators need.

This week could even include the ultimate exclamation point: Attorney General William Barr announcing that Mueller has completed his assignment and that a summary version of his findings is imminent.

“It’s one of those moments when a number of the threads are finally starting to merge together, which is to be expected because we do appear to be near the end,” said Matthew Miller, a former Obama Justice Department spokesman.

In one way, the timing for this week’s Mueller moves is in one way happenstance — coinciding schedules from a series of individual criminal cases that represents the public face of the special counsel’s often secretive work. But the confluence also represents the fact that numerous high-profile storylines of the Mueller probe are finally coming to a conclusion.

Combined, the moves will generate an avalanche of additional attention on the $64,000 question about Mueller’s end-game and whether he has more criminal indictments up his sleeve. The court filings and hearings also could elaborate on any plans to hand off unfinished business to federal prosecutors scattered across the Justice Department, including the powerful Southern District of New York, where probes appear to be ratcheting up against the president’s business, 2016 campaign and inauguration.

Each event will ignite furious debate on Capitol Hill over everything from presidential pardon powers to obstruction of justice charges to whether Democrats should launch impeachment proceedings.

The centerpiece of this week’s action is Manafort’s sentencing. The punishment will put the final period on the federal charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman. All eyes will be on U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the Obama appointee who is scheduled to issue the second of two prison terms for the veteran Republican lobbyist.

For Jackson, the question is whether she’ll use her full power and tack on as many as 10 years to the almost four years Manafort received from Virginia-based federal Judge T.S. Ellis III last week for a series of financial fraud crimes. The sentence Ellis gave was well below federal guidelines and drew outrage from some legal circles.

Jackson is sentencing Manafort following his guilty plea last September to charges that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine, laundered money and tampered with a witness. Manafort later had his plea deal ripped up after Jackson ruled that he lied to federal prosecutors and a grand jury during cooperation sessions.

“I think she’s going to whack it to him,” said Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard constitutional lawyer whose Mueller critiques on Fox News and elsewhere has earned Trump’s praise. “The last thing I’d want is to be sentenced by her.”

 

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